What you should do if you come across a loose dog.
Inevitably, there will be times when we encounter loose dogs in our daily lives. You may come across a dog while driving, while out for your daily jog, or while walking or training with your personal dog. In any situation, an unrestrained dog can be a very uncertain and unpredictable situation.
Here are some tips to help ensure your safety and the safety of everyone else (including the dogs) involved!
1. First rule of interacting with dogs: Every dog has the potential to bite!
The first thing you should do if you see a loose dog is to make a mental note of where you have seen the dog and immediately put as much safe distance between you and the dog. You should remain calm and walk slowly away from the dog, while continuing to keep an eye on the dog in case the dog tries to follow you.
2. Immediately call animal control!
Most animal control offices have after-hours personnel so that no matter what time of day they can assist you. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t answer the phone, they usually have a voice mail system and generally will respond very quickly. If you think that the dog may be a significant danger, or is inured, or acting strange, don’t be afraid to call 911.
3. If the dog is following you, don’t run!
If the dog is showing casual interest in you, but isn’t getting too close. Continue to walk calmly away from the dog and ignore the animal. Don’t talk to the animal or make large movements or sounds to scare them away because they may view this as you are trying to play with them. If you run, the dog may thing it is a game, or may think that you are prey and they are likely to chase you. Try to stay aware of where the dog is until you are far enough away.
4. If the dog approaches you
In the event that the dog approaches you calmly with a “soft face,” wagging tail, and a neutral body position, you should continue to move away from the dog and ignore them. In this case they are generally not a threat, but always refer to rule #1: Every dog has the potential to bite.
If the dog approaches you by running or charging at you with any stress signals or obvious signs of aggression (snarling, growling, barking, raised hackles [mohawk], lowered head, stiff tail, whites of the eyes showing) you should immediately get to safety. Try to get out of the dog’s reach by either climbing onto something that the dog can’t climb onto, or getting behind a gate. Don’t be afraid to use a stranger’s property if it means saving your life.
Duck into a backyard with an open fence gate that you can close behind you.
Climb on top of a vehicle. (Most dogs won’t be able to maintain their grip on the slick paint of a vehicle)
Climb into a trash bin (I know its gross, but it works!)
Climb onto of a utility box.
Climb into the bed of a pick-up truck.
You should also yell and make loud noises at the dog to scare them away. This will also hopefully alert the attention of other people nearby that may be able to help with the situation. Even if you have more than one person, no one should try to catch or handle this dog! Wait for first responders. This is definitely a situation to dial 911 directly.
5. If a dog approaches you with your dog
Unfortunately, having a dog with you tends to attract loose dogs. A loose dog will be far more interested in someone walking their dog than someone walking without a dog.
Even if the dog appears to be friendly you should still do everything in your ability to prevent the loose dog from approaching your dog or you if possible.
If you can move to some place safe like ducking into a back yard with a gate, this is the best way to prevent anything bad from happening.
If you don’t have anywhere safe to escape to, you should put yourself between the loose dog and your dog. Never assume that your dog wants to meet a strange loose dog or vice versa. Keep yourself between your dog and the loose dog while facing the loose dog and continue to calmly move away from the loose dog. This may seem a little awkward and difficult, but if you can also make “shooing” motions and sounds to discourage the loose dog from pursuing you.
If the loose dog appears to be aggressive this is likely going to be the most dangerous situation. Do everything you can to get to a safe place with your dog. Depending on your relationship with your dog, you may need to prioritize your safety or your dog’s safety unfortunately.
If your dog is small enough, one of the most common and fastest ways to keep them safe is to pick them up and quickly put them into someone’s trash bin. It sounds gross, but it works. If your dog is small enough for you to carry, you should carry them while you climb up onto high ground like on a car or a utility box.
Do not try to convince the dog to leave or scare them off while you are holding your dog. Your dog becomes exponentially more valuable to an aggressing dog the moment you pick them up. Your dog and yourself instantly become much more vulnerable while you are holding them.
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