Seven strategies for stopping off-leash dogs

Spring is just around the corner, and likely to increase your chances of an encounter with an off-leash dog.

Whether it’s a dog that’s just been left to roam freely without supervision, or accompanied by a person who says “they’re friendly,” regardless of the scenario, not all dogs want to have other dogs approach them–especially if you have a dog that is afraid, or may not like greetings from overzealous, happy dogs.

And so, here are my seven strategies for stopping such dogs and helping you and your dog(s) stay safer:

  1. Toss a handful of treats away from you and your dog. If the dog is friendly, the best way to cope is by tossing a huge handful of treats as far away from you as possible, and then move quickly away in an opposite direction. In this way, you’re very peacefully diffusing the situation and giving the other dog something way better to do, especially if those treats are scrumptious! This is the kindest way to deal with the situation, which is why it’s at the top of my list.
  2. Place your dog in a “behind” and assume an authoritative stance. It’s best to do some training with your dog on getting into a position behind you so you can act as a barrier. You can easily use a food lure to get your dog into position, and say YES and give the treat once they are behind you. Doing this in a variety of situations and environments can help once you are being approached by an off-leash dog when you’re out. As you block your dog, you can then assume an “authoritative” stance by straightening up as tall as you can, and placing your hand as a “stop sign” like a cross guard. Say NO, STOP or STAY in a firm voice. For some dogs, this can help stop them in their tracks.
  3. Pick up your dog if needed, or let go of his leash. For those with small dogs who can be picked up, we recommend doing so, to keep them safe. You should be careful to pick up your dog quickly and turn away so the approaching dog won’t be able to jump and bite at your dog, if they aren’t friendly. You could also try to move him into a car, truck bed or behind another barrier like a fence, if you can. If your dog is too large to be picked up, you might want to let go of the leash to let him get away, if necessary. While we all want to keep our dogs safe, it’s imperative that you are safe as well–if you aren’t, then you won’t be able to help regardless of the situation.
  4. Use a pop-up umbrella as a barrier. This is one of my favorite strategies, especially if you’re worried the dog will not be persuaded by your treats to move away, or stop for you. It’s a great, easy barrier to carry as you can find many small umbrellas that are easy to carry along, and with the push of a button, will pop up and can be used to not only startle the oncoming dog, but be a barrier between you and your dog, and the accosting dog. It’s important to get your own dog used to this, though, before using it in real life. By bringing out the umbrella and letting your own dog sniff at it, while you give treats, and then eventually pop it up and use it as you would in real life. Pairing it with really high-value food treats before a situation arises will make your dog view it as a good thing instead of also getting startled in the moment(s) you may end up having to use it!
  5. Carry bang snaps. Bang snaps are a novelty noisemaker firework; they come in small boxes and snap as you toss them down on the ground. These can definitely help startle and keep another dog away but again, you’ll want to use it around your own dog, pairing with very high-value treats in a gradual way so they’ll get used to the noise before you would ever have to use it in a real-life scenario.
  6. Some sprays can be helpful too. There are a few commercial deterrent sprays that could be helpful as well, but you’d also want to get your dog used to these options as well before you use them against dogs who are rushing you:
    • Pet Corrector: This product emits a hiss sound that is very loud and most animals find unpleasant. It’s marketed a lot for barking (which I do not advocate; I DO NOT advocate using punishment to correct problem behaviors).
    • Spray Shield: This deterrent is a citronella-based spray; most dogs find this smell unpleasant, but it not harmful for anyone in its path in terms of physical pain.
    • Halt!: This spray is the last on my list because it does have capsicum, a natural pepper extract. I do not advocate this except as a LAST RESORT ONLY for when you are not walking your own dog, and worry about the possibility of an aggressive dog approaching you. Pepper sprays and mace really aren’t the best options as they can also shift with wind to possibly hurt YOU as well!
  7. Carry a cane. Again, this is not at the top of my list because I do not advocate for harming dogs, but if you do worry about the potential of being hurt by an off-leash aggressive dog, carrying something like a cane to use if absolutely necessary can be another tactic. If nothing else, it can help those who have been traumatized by a dog attack to feel a little more comfort having such a “weapon.” There are also other self-defense sticks out on the market, but you should check your local laws to ensure you aren’t breaking any by having these on your person.

If you have recurring issues with off-leash dogs, CALL ANIMAL CONTROL. Yes, it sucks to be the “bad guy,” but leash laws exist for a reason, and violators should be reported for everyone’s safety.

Stay safe and have a wonderful spring season with your Way Cool Canine!

Published by waycoolcanines

Owner/trainer at Way Cool Canines. We train your dog for you! We also offer enrichment services for dogs with busy people, and remote consultations and training for anyone, anywhere.

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