Here’s a familiar story to everyone who has had a dog-dog reactive dog: You’re out walking in the neighborhood, your own dog responsibly on leash, when you look up and there is a ___________ (pick one: Golden Retriever, Jack Russel Terrier, Black Lab, trio of Dachshunds) charging toward you and your reactive dog. Many yards behind the oncoming bundle of doom, the owner waves and smiles, shouting “It’s okay!!! He loves other dogs!!” Meanwhile, you’re not fine at all. You know your dog is not going to react well, and you know the other owner has no control over his/her own dogs, who are running toward you.
This is when you want to employ the “Emergency Sit-Stay” in which you ask your dog to sit and stay behind you while you step forward and throw a handful of treats into the charging dog’s face. I learned this simple method from Trish King (don’t miss a chance to see her in a seminar, she rocks.) Even if your dog isn’t on a stay, the shower of treats in a dog’s face often stops them in their tracks. If you’ve tossed a fistful of treats, the dog(s) will spend several minutes searching them out in the grass while you and your dog slide away. This is described in detail in the booklet Feisty Fido and the Dog-Dog Reactive DVD, but here’s a video to illustrate the effectiveness of the treat tossing.
I made this video for two reasons: One, I wanted to convince people of its effectiveness. In my experience folks are extremely skeptical that his would ever work, and I have to add, understandably so. Until you’ve done it yourself, it’s hard to imagine it really working. Second, I’ve used this method myself only a few times, and wanted to test it out with a variety of dogs. You can see it worked well with all four dogs. (Note that Tootsie was at the farm as a ‘visitor,’ just a day before we decided that she would indeed be a happy camper living with us.)
Important Caveat: This method would never stop a highly motivated, hard-charging dog who is laser focused on attacking you or you dog. In that case you need something a lot more powerful. But as you’ll see, it worked beautifully on the 4 dogs in the video, from tiny Tootsie, to medium-sized (Nasta, a neighbor’s Siberian,) to the downright huge Dogo named Lily) and a friend’s galumpfy who-knows-what.)
MEANWHILE, down on the farm: Well, not there actually, still in Arizona after the IFAAB conference. Photos of the sunny southwest coming next week.
I will try this! My dog has been attacked twice by the same 2 dogs at an off-leash conservation area in Lexington, Mass. The other dogs’ owner is totally unable to get them under control and leash them. Both times we’ve approached them she’s shouted “they’re friendly!” and next thing I knew they were both attacking my dog. I’ll try throwing treats, and bringing better treats.
Monika & Sam says
What a clever idea! I’m hanging on to that one for the ‘next’ time we face that kind of encounter. 😉
I’ve actually used this method. It was early on in my adoption of my highly reactive Finna. We were coming home from an evening walk and heading down our street. About half-way down the street lives a very dog reactive dog about the same size as Finna. Unfortunately one of her family members opened the front door to go out and the dog charged out the door to go after Finna. Knowing the family had no control of the dog who was not on leash having just escaped and anticipating the dog fight to come I remembered the throw treats idea and grabbed a handful of treats out of my treat pouch and threw them as hard as I could at the charging dog. The throwing gesture itself I think startled her enough to slow her down enough to notice that the sky was suddenly raining treats. While she stopped to enjoy this unexpected bounty I was able to hustle Finna past her and on home. It worked! And it seems to have borne an unexpected side benefit. She still hates Finna but if they chance to see each other the neighbor’s dog acts like she’s keeping an eye out in case it suddenly rains treats again so her reactivity to Finna is not as pronounced as it was. She’s still very reactive to Ranger I assume because he’s never made it rain treats but less so to Finna who did make it rain treats that one time. It’s pretty funny since Ranger loftily ignores all the barking and lunging but Finna is doing her best to give as good as she gets.
Stacey Gehrman says
Any other suggestions? Around here neighborhood dogs aren’t used to having treats tossed and if, in their excitement, they don’t realize it’s food they may ignore it and continue in their onward charge. Were the dogs this was tried on trained with treats? I know my own dogs would respond as they are used to such things.
Jann Becker says
I saw something recently suggesting tying something bright yellow to your leash as a “do not approach” signal. It looked like a good idea except that the people who recognized it would be “dog people” (whose dogs were already under control.) This is way better for the clueless-but-well-meaning.
Re the dachshunds, in the event of unpleasantness I bet the LARGER of the dogs takes the blame regardless of who “started it.”
Margaret McLaughlin says
I’ve done it, & it does work, at least with the big goofy/friendly sort whose idiot owners think it’s fine to let them off leash in a public park. Somewhat less success with ankle-biters who were claiming the sidewalk as their turf, but those generally cause me to execute a brisk U-turn anyway (thus reinforcing their aggressive displays by leaving, but my own dog’s safety comes a long way ahead of educating other people’s dogs, or even other people). I don’t know if smaller dogs are less likely to change their agenda if food appears, or how much territoriality affects the situation, or what other variables there might be. I always carry at least kibble on walks–so that I can mark & reward good choices–so I’m always armed & ready, so to speak.
Erin James says
Great idea! I always have my treat pouch on, so having treats handy is no problem. We were attacked once by a GSD, I had all three of my terriers on leash. This GSD came charging out of his back yard, with his owner right behind him, but the dog was on top of my 16 week old puppy before I could do anything. It was VERY scary. I ended up getting tangled in the leashes of my dogs and went down on the ground before the GSD’s owner had his dog in an alpha roll (which I do NOT think was a good idea). I don’t think I had enough time to throw treats on that occasion. But, no one was injured thankfully. And my puppy wasn’t traumatized.
Sally Hildt says
This is a stunningly wonderful idea and it works very well. I carry Cheerios in my pocket and have tossed them quite a few times for the same Labradoodle who is off leash. As it charges me and my dogs, the owner always yells, “It’s OK, he just wants to say ‘Hi’!” I toss the Cheerios and he stops and I head the other way. The last time, though, the owner yelled at me: “You have got to stop that! He is allergic to wheat!” I did not take the time to explain that Cheerios are oat…
not all dogs are food motivated .
Samantha M. says
I had a very large German Shepherd surprise me many years ago when I was making a delivery and he charged out at me from the side of the house. Hackles raised, ears back & growling/snarling. Without thinking I barked out a “Sit” command in my most no nonsense voice. I don’t know who was more surprised when the dog sat me or the dog. Luckily the owner appeared a few seconds later as the dog had slipper passed her as she was coming to greet me. I also guess luckily the dog was so well trained it reacted without thinking too hard about it.
Having a pocket full of treats would have been a good idea in that job, so much easier, & less reliance on chance.
I have tried this several times and never had it work! Timing? What? I don’t know but I keep trying because I really have nothing else. I suspect it has to do with my own dog going on the defensive and snarling/growling/ barking/lunging when an interloper just keeps coming. Thoughts?
Okay, go easy on me. I’m the one with the charging dog. To my credit, I am never yelling “He’s friendly!” Although most of the time, he IS friendly or at least tolerant. Every once in a while though, a dog will set him off. If he gets to the dog there is momentary snarling and a tangle but it’s over quickly. This happened yesterday for the first time in a long time.
In our neighborhood, everyone gathers in someone’s front yard and our dogs play off leash. We watch for dog walkers and call him to us and keep him by us, stand between him and the dog. Our trainer taught us this. Yesterday he got away from me because he saw the dog before I did and he was GONE. I’ve been told “he’s just protecting you, or his sister dog, or his property.” Or, “that other dog is a problem, we avoid him.” That doesn’t really help,
I see all these articles about what to do if a dog charges your dog but I never have seen an article about the other side of the problem. I’d really like to understand what’s going on with him, why he does it and how to reliably break him of it. He is much better than he used to be…yesterday was a real setback. I’m very disappointed and sad. He’s such a good boy in every other way.
This actually happened to me and my 2 dogs today! We we’re walking in our city park system which has various paths, wildlife, beautiful scenery and LEASH laws! I do have a lg breed dog who has become dog reactive. I have been working with him continuously over the last 6 months and he “was” very responsive to the training. Until today!! We’re walking along nicely, enjoying all the scenery, sounds of nature, and of course all the smells, until…..and
I never saw this coming! In a blink of an eye, a lg dog was face to face with my dog! Out of nowhere it seemed, although he came from a path running parallel to us. I didn’t have a chance. I’m sure I yelled some profanity to the guardian, although I really didn’t know if there was one, at that second. It immediately turned into 3 dog fight! I panicked, as I tried to get my brain to go into what I should do to stop this awful nightmare from happening!
I then saw a person running to catch up to their dog! He jumped in on the brawl to stop his dog! There was no time for me to grab treats from my readily available treat pouch to throw. I will however never be without a very loud whistle around my neck and hope if I encounter this again, it stops the fighting, long enough for us to get away. I’m not sure. The guardian was able to get his dog apart from mine, (without being bitten) and then said “oh, sorry about that” and they went on their way, as I sat there in the mud catching my breath, heart racing and finally calming my dogs.
I hope to never experience this scenario again, as well I hope this guardian has learned to keep his dog’s safety a priority and obey’s the leash laws. Not only in the case of encountering a dog reactive dog, but even in the case of all the wildlife who habitat the area.
I used this technique two days ago when my on-leash non-reactive dog was the target of an off leash dog whose person claimed was only reactive to dogs who are on leash (duh). I didn’t have enough treats to throw a handful so just tossed them one by one in the direction of the dog’s person who was frantically calling her to come. All ended well. The interesting thing was the amazing change in the dog’s demeanor when the treats were presented, her body language went from tense to relaxed in a heartbeat.
Interesting technique, but the video is not very convincing.
With 2 dogs, who both love treats, it might not be amusing when they think I am giving their treats to another unknown dog! When I see an approaching unleashed dog, I try to get both dogs in a sit and stay to my side or behind me but of course they prefer to want to bark and encounter the uninvited dog as it is two against one! Fortunately in our area of Boston most dog walkers seem to have a pretty good recall for their dogs that are off lead.
Would you try running the test using two mid size dogs that live together (a pack), are moderately trained to respond well in non stressful situations, in a more common situation such as at a dog park or on a hiking trail and report back?
To Suzie: You are right that it doesn’t work in every circumstance. I probably should have titled the article “It Works! Some or Most of the Time!” I did try to emphasize that it doesn’t work for all dogs, especially the ones charging like freight trains with a clear intent to attack your dog. (For that horrible situation, I put my dog behind me in a sit/stay and move rapidly between the approaching dog and my own. I can’t say that would always work either. One client who couldn’t avoid that situation learned to carry a cane, and used it to stop the other dog. Draconian for sure, but saved her dog from injury.) This method does indeed presume you have control over your own dog. Most people in this circumstance have their dog on a leash. Even if that’s true, I advise anyone with a reactive dog to teach a “sit/stay” behind the owner cue. I had to do that with my own Willie when he was at his worst, and thank heavens I had it.
To Shelly: I’m so sorry about the attack. Dog fights can be so traumatic. Do be sure to get you and your dog out in places you can predict are safe and fill your memories with good experiences.
To Suzanne: Tell us more about where/when you’ve tried it. Maybe more details would help us all figure out why it didn’t work and what you could try in the future.
