Monday, January 3, 2011
Walking your dog is a healthy activity for you and your dog. Going to dog parks provides a safe and enclosed area where you can let your dog run off leash and play with other dogs. Sometimes, however, a dog comes from out of nowhere and attacks your dog. Breaking up dog fights between your own dogs at home is one thing, but trying to break up a fight when you're away from home is something completely different. How can you protect your dog and yourself if another dog attacks your dog?
It can be hard to figure out why another dog suddenly attacks your dog. A dog's body language can be subtle, and signals from both dogs can be missed by the person holding the leash. However, whatever it was that caused the hostile reaction doesn't really matter when two dogs are locked in battle, with you on the other end of your dog's leash. Of course, it's best to avoid a fight all together, but that's not always possible and breaking up dog fights can be dangerous for dogs and people.
Dog attacks while walking your dog are not uncommon, and you have to be prepared for possible encounters. What you should do depends on who you talk to. Some dog experts recommend carrying a heavy duty walking stick to use on an attacking dog. Other experts say to drop your dog's leash and stay out of the way. For me, neither one is a good option. It's my job to protect my dog, and I also don't want to hurt another dog.
My dogs look to me as their leader, and it's my responsibility to protect them. Dogs can come out of the blue to attack your dog and you don't always have an opportunity to read his body language. If you do encounter a dog that is off leash while you're out walking alone or with your dog, stay calm and keep a close eye on the dog. Be aware of what's going on, and expect the unexpected.
Having a sturdy walking stick does have a purpose. It’s something you could use to get in between two fighting dogs. If you have a chance to prepare before the dog attacks, when he starts moving toward you, yell “No” and take a step towards him. Try to read his level of aggression by looking at his eyes (intense and focused) without staring at him, ears (laid back on his head), hair standing up on the back of his neck or along the rump and movements that are stiff. If you can get him to back off, move away slowly, but don't turn your back on him. Try to keep your dog as calm as you can. Any show of aggression from him can prompt an attack from the other dog.
You can carry a backpack with some clothing or a small blanket inside – anything to give it bulk to use to push the other dog away, or to put in between the dogs to give you some protection from snapping teeth. Carrying one or two cans of pepper spray or bear spray is always good. Don't be afraid to use as much as needed and spray directly into the dog's nose and eyes. Be mindful of the wind so you don't spray yourself. If you have to use the spray on your dog as well, don't hesitate to do so. A bright flashlight can be directed into the eyes of an attacking dog to temporarily blind him. Another useful thing to carry is an air horn. The loud noise could persuade the dog not to attack in the first place. If he does attack, the horn might help break up either dog's focus during a fight, and will help call attention to other people in the area to come help.
Your best defense against another dog attacking your dog is to be alert and try to prevent an attack from happening. If that's not possible or it happens before you're aware there's even another dog around, try to stay calm. A mind that's in panic mode doesn't function well. Think about what you would do before you have an encounter. Carry a stout walking stick and anything that might be helpful in a convenient pocket where you can quickly grab what you need.
Understanding dog behavior is one of your best weapons if another dog attacks your dog. I recently wrote on article on understanding dog fights that might help you. There are no simple answers though. The best thing to do is to stay alert and calm, and think about what to do before you encounter an attack.
Read more articles by Linda Cole