Leash Training

What Do You Do If An Off-Leash Dog Approaches You?

by Alison Page

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What do you do if an off-leash dog approaches you while you are walking a dog?

Initially, you should walk away. If the dog continues to approach, use treats as a distraction or block the dog’s approach with your body or an umbrella. Deterrent sprays can be helpful, and as a last resort, you could pick up your pup and put him somewhere out of reach of the approaching pup.

Now, check out this detailed guide to find out what to do during an off-leash dog encounter.

What Do You Do If An Off-Leash Dog Approaches You?

Dangerous dog at large

Seeing an unleashed pooch bounding toward you and your pet can be quite alarming since you don’t know what to expect, and not every pup is friendly. In addition, your dog might not be the most sociable canine on the planet, so you would prefer not to have other dogs approach him.

So, what do you do if an off-leash dog approaches you and your pet?

Here are some top tips to help you manage the situation safely.

Observe Your Dog

Watch your dog closely, paying close attention to his body language. Your pooch will almost certainly spot a strange pup approaching long before you do. You must take action immediately if your dog shows signs of fear or aggression.

Walk away from the strange dog, especially if your dog has a history of overexcitement, barking on the leash, or leash aggression. It’s best to avoid confrontation and be safe.

Communicate With The Owner

If the dog’s owner is within earshot, call out and ask if the approaching pup is friendly. Most times, the owner will recall their pup, and a potential crisis is averted.

Of course, if the dog’s owner is nowhere in sight, communication is not an option.

Walk Away

Dog walk in the forest

Most of the time, walking calmly away from the pup is enough to avoid an altercation and keep you and your pooch safe. Most times, the other dog is friendly and simply wants to say “hi” to your pet.

Don’t go toward the other dog or engage with it. The pup might follow you. In that case, keep walking away. The other dog will probably lose interest in your pup and go on his way if he’s not allowed to greet your pet.

Aggression Or Fear?

Often, a pup might appear aggressive when he’s actually only frightened or nervous. Don’t approach the dog, as that could make the situation worse. Keep walking so that the dog doesn’t feel intimidated or threatened by your presence.

If the strange pup appears to be a stray and isn’t wearing a collar with ID tags, contact your local animal control agency.

We don’t recommend that you try to get a leash on the stray dog. That could make a bad situation much worse.

Stay Safe

Occasionally, dogs can get physical and start scrapping. That can be terrifying, especially if your pooch is coming off worst. My pooch was attacked by other off-leash pups several times, and it’s the most awful situation to find yourself in.

If that happens to you, do not get involved by reaching in to try to separate the dogs. If you put your hands into the middle of the fight, you’ll probably finish up getting bitten, and you could be seriously injured.

On the few occasions when my dog was attacked, the offender’s owner was on hand to remove their dog and get it back under control. Fortunately, no owners or dogs were injured, albeit somewhat traumatized.

Try Vocally Redirecting The Strange Dog

Brittany Spaniel

You can try using other vocal cues to grab the strange dog’s attention and redirect him. 

On occasions when an aggressive off-leash dog approached us, I often found that using basic commands, such as “Sit!,” “No!,” or even “Go away!” in a firm voice did the trick and got us out of a potentially sticky situation.

Often, it’s the tone of your voice that’s effective rather than the actual words you use. Don’t yell or shout at the pup, as that could trigger a fear/aggression response in both dogs.

What To Do If An Aggressive Dog Runs At You

In the worst-case scenario, a strange pooch might physically attack you and or your pup. 

Stand completely still, averting your eyes and keeping your arms down at your sides. If you show no reaction, it’s much less likely that the dog will attack you. With luck, the pup will walk away.

Try to position yourself side-on to the pup, keeping him in your peripheral vision rather than facing him directly and making eye contact. It’s likely that the dog will sniff you or your pet, so curl your fingers into fists to avoid them being bitten.