To Jan: Good, good for you for writing in. I’d give you treats if I could! It sounds like you are already trying and making some progress, and then had a regression. Have you tried teaching your dog what I call a “Flying Stop?” You have to teach your dog to stop on cue, while running away from you. Obviously you have to practice this in easier contexts first. Maybe that would be a good subject for another blog? I’ll see if I can get a video of how I teach it. I don’t let my dogs off leash anywhere but at home until I know I can stop them even if they take off in front of me at a dead run. Let me know if a video would be helpful.
lee williams says
Years ago, after reading your book “The Other End of the Leash,” I used my outstretched hand, palm out toward an approaching dog and said, “STOP!” Worked like magic! (:
I used the method of throwing treats on the ground, but with my own dogs (I was use the cue, “FIND IT!”) when I needed them to be distracted from something quickly.
Can you tell us about the first picture with the Border Collies? Such a great capture of those two emotions.
Enjoy the conference and sunshine!
Carry an umbrella to pop open at them & startle them
while I agree that it “should” work almost all the time the video does not show the person the dog is running towards holding a dog on a leash. most dogs, especially if either dogs are reactive would continue past the food and onto the dog. besides, if either of the dogs were fear aggressive they wouldn’t be able to eat during this phase.
definitely, worth a try but not sold it’s a foolproof method. just my opinion…
Kathy Fischer says
I tried this with 2 Rotts that were coming towards my reactive boy (Aussie). Didn’t work. They completely ignored the treats. Luckily they had good temperaments and didn’t fight back when my boy lost it. But we had to start back at zero with his training. I think there is something to the thought that it will only work with dogs that are used to having treats tossed at them.
Reb C says
i have a neighbor with a chain link fence around the front yard. every time i would walk my leashed girl past their house, their two large dogs would charge, barking and snarling. my girl is pretty easy, she’d roll over and try to make friends with the beasts, but i was always terrified one would jump the fence. i started tossing zuke’s mini’s and they would scramble to find each tiny treat in the grass. at the time i didn’t know i’d later be adopting a reactive boy – but by the time he came along, the monsters had already come to associate ME with food and have thankfully never put on a show for/at him.
Thank you for the helpful article! I’ve heard of this method before, though I’ve never tried it. My old neighborhood was full of loose dogs, almost all very friendly, but both of my dogs are reactive, with one being fear-aggressive, so I was always on high alert to avoid dogs whenever possible. The one method that seemed to work pretty well for me – I would say about 70% of the time – was if I would point at the approaching dog and shout as as loud and mean as I could manage “GO HOME!”. It’s usually enough to startle the dog, and they make such a sad face like “I just wanted to say hi” before they would turn around and go back. I would feel so guilty after, but at least it kept all the dogs safe and away from each other. Of course, there were a few situations where this didn’t work, but like you said, that was with dogs who were hard-charging and determined to get to my dogs anyway. I’m not sure there’s anything you can do at that point except try to keep the dogs physically apart as best you can until the owner gets there. Great photo at the top of the article by the way, the expression of the dog on the right is priceless! 😉
Would or could this method reinforce the off-leash dog’s desire to race towards people with dogs as they’re getting positively reinforced (with food) to do just that?
Sara Payne says
Yes, please, I would LOVE to hear more about teaching a “Flying Stop” or even “Sit/Stay behind the owner”. We’ve never done very well with “stay” because when I go to put her back in position when she breaks “stay” she acts like she’s about to be beaten and I fall for it every time.
She’s a rescue, so for all I know that’s a true story for her…but we’ve come so far already! She’s less reactive – but only less. I would prefer to employ the “walk on by” method of NOT greeting any other dogs, but she just loses her mind when she sees another dog. Any suggestions of how to correct this issue would be greatly appreciated as well.
Heather Ludwig says
Just wondering whether in the video you had a dog on leash with you. I think this would make a difference as oftentimes the oncoming dog would be very focused on your dog whether for an aggressive encounter or not, therefore making throwing treats a little less effective. I will definitely be trying this method in the future though. Certainly worth a try.
Oh, I would love to see your method of teaching a flying stop, Trisha! I’ve been trying to teach it with our border collie, and it would be good to compare to see how else we could try it.
Here’s another technique I’ve used — one I learned from one of Dr. McConnell’s books. (The one that has the story of trying to stop some unattended dogs from crossing a highway to get to you — I forget which book!) Most of my off-leash encounters have been with no owner in sight. Years ago, I was walking my reactive aussie when I realized an off-leash dog was behind us at some distance, but bearing down fast. I turned around, leaned my weight forward, threw out my arms toward the dog in a “stop” gesture, and said in a deep voice, “Go home!” The dog skidded to a stop with an accompanying dramatic cloud of dust (I am in Arizona, after all), turned around and went a completely different direction. This worked while the dog was still too far away for treat-throwing, which likely would have been my next strategy. I can only imagine the look on my own face, while I was having my own “OMG, it worked” moment and trying to figure out how long it might take for my pounding heart to return to normal.
I love how some people read this and watch the video but still admit they let their dog off leash and their dog causes these types of problems. You have no idea the stress you are putting on other people and their dogs. It can ruin a walk for some and it makes it to where other people do not feel comfortable or safe walking their own dogs. I don’t get it and I don’t understand why it is so difficult for people to leash their dogs when they are out for walks. If you want to unleash, go to a dog park!
Very interesting. I would like to ask what you would class as “something more powerful” to a hard charging dog intent on attack?
I’m like Jan – I have a Rough Collie who does love everyone! He is an only dog and gets super excited when he sees another dog. I can get him to sit and bark but when the other dog gets close he pulls.
I would really appreciate a video of how to train a flying stop especially the beginning steps.
Yes, I would like to see a Flying Stop video please!
I always try to remember this now that we have Maddie in her cart and we have to worry about other friendly but klutzy dogs. Before that, our dogs were good enough with other dogs that we only had to worry about the “he wants to kill us” types and treats, as you mentioned, won’t work there.
And here’s where I bring up what is, um, perhaps a delicate subject: In much of Europe, leash laws are much more relaxed than ours are here. I read so many things about people who get so upset if someone’s off-leash dog is anywhere near, even if fairly well-controlled. I just can’t help but wonder why it is that there seem to be so many dogs that cannot even tolerate a friendly approach by a well-socialized dog? Is it something about how we raise and train our dogs here? If in England people can take their dogs on trains and pubs, and walk with unleashed dogs through town, why do we seem to have so many issues?
I also want to add that my experience with well-socialized dogs (and that is perhaps the key) is that if there is a large distance between dogs, they frequently will run towards each other, but then stop a few yards out and do a much more controlled approach to meet and greet. It is the rare well-socialized dog that continues at a run. I imagine though that if someone is walking a dog and sees another dog running at them, the assumption is that the dog will just keep running. I have watched many dogs meet across a large open field and they will stop and size up each other’s body language (or so it seems) and if all seems good, they will canter towards each other before stopping with about 10 feet distance and approaching more slowly.
Once me and my dog loving dog were walking off leash and I noticed he froze and looked stressed. Usually he’s happy to meet new dogs. I looked up and there was a dog silently charging toward us, focused on my dog. I didn’t think I just reacted and ran all out toward that dog and he turned on a dime and went back from where he came. I was lucky.
Finally! A truly helpful suggestion that sounds like it would work most of the time (nothing works all the time.) I’m going to try this. I carry a treat pouch to use for counter conditioning my leashed dog-reactive pit bull. But this means I’m going to have to carry a whole other type of treat. My little weirdo’s favorite treat is apples. She will do ANYTHING for apples. Not hot dogs, not store bought stinky treats. Apples. I think those might not be so effective for a rapidly approaching dog.
Russell goldbaum says
My wifes dog is reactive to anybody that is on wheels bike riders skaters those hover boards that go on fire… We have tried to sit and stay once we see an approaching distraction to add more control over the situation have even added in a click and treat but the behavior is still very heightened ,any suggestions? He a pocket pit mix we use a body harness and plastic pinch collar when he is on leash…
Jen Donohue says
Food is powerful!
Were were once at the end of a walk, so treats were no longer in “handfuls”, when a little dog came off its porch at Elka and I. Elka scooted behind me, I interposed, and offered the little guy (who was, I think, actually friendly. Unlike other episodes) a cube of cheddar. He stopped, sniffed, took it, and went home.
Michele Godlevski says
Two other suggestions that others have made and I have adopted:
1) carry a pop-up umbrella to make yourself look bigger
2) Yell “My dog is contagious!” No explanation needed…it motivates the owner (if present) to get their dog under control with lightening speed.
Sandra G. says
Great idea for a curious or playful or somewhat well mannered yet unwanted off leash approaching dog. I will certainly try it. Thanks for posting. The charging bullet or hysterical barking types get my shoulders back, puffed chest, mean business pointing finger, murderous stare, and a low voice that rings clearly with -Don’t even think about it dog. I don’t bother trying to put my own dog in any obedience position because there is no time for that when Trouble is on fast track to us. I hope I never see the day when my Yellow Alert Protector Mode doesn’t work! If anyone shows a problem with me protecting my dog from being mugged while on a leashed walk I just say “I don’t want an unexpected vet bill this week” and walk away when the other dog is under control or gives up on the space invasion. If they persist with any rudeness I remind them that having a dog off leash anywhere beyond their own private property is a breach of our city bi-law or just keep walking.
This does seem like a good idea. However, I would think “rewarding” an approaching dogs with treats would reinforce that behavior in the future. Fortunately my dog is small, so I just scoop him up & we cross the street to avoid any confrontation.
I’d love to see the “Flying Stop” video!
I would love to see a video of a “Flying Stop”! That’s a new one for me.
A video on Flying Stop would be would be a real treat! We practice “chase me!” and that works most of the time. But sometimes he goes all hind-brain and doesn’t even hear me. If you can comment on why some dogs are like this, I’d really appreciate it. If we made mistakes in his early socialization, we certainly don’t want to repeat them. Our other dogs are (or were) perfectly sociable, they would be the ones to walk away if someone didn’t want to play nice. Or issue a warning growl if they have to, it’s never escalated beyond that.
This method helped my daughter get safely into the house. Her bus driver had a sweet habit of giving children dog biscuits to give to their dogs when they got off the bus. Our dogs were in the house and she was carrying the treats as she encountered a strange german shepherd on our front porch barking at her and not letting her into the house. She threw the treats into the yard. The dog ran after them giving her a chance to get inside. We called animal control when we got home and found that this dog had escaped from his family’s car and they were looking for him. He was lost and hungry. My husband got him into an outdoor kennel until animal control came to pick him up.
I’m interested in this tactic with my now-deaf elderly pup (trained way back in the day at Dog’s Best Friend when we lived in the midwest). It’s not unusual on our nightly walks to encounter enthusiastic small dogs throughout the neighborhood, released into the yard for their evening constitutional, to come tearing up to her, yapping all the way. She has no idea they are coming until they are actively sniffing her, which must be a bit surprising to her. This has not yet led to a reaction by my dog- again, YET. She’s always been a bit unpredictably leash-reactive (95% fine, but totally unpredictable as to which dog she will take exception to). Interestingly, she has become much less leash-reactive in her old age. I can usually see/hear a dog coming from two houses away, so I like the idea of possibly distracting or at least delaying the interaction. My heart tenses every time it happens because it feels like a matter of time before she reacts badly to one of these evening marauders.
Hey friends, it is funny I had the same idea some days ago, but then some questions came..and I was not sure about trying…I agree about the fact that if the dog coming has not a very strong motivation the food will stop it. But, may the food create a conflict between the dogs? Or between the owners? Also, aren´t we reinforcing the other´s dog behavior? and in which way our dog will understand that situation?
