Deterring Loose Dogs

Unfortunately, we seem to be in a time when very few dogs are receiving the socialization or training they need to be good companions and good canine citizens.

I see a lot of dogs that are reactive to a large majority of situations.

And, I see a lot of dogs that are severely dog aggressive.

Tips on Stopping a Loose Dog from Approaching You

Ironically, I had a horrible experience in my own yard just the other day.

My brother’s dogs were outside in the back yard. I was getting ready to go to the gym, but I knew my girl Fury needed to go out, so I let her out in our front yard.

She had her two front paws on our deck, and her two back paws in the grass, squatting to pee when I heard the neighbor dog growl, as he dug his nails into the cement of the driveway to come and attack my dog.

As he did so, I could hear the neighbor lady yelling about how he is really a friendly dog.

Luckily, 25+ years as a professional dog trainer and over 15 as a veterinary technician has given me some quick reflexes, and thankfully my dog was within arm’s length.

I grabbed her by her scruff (she is 60 pounds), opened the door, and threw her inside, simply by instinct.

He came at us so fast I had to shut him in my own front door to get him to back away.

It was terrifying!

And, although I thought I already knew a lot about deterring loose dogs, I learned even more from this experience.

Although I yelled at the owner to get the dog, and then at the dog, and stomped toward him, he was hell-bent on attacking my dog.

Had I not intervened so quickly and been able to get her inside, there would have been a horrible dog fight.

Even after shutting him out for a few moments, when I went to exit the front door he was still there trying to get inside.

He literally would have come into my house and attacked my dog!

He could have killed my dog.

It was at that moment that I decided to always be prepared.

I would do anything for my dog.

I would have even been willing to commit violence on her behalf.

Be Prepared

I have become nervous about walking my dogs in neighborhoods.

But I never thought I had to fear for them in my yard, or that a dog would come into my house.

My first line of defense has always been to put my dogs in a “down stay” so that I can stomp at and yell at the charging dog, as well as yelling for the owner.

deterring loose dogs, dog trainingMy second line of defense has always been pepper spray.

Yes, I would have pepper sprayed them both if I had to; it is better than having a dead dog.

I will also be walking with a weapon.

I hate to say it, but I would use one if I had to, to save my dog’s life.

You must be mentally prepared to deal with the situation.

I will also never leave without carrying my phone. I have often been on walks around the neighborhood without my phone.

I realize I may need it to call the police.

The Best Defense?

Beyond all that, which is critically important, what is THE best defense?

Well behaved dogs.

If my dog had been at all dog aggressive or reactive, or if I hadn’t been able to control her, I would have lost the war.

The fact that my dog listened and respected me is a key piece in saving her life that day.

I can try to control or deter the other dog, but the truth is that the only dog I have control over is my own.

And, two dogs that are dog aggressive or dog reactive are going to have a much, much worse fight!

Keep your dog on a leash and near you.

If your dog is off leash and far away from you, you have no control.

Leashes are a blessing.

Leashes keep dogs safe.

Leashes save lives.

If there is an altercation, you don’t want to have the dog that was off leash, because being off leash in most places is illegal.

It is sad to admit, but we live in a different world than we did just 15 years ago.

You must prepare to deal with the dogs of today and the problems they have, and not be in denial.

Behavior gives us a lot of information (despite what owners say). Use that information to prepare yourself!WC ad 1

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  1. Michael McClure says:

    I would like to participate in you class, however i just found your article which states the class is on June 2nd. I am not available on that day. Will you have another class day, and if so when?


    Dana Reply:

    We typically offer the class at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m., 7 days a week. If the current dates/times don’t work for you, please feel free to check back when you are able to see if we have added additional classes.


  2. Angela Smith says:

    Good article, such a shame that all those who insist on walking their dogs off leash – against council regulations in most areas here – won’t read it, or if they did it “wouldn’t apply to them”


  3. steve giroux says:

    I have my dog Lucy she is now 5 months old. I’m still having the problem of her biting jumping up on you and she likes to chew on everything possible. I’m doing something wrong I know I tried the treat in your hand to distract her but dont work she just bites the other hand and arms but no blood. I need help big time I dont want to give up on her. She is a Border Collie Mix Shepherd not spayed yet one more month then I can get her fixed.


