Many times clients have asked me, what do I do if a lose dog runs up to me and my dog? How do I defend myself if the dog is aggressive? How do I protect my dog? What do I do?
It’s unfortunate in the year 2021 common sense still does not prevail. If you own a dog that is not social or friendly, is not trained and does not reliably come when called…drum roll…it should not be allowed to be off leash. To most folks this is common sense! However, this situation happens time and time again. You can use a 20 foot training line to give your dog “controlled” freedom.
For years I have taught bite prevention education to kids JK to grade 8. It teaches kids how to read basic dog body language, to know the signs to be aware of, and when to use their eyes to see the situation, their mouth to get help, to stand like a tree if threatened, and legs to walk way. For many kids, it is also about learning to respect a dogs personal space and to know when to leave a dog alone i.e. no hugging, don’t go near their crates, bones or dog beds. What happens if a dog knocks them over and they become a target? Dogs do not see kids as proper pack members or authority at young ages. I have advice for that too. Kids are like sponges and absorb this information like crazy, they discuss it with friends, are excited to meet my dogs because now they know how to be respectful. Their family learns too and so do the teachers. And quite honestly, many kids take it quite seriously.
Adults? Well, many are receptive. They observe, and many of my clients appreciate understanding dog body language, as it helps them understand their own dog much better and then they can advocate, protect or avoid situations based on this information. But common sense seems to go out the window as soon as a person loses control of their own dog. I’m not sure if it’s out of embarrassment, or they simply do not care or don’t know what to do.
CASE 1 IN POINT:
I’m talking to a client this morning, and they are asking me what to do. They have had an aggressive dog run at them 3 times now. They fear what could happen the next time (and indeed the one person fell making them a target) and they have yelled and kicked at the dog, shouted at the owner to come get their dog and to no avail. A simple, pathetic sorry from a dog owner who really doesn’t seem to care that their dog is dangerous, off leash and threatening people in the neighbourhood. People who are abiding by bylaw rules, and have their dog under control and on leash shouldn’t have to deal with this.
So we can’t fix stupid. Yep I said it. It is absolutely ridiculous that someone have their dog off leash if unreliable, dangerous, not social, untrained, unsupervised, and threatening others. Absolutely unacceptable. I have little patience for these scenarios and honestly I’m not someone you want to come across if you have one of these dogs. Why? Because I’m trained in animal behaviour and self defense. I’m also a certified bite prevention educator. I have a right to walk my dog or dogs, who are well trained, social and reliable on hikes, roads or sidewalks without being harrassed by stray dogs, dogs that get out of peoples homes / backyards because people are lazy, do not repair their gates or maintain fences or are not using the tools to have full control at all times of their dogs or better yet, people who hang out at a park with off leash dogs who are aggressive, non social, untrained, and do not listen or respect bylaw rules.
It is NOT your right to have your dog off leash. Not at all. You owe it to yourself and others to have control of your dog at all times. Otherwise, you put yourself and others at risk. You are also possibly going to face police charges and bylaw offences if your dog does damage to property, attacks and bites another dog, chases or injuries or kills livestock, and or bites a child or adult.
Now, with all this said, what can you do as a responsible dog owner to protect yourself and your dog? The first line of defense is to understand and study dog body language. This is something I try to do with all my clients. You will then quickly be able to make choices in given situations – when to walk away, when to know a threat is real, when to defend and advocate for your dog. Ypu will know what the dog is thinking mentally to r prepared. Knowledge is power. Education is key.
Next, know how to defend yourself. ALWAYS STAND IN FRONT OF YOUR DOG. ALWAYS. Carry a noise maker (DOGGIE DON’T DEVICE), compressed air (PET CORRECTOR) or dog attack spray (SABRE PRODUCTS APPROVED BY HEALTH CANADA). As soon as you understand a threat is going to happen be prepared. Stand your ground and spray directly at the offending dogs face. Then yell and Kick the dog. The noise, air, sensation, smell of these devices help to aid a person who is trying to get away and protect themselves and their dog. The offending dog is more often so shocked that this happened, they will take off. As long as your device is clearly labelled it is legal to use. If you use an illegal substance or unmarked product it can be seen by the authorities as a weapon. So again, become aware and educate yourself.
I carry devices on me always in my winter jacket or in the summer, in my fanny pack for sidewalk city walks and on country hikes. Up north, we have cougars, bears, coyotes etc. and the odd stay dog. In the city, I carry it for dogs that are running lose, dogs that get away from their owners backyards, or idiot owners who simply have aggressive dogs off leash.
You can’t fix stupid, but you can protect yourself and advocate for your dog. You may never have this sort of encounter, but if you do, you will be very happy you are prepared and know what to do. I don’t know about you but I’d rather not have a 5-15k vet bill re injuries from my dog being attacked or have myself put in hospital. I teach my own kids about dog body language and I am a drill sargent when they walk the dogs to know how to protect themselves. I also do not let kids under a certain age and maturity level walk dogs alone. Why? It should be pretty obvious, but in case it isn’t, do you want your kids to be attacked? Get knocked down by a dangerous dog and dragged and bitten? Cause it can happen. Bites happen all the time and are preventable. A childs brain is NOT mature enough to make adult decisions in adult situations. So why on earth would you risk that for your children? Just because you are too busy or lazy to supervise or walk the dog yourself? Shame on you.
CASE 2 IN POINT:
I was walking 5 dogs in my neighbourhood one day. All on leash. All client dogs. All under control. I saw 2 young boys walking a huge malamute (large husky). The dog saw another reactive dog barking across the street. The boys were arguing over who was picking up the dogs poop (see what I am getting at – maturity level here), the husky pulls the boys over and runs into oncoming traffic and almost gets hit. The dogs get into a fight. The other owner is screaming, which just makes the dogs more aggressive. I tell all 5 dogs to sit and stay and run over to help. So I get the dogs under control, woman was knocked over, had broken her nose, the one boy hurt his arm and the other boy is crying. I am so frustrated I just hand the dog back to the boys and send them on their way as I have 5 dogs to attend to. I do not have patience for this unnecessary and completely avoidable drama.
Please, please, please, train your dog. Be a responsible dog owner. Be a responsible parent. Advocate for your dog, keep your dog leashed and know how to protect yourself and keep your kids safe. Be part of the solution; not part of the problem.
Happy Dog = Happy Owner= Happy Life! TRAIN YOUR DOG!”