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Off-Leash Dogs: Preventing Trouble

Dogs Pet Care
Walking your dog is meant to be a nice casual and calming experience, however sometimes things can go wrong that are out of our hands.
Here in Australia we have leash laws that require all dogs to be on lead in public places unless in a designated off-lead area. Unfortunately, not everyone obeys these laws which can often result in stressful situations for responsible dog owners.

What do you do when you are enjoying your on lead walk with your pooch and an off-lead dog runs towards you? Many people are unsure what to do in these situations and sometimes our actions can make it worse.  Here are some tips on how to deal with this situation.

Why put a lead on your dog?
As we mentioned, it is the law! Even if you have the friendliest dog in the world, not everyone does. 

A friendly dog running at a nervous or fearful dog will cause long-term side effects for the unsuspecting dog. When a dog is on lead, they cannot ‘flight’, and dogs will often revert straight away to ‘fight’ as a dog running at them is a perceived threat.
Local councils charge owners for walking their dogs off-lead (around $252)

If you are aware of regular dog owners that disregard the rules, please call your council. If you ask a local dog owner to leash their dog and they do not, we encourage you to report to council.

Walking your dog off-lead is like saying, “I don’t need to wear a seatbelt because I am a perfect driver”.

You cannot control what the other cars do, and similar you cannot control what other dogs do.  So please remember that laws are in place for a reason, so everyone can enjoy walking their dogs in a calm and safe environment without risk of being approached by unknown unleashed dogs. Please be courteous to your fellow pet owners.

So what should you do if an off-lead dog runs towards you?

When enjoying an on-lead walk with your pooch and an off-lead dog runs towards you it can be hard to know what do in these situations - Sometimes our actions can make it worse.  

Here are some tips on how to deal with this situation.

Don’t be shy! Yell out to the owners of the unleashed dog
Ask them to put their dog back on their lead immediately. You will often be greeted with the owner saying, “It’s ok, he is friendly.”  

This does not give the owner the right to let their dog ‘do what they want’ when out in public spaces.  Even the most social of dogs can be caught off guard at another pooch running towards them.

Carry a distraction

There is no sure fire way stop a dog running at you but here is a few tips that may help in that situation.

  • Carry high value treats like chicken, cheese or meat. Not only will they help your dog focus on you, but often throwing a handful of high value treats in the face of an approaching dog can stop them in their tracks, so they can then find all the treats on the ground. This should give you enough time to walk away with your dog calmly. 
  • Carry an umbrella! Even though you may not be expecting rain, an umbrella can be used to open as the dog approaches which should startle the oncoming dog and it can also be used a shield to shield your dog from the off-lead dog.
  • Carry a water bottle (the squirty kind). Not only can you stay hydrated, but the use of squirting water in the face of an approaching dog can also startle them enough to stop. It catches them by surprise and may buy time enough time for the owner to leash their dog and you to walk away with yours.
What happens if it all goes bad?
Do you break up the fight? Breaking up a dog fight is ALWAYS risky, however in the heat of the moment all we care about is our dog’s safety. 

The best way to break up a fight is to grab the back legs of each dogs and raise them off the ground (like a wheelbarrow) and walk backwards. If you are the only person present, do this to the dog that is leading the attack, eventually the other dog will try and get away.

Carrying an extra lead can also assist if you need to urgently clip a dog to pull it away.

Remember it is not your fault

If an off-lead dogs runs at you and that dog or your dog attacks, it is important to remember to that you are not at fault. The person who did not have sufficient control of their dog is legally responsible and will be liable for all vet costs for any injuries to your dog and any humans caught in the crossfire.

Don't forget to:

  • Call your local council as soon as possible to report the incident and have their animal management quick response team attend.
  • Take photos of all injuries and get as much information as possible about the offending dog.
  • Remain calm! Making accusations and getting worked up will not help the situation.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible at your vet or doctor for those that have been injured.
  • Ask any witnesses for their details.

Carly Bowden
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