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If you have ever encountered an off leash and uncontrolled dog when you are out walking your dog on a leash then this blog is for you.
Let's bust a few common beliefs before we jump into the how-to.
(1) Dogs should be friendly and get along with every dog they encounter and meet.
This is a very wrong idea that gets a lot of dogs into trouble and can even be the cause of reactivity in some dogs. Dogs just like ourselves are social animals, and part of being social is building meaningful relationships and friendships. They also each have unique personalities and preferences that dictate who they get along with and who they don't. They don't need to say "hello" to every stranger dog, it's important to respect your dog's emotions about other dogs.
(2) When two dogs do meet dog people often think they should just let the dogs "work it out".
What?!? Now being experienced in dog language there are times I might let a couple of dogs communicate uninterrupted by me. However, most greetings don't need to happen at all. This avoids any accidents. If you don't know the dog your dog is interacting with then you are not going to be able to predict what they might do. You run the risk (even if the owner is there shouting "my dog is friendly!") of one of the dogs ruining the other one in future greetings. It's especially important to mediate dog-dog interactions with puppies or young dogs because one growl or snap could cause lasting emotional damage to youth. So don't let your dog "just work it out" unless you truly feel that both dogs are communicating politely and appropriately.
(3) One final thought about common beliefs on dog relationships: Bulling or dogs that put other dogs in their "place" is never appropriate! You might be under the impression that your dog needs to be "dominated" by another dog to give them some perspective but this is NEVER needed and is NEVER appropriate behavior.
So what do you do when you see a dog off leash and out of their owners control barreling towards your own dog knowing what you know now.
Toss a Hand Full of Treats
This method works by physically hitting the approaching dog in the face with lots of small smelly treats that will distract and hopefully occupy them for a few moments. Giving you the chance to leave the situation with your own dog. Remember to give your dog treats and rewards for walking away nicely and not engaging with this stranger dog.
Pro: This method is probably the most humane method we will talk about. If it is a dog you encounter frequently it gives you the opportunity to train that dog to associate you and your dog as positive. It can lead to friendly more appropriate encounters by slowing the dog down and putting them in a good mood before greeting your dog.
Con: you have to be caring and an excessive amount of treats. If your dog is in training then this probably won't seem like a big deal. This method is not always effective depending on the dog approaching. Also, you don't know if that dog has any allergies or dietary restrictions but at the same time if that was the case (I figure) a responsible owner would keep them on a leash.
Yell and Posture
If a dog is coming at you in a rage I don't recomend you do this without also a back up plan to keep the dog from advancing (treats or citranella). This can be very effective with dogs who apper aware and responsive to their environment. I have experienced success with just standing up straight, looking a dog down, and saying "go home" in a clear tone. Doesn't mean you have to have a deep voice or a loud voice, a sencear clear voice with an overlineing tone of seriousness like giving directions to a child.
The warning with this is many dogs who are running at large are clueless as to how to comunicate with a human and are compleatly oblivious to their sarroundings.
Now remember this is not a training tool though you will be remembered by the dog you use it on after a couple of times and they might start leaving you alone. This has happened for me, so I guess you can say the dog was trained...
Citranella spray does deliver the element of shock and discomfort, with the side effect of the dog smelling like lemons. I only use this on dogs that are approching a dog I'm walking never on my own dogs. The reason is that it will build a negative asociation between you and the dog, but if you don't have any relationship with the stranger dog running at you and your dog and you don't plan on building on then this is the most effective way to keep your dog safe and confortable.
If you have a small dog or a dog that is reactive twards other dogs this method can build trust as they can start to relax in your precens because they know you will take care of the scary bad dogs that come too close.
In conclusion, there are many ways, more than what I mentioned, to gain control of an uncontroled dog trying to greet your controled dog when out on a walk. It's important to remember what roll you play in your dogs life and that is to be their leader not by dominateing them but by respecing their prefrences and sanding up for them when needed.
This kind approch has changed the relationship I have with my dogs (or dogs I work with) and created more calm, sweet, and well rounded dogs.