Great idea, however, my dogs would be in there trying to get the treats too – but certainly worth remembering and trying out.
luckily haven’t had to do it but am usually prepared. I like to have a mixture of treats to throw—some easily visible to the dog and others they’d need to sniff out. Afraid that a highly charged dog might not realize its really food or be diverted if they had to find it. Although the dogs in the video seemed to all stop to forage for the treats.
This is exactly why I won’t walk my dogs in the neighborhood. Mine would be toast if someone’s maladjusted mutt came charging at us, and there are a few owners here who really don’t get it, I have seen them. I put up a fence and my guys are just as happy running around with each other. They are socialized through dog sports and training over the years and don’t need to risk injury walking around outside the fence. (next-door neighbor with really mean Lab for one)
I’ve used this technique after reading your original post and I’ve had some success. I’ve modified it a bit, and it often (but not always) works. I live in a city frequently deemed one the most “dog-friendly” in the U.S., but in practice it’s a bit like the Wild West of dogs, so we all have to deal with off-leash dogs frequently.
When I use the treat strategy, I start by throwing treats directly in front of the dog. Because that sometimes induces the dog to keep following us, I then throw the treats *behind* the dog to break their focus so we can eventually get away. If they stick close to us, I keep moving and talking merrily, but the goal is to get the dog to quit paying attention to us.
Unfortunately, I have to admit that I now use citronella spray when we are charged by aggressive small dogs that could easily get severely injured should they engage my dog in a fight. It’s just not worth the risk to try to negotiate otherwise, and frankly it usually works. I rarely have problems with aggressive large dogs (thankfully) but the little guys are often untrained and really asking for trouble.
I have three shetland sheepdogs. They’re 6, 8 and 10. The youngest a female and the other two are males. They are not related at all. I have had shelties most of my life. Prior to shelties, I’ve owned collies. My 10 year old, Buddy, does very well on lease and ignores dogs when we’re passing by a fenced area with a barking dog on the other side or, a dog on the opposite side of the street. My middle one, Gibson, barks and barks like the world is ending and he will bite at what sheltie is walking next to him which usually will cause those two to unite in a small fight. Usually a stern yell will stop it. The female, Crickett, has taken on Gibson’s bad reaction manners and will bark when she hears a dog a block away….even when she can’t see them. I used to enjoy walking Buddy when it was just he and I. Since I’ve added his “friends” walking them is stressful and honestly I don’t do it alone or enough as a result of this behavior. I can’t imagine throwing treats at approaching dogs and having them stop in their tracks – I would hope that they would however. I’ve began carrying a can of Pepper Spray unlocked and ready to go. My hope is I’ll never have to use it. My plan is to spray it prior to them arriving at us with the hopes they’ll quickly turn away once they feel/smell the affects should it actually touch them. My fear is the owner’s response once I’ve had to use it. If their dogs are unleashed and mine are leashed and they’re charging us, I don’t have a choice then to protect my pets. I understand mine are snippy brats and I don’t know what to do to stop them with their attitudes. Again, I feel exhausted, overwhelmed and sad whenever I try to take them out tougher. Open to suggestions.
Thank you for this blog!! Most of the time when a dog comes running toward my semi-reactive Golden Retriever off leash they have a better motive (to get my dog) rather then eating treats.. AND everyone things he is friendly because he is a Golden Retriever!! Kills me every time! I have started just looping the other end of my leash and getting it around the other dogs neck as he comes over.. then taking the dog back to its owner. This seems to work for me so far. My dog gets to **anxious**(yes there’s a feeling do dogs have this??) when he sees a dog running towards him to stay in a sit. He sits at first but as the dog gets closer he stands up. I can not figure out how to recreate this situation to practice at home… It’s always different when you have a dog running towards you with a bad intention.. you can’t really replicate that with your friends dogs. Thoughts? I would LOVE to see a video about how to teach your dog to do a flying stop!! Please please please!!!
I’ll keep this in mind. I have a shy, older dog who doesn’t need and overly friendly large breed puppy pouncing on her. Ususally I just step in front of her and bend down to get the other dogs attention. I also carry dog repellent spray. I’ve never had to deal with a dog fight, but for those who do throwing a jacket over the dogs would be worth trying.
I volunteer at an animal shelter, and have found that the best treats for distracting dogs are the ones that are soft and stinky (i.e., Beggin’ Strips or little pieces of Pupperoni). I’m guessing that this technique would have a better chance of working if you have smelly treats on you.
I try to carry an umbrella with an automatic opener. I’ve never had to use it, but the theory is that the pop as it opens when you hold it out in front of you (in the path of the oncoming dog) will startle him into stopping and then the umbrella itself forms a barrier between the two dogs.
I have practised opening it with my dog beside me so that the sudden opening of the umbrella doesn’t scare her.
Dr. McConnell, Please share a video on how to teach your dog a Flying Stop!!
I have a semi-reactive Golden Retriever so it makes it a little more difficult because people think he is harmless because of his breed. When other dogs come flying up to him while on walks and I ask him to sit, he sits for a second until the dog gets close then he stands up (stiff, wide eyed and tail raised high). It’s hard to teach your dog a solid sit in this situation especially when the other dog doesn’t have good intentions… it’s hard to replicate that distraction (a dog with bad intentions approaching) while teaching your dog to sit behind you.
What I have been doing in these situations is making a loop with the other end of my leash and as the other dog comes running up I aim it go around its neck then I walk the dog back to its owner and politely say “it’s not your dog I am worried about its mine (SMILE)” if they swear their dog is friendly… This works pretty well for me with those dogs who could care less about food.
Great idea and I could see it happening for a lot of dogs. Mine is like one of the others described, “Mom, how could you give away MY TREATS? I’m taking them back!” Let it be known he is a dominate, protective Great Pyrenees who is great on a leash and as long as no one is charging us. I have not tried this while walking but at a dog training session , my dog got very upset that another dog got treats from me and tried to go after the other dog. It was some years ago but I would be willing to give it a try if needed. I will have to start carrying treats again. So far I’ve yelled at the oncoming dog and turned the opposite direction ,we have avoided any incidents.
Thank you for your information and will give it a try.
Patricia, I am not Jan, but good gods I would be so grateful for such a video! I plan on getting a whippet, and with a sighthound it will be my first priority to teach recall and stop. I would be so grateful for any help on the matter!
I am also paranoid about safety of my reactive dachshund. She is 11 and after back issues, so I am doubly paranoid. Mere play invitation can kill her at this point if done wrongly. I also have bad experiences of a police dog running in full gallop at 16 years old me and then 6 months old Figa. It left a huge scar on my mental health. From that day onwards I always carry pepper spray with me, the thing is it doesn’t work when a dog is really aroused. There was another traumatic event (I’m neurotic and I get scared easily so even though nothing serious ever happened to my dog, I remember what COULD have happened and that makes me panic) when a young, intact amstaff like dog, clearly aroused wanted to make acquintance with my weiner, who started getting snappy, he thought of that as invitation and if not for my 190cm friend who took Figa up, I probably wouldn’t have a dog today. That day I decided to maybe start carrying a knife. I got into many arguments with people calling me a sadist and telling me I should never own a dog if I could kill a dog attacking mine. But I am always so scared for her safety, and the older she gets the more concerned I am because I know she would never be able to defend herself. It’s such a painful situation. It affects me and our walks, because I became too paranoid to go to many places out of fear that something would happen and I would not be able to save her. It’s a huge burden, that’s why I decided to get a whippet next. Nothing short of a very determine sighthoud would catch a whippet if things get dangerous.
BUT if you throw treats for those other dogs aren’t you encouraging their behavior???
Kathleen Polletta says
Great advise. And yes Trish King does rock. I’ve taken my seminars and academies from her. She’s great.
This is great but my girl is better off lead until a dog comes bounding over- I don’t really want to throw food into the situation. What would you suggest in this case?
Pamela McQuade says
Like Jan, I have one of those reactive dogs. He is very fearful of people but loves other dogs. So when someone walks a dog across the street, he wants to be friendly with the dog. Sadly, he never gets to greet other dogs because he’s barking, probably at the people. No one will get near him. But the one time we were surprised by a neighbor’s dog, he was perfectly friendly.
Reactivity doesn’t necessarily mean that a dog is aggressive–and I wish people understood that. Ours is a big scaredy-cat who runs after he barks. But I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to be near him. They don’t know I’m not some zany who doesn’t care if anyone is hurt, if I say he is dog friendly. And quite frankly I don’t want someone pressuring him into uncharacteristic aggression because they do not give him enough space.
We have taken our guy to rescue events, and he does fine with the dogs while avoiding humans as much as possible. We tend to keep him in an ex pen, so he can feel safe and not be pestered. The last time we did that, I was running the event and was not nearby for a long time. He spent a lot of time trying to move the pen so that he could reach me. (Really aggressive, isn’t he?)
You could throw treats at my dog, but he probably would not eat them–fearful dogs are often too fearful to eat, especially something from a stranger. That’s one way you can identify fear, as I’m sure you know.
If convenient, I’d love to see a Flying Stop video.
Deb A says
To Jan’s comment about her dog being the one doing the charging, I say you need to keep him leashed until you have a 1000% guaranteed recall. Your dog sounds like the type who likes to get involved in everything and one day he’s going to meet up with a dog like my Great Dane who would happily take him on.
Something I’ve learned, if you’re not comfortable with the idea of throwing treats (or it hasn’t worked for you in the past) is to carry an umbrella. Work with your dog to get them used to it opening in front of them. Then, when a dog is charging you, wait until they are almost there and open the umbrella in their face. In most cases it will cause a dog to run the other way and if it doesn’t you at least have something to block sight lines and allow you to gain some control of the situation.
I’d love to see Trish’s video of teaching a flying stop. That sounds like something my dogs could really use learning!
I’ve never needed to do this with a charging dog, thankfully. It makes sense that a dog’s nose tracking food would override the eyes sighting a trespasser — dogs are all about the nose.
I can vouch for the effectiveness of this technique in halting angry Canada geese. I guess they are just easily bribed.
My dog has been attacked twice now by my neighbour’ s gsd freight train. The second time required vet care and my neighbour paid the bill and I went to Cabela’s to buy anti dog spray. I also bought a palm sized air horn on the theory it might cause a hesitation in the charging dog. I havent had to test the theory yet thankfully. Patricia you mentioned possibly more draconian measures. ….am I on the right track? While I dont want to harm the other dog, I do need to protect my dog and myself…..
I would love to see a video about the Flying Stop!
Jan, I understand the community your neighbors have and that you want to join in, however, my understanding is that unless you have TOTAL control of your dog when off-leash your dog should NOT be off-leash. Too bad you can’t have the dogs play in a fenced yard, that would be the answer. Sorry, seems to me that your dog IS the problem.
Rebecca Owens says
I have tried this with my highly fear reactive dog and an approaching unleashed (owners not in sight) not very friendly dog. I threw treats at the dog, then turned my three and said calmly, let’s go. The dog was busy looking for treats and didn’t notice us leaving. I have also had to step in front of my dogs and yell firmly, “NO!” which typically stops dogs in their tracks. I used to have the compressed air on my waistband at all times, but it scares my own dogs as well as the ones approaching.