  4. Jenny says:

    This happened to my last dog a number of times and he never got over it. We had 11 years of avoiding dogs just through inconsiderate owners!


  5. Bob Parsons says:

    I spoke to our local (small town) police chief about some off-leash dog attacking my dog on our walks. He knows me (I am former law enforcement) and he said since there is a leash law, I would have every right to shoot the attacking dog to protect my property (my $2,000 dog). I wouldn’t want to do it, but I would.


  6. Richard Goulborn says:

    Unfortunately dogs do act like their owners. It can be overtly aggressive or a passive aggressive type. You have to know your dogs traits and character well before you let your dog off the lead to know if it is safe or not.


  7. Danielle says:

    Letting go of the leash … My dog was attacked by a pack of dogs amongst which were 5 or 6 German Shepherds. They had escaped from the property they were guarding. I was walking my 3 dogs. The only thing that saved my dogs was to let them loose so they can run away and run they did. Meanwhile I was screaming my head off. My husband was back at the house and opened the gate to let ours in and walked onto the attacking dogs screaming at them. They cowered, thank goodness. If my dogs had not been able to run away I would not have been able to defend them against that pack. Yes I was carrying a stick but it would not have been enough. Note that my dogs normally stand their ground or react when attacked, at least verbally.


  8. Margie says:

    Thanks for useful information if attacked by a dog, but what would you do if attacked by cats?? I was walking my lab along a street on the lead (telling her to ‘leave’ if passing a cat which she is getting quite good at.) suddenly two young cats leapt on her back like lions hissing and growling! My poor dog was helpless and screamed in pain twisting on the lead. A motorist passing stopped to ask if she could help, but very difficult to get them off without gloves. How ever I crossed the road and eventually they gave up. We were both quite shaken. What would you recommend in this instance?


  9. Douglas Burnside says:

    When I walk my dogs (a Standard Poodle and a show-quality Sheltie) I always have a stun gun (sometimes incorrectly called a taser) clipped to my belt that can be reached and activated in less than a second. I’ve used it several times but have never had to actually shock or stun a dog. The crackling buzz it makes when activated scares the living hell out of aggressive dogs. They run!

    Should the need arise, I would stun the attacking dog. Then, coldly and dispassionately kill it on the spot. For every dog that thinks he is big and bad, there is always another dog bigger and badder than he is. In this case that dog would be me. Think of it as evolution in action.


  10. Jess says:

    Once you stun a dog, there is no need to kill it. And you would have no compassion? That is very sad.


    Minette Reply:

    This is like telling a cop how to act or react. When you have .2 seconds to make a decision and a reaction it isn’t as easy as you make it sound.

    Have you seen police dogs and how quickly they run and bite… I have never once been able to “stun” a dog running aggressively like that.


  11. Christine says:

    Steve, get that dog fixed NOW! she is not too young. Also, be prepared to have a dog chewing on everything for at least four or five months or more. It is up to you to provide the appropriate things for her to chew on. You have a very high energy dog. She needs a place to run and run. I once read an article about Border Collies needing a very large area to run. Also, since she is a working breed, you need to make sure she is occupied all the time! A tired dog is a good dog. I live in a rural area and many of the farms out here have Border Collies and lots of room to run. I hope you have enrolled her in school. It will make a huge difference for you and for her. Best of luck!


  12. Andy says:

    Dramatic post; dogs take a disliking to one another now and then – the problem here is that owners blame the other owners for thier dog being out of control – well hello, no one has full control over thier dog all of the time. We need to accept that dogs will bark at one another, they will have the occassional fight (which they won’t die from), and to train our dogs as best we can in obediance so that we can ‘ try our best’ when these sitautions arise – the problem will never go away – people need to accept it is what it is. If there can be lessons learnt then great – but even the most responsible dog owners experience this difficulty from time to time – meaning they should understand. We need tolerance.