Treat Distraction

Beagle with treat

Most dogs are food-oriented, and it’s often possible to distract an approaching dog by offering some high-value treats. Throw a handful of treats onto the ground to give you a chance to walk away while the pup is eating them.

That’s often effective, although there’s the risk that a stray dog might follow you, and not every owner appreciates a stranger feeding their pooch.

Physical Barrier

If the off-leash dog appears to be aggressive, try to put a physical barrier between you, such as a fence, gate, or even a parked car. Trees and telephone poles can also make useful barriers in a desperate situation.

The Last Resort

If the strange dog bites you, you must defend yourself and your furry friend. Try to aim a kick to the dog’s nose, throat, or the back of his head. That should be enough to stun the dog and allow you and your pet to get away.

If you are carrying an umbrella or a stick, you can and should use the object to hit the pup. Again, aim for the nose, throat, or back of the head. Pepper spray, mace, or citronella-based deterrent spray all work well as a defense against a dog that’s attacking you. 

Although using physical force against an aggressive pup is definitely the last resort, dog attacks can be fatal. So, you should not feel bad about using whatever degree of force is necessary,

Notify The Authorities

If a dangerous off-leash dog attacks you and your pet, you have a responsibility to report the incident to your local law enforcement department.

Should I Pick My Dog Up If Another Dog Approaches?

Dalmatian dog running in the Park

If you have a small pooch or a puppy, your automatic reaction is to pick up your dog if an unfamiliar canine approaches. Sometimes, doing so can be a good solution. However, move slowly and calmly so that you don’t trigger the approaching dog’s prey drive.

The last thing you want is for the approaching pup to jump up and try to grab your pet. So, turn your back to hide what you’re doing and minimize the likelihood of aggressive behavior in the other pup.

Choose The Right Place To Exercise Your Dog

Almost every state and city has leash laws in place that are designed to keep dogs, their owners, and the general public safe from harm.

There will be dog parks and other designated areas where you can legally exercise your dog off-leash. However, you shouldn’t allow your pooch to run off-leash if you have any doubts that he might not come back to you when called or if he has an unreliable temperament.

If you have a pup that’s nervous, leash reactive, or demonstrates aggression toward other dogs, you must not take your pet to busy areas where off-leash dogs are permitted.

Body Talk!

Owners Separating Aggressive Dogs from Each Other

Understanding what your dog’s body is saying is key to managing negative canine interactions between a strange pooch and your pet.

If you know how to spot a happy, aggressive, frightened, playful, and curious pup, you can take whatever action is necessary to handle the situation. To learn how to read dog body language, check out this fascinating article by the American Kennel Club!

Teach Your Dog Good Leash Manners

Out-of-control dogs on extendable leashes can present as great a hazard as an off-leash pup. In fact, if two leashes become tangled, absolute carnage can occur, with fights and injuries occurring, simply because the two dogs feel trapped and can’t run away.

If your pooch is well-mannered on the leash, it will be much easier to cope in a potentially dangerous or confrontational situation. That way, if an off-leash dog approaches you, you can quickly direct your pet, and a well-trained pooch will be much more able to follow your lead.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide on what to do if you and your pup are approached by an off-leash dog. If you found the information helpful, please share the article with other anxious dog owners!

As pet owners, we have the right to walk our pets without fear of an off-leash dog bothering us or our furry friends. Unfortunately, you can sometimes encounter an off-leash pup unexpectedly, so it’s vital that you know what to do.

Your first action should be to walk away without engaging with the strange pooch. If possible, communicate with the dog’s owner and ask them to call their dog. If the dog continues to bother you and there’s no sign of the owner, try tossing a few treats the pup’s way as a distraction while you get away. 

Sometimes, using verbal cues can help to redirect an off-leash dog, or you can use something like a gate, fence, or car to place a physical barrier between you. As a last resort, you might have to physically defend yourself and your canine companion.

What did you do when you were approached by an off-leash dog? Tell us in the comments box below.

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