Gary K says
After reading the article, and the ensuing comments I think people are missing the point. This is NOT about being confronted by a strange dog absolutely determined to assert territoriality or dominance over another dog, or attacking a person, but more as I read it about owning a dog that does not respond well to the advances of other dogs and how to temporarily divert the dog coming to say ‘hi’ or just curious about the dog you own that is known not to respond well. I own a dog that is very alpha, protective, and territorial by nature. He does not go to ‘dog parks’ ever, and while he loves people, and cats. When we go to the vet, he stays outside the office on leash or remains in the vehicle until there is an examining room available. We have used the treat distraction technique on other dogs who have approached him outdoors while waiting for our turn at the vet office, and it has worked about 90% of the time. The time it didn’t work got…well shall we say being at the vet office was a good thing.
To Trish, I would love to see a video on a “flying stop”. I travel a lot with my hubby for his work and our 7 year old rescue border collie that we’ve had just over a year now has just recently started being aggressive toward some dogs when in the local off leash dog parks. I had a very similar situation as Jan just the other day and was saddened and dumbfounded as to what is causing this and how to prevent it. He goes to doggie daycares all across the country in our travels and I always get rave reviews on his manners, playing well with others, welcome back anytime type comments.
Sorry Trisha for misspelling your name, I tried to correct it but it posted too quickly for the fix to work.
Sorry, but my dog’s safety comes first. If a loud NO doesn’t stop the dog, it’s pepper spray for me. I’m not taking any chances.
Alice R. says
Oh, please, please! Make that running stop a video. I have no idea how to even begin to teach that so my one year old only gets off leash in his own yard. My fantasies are made of long off leash walks in fields and forest.
Michelle G says
What a great idea. Funny that people are concerned that the oncoming dog is being rewarded with food and therefore encouraging bad behaviour. If they made it to your dog this would be a reward also. The training of the “other” dog is their owners problem. Your objective is to distract the oncoming dog long enough for you and yours to get away from them. Not now, but I have had a dog-dog reactor and been in the situation of her snapping at the end of her leash at an out of control juvenile trying to say “Hi”, whilst the witless owners looked on and laughed at my dogs response. Perhaps treats for the dogs and something a little more solid to throw at the owners?
Kerry M. says
I like this idea but have never tried it. I rarely have treats on walks and when I do, I am not feeling coordinated enough to get out the treats while maintaining my own leashes.
I am somewhat fortunate in that I often have a “decoy dog”. I seem to wind up in pairs where I have one friendly and one not friendly dog. I place the unfriendly dog behind me and let the friendly dog meet the oncoming dog. It’s not a great fix, but it has worked for me. What makes it not great for me right now is that neither of my dogs like to be rushed. One will go to immediate posturing and I worry he could escalate into a fight if the other dog is remotely interested in it, so he goes behind me. My friendlier dog won’t pick the fight but it makes her very nervous when a dog rushes her, so I really do need a better solution for her. She has helped me de-escalate several situations but at what cost to her own mental health and future comfort?
I just moved to a new neighborhood and haven’t quite figured out the rhythms here yet. My new neighborhood isn’t too bad with off leash dogs, but it isn’t yet predictable yet. I don’t know where the off leash people hang out and how to avoid them. Here’s hoping I find a pattern.
Eeeps, what was I thinking posting this when I am ‘on vacation?’ So much I want to say, yet spent all day at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Amazing place, but more on that later. Quickly, tonight… (and more tomorrow): Treats tossed don’t make dogs more likely to charge your own dog(s) (although I can understand why someone might think so), 2) yes yes yes, it doesn’t work on all dogs, 3) umbrellas are a wonderful idea, tho I rarely have one handy and 4) thanks to the readers who reminded me of my own advice (ha!) about asking at dog to stop or sit as it runs toward you with a big visual signal and loud, happy voice. Amazing how many dogs are happy to comply! One more quick comment: I haven’t posted a few comments because they weren’t quite as, uh, benevolent as I would hope. More later, but thanks so very much for this conversation!
So glad you got to go to the Desert Museum!! I’m going there this weekend and can’t wait to see Raptor Free Flight!!
Tiffany Terroux says
Good idea; we’ve been practicing/advocating stepping in front for decades but throwing treats in face is an intriguing addition. Thanks for the tip. Video not so helpful as the dogs are being called; different dynamic. Umbrella (surprise and creates a blind/barrier), commanding the approaching dog-redirect, citronella spray, and tossing an object or food for distraction are others; though I believe these have all been mentioned already by other posters.
T.S. K says
I don’t buy dog treats and certainly don’t carry them in my pocket but I think I will start. I will also tell my friends who visit dog parks or just out walking their dogs. I still firmly believe the message should be clear, If you have a dog you must take responsibility and handle the dog, always! Never allow it to approach anyone, at anytime without your control. You don’t have the right to inflict your scary dog on the public!
Try and unleash your OWN dog. Once he is freed there Will be no confrontation. À dog on THE leash Will react more aggressive.
If they start to “fight” do not interfere and wawalk away instead. Thats my way. IT still works Well. So treat THE owner and not THE dog
I live in England and I certainly don’t see dogs being walked off leash through town centres. On leash reactivity is as much of a problem for dogs anywhere and not just the USA I think. It’s the barrier frustration and flight or fight response. I would prefer my dog NOT to meet other dogs on leash as I find that she is much calmer and less reactive on the leash when she can predict that she doesn’t have to endure any forced greetings with dogs. This is my own personal preference.
However, we don’t have dog parks per se in the UK and we can exercise dogs off leash in parks and the countryside. We do have a problem with dogs attacking sheep in the countryside though. Evidence suggests it seems to be dogs who get loose and are unaccompanied as opposed to dogs being actively exercised with owners.
I have tried this technique and although it stopped the dogs in their tracks, they continued to follow us looking for more treats! 🙂 Fortunately they were friendly guys. I think when you are being charged by a dog that seriously means business your unconscious behaviour takes over and adrenaline kicks in and you really don’t think about treats. In a couple of emergencies like this, my instinct has been to pick up my dog and turn my back to the charging dog ( she’s small/medium) and I have to say it has worked for me despite advice to the contrary. However, you can’t do that with large dogs.
I have a smaller rescue dog (Kinder)who becomes quite anxious / aggressive when the other dogs in the house bark. She will at that point in time, go for one of my other dogs (Kozi) in an aggressive manner that requires us to force the two of them apart. Kinder is ALWAYS the aggressor in the turmoil, Kozi is caught off guard and does NOT retaliate at all. Other than pulling them apart and calming down Kinder…. what else can I do?
I had this situation happen to me as a dog walker. I threw treats at the dog and eventually, the whole bag. My problem was getting the reactive dog I was walking to keep moving so we could get away. The dog coming toward us eventually left the treats and came toward us (as we were trying to get away) and I was starting to panic.
That’s when I remembered what another pet sitter suggested and yelled “Go home! GO HOME!” It worked. The dog (who was a very friendly and sweet pitbull), looked at me with a sad face and went home. Thank goodness.
I also was charged by a dog (while walking the same reactive dog) that had escaped it’s yard and was aggressively barking at me and following me and the other dog. I could tell she was fearful and not likely to respond to “Go Home”, so I did a series of lip-licking and head-down-turn-aways and got her to back off and be less aggressive. Thankfully, her foster mom saw her and called her away from us. She had been aggressively barking at us while on a snow bank that out her close to face level with me. Very frightening.
That’s all well and good, as the owner of a reactive dog and a dog with allergies with allergeries this is actually I very ill-informed idea. You have no idea what illnesses, allergeries or dietary needs that charging dog may have. Example if someone did that to my Sibe (who is never off lead because she’s a bolted, she’s not the reactive one) it could easily cause her death. She is highly allergic to chicken and poultry fats, which despite what the labels say are is almost all commercially packaged treats.
Sure the owner should be in control of their dogs, on or off lead. (I.e. Don’t let them off if won’t immediately return when called) but the owners negligence doesn’t mean it’s ok to make the dog sick when it’s not their fault. In theory it’s a brilliant idea, but there’s many others factors to consider.
This is a great idea. We have one off leash dog (Belgian Shepherd) in the neighborhood- no troubles but when she runs at us I get spooked. In my best authority voice I tell her to sit and we walk away, she follows – in that slinky guard dog stalking thing that weirds me out, then tell her to sit and repeat that until Owner comes out. Only then I will let her approach my dog (8 mo Eng Springer who is not reactive). HAs always ended fine but owner is older and slow to make it to us. This could buy us more time in a relaxed way. I am sure it’s me and not her, but that stare and stalk is menacing. I see why they use them for guard duty!
Minnesota Mary says
I am usually walking four large (very well mannered) dogs. I don’t have a spare hand to dig into my pocket for a treat or a handful of treats as I’m juggling more than one leash. I do exactly what you say, Trisha, about laser focused dogs, but I do it for every loose dog approaching us. My dogs all get pulled behind me and they know to stay behind me. I hold their leashes with one hand and use the other hand, my feet and my voice to discourage the approaching dog. I yell myself hoarse, using the commanding voice and saying “stop” and “bad dog” and kick at the other dog. Usually the owner is very unhappy with my treatment of their beloved pet, to which I always reply with a curt “then control your dog”. In my city it’s illegal for a dog to be off leash outside of a fenced area even in the owner’s yard. My feet have connected with a couple of dogs who immediately turned tail and ran back to their owners. Better they get bruised from me kicking them than bit by my dogs in defense, because certainly my huskies will all be declared dangerous and killed, even though they didn’t start the attack.
A few comments here: Thanks for the comment about dogs with food allergies. (And I’m so sorry that certain food could kill your dog. I have to say I’ve never heard of a food allergy so severe in dogs. But my sympathies. I know parents whose children have such severe allergies, and it is a nightmare.) That said, it’s tricky… it’s also a nightmare if you have a reactive dog, and whose reactivity spills into aggression. Dogs get killed in dog fights too, and people get badly injured. It’s all about balance, isn’t it?
Another comment about releasing one’s dog off leash. I agree absolutely that dogs are far less likely to be aggressive if they are off leash. I do think that being trapped causes lots of reactivity and defensive aggression. However, I guarantee you that this is not the solution in many cases. First off, it’s not safe to let some dogs off leash on walks, even without the presence of another dog. Second, well, dogs do fight even off leash.
I’m also a bit concerned about kicking at someone’s else’s dog and wouldn’t advise it for a number of reasons. I agree that using a strong voice to stop a dog often works (I wouldn’t yell though, I’d keep my voice low and strong, but yelling can turn into screaming, and that could actually elicit aggression.) It’s dangerous to kick at someone else’s dog… you could get bitten yourself, and end up in trouble when you were just trying to defend your own dogs. I’ll follow up again soon about other things to do, but have to take off now. More to come…
Just a brief response about leash laws. Here’s the thing: in my area, leash laws are strict and dog parks are rare. We have ONE tiny fenced legal dog park (about the size of a very small little league field) to serve a community of several hundred thousand people. The game lands allow off-leashed dogs but that is meant to be if you are training hunting dogs only.
So what is an owner to do when the leash laws are such that it is not legal to ever have your dog off-leash? We have several parks that are several hundred acres each and our communities don’t see fit to designate a single area off-leash. There are hiking trails where leashed dogs are allowed but it is dangerous to have a leashed dog because the trail is so steep, narrow and rocky. You don’t discover this until you are two miles into the hike. So, yes we sometimes break leash laws. Yes my dogs are under voice control. And yes, once my well-trained voice-controlled dog blew me off completely and approached a fearful leashed dog. I’ve also had a dog get loose and not on purpose. I hope we all have some compassion for other owners in these situations.
