What To Do If You’re Approached By An Aggressive Dog


I’m sure most dogs that you encounter in your daily life are playful, friendly and kind. 

So when you’re confronted by a dog that’s aggressive and mean, it might catch you off guard…like you’re face-to-face with a coyote in the middle of the street. 

Knowing what to do in these situations can keep you as safe as possible. 

Because, let’s face it, not every dog is as calm and collected as your friendly neighborhood golden retriever.

In fact, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. And more than 800,000 require medical attention!

Well, Doggy Dan, most dogs in my neighborhood are ‘friendly breeds’ like labs and poodles

Let me be clear…aggression is not specific to one breed

ALL DOGS are capable of biting. 

A study performed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the CDC, and the Humane Society of the United States, analyzed dog bites and found that the statistics don’t show that any breeds are inherently more dangerous than others.

So when you’re out on a morning run and you see a growling dog down the street, don’t immediately approach it because it might lash out and act aggressively towards you. 

Instead, knowing how to “communicate” with an aggressive dog and let them know you’re not a threat can help keep you safe.

Stay Calm and Avoid Confrontation (If You Can)


You’re out and about when a strange dog wanders your way. 

First and foremost, never go running up to an unfamiliar dog. They might think that you have ill intentions towards them and respond aggressively if you approach. 

Making loud noises or even running in the opposite direction can escalate the situation. You cannot outrun a dog, so keep calm and slowly back away from the aggressive dog (continue monitoring where they are at all times). 

Think of how you would react if you saw an aggressive person in the street who seemed to be looking for a fight. You certainly wouldn’t run up to them and or start yelling at them because that will tell them that you’re ready for a fight too. 

Instead, you would quietly walk in the other direction and away from any potential trouble. 

The same can be true for approaching an aggressive dog. As long as they’re not actively pursuing you, just walk away from the situation to keep yourself safe. 

If the dog is tethered to something or inside a fence and growling or excessively barking, calmly walk to the other side of the street until you’ve passed them. 

Never hold eye contact with an unfamiliar or aggressive dog. Dogs perceive prolonged eye contact as a challenge – and they may respond with aggression. 

Dogs can pick up on your emotions, which is why it’s so important to remain calm and collected as you try to remove yourself from any negative encounter with an aggressive dog.

If You Can’t Avoid Confrontation


If an aggressive dog jumps out at you and you aren’t able to back away or remove yourself from the situation, stay confident and address the dog in a soothing tone

I know it can be intimidating to speak in a relaxing way when you’re face-to-face with those big canines, but this might just disarm the dog and let them know that you don’t pose a threat to them.

If an aggressive dog lunges towards you in a threatening way, be prepared to use items you might be carrying to put between you and the dog. 

A backpack, umbrella or even your shoe can help shield you from an aggressive dog

I know that I mentioned before to stay calm and not yell at an aggressive dog. However, if they’re coming at you and you have no other option, try clapping or yelling or even puffing up your chest to appear large and intimidating. They might feel frightened and run off.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes


What’s the best way to understand a dog’s behavior? Think like a dog!

Most times dogs have a reason for acting aggressively. 

Maybe the dog is afraid of you and responding out of fear. In this case, backing away slowly or demonstrating that you’re not a threat can tell them they don’t need to react with aggression. 

Dogs who show aggression might be guarding something. Did you walk into their “territory” or are you near an object that might be important to them (bone, stick, treat, etc.)? Check your surroundings and move away from anything the dog might be guarding. 

Perhaps the dog is hungry. If you’re carrying any snacks in your backpack or leftover treats in your pocket, carefully throw them far away. If the dog is hungry, they will run after the food and you can get out of the situation. 

Aggressive dogs often come from family homes with owners who have simply bit off more than they can chew. If you have an aggressive dog or know someone who does, they probably need a solid training program.

Having an aggressive dog, or encountering one, can happen to anyone, and you don’t want to be put in a situation where your dog hurts other people. 

This can be avoided with proper training, regardless of your dog’s age. 

I’ve gone over some basic communication tips here on how to let an aggressive dog know that you’re not a threat as you approach them. Learning how to speak a dog’s language is the basis of my Dog Calming Code™ training program

What I do is help you to communicate with your dog to help them achieve a consistent ‘calm’ state, so they are able to listen to your commands no matter what is going on around you. This is how you can truly help an aggressive dog relax and turn to you for guidance (instead of lashing out at you). 

No matter what your dog has done in the past or how aggressive they’ve behaved, I believe that any dog can learn and grow with the proper tools in place. 

Learn more about my Dog Calming Code™ program

And get ready to transform your relationship with your dog.


To a safe and happy future!

Doggy Dan Signature 

~ Doggy Dan 🙂

Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

5 Responses

  1. I remember when I encountered an aggressive dog and I was scared out of my mind. Fortunately, I was riding a bike, and just pedaled my way out of the alley. I did lose my slipper back then, but at least I wasn’t bitten.

  2. Have started the dog calming program.it seems to be going ok for 3 days now but tonight the rescue dog went off on Yorkee poo and attacked him over a toy. Lots of screeching from yorkee. Here is my question, what do I do in the immediate aftermath of such an episode? I didn’t yell. I pulled rescue dog off yorkee. Put rescue in time out. Very upsetting. Unprovoked episodes also with no toy involved. I am doing the calming code and am on step three. I sure hope we can stop this. Help please…….Toni

    1. Hi Toni,
      It’s important to allow a little time for the changes you are making to filter down to your dogs, and also for them to test you a little! Generally speaking the first couple of weeks is where this predominantly happens and so it’s important to apply the Dog Calming Code consistently and as advised. Your dogs will have both good and not-so-good days along the way, that’s a very normal part of changing behaviours (for us also!). Toys are often seen as more than just play things, they are possessions and some dogs will use them to communicate status to other dogs in the family and it can cause tension…..kind of like children fighting over the same toy! We have a section on my membership website about this, and also how to work with dogs in the same household who are fighting. If you are already a member of my website then remember we have a really great Forum where you can ask for guidance and help any time you need it…..All the Best, Doggy Dan

  3. Hi Dan. We have an awesome 7kg Staffy/Chi Hua Hua cross we rescued 2 years ago. I have been using your calming code rules for a couple of months and the change has been great. Our only issue is still Chappys “aggression” towards other dogs. He has obviously had big dog trauma before he came to us. We don’t socialise him because of this issue. he recently stayed for several days with 2 other big dogs and did really well. We would like to get a 2nd dog but really want to iron out this attitude he has with other dogs. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Jenny,
      If you are wanting to add another dog to your family then applying the Dog Calming Code with your existing dog is a great idea. It’s also a great idea to work through any existing behavioural issues prior to bringing another dog into your home. Dogs who are reactive towards other dogs on a walk often require a little patience and practice. Scheduling in some short, frequent practice sessions during the day….rather than only doing this when you are actually wanting to go for a walk, is a really great way for your dog to learn and create new habits. Give him space when other dogs are present, move to the other side of the Street if you need to, so that you can keep his excitement level as low as you can…..this will allow him to process the information you are giving him.
      I’m not sure if you are a member of my website (TheOnlineDogTrainer.com) but we have some really great resources to help with this behaviour…..maybe take a quick look…it’s a $1USD trial for 3 days…All the Best, Doggy Dan

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