    My dog will lunge at other dogs occassionally but she will come straight back if I call her to come everytime, she’s never bitten another dog or anyone in 8 years. If she got bit I would accept it’s just one of those things – dogs do misbehave in a human eyes sometimes. Sadly when these inccidents happen some people even call the Police or sue – shame on these folk for creating misery for others in this way. The dangerous dogs act is open to abuse. As awful as it is to witness a dog fight, I believe there should be no legal consequence allowed with dog on dog fights, if a dog attacks a human then yes. We need a better law that understands dog behaviour, is tolerant, is not written by or gives power to irrational people.

    I do think if your dog’s a biter then this will cause you nothing but stress, if I had a biter, as sad as this is, if I couldn’t train this behaviour out with the help of a specialist, I’d have to have the dog put to sleep.If it continues to bite other dogs it may bite a human next; that’s just how it is.


  13. Nancy Galloway says:

    It’s a shame that dumb/naive dog owners can cause such harm (both physical and emotional) to not only other dogs, but humans. Our sweet, young Golden Retriever was attacked by a pit bull (came up running and attacking out of nowhere while we were visiting someone in a very small town) – nothing turns me into the meanest woman alive like a threat to my dog. I have never been so scared or so angry at the same time. Fortunately, she was on a leash with me, and I was able to keep kicking the dog (as the pit bull jumped on our dog’s back and was going for her throat or biting her legs) and yelling at the top of my lungs for some help. Our dog was lucky and only suffered minor cuts to her legs. I was lucky the dog didn’t turn its focus on me. My husband finally heard us from inside and was able to secure the animal. He later visited the dog owner & told him in no uncertain terms – either take care of the situation permanently, or he would do it himself. The dog was humanely put down – it was later disclosed, this was not the first time it had attacked.

    To this day, we stay away from dog parks, and other gatherings organized to socialize dogs-like a puppy plunge, etc. We only socialize our dog with those we know are well-trained and have experienced owners. And yes, it is very important to have control of your dog and the proper commands to ensure safety for all concerned.


  14. Linda says:

    I look forward to reading my email everyday. It is filled with informative articles and invaluable information. Thank you so much for the constant insight!!!!


  15. Denise volpe says:

    I don’t think you have to kill it; a stun gun or some type of spray or pepper spray sounds like a great idea also. Sadly it’s not the dogs fault but the owners lack of training and responsibility. So tired of hearing “oh he’s fine, he wouldn’t do anything”…. even if; how do they know my dog wouldn’t! It’s very scary and has happened to me several times.


  16. Bob says:

    Following an unprovoked attack from the back in which my resting in the shade
    English Cream Golden was chewed up by the perfect pet of a perfect prick I began carrying my long time friend bone smashing “Monkeys Fist” every time we’re out (including when she is doing Service Dog Work) handing from my pocket.
    My intentions are clear, I too will protect my dog and myself.
    The intended use of the lead ball within Survival Cord is to break bone when
    Deftly swung to impact.


  17. Wanda says:

    While pepper spray is frowned upon, use it. They sell it here as a bear repellent, and a dog out of control sure looks like a me.
    We also have a sound blaster which sends out a scream so intense it stops everything, I just now thought that perhaps carrying a blanket might do the job of calming an aggressive dog. Throw it over the dog to confuse it.


    Minette Reply:

    I have seen dogs work through loud sounds and distractions like the blanket without a second thought. At least pepper spray keeps them from seeing clearly


  18. Jmh says:

    I’m appalled people have so little respect for another dog they would resort to killing it. I understand the need to protect your dog & yourself but that doesn’t warrant killing it. I agree with the pepper spray if anything. I’m a dog sitter & I walk them leashed but my lab is passive 14 & never once been in an altercation. I completely trust her off leash not other dogs; she always approaches nonchalantly to only say hi. She is doing nothing aggressive & immediately retreats if she senses any danger. Dogs are social & should interact leashed & play off leash. I’m annoyed when people go out of their way to avoid letting 2 leashed dogs to greet each other. The article is one sided under researched & inflamm


    Minette Reply:

    I would do anything to keep my dog alive and not need stitches. I also don’t want your leashed dog in my dogs’ faces; and that is my right. After all, they are my dogs and I know what they like and what they will tolerate


  19. Mary Conte says:

    You can only imagine what these people’s children are like.