We’ve had good luck walking with a super-soaker. Do NOT squirt the other dog but aim so the water falls between your dog and then other dog. Then throw the treats and leave quickly. Squirt it in the dog’s general direction if it attempts to follow.
Two words: Bear Spray
Thanks for posting! I have one of ‘those’ dogs, too, that can be very reactive and an ‘instigator’ so I feel for you. Will have to look up the Flying Dog video as I’m always looking for new ways to alter his behavior. He’s a 6 yr old boxer-golden retriever mix I rescued at age 1 so I suspect he wasn’t appropriately socialized early on. Definitely a work in progress ?…….
Alice R. says
Please be careful assuming what is true for your dog is true for others. After so many dogs, I am still amazed at how different each can be. My medium, very fluffy dog is not leash aggressive in the least, but is young and spirited. Released in the presence of another dog he would, depending on the dog, either run off to encourage chasing or run even faster in fear. That risks my dog running into traffic, or triggering prey instinct in the other dog. I should not have to risk my dog because another is uncontrolled. I also do not want my young dog learning that in a fearful situation, I will leave him on his own to figure out what to do. I want him to trust that he can look to me for guidance and safety.
I would also feel terrible about a beloved dog getting hold of something they are severely allergic too, especially at my hands. I still feel that it is each owner’s responsibility to control and protect their own dog, and I don’t think I would think of that in the heat of the moment. What about an allergy alert vest?
The thrown treat technique is too unsure when there is little time to react. I get my dog behind me, stand up tall and give a strong “No!” to the other dog, followed by a “Get out!” pointing away. I am very calm when I do this. (Then I usually give the owner of the unleashed and unreliable dog a what for.)
I do not agree that dogs are less aggressive off leash. but believe that many owners believe this to be true and so are nervous or impatient when their dogs are leashed. Of course, their dogs pick up on this and are hyper-vigilant. Sometime just crossing the street is the best thing to do.
All owners should be aware of dogs off leash and acting suspiciously, and act accordingly, particularly in an area where dogs are required to be leashed but sometimes are not. Often these dogs are unruly due to lack of training or exercise and their lazy owners don’t want to hold the leash. Hope for the best, but plan ahead and be prepared.
If you find yourself in an area where dogs do come ragging at you, like in our neighborhood, carry bear spray. It sprays quite a distance thereby stopping them before they can get to you or your dog. Even if your a little down wind…it might not be so good for you, you will have to close your eyes and hold your breath, but it will go away…and more importantly, it will stop a ragging dog. And when their owners get a smell of it maybe then they will decide to take control of their dog and you can now walk around safely.
If you are wearing a jacket here is something that has worked for me. Jacket is unbuttoned. Grab the front edges of the jacket. Step in front of your dog and flap the jacket like wings while saying in a deep command type voice “Sit”,” Bad Dog” or some other common command that is used to stop a dog from doing something. When I was in college I used to wear a cape and that was even more effective.
This is great, and I think this would work in a lot of cases. But I know when a dog approaches my dogs off leash, mine are barking and pulling to get towards them. Because they are not always friendly with other dogs. In this case, I don’t think treats will do any good. Except maybe cause them to fight over them. My dogs will not stay behind me when a dog is approaching like that.
A few additions: Careful of bear spray–unless you know which way the is blowing it can blow back at you.
Most importantly: For those of who mentioned that your own dog is aggressive when other dogs come close, please look into using counter and operant conditioning to teach a different response. The booklet Feisty Fido (http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/store/Feisty-Fido.html) might help. I used the methods it describes for my super reactive dog when he was young (Willie), and he’s really lovely now with other dogs, although I avoid situations in which he is trapped in a small space. The key is to work on it when your dog is ‘under threshold’ and is able to pay attention and learn instead of panicking and reacting so strongly that he or she can’t listen or learn.
One last thing: The blog is set up so that I have to approve a comment before it is posted. It’s quite rare that I don’t post a comment, but on occasion I will not do so if the comment feels like it is not as respectful as I want this conversation to be. I’m afraid that this time there have been more than the usual number of comments that I have decided not to post. I regret not allowing everyone a voice, but it is essential to me that our conversation is one of open-minded respect for everyone. Thanks to all of you who continue to be measured, thoughtful and benevolent in your responses. If you did send in a comment quite a while ago (I usually approve comments 5 times a day, but I’m on vacation now so twice a day is all I can manage.) and you don’t see it, I encourage you to write it again, with a perhaps more measured tone. I really do want everyone to have their say.
Once and only once, I simply let my dog’s leash go, and dashed into the trees. There was no way I was getting in between a big mix breed shepherd and my 80# black mouth cur. Turns out after I let go and disappeared, the stranger dog lost interest, and mine decided she wanted to come play hide-and-go-seek. I should try the treat method. Though, almost every dog we interact with while walking is on a leash– that’s when my dog acts like a turd.
I haven’t read all the comments, but I recall last time this was posted the horror stories from both ends of the leash made me want to stay inside and never venture out again. I had just gotten over my anxiety and you re-posted it while you were on vacation 🙂
This topic and what you feed your dogs bring out such passion!
I am sympathetic to anyone who has been confronted by a potentially dangerous dog. I know the jolt of adrenaline that surges through the body when a dog is barreling towards me or my dog. I have seen my friendly leashed dog picked up and shaken by a dog four times larger.
I am also familiar with the murderous “Next time I’m gonna . . .” thoughts that follow. But in reality, I would have a very had time directing my adrenaline-fueled rage at a poorly-trained, poorly socialized dog. The dog’s owner, on the other hand, gets much less of my sympathy.
That said, I do not understand is the indiscriminate anger towards those of us who train our dogs to be reliable off leash. I gently request those who feel that way to distinguish between people who train their dogs to behave off-leash; people who run after their dogs saying, “Don’t worry he’s friendly”; or worst of all, people who knowingly let a dangerous dog run loose.
When I let my dogs off leash, I am responsible for their safety and behavior. Period. This responsibility includes not letting my dogs run up to any person or dog without first being granted permission.
I have found if I throw my bag of poop at the dog racing toward me, they stop right away and have a sniff fest. And I always have a bag of poop.
Very interesting conversations, and some great advise. I also have an on-leash, reactive dog…she wasn’t always this way, we used to enjoy dog parks, and off leash walks. Over time, she began having unpleasant interactions when another dog would “charge” at her and startle her before she had a chance to absorb that a visitor was approaching. Even if the other dog was friendly, my dog would react aggressively to the sudden surprise. Over time, her behaviour became more dominant and protective, it is now to the point where I cannot take her to the dog park and she is always on a leash in the city. She is great with one dog at a time play dates, however add a third or fourth dog and her behaviour changes dramatically from play time to dominance time. I’m not sure when this changed, but did read that this is a breed survival trait.
I often have other off leash dogs approaching us on our walks, and get the familiar “don’t worry, my dog is friendly!” only to have my dog freak out on this other dog who came running at us. I will definitely try this technique, hopefully it will work and save both me and the other owner the stress of the dramatics (thats all it ever seems to be). I admit I have some doubts because my dog is NOT motivated by food, however most dogs are, so I am willing to give it a good honest try!
Any advice on how to re-train my dog to appropriately meet other dogs while she is leashed? I have tried everything.
I have tried this and does work to a point, gives me time to get my dogs away. I do get very annoyed at not being able to walk my Kelpie’s in peace, they are never off lead out of our house, even in off leash parks until they are 100% voice controlled, i wish others were the same and what is the point of yelling out ‘he/she is friendly? Mine may not be! Please keep your dog on a leash at all times, so the rest of us can work in peace. I have taken to driving my dogs to main streets and then walking them, it is safer for them and me.
All well and good in the video with dogs that are clearly bounding over in a friendly manner as part of a game but id like to see video evidence that this works on an aggressive dog that is sprinting at you with other intentions.
What I also carry with me, aside from treats and a variety of kibble, is a small spray bottle that has the ability to shoot a straight jet stream of water. It’s just tap water. Nothing more mixed in it. You can also do this with a kids water gun. So not only do the dogs get their treats, I make sure to give a squirt of the bottle in the direction of the dog as a “warning”. Most dogs don’t like water squirts in their eyes or face. MY dogs are trained with or without the water bottle. But I carry it with me, just in case they start to get any ideas of reacting to other dogs. I can tell by my dog’s body language, if he/she is tensing for an engagement. I put a stop to it right before it starts.
I was very proud of my Pit Bull Terrier blend when we waited in line for his vaccinations. All the other dogs were barking, growling, pulling on their leashes, whining, e.t.c… while my boy sat calmly at my side just looking around. He’d look up at me with this “look” as if to ask: “What’s wrong with them mama?”. He received many compliments from the Vet staff as well as other dog owners. They asked me how to get their dogs to sit calmly like that.
First and foremost, you have to establish yourself as their pack leader. Be the dominant, no matter what. Remind your dog everyday, that you ARE it’s pack leader. You are the boss. When training, always reward positive behavior and responses. No reward for negative ones. And in my case, it also helped a little in having the small spray bottle hanging at my side where my boy could see it. Sometimes, it’s an empty bottle, but they don’t know that.
Now that my pack is trained, all it takes is the sound of my voice command to get their attention and response. That’s it. Just the sound of my voice. As for taking my dogs to dog parks? I try to avoid them. Instead, I let them run and play on my ranch property. It’s THEIR ranch property where they’re free to run and play.
Throwing the treats? That works too. But sometimes, it can start one heck of a fight among a pack of dogs, especially if they’re untrained strays roaming the streets in a pack.
What an interesting discussion, and I’ve been on “both ends of this leash.” When my dogs (miniature Aussies — one is 12 lbs, the other 19 lbs) are leashed, they go ballistic at any dog along the way (outside fenced, inside in windows) who barks at them. However, they are easily distracted back to ME by treats, so we’re working on that. (One problem I don’t think anyone has mentioned so far is WINTER. It’s all well and good to have easily accessible treats in a pocket or bait bag when the weather’s nice. But when the temps are in single digits and I’m bundled up with heavy mittens, there is simply no way to GET to treats (or to any sort of spray, for that matter).
If an unleashed dog approaches, my dogs will be barking and lunging toward that one, I’m not sure how you teach a “get behind me and sit” command” for that situation, honestly. So I can pull them back away, but then (as someone else mentioned), they get into a little bickering frickin’ fight amongst themselves, argh. (Do dogs have adrenaline? It always seems like an adrenaline rush for them.) I haven’t ever thought of throwing treats at the oncoming dog, and that’s a great idea. However, I probably also have to throw treats at my own to distract THEM. Which may be all right. If everyone stops to sniff for treats, at least the situation has calmed down.
We do love to walk at off-leash parks, but my two together are a management problem. My smaller one is reactive, especially to large dogs. He’ll go flying off across the park if he spots a Lab or a Golden, and he is going to rush right in barking and leg-biting. So far I’ve been lucky that these dogs are friendly and look at him like, What, you weigh 12 stupid pounds? Whatever.” But I know I cannot count on that always being the case. (He’s pretty good with that flying stop, BTW, as long as I catch him before he gets too far.) My larger dog is fearful, so if it’s just him, he will flee. But if they are together, my fearful one joins in the mayhem, barking in panic and diving in to snap at the other dog’s legs.
Hence I try hard to plan my trips when the park is quiet: weekdays when I’m off work, mostly, and never weekends. And judge whether I’ll even stop today by how many cars are already in the lot. If only a few I can usually manage to stay on the opposite side of the park and keep my eyes peeled.
