How to respond when an aggressive dog runs up to my dog?
Something that I get asked a lot is what to do if you’re approached by a potentially aggressive dog. In this article I have covered off 3 situations where you are walking your dog on a leash and another dog off the leash comes running up to you. Being challenged by another dog when out walking is a real concern especially if you have either a very young puppy , a small dog or an aggressive dog. So what do you do?
Dealing with the friendly barker
The first thing that I should point out is this: only a very, very small number of dogs are actually aggressive. Hopefully even fewer who are off leash will be. The reason I point this out is that often people jump to the conclusion that a dog that runs towards you is going to be aggressive when they could in fact be the friendliest dog in the world. In this situation it is very common for people to make a drama out of nothing. When a dog is excited they will have lots of energy and bark, especially if they want your dog to play too. More often than not if you simply let your dog off the leash they will play and the barking shall stop! However if you are not sure or don’t have the time to play just keep walking as if the other dog does not exist. They will soon get the message and leave you alone.
The wrong play mate
Sometimes you will simply feel like the other dog is not the right dog for your dog. They may be too active or too big. If your dog is very small, a puppy, injured or they simply do not wish to play and you want the other dog to leave you alone then I would again walk off as if the other dog does not exist. When you do this, monitor yourself, keep your energy calm, stay silent and if possible leave your dog or puppy on the ground and just walk them away on the leash. Picking them up will often make things worse as suddenly the dog following you will be trying to sniff your dog up around your neck height! Picking them up also gives your dog the message that something is wrong and tension often rises rapidly.
A real challenger
If you are actually challenged by another dog and by this I mean they come running over growling and barking aggressively, then guess what. The best solution is to turn your back on the other dog and walk calmly and slowly away. Staying calm will be your best chance of the incident not escalating. Once you are a short distance from the dog, say 5-10 meters away you can walk quicker. In all my years of dog training I have found this to be the best approach to take. Of course you can try to put the other dog in their place by shouting at them however there is a risk that your dog shall sense your stress and join in the verbal attack raising the tension further, so this is not my preferred approach. Be especially wary of this approach if the other dog is a large confident dog, challenging them in this way is not a good idea in case they take up your challenge.
As you can see the solution is often far simpler than you think. I have used the same approach when dealing with humans! People who are looking for trouble and an argument are best left alone, calmly and quietly. They are best not challenged unless you really know what you are doing and have the support behind you.
So next time you are approached by a dog you are not sure about, simply show your dog through your actions rather than lots of words how you want them to behave. In every situation it is your calm energy which will bring you through, and silence is the calmest energy of all… that is something your dog already understands.
Be safe out there, and please leave me some feedback…