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Dealing with attacks from off leash dogs

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After getting help from the forum I’m now able to take my 14 week puppy out for walks and she’s coping well with traffic and other loud noises, but today we had a horrible experience. I didn’t handle it well and would appreciate advice on what I should have done. Bella was on a short leash as she Becomes too excited around other dogs although when I’ve spoken to owners and they are okay, we do stop to say hello and she’s fine. On the walk this morning a terrier type dog came careering down the hill towards us.  I held Bella back, but immediately afterwards a large older dog, possibly a lab,  came snapping and growling following by a second terrier. I tried to block the advance with my body but was almost knocked over as the dog jumped up at me and then the three of them jumped on Bella who by this time was terrified, yelping and hopelessly tangled in her leash. I think I should have let go off the leash but I was scared that she would run and if they chased her I’d be helpless. Eventually their owner ran up after they had ignored his calls. He separated them before any physical harm was done although I think it was a close thing. I know I panicked and should have kept calm, but I was genuinely terrified at the situation. Although I’m fit and healthy, I am in my 70s and would not have had the physical strength to pull the other dog off. My adult son who is the joint owner would have been able to do this, but it was beyond me. Eventually I calmed Bella (and myself) down, but as we headed for home whenever she saw a dog in the distance she stopped and barked, and when it was time for her afternoon walk she hid when she saw the leash. To be honest I felt like hiding too!  Wherever we go there are off leash dogs and I know most have been properly trained and have responsible owners, but it’s dealing with the exceptions that worries me.  Any advice is welcome - and I don’t mind criticism if you feel I made mistakes.


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What a terrible experience! I am so sorry! As far as what you did right/wrong don't beat yourself up, the other dog owner was the only one who did wrong.

I have heard that you can carry the type of umbrella that opens quickly with a push of a button and it will scare dogs. Continue to brandish it threateningly and tell the dogs "NO." Before taking the umbrella on a walk you'd of course want to teach your pup slowly and carefully that an umbrella opening is Not scary and infact a Very Fun Thing! 


You could also consider carrying airhorns, canned air, a stout walking stick, a spray bottle with vinegar or lemon juice (I've heard this works for cyclists) or pepper spray if legal in your area. 

I carry food reward on my walks and I've thrown a handful of treats in the face of a dog approaching us barking, hackles up, it worked but the owner did give me a bad time for feeding his dog. I told him to be glad that's all I did. He claimed the dog was friendly, it certainly wasn't the most vicious if it stopped for some snacks but I wasn't gonna risk it.

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If you absolutely have to walk where there are dogs like this, I recommend carrying a weapon of some kind. I have lived in bad areas where there were lots of loose mean dogs and that is what worked for me. My favorite, although you need to check and see if it is legal in your area, is this:  Tactical baton

It is very handy, as it telescopes into a size easy to have on your belt. I have never once had to hit an attacking dog with it. They hear the snap it makes when you snap it out and run. Alternatively, a stick or umbrella, or walking or hiking stick will work. Most dogs will run as soon as you brandish something like that. I wouldn't do any kind of spray because the chance of it getting into your own dos'g eyes is much too great.

But.....better that a weapon, don't walk there!! Even if you run the dogs off, the fear will still be there for your puppy. If at all possible, take your dog somewhere else to walk even if it means having to drive there. It's not good for your pup to be terrorized and it will make her afraid of all other dogs, especially as she is so young and impressionable. She could become a dog who is fearful and therefore possibly aggressive herself if she has experiences like that. Make sure she has good experiences with other dogs to counteract that. If it were me, I would do everything in my power to make sure my puppy was not ever terrorized by something like that again. That kind of thing as a repeated experience for a developing puppy can ruin the dog's outlook for life. 

A good counter-action would be enrolling your pup in a good socializing/beginning training class for pups her age.  


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The umbrella thing worked for me once. I had Gibbs on leash and a very large mastiff or mastiff type/mix came barreling towards us. His human shouted, "HE'S FRIENDLY". Gibbs is not.

I yelled at the dog and waved my arms around and yelled more. He stopped, looked a little puzzled, but stood still. I walked backwards the whole time back to the car. 

It worked, thank goodness, but I'm getting that tactical baton. 

Ruth & Gibbs

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2 hours ago, GentleLake said:

I think that trekking pole would work just the same. It is the snap sound that gets their attention, and then they look at you and suddenly you are swinging a weapon above your head at them and off they go. it is surprising how well it works. Two large aggressive strong dogs once had my Jester down and they were going for his neck. I snapped out the baton and they took one look and ran. I was fully prepared in that case to start hitting them but actually I never have needed to yet.

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  • 2 weeks later...

At our fun agility class the trainer had a great tip. She said if you ever see a dog barreling towards you, grab your dog gently but quickly on each side of the collar and pull them round to face you. Talk calmly to your dog. She says it takes the wind out of the sails of the oncoming dog who has no interest in seeing another dogs butt. I haven’t had the chance to practice this yet but wish I had known of it when I experienced something similar to what you have just been through! 

With plenty of positive subsequent dog interactions and maturing, our dog got over it. 

Good luck!

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