I acknowledge that when my dogs are off-leash their behavior is my responsibility, but this is how I have come to manage them. I could handle one-at-a-time in the park pretty easily, but that’s just outright not fun. One is stuck in the car, and the two don’t get to have fun running and playing together. I’ve opted to take my chances and manage distance from other dogs as necessary. It usually works, but there are obvious risks.
Vanessa Pero, MD says
Love the topic and great discussions from all! (I love the “bag of poo” distraction )
Looking forward to seeing more on your blog/books/lectures – I started out as a physician (MD)
but now am leaving medicine to devote all of my time to my true passion – dogs!
I’ve been rescuing/rehabbing/training dogs for more years than I’d like to disclose, and now am continuing with formal training. My goal – to work with shelter dogs – for free – to hopefully help them find homes more successfully.
Thanks for the inspiration! Vanessa
(ps Trishia PLEASE have someone provide me with a contact email for help shutting down puppy mills) Thanks so much!
This is a great discussion. I used this method about a month ago. We live in an apartment building with our reactive boy. There is a neighbor who allows his dog off leash around the building. Our guy hates the dog because he has felt trapped by him several times. We were on a walk outside in a local park when the dog came running towards us. I threw treats and he stopped and happily ate them up while we escaped. Later, the owner confided he has never used treats with his dog. He seemed proud. It is so hard to train people.
Our last dog was so reliable that we disregarded leash laws sometimes. Now that I have seen the situation from the reactive dog’s point of view, I regret it. In situations where everyone is off leash, it is okay, but those situations are rare. If the law says leash, people with reactive dogs have to know their dogs are not going to be assaulted by unleashed “friends.” It’s not that we haven’t trained our dogs. They simply see the world as more threatening. We are only asking other dog owners to follow the law so our dogs can be outside too.
While I intellectually understand that there are a lot of places in the world where people are having repeated scary encounters, and that fear can lead to some -hmm- extreme reactions, I’m always a bit shocked at some of the comments when this topic comes around, so let me just add a bit of a lighter tone here at the end.
I’m super, super lucky that a)my close neighbors are all nice reasonable people, b) there is a leash law and it is well-observed in my neighborhood so encounters, nasty or otherwise, with free-roaming dogs are rare c) my dogs are very, very socially reliable on and off-leash d) my dogs are large and sturdy, unlikely to be injured accidentally and unlikely to be fatally or near-fatally wounded in any but the rarest, flukiest, most extreme attack scenario.
As a result, it doesn’t bother me a bit if a friendly dog approaches, nor do I worry much about dogs who are a little ambivalent-looking. I remember the heart-pounding feeling when a really angry territorial dog charged us a time or two, but my own dog Otis handled it so expertly that he’s effectively trained ME not to freak out. I just wanted to say this, because sometimes the image we get when we read comments on topics like these can seem a little bleak- it makes sense when you think about it- people who HAVE problems with and strong feelings about this issue are far more likely to respond, so after a while it seems like EVERYONE has problems with and strong feelings about this issue.
I think the thrown treats are a great, non-violent option for people who are working on their reactive dogs’ comfort near other dogs- if it works, it’s a great way to divert a friendly approach before it triggers a bad reaction and undoes the work being put in. I can see how it would work best in certain specific circumstances, but any tool we can add to our belts is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m filing this away just in case I ever have occasion to need it.
For everyone who is going through a hard time with their reactive dogs, I hope you find a path forward that works for you, and for all those having a hard time with unpleasant encounters, I hope that the situation improves for you and that we all can enjoy our dogs and neighborhoods as safely and happily as possible.
em – thanks for your as-always insightful and friendly tone. Some of the folks here are so consistently bright, friendly, and interesting, and that’s one of the reasons I really enjoy commenting here even when what I say isn’t always the most enlightened. I also appreciate how well-moderated this site is – it’s hard to strike a balance between letting everyone speak and making sure the conversation doesn’t run off the rails.
As far as the issue at hand, I’m very dependent on leash laws on account of my own dog’s issues. However, I’ve never been one to insist people follow laws simply because they’re laws. If someone like Bruce keeps their dogs under control off-leash, I’ll be a bit wary but I won’t be a jerk. And while I will holler at people who let their dogs run amok (a strategy that unfortunately works), I’m trying to keep in mind that the reason they’re letting their dogs off-leash may well be that they want their dogs to be happy. And who can argue with that motivation? I want their dogs to be happy too!
I too have been surprised sometimes at the anger with which some people express their concerns about friendly dogs approaching. It is another case of how we expect way, way more from dogs than from people.
I know it can sometimes be dangerous compare dogs to people, but it can also be helpful. For instance, I have turned around quite a lot of people’s mindset about how to emotionally respond to food guarding by asking them to replace “my dog” with any person, i.e. “Oh my gosh, my husband (boss/ coworker/ friend) gets REALLY angry with me when I try to take away his dinner while he’s eating it. I can’t believe how disrespectful he is!!”. It makes people change how they feel about the guarding, and then they can work on it calmly and with a different point of view. So I would like to offer what I hope is a gentle analogy to explain how it feels to those of us who have friendly well-socialized dogs who spend lots and lots of time on walks interacting with other confident, friendly dogs.
So I’m going to replace “dog” with “child” as just a thought-exercise. “My child has some developmental issues and is afraid of other children. The other day we were out walking, and he waved at another kid, and the other kid came over and said hi to him!! Oh my gosh, it was horrible and now my child has been set back. I wish other people would control their children.”
Here’s what I see quite a lot with fearful or leash-reactive dogs: They give lots of relaxed friendly welcoming body language until the moment the other dog is past their comfort zone, and then they get scared and either hide or go on offense, depending on the circumstance. And so frequently they actually invite other dogs to interact and then change their mind. I truly understand where they are coming from; by nature or nurture they are not comfortable but still want to interact.
I’m not saying that people don’t have bad experiences, and I’m not saying people should let their dogs run amok. But I just wish that there was a little more compassion in BOTH directions. Like em, I live in an area where lots of people let their dogs hang out with other dogs. The dogs learn to ignore the shy ones and avoid the rough ones and play with the playful ones, and if once in a blue moon someone’s dog approaches another person’s leashed dog by mistake it’s not the worst thing in the world.
I also wanted to share something that has happened to me personally so many times I have long since lost count:
We meet another dog. The owner seems to think their dog doesn’t really “like” other dogs. Jack thinks otherwise.
We cheerfully get the other owner to agree to let them meet.
Jack goes in to sniff. The other dog scoots away. Jack tries one more time. The other dog scoots away.
Jack turns away and ignores the other dog and interacts with the owner. Now that his back is turned, the other dog bravely comes up and sniffs Jack from behind. Jack acts like he doesn’t realize the other dog is there.
After a minute or so, Jack turns and the other dog now allows a proper greeting. The other dog gives a stress-release shake, looks up at its owner beaming with what I can only call a sense of pride (“Look what I did, I’m so brave!!!”). The owner looks perplexed but happy, and the dog trots off a bit more jauntily than before.
I know it’s a bit beyond the concept of this blog, but ironically I think the lack of safe places to be off-leash (and where I live the dog park is the last place I’d ever let my dogs play) contributes to both sides of the problem: Friendly dogs are so desperate for social interactions that they forget their manners and barrel up to other dogs. And shy dogs lack the space to gradually work into a group of dogs and build their confidence on their OWN speed (not their owners’) from a safe distance.
If this happened once or twice I’d think it was a fluke but it happens quite a lot. Jack is exceptionally good with other dogs, but then we know a whole lot of dogs who are. And what they all have in common is lots and lots of chance to meet all sorts of dogs (including cranky ones) off-leash, at their own speed (with oversight of course).
We are blessed that there is a mostly empty area a large park near us that is unfenced and not officially a dog park, but often used as one. Because it’s not fenced, the dogs who are there are always watched by their owners and always under decent voice control. But again, technically we are all breaking the leash laws.
A good idea that I may try if I have the opportunity. I wanted to respond to the comment about dachshunds. I have two and one is very good off lead and always returns when called and usually heels beside me. My other rescue, will come back most of the time but I don’t trust him if other dogs are around and off lead(so if others are around, he is on lead). If he is on lead, he just powers on and won’t even pay attention to them, even if the other dogs are barking and carrying on. As a small dog owner, I am pretty scared of the large dogs who run free because they could easily kill my dogs (not just injure) very quickly. If someone yells that ‘it’s okay he/she is friendly’ I yell back, mine is not. We walk on the beach a lot (the only place mine really walk off lead) and once there was a woman with 3 large dogs and a couple with 2 large dogs, walking separately. I watched them from a distance and it appeared that both had some control over their dogs. But then they got together and started chatting and all 5 dogs looked at us and started heading in my direction. I yelled at them to call their dogs off, and they did, but it was scary to see how they were starting to look like a pack coming after us. I realize that many folks with little dogs don’t control them, but don’t throw us all together. As a small dog owner, I think I have more to lose than someone with a big dog, in regards to being attacked. If you don’t have control over your dog, don’t have them off lead.
Great advice, but what if your did on the leash is being aggressive ?
stella Koch says
Its worth a try, but depending on the demeanor of both dogs, it may not work. Best to tell the other owner NO! Tie the yellow ribbon on your pet that does not get along with other pets/dogs.
Thanks for the idea.
Alice R. says
You are absolutely right, Andy, to remind us that all owners just want their dogs to be happy. I think we all wish that all our dogs could become that confident, even keeled dog that em describes. I know I am working very hard toward that goal aware that my sound sensitive, energetic little guy could so easily go the other way.
I needed that reminder as I am still a bit worked up over what I saw yesterday. I was keeping our distance from a dog and owner in the neighborhood since the dog is usually reactive from across the street. I could not believe my eyes when the UPS truck drove down the street at a good clip, and the man let his retractable leash out all the way so that his dog could run into the street barking and lunging within a foot or two of the truck. The poor dog was terrified and doing his best to defend. I later met the UPS driver who thanked me for working with my dog when he drove by, and he told me that this scene has been going on for 5 years. I’m sure that man thinks his dog is having a blast chasing the truck safely on the leash. I just feel so sorry for that dog. We’ll never be able to get close enough for a conversation, but I dearly hope someone who knows dogs does. The reminder that we could get farther in changing behavior with kindness instead of anger is timely. Thank you.
Thanks em and Bruce for those positive comments. What’s clear I think is how much fear this issue engenders. Feeling fearful and helpless (when a dog runs at you and you are afraid a terrible fight will result) is a recipe for anger, at least once one is out of danger. Sometime I will write another article on this issue, which lists a hierarchy of ways one can feel in control when walking a reactive dog on leash, because I think that’s the key question: What can one do to feel in control and less helpless in that situation? There are so many things one can do, and I would argue, should do, if you have a dog who is afraid of greetings–from tossing treats into an approaching dog’s face, to saying SIT!, to flashing your jacket open, to carrying pepper spray (I don’t recommend), to carrying a long stick or cane. No, no, I’m not recommending that one uses it to hit an oncoming dog, (please god let’s not see that on social media somewhere!), but just holding it makes a great difference in how one feels.
That leads to Beth’s excellent comment that so many dogs have no experience greeting others properly, and that once they do have a chance they are relieved. I love hearing about Jack’s social skills–my Luke, Lassie and Pip were all like that too, and I’d estimate that they met 100’s of dogs they taught to relax when greeting other dogs. Now I’m working on Maggie, who is the classic ‘rush up barking’ type, although she adores other dogs and once greeted has remarkable social skills. Here’s to the Jacks [and Luke, Lassie and Pips] of the world!