  20. Laura Swallow says:

    Does pepper spray shoot in a straight line? I’m just getting over my own personal fear of a loose dog. Where do I purchase pepper spray?
    Would like to view for more info. Do you have s video



    Minette Reply:

    It does, and I am sure you can find it online


  21. Mark Wilson says:

    I live in a small tourist coastal town in Queensland, Australia. We still have the same problem here. Dogs off leash and people not picking up after there dog. I ask if they have read the sign about dogs in public places, including the beach, they just don’t care and verbally attacked me for pointing it out. Too many Ferrils with untrained dogs and don’t care about hygiene or anybody else.
    It’s also too much hard work for the council to police, so they do not do anything about it. They haven’t heard the last about this problem, I can promise you that.


  22. Dumbfounded says:

    I had a problem with a stupid person who could see my dog was anxious and growled and wanted to attack her little pooch, my dog has fear aggression. We proceeded to run away from her, but she kept walking toward us! Some people are just dumb.


  23. Bluehorizon says:

    Owners need to be trained, then owner can train dog. Makes sense doesn’t it?

    Pretty simple if someone really cares about having a dog as his best friend. But best friends are developed because spending time and sincere love (your dog) is the most important thing you can do.

    I have two dogs and they love me so much they would do anything for me.
    They listen to me always and are very responsive. Because I truly love them and spend time walking, talking and having fun with them every day,…… is the real secret behind a well behaved dog!


  24. Patti McKindley says:

    I’ve had 4 dogs come from behind or escape yards and fortunately they responded to my loud no, stay and go back. I was ready to fight to keep my little Jack Russell mixes. So I think I will arm myself with pepper spray


  25. Kate Gorrell says:

    I live in Canada and we have off leash dog parks. I take my dog there all the time and she loves it. 4 kilometers to walk around the park and lots of dogs to play with. Heard some horror stories about some dog attacks but never had a problem. Prefer to let her run and play.( she has good recall) than walk her on sidewalks. Our parks also have rules to follow and most do, so I feel it’s a safe place for her. She also gets to socialize with all breeds and sizes of dogs. She loves it!!!


  26. Judy says:

    Hi I must be blinder than a bat. Where r u located……,,,,!!!!!!!!



  27. Stefanie Chandler says:

    I have 2, 50 lb dogs. The home improvement store in my area lets you take your dog with you, IF they are on a leash and is well behaved. I use the opportunity to teach children How to say hello to a strange dog. (One young girl smiled and waived at my dogs saying “Hello dogie.) It is great training for them and the kids.


  28. Kate Wales says:

    I’m to the point where I just don’t even want to walk my dogs in the neighborhood. People are just so clueless and there are too many off-leash dogs. Sad, since we could all use the excercise.


  29. Beth says:

    I am the President of a small animal rescue and boy this article hit home. So many people don’t leash their dogs and will tell you “it’s ok, he is friendly” but often they are horribly wrong. We have wonderful volunteers who walk our dogs and more than once a dog charged them. There is nothing scarier than a dog fight in my opinion! I don’t want either dog hurt, regardless of the instigator. And I certainly don’t want any volunteers hurt or even upset by an incident. It is a big problem and I blame the person not the dog. It is up to the owner to leash and control their dog.


  30. Kelly says:

    Your article was very good in showing how best to protect your dog but not necessarily detering an aggressive dog. If an aggressive dog is coming towards you, is pepper spray and yelling for the owner the only options?


    Minette Reply:

    you usually have about .2 seconds to respond, so the list isn’t extremely long


  31. Heeler Wheeler says:

    Any feedback on ultrasonic deterrents?