There are many reasons why a dog may be a on leash and not just because it is reactive to other dogs. Recovering from surgery? Arthritic and old? Of course, we are all human beings and not a single one of us is perfect and keeps our dogs 100% under control when out exercising. People are well intentioned and genuinely do not wish to inflict harm or be a problem to other people (heck, I’m just pleased they are actually exercising their dogs!) But this is not the issue is it?
For example, Guide dog attacks are on the increase in the UK by out of control dogs. The above article in the link I posted is pretty horrendous IMO. Clearly, there is a problem. These are dog on dog attacks. People are 100% responsible for this. But it is complicated and multi factorial and beyond the discussion parameters here I think.
Figures show that between 2010 and 2015 there were more than 629 attacks which is an increase to 11 per month last year from three per month in 2010.
Yes, we need to be civil and compassionate with each other. But I can’t pretend that when there is a lack of education of owners and associated guidance and control of their pet dogs that this does not cause problems. Some more serious than others, such as a beloved canine colleague and assistant getting attacked and having to be retired early leaving you vulnerable. I wonder if the Scandinavian countries and some of the other European countries (where pet dog control is regulated and a level of education is mandatory) experience the extent of these problems? There is no pet canine utopia anywhere on Earth but some countries are clearly better set up than others are when it comes to the other end of the leash.
Happy Friday…I’m off to walk my dog.
I wanted to add one more thing: the reason I feel uncomfortable when strange dogs approach my two leashed dogs, is that even if the greeting is friendly, their favourite game is “chase” and it is not so comfy for them or me if the other dog responds by inviting a chase game…<>
And I can still remember the time I stood there holding my Siberian up in their, shooing away the tiny chihuahua. Even if that dog is friendly, I have had one experience of mistaken identity where a small pup was mistaken for squeaky rabbit. Not funny. Luckily the pup survived, but I do not ever want to go through that again.
So really, I do so appreciate it when people keep their dogs away form my leashed dogs.
I tried the method with a couple of labs, but one of them ignored the treats and circled around me to get at the dogs who were behind me. Seriously, with two strong dogs I cannot prevent altercations if both dogs are intent on it. Luckily, although my two guys can be reactive, especially Spot, it is more a “get out of my personal zone” warning and he is not going for the kill/true injury
On a lighter note: I went to a seminar with them about dog-dog-reactivity. There were 15 dogs & owners there. We started with two-dog sessions, with added to the mix the trainers Malinois who was trained to lunge/bark on command. Well, off course this time Spot embarrassed me by NOT reacting to any of the other dogs, not even to the malinois. I mean, he walked beside me, sat beside me, looked around a bit bored but reacting? Nope…
Anyway, in the end we all walked around the field and all dogs remained calm. It was amazing. I’ll not go into detail about the seminar, off course we still have a lot of work to do (Around our own neighbourhood Spot can still be very reactive) but it taught me a lot about who is on the other end of the leash…
And yes, I think fear is a bit emotion in this subject, both fear of other dogs and fear of what your own dog might do. But there is a Dutch proverb that says that fear gives bad advice… So I do try to stay much more calm and trust my dogs a bit more..
Anyone can purchase a dog. There is no test to make sure the owner is responsible, can care for and train a dog. In irresponsible hands, a dog can be a danger, not just to other dogs, but to children and adults too. Stupid owners cause problems. When a dog is reported as a problem to the community, the owner should have to undergo training themselves. Owning a dog comes with responsibilities.
I see both sides of this question since I have the rock solid, exceptional social skills, very friendly Ranger and the psycho-bitch from hell Finna. To me it’s simply a matter of politeness. My dogs (or children for that matter) are under my control to the best of my ability. Rather than simply assume they’re up for socializing I appreciate it if you ask me if it’s OK before allowing your dog (or child) to interact with mine. There may be reasons why I don’t or it may be fine but if you simply take that moment to ask and to listen to the answer any potential issues can be avoided.
I liked Beth’s suggestion of thinking of it as my child rather than may dog. And if you ask if it’s alright for your playful Freddie to say hi to my Finna child I have a chance to say that Finna is likely to punch Freddie in the face rather than respond appropriately. She might be OK with a Jack or Otis (since she’s always done fine with Ranger) but the bouncy friendly lab with sloppy canine manners who bumbles through life assuming everyone wants to be his best friend is likely to be attacked by Finna. She’s on a leash because there’s no way she’s safe off. She has all the herding dog need to be in control of all motion and no clue how to actually manage motion successfully. The Great Catsby is working on it with her but she’s got a long way to go. It amuses me no end to watch the cat teaching the dog how to herd. He’ll only play ‘I’m the sheep’ with her when she’s doing it right. The first wrong move on her part and he vanishes. Her current record is about 30 seconds.
The point that many, possibly even most, dogs in our culture these days don’t have an opportunity to learn appropriate canine social skills by meeting lots and lots of other dogs and getting to socialize with them both on and off leash is well taken. Not long ago the trainer at our excellent pet products store was seeing a lot of dogs for dog reactivity. It seemed like every time I took Ranger in to pick something up she was asking his help in assessing the potential new client. Only one of them was actually reactive to any other dog and started barking as soon as he saw Ranger. Most of them were reactive to rude approaches and uncontrolled greetings. I always figured it was our responsibility as the person on the other end of the leash to help our dogs succeed which includes teaching them appropriate manners both for life in the human world and for canine society. Everybody benefits when we do that.
The world is an imperfect place and we’re all imperfect people but if we try to be kind and courteous I find it all goes along more smoothly. So please, before you let you pup run free make sure you’ve done your best to develop a solid recall and an emergency stop, then if (s)he is heading off to visit that on-leash dog you can have him/her stop while you ask if it’s OK and if it isn’t you can recall your dog. Not that this will always work. Ranger has both those things and he totally blew me off one day when we were walking in the woods. He saw a sweet Border Collie bitch he wanted to greet. I called out to ask if it was alright and her person said she’d been attacked recently and was pretty reactive now. I told Ranger to stop and he totally ignored me and my efforts to recall him went similarly unheeded. However, he was approaching in a curve, looking away from the BC, and walking. He stopped just inside her leash length and let her complete the meeting by coming to him. She was hesitant but he gave all the right calming signals and it was a successful meet and greet. She and her person both went off feeling a bit more confident. Ranger came back to me and, the only way I can describe it is, apologized for blowing me off and we went back to our walk. He apparently felt that showing this BC that not all off leash dogs are a threat was more important than doing what I asked.
The more tools we have at our disposal for managing the inevitable mishaps of life, and the more tools we’ve given our dogs the more successful we’ll be. That’s part of why I love this blog so much. I learn so many useful things. I’m going to have to get myself up pop-up umbrella and experiment to see if interrupting her sight with the umbrella will buy us a couple seconds where Finna can engage her brains enough to reach for one of the other tools we’ve been trying to give her. Barking, lunging, attack mode is still the first tool she thinks to use but she’s getting to the point where if I can get her to think about it she’ll pull out a different one and try it.
Kelly Schlesinger says
I have used the Emergency Stop Sign, thank you, Patricia McConnell, several times and it has worked perfectly. Once my BC Tag, with a stomach full of staples from a foreign body obstruction surgery, was on leash with me, when to my horror I saw the two biggest boxers in the world running as fast as they could right for us. Their owner was yelling “They’re friendly!” I stepped in front of Tag, put out my hand and yelled “No!” as loudly and deeply as I could. The boxers were big goofy dogs and slid to a stop. They shot me a “Wow, you’re no fun” look and turned back. My boy Tag appreciates my taking charge in situations like this, but my family members are horrified when they see me do it.
Trisha, perhaps you can do a blog on when you advocate walking a dog in a muzzle? To me, leash-reactivity is a dog who may behave badly when approached on-leash. But sometimes I hear people refer to dogs as “reactive” that are in fact aggressive. All four times we’ve been attacked was by a leashed dog who got loose. I know muzzles have their pros and cons. That said, they seem to be used almost never and I know of one or two dogs personally that most decidedly would try to kill another dog if they got loose. Frankly, they terrify me.
Is this something worth discussing? I see it talked about so rarely in dog circles.
Chris from Boise says
Thank you Trisha for moderating this most interesting stream of comments. I think those of us with reactive dogs, or smaller ‘fragile’ dogs, are often hyper-sensitized to other dogs and their owners who could cause train-wrecks with ours.
Habi and I are now (after years of hard work) able to walk the few on-leash trails in our foothills. However, many people run their dogs on those trails, rather than keeping to the many miles of off-leash trails available to them. I’ve become very good at bellowing from a long distance off: “My dog does NOT like other dogs!”, and almost always the owners corral their dogs. If they can’t, we make an abrupt U-turn and briskly walk the other way (this would NOT work if charged by dangerously aggressive dogs). I think it was you who pointed out that very confident dogs demonstrate that confidence by turning their backs to other dogs, and it does seem that when we pull a U-turn in front of an oncoming dog, it falters, falsely perceiving confidence that Habi actually lacks.
As Beth with Maddie and Jack commented, “I read so many things about people who get so upset if someone’s off-leash dog is anywhere near, even if fairly well-controlled. I just can’t help but wonder why it is that there seem to be so many dogs that cannot even tolerate a friendly approach by a well-socialized dog?” That used to be Habi and me. We finally, in a reactive dog class, realized that the only way she knew how to meet another dog was rudely: muzzle to muzzle. So every meeting started out tensely, and if we didn’t break off after one second, either one or the other dog would snark. We successfully taught her to aim for the other dog’s butt, with the specific cue “Go Say Hi”, and now we can (carefully) enjoy some of those off-leash trails too! (Will miracles never cease!)
Now that I’m more relaxed about Habi’s ability to interact in most situations, I’ve been able to take a “kinder, gentler” approach to people and their dogs whom I would have written off as #@!&!# jerks in the past – and because I’m more relaxed, Habi’s more relaxed, and it’s just getting better every day.
Lastly, Habi wants me to say that we so appreciate all of you who DO have well-mannered, under-control dogs, whether on-leash and off-leash (that excludes her housemate Obi the social butterfly, who is a work in progress and a story for another day).
Standing tall and saying in a low strong voice, “Go Home,” works for skunks, too. I don’t know what made me do it the first time, but years ago I told my first loose dog without another person in sight to “Go Home.” It worked like a charm and has worked just about every time since. One day I was about to let the dogs out back, and I saw a skunk waddling down the driveway next door. I went out by myself and told the skunk to “go home” (from a respectful distance) and the skunk turned around and waddled away!
I agree that we all want a nice life for ourselves and our dogs and a high gross national happiness index. I also think we shouldn’t make things harder for someone else in achieving those goals. This seems to me to be an area where we actually have some control over the impact we have on others. I think I’ve said this before, but where I live there are miles of off-leash trails and yet the trails designated on-leash are where people decide it’s okay to let their dogs run free. We’ve discussed this on a neighborhood online forum, but the argument goes that their off-leash dogs are fine and the people prefer those trails, so not much to be done. I’ve even encountered loose dogs and snarky people on a private trail that you have to get permission to use, and the land owner asks please keep your dog leashed. When approached on this private trail, the loose dog people get truly incensed. There is a sense of entitlement flavoring their responses.
I think there should be a reasonable expectation of people understanding leashed and off-leashed and making better decisions. I’m not going to the off-leashed trails for a reason, and I wouldn’t expect accommodations for my leashed dog if I did. Why doesn’t it work both ways?