    Minette Reply:

    works on some but not all, also can work on your dog and not the oncoming dog


  32. My dog , 10 lbs sweet submissive nature was attacked suddenly when both dogs were on leash. I had crossed the street in front of my house to see how my neighbor was after a death in the family. We were standing off to the side, not in view of her door. Her daughter came out with her bigger dog on a leash and suddenly were in front of us. Neither I nor her daughter knew the other was there until that moment. My dog took a step toward the daughters dog and the bigger dog latched onto my dog in her side. I picked my dog up and the other dog was pulled back. My little one lost control of her bladder and was making sharp cries. The neighbor took her and held her close and she quieted. Her fur was wet but she seemed okay physically although I noticed a scab later. We finished our walk and since she has passed a socialization test with other dogs at a daycare/boarding facility. The neighbor ‘s daughter was doing everything right, leashed her dog and never suspected that she would attack. Because of the high emotion in their household and I was on their property and the two dogs met so suddenly the other dog was provoked.


  33. janet aimghi says:

    It is also a shame when a dog can’t run free in the woods or in a field. In Boulder Colo with many parks, dogs can be tested for temperament and owner control and get a license to go leash free in those parks. There could also be times when leash free is permitted for those with a license.
    Yes there are risks But more people die driving cars than do dogs attacked in the woods.


  34. I did a belly flop on a dogs back that attacked my dog that was off leash. I stayed on it till the owner came and got it. I literally jumped into the air and came down hard on it. My dog was on a leash and only about 45 lbs. this was one of those big rescue mountain dogs that carries a keg. At the time I was about 60 years old. Anything to save my dog.


  35. Bridget says:

    I know what you mean. Leashes should be put on all– my cats wore harnesses and leashes. I have a problem with the people that discriminate against my one pit bull that is a true lover. I even started leaving her leash on at the dog park but one or two people just say her breed does not belong there, and she behaves better then thier dogs. Now my other dog doesn’t get to go to the park and she is an Affenpinscher.


  36. Vickity Fowler says:

    I have a neighbor, nice guy, but he refuses to use leashes on his dogs! His large female (part pit bull) has attacked my dog twice in my yard! They’ve been sued already for harming (and killing) other neighbors pets. What can I do to protect my dog? My dog is a friendly guy, but he will not obey me when he or I are being attacked. HELP!!!


    Minette Reply:

    Carry pepper spray or drive to another place to walk so that you aren’t in danger.


  37. Wendy Fross says:

    I cant count the times loose dogs have come after me and my service dog and powerchair! There have been some bitter words between my neighbors and myself. I need to know what to do to save my dog! This is july. When is next seminar on deterring loose dogs!


  38. I know first hand what you’re saying. One of several episodes left me with my foot in a boot cast because I stomped so hard on the ground. Owners reply “oh he’s friendly” I guess he was smiling then because I saw every one of his teeth! I now walk with pepper spray and a walking stick AND always have my phone. You’re right it’s not like it use to be


  39. Andrew says:

    Our sweet Cavalier loves everyone, especially other dogs, and would like to approach and make friends with any dog that passes. Unfortunately, he has learned that not every dog has that same attitude toward him.


  40. Kathy Woveris says:

    where are your classes held?


    Dana Reply:

    I’m sorry for the confusion. We sell online training courses that teach you how to train your dog yourself. We do not offer in-person training.


  41. Carol says:

    Thanks for this article. I am going out to buy bear spray! I walk in my neighborhood often twice daily. I have a rescue, poodle mix who gets along well with others. We’ve been to dog parks that are well run and she handles herself amazingly well. However, I am now dog sitting my son’s very sweet (almost dopey sweet) Shiba. My neighbor went out to get the mail without shutting the door. Their well trained, well socialized big male lab raced out, crossed the front yard and into the street and attacked the Shiba. Fortunately, I know my neighbors and their dog! I was an idiot and reached in grabbed the lab and yelled his name and YELLED NO. IT HAPPENED SO FAST! My poodle and the lab know each other and never a problem! I ended up with only a small cut on my finger. I can’t imagine how it would have ended if I had not been comfortable with both dogs. Fortunately, no stitches for any of us. I appreciate everyone’s comments especially the one about the leashed dogs and death in the family.


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