@Beth: about dogs not being good on leash. I *think* my two dogs are pretty social, I mean while off leash they can and do interact properly with other dogs. I think part of the problem is that when Spot is leashed, he feels more threatened by dogs approaching him, especially at a run, because he is hampered in his ability to take more space. He feels like he cannot move away . He can’t fly, so he goes into offence.
His social skills might not be perfect, but they are certainly influenced and hampered by the leash. And is he does go into offence = lunging & barking, that is pretty uncomfortable for me. I once got my finger trapped in the leash, that really hurt quite a lot.
So no, I am not happy with unknown dogs approaching mine. That being said, I am usually pretty calm about it when it does happen. The world usually doesn’t end…. and the calmer I stay, the more relaxed the guys are.
And hey, we all make the occasional mistake and my dogs aren’t perfect either 😉 Far from it! So I understand if something sometimes goed awry with another persons dog…
I have thoroughly enjoyed so many of the comments for this post! Chris, I’m so happy to hear how far Habi has come and that the world has opened up of you both! Lisa W, I absolutely agree that we should all try to make the world an easier place for others and the one time Jack blew me off and charged up to a shy dog in an un-Jack-like manner, I was mortified and apologized and you better believe that Jackpot got some remedial lessons in minding his manners! But I do envy you and your miles of off-leash trails.
Trisha, thanks so much for your kind words about Jack. He was blessed with an unflappable personality (thank you, Jack’s breeder!) and we socialized the pants off of him. I want to send a big thank you out to all the countless dog owners who let my rude, jumpy, nippy puppy play with their dogs so that he learned how to interact properly. Interestingly, it was the snarky ones who taught him the most.
I was so proud of him today. He had to have a tooth out (ouch!) and an ultrasound, so he was sore and groggy and feeling ill from anesthesia when I took him for a leashed toddle around the park. We happened across a barky, spinning, slightly frantic Yorkie who maybe doesn’t get to see other dogs as often as she would like. I intended to keep sore and sick Jack away from her, but he wanted to go right over and say hi. And in spite of feeling awful and in spite of tangled leashes, his main concern was trying to calm her when she totally wigged out at a much larger dog a few dozen yards away. Bless his furry little heart.
@Beth, trust me, you and Jack would be a pleasure running into, I would love that, and I bet that wouldn’t happen very often because you would be on the off-leash trails! My point exactly. (I’d love to see Maddie, too.)
I also love your description of a leashed toddle. I’m going to try and remember that.
I know this comment is rather late to the party, but I’d like to share a happy story involving an off-leash dog.
I walk Cecil in a warehouse district because there’s very little dog traffic and he’s quite reactive towards other animals. This morning, however, neither Cecil nor I noticed the off-leash Great Dane until he was about 30 feet away. Given that it was the size of a small horse, Cecil was understandably upset and starting yelling and jumping up and down. The Dane’s owner hollered “Toby!” and started walking towards us. Toby looked at Cecil, looked at his person, and opted to wait for his owner to leash him up. Cecil and I kept walking as I coached him to stay calm and focused. Within about 20 seconds, Cecil had stopped reacting, was accepting treats, and obeying simple commands. And despite the fact that the Dane and his person were now following us, Cecil kept his cool for several minutes until they were out of sight.
This would have been unthinkable two years ago, but we’re in a much better place now. Cecil is willing to work to stay out of trouble. No prong, no choke, no gentle leader, just a lot of practice. So grateful for all my mentors, and grateful to the Dane guy for having a good sense of what his dog can handle.
Chris from Boise says
Way to go, Andy and Cecil! That is HUGE! Isn’t it amazing when our pups can calm themselves down and start thinking their way out of a situation. And good for Toby’s owner and the work he had done with his dog too.
I’d simply love a video about how to teach the Flying Stop. Just can’t seem to figure out how to do it.
Hope you find the time to do it.
Thanks 🙂 🙂
Someone asked about the very expressive picture of the two dogs included with the blog. They are both dogs, now sadly departed, that were owned by friends of Trish King. The owner of the red dog is a professional photographer, and is excellent at capturing wonderful instances of body language. These 2 dogs were very good friends, although it might not appear so. The red girl was a bit of a handful, and sometimes the arousal got a bit much.
The “defendabrella”, coined as such by Sue Sternberg, was something that Trish sometimes used, with painting of an assertive dog painted on the umbrella as it opens. Problem is that most people don’t want to carry umbrellas on their walks.
I carry a golf club. Works every time!
In some states, pepper spray is illegal. I carry a squeeze bottle full of habanero sauce mixed with 10% isopropyl alcohol for emergencies like this. Have not yet had to use it but am prepared to do so if my dog is approached by what I determine to be a clearly aggressive dog. Best defense is a good offense.
I like this idea and will try it. As for the charging dog… I was in a circumstance several years ago. My aunt who was 80, a young 80, but not that young and I were walking around to the back of a property to try and speak with the owner. The dog was a rottie male, adult. He was sitting in his doghouse and there was a stake and chain visible so we thought we would be safe if we didnt get too close. WRONG. The dog was not chained. He began charging at us and barking. I turned and ran back to the car, but my aunt was further away from the car and knew she would never make it. so she leaned forward, hands planted firmly on her knees in a semi squat/lean forward position and started barking back at the dog as loud as she could. The dog stopped dead in his tracks, looks at her quizzically and turned around and went back to his house. She continued barking and telling him to go to bed. It worked. I have never seen anyone do that before or since but decided if I ever get in that position with a dog, and have no other options I will try it after I wet me pants..
Carole Vanier says
I have a large male border collie that is my service dog. I use a large walker when I go for walks. I live in a building with 4 apartments. There is a large husky x that lives in the apartment above me. When I go outside the husky has leapt off the second story balcony to attack my dog. I have tried throwing treats and yelling and getting my dog behind me but nothing has stopped this dog. He has bitten my dog numerous times and been taken into animal control over 12x. I finally purchased pepper spray and sprayed the charging dog which stopped the dog in his tracks. The police were called and I was warned that I could not do that and the next time the dog attacks mine that I am to call the police. I feel by the time the police get here my dog would be dead or seriously hurt. I am not sure how I can protect my dog who now is afraid to go past that balcony. Nothing seems to stop this determined dog from wanting to attack my dog. The vet bills are getting expensive too.
I no longer walk my dog in my own neighborhood. I now drive downtown where all the other dogs are also on leashes. In my neighborhood there always seem to be loose dogs and in the past we have been charged at by snarling, barking dogs. I carried a very large can of pepper spray and had to use it all too many times. But last fall was the incident that took all the fun out of walking here. That time we were charged by a pit bull. I sprayed the pepper spray from a distance as the pit bull circled us… that had stopped all the other dogs in the past. But this dog just ignored it and charged in. It wasn’t until the spray was going full blast directly into his eyes that he stopped. At that close range the spray also got on my own dog and me. I saw which house the pit bull came from and reported it to animal control. They paid a visit to the home, gave the people a warning and a lecture about leash laws, and made them get a rabies shot for their dog, which had had no vaccines. Now that we go downtown to walk it is so pleasant and peaceful that it is well worth the daily morning drive to get there. It’s interesting and the people and dogs are friendly.
Wouldn’t it encourage the approaching dog to repeat this behavior next time. Run to you to get a treat?
This tactic is RIDICULOUS. You should be ashamed at offering such dangerous advice to pet owners.
To Mary: You might want to read the comments from people who have used this method and found it very effective. I’m ashamed about a lot of things (chocolate consumption being one of them), but not this.
Being an ex ACO (Animal Control Officer) I can attest that treats offer a a smidgen of reduction time in attacks, but it does not alter the dogs perceived focus of attention. For a human to alter a dog-on-dog alltercation, there has to be a focal point of training that implies humans are above dogs on all accounts. If a dog attempt to attack another dog around a human, simply keeping yourself between your animal and the attacking canine should suffice while yelling to disrupt the agressor. If this is not the case, then the animal in question has not been properly trained to respect humans in kind, and a few swift kicks to the agressors crop section (between front legs, under throat) should be enough to deture the largest bread from continuing the assault on your four legged family member.
Animals are only as loyal as their masters – if you believe nobody cares as much as yourself for your animal children, then protect them as the parents you percieve yourself to be.
Forget animals defending themselves as a right of passage; that ended when you put a leash on them.
Your job, in public, is to protect the animals you care for, and educate those around you who are ignorant to the facts. Do not be afraid to kick a rotweiler in the crop or spin a chiwawah 360 sees to keep the peace.
They still get to live another day – feel justified in that.
Thanks for your perspective Chance. Although I agree that getting between an attacking dog and your own can be effective (and have done it myself),there is a potential of injury. And I would never suggest that someone attempt to kick a dog—too dangerous, both for the human and the dog.
Ann Taylor says
Whlslt out on a walk my 2 year old border terrier spies another dog coming towards her from a million miles away! She promptly sits down and watches as the dog approaches . She will not move. I place myself in between to block her vision and have tiny treats in a cupped hand which she snuffles up and hopefully by the time she has finished the dog has walked by and then off we go, with encouraging words to keep her walking forwards! She is so friendly with people and some friends’ dogs she does play with BUT she is SO inconsistent!!! I usually shout to the owners to put their dogs on a lead if they are not but their responses can vary! If she is left just sitting , she will bark and bark as they go buy and seems to get herself into a real tizzy. Has anyone any other ideas?
Minna Alegra says
I had a pit bull corner myself and my Rottie mix. Didn’t exactly charge or attack but didn’t let us move, either. Finally I grabbed a handful of stones from a yard and threw a couple of fistfuls in his face and he moved on. Since then I have had to deal with other aggressive dogs and their clueless owners. I plant to carry a fanny pack full of marbles mixed with thumbtacks. Between the pain and the slipping on the marbles their isn’t a dog on the planet who won’t be stopped by that. And a rope with some big bolts on it, too, for backup. I’ve had it.
Oh Minna, please don’t do that. Some of the dogs running toward your dog might be clueless yes, but truly friendly. It is not their fault that their owners don’t have control of them, and yet you could cause them grevious injury. Given that your stones worked, why go to something more harmful? And why not a handful of kibble? If you have a good fistful and you throw it hard, it can be extremely effective. [And one last comment–there are a gazillion dogs who would not be stopped by some pain–that’s what fighting dogs are bred for, to either ignore it or just fight harder.]
But your video is of dogs that know you and are coming when called? I don’t think it proves that it works at all sadly.
You are right Jen that context is critical, and the context of the video (familiar dogs) is different than an unfamiliar dog running toward you and your own dog. What I can report is my experience using it in real life with dogs running at my own or my client’s dogs. I haven’t had to use this technique much, so that sample size is small, but I have used it 4-5 times. Four times it worked brilliantly, and once it didn’t. That time was clear “owner error”, in that for reasons I can’t explain I threw the food as if satirizing a “girlie ball throw” and the food sort of fluttered somewhere in the vicinity of the dog’s face. Lucky for me, the dog wasn’t aggressive, but unlucky for Maggie he was beyond rude and scared the crap out of her. So, as I say in the video, this method could not possibly work every time, but it worked for me most of the time, so it’s worth learning to do.
I just got back from the dog park where a big muscled dog chased my 10 month old poodle around and nailed him to the ground, snarling and snapping at him. I went off on the owner who would not control his animal. I was screaming at him to control his dog and that mean dogs were not allowed in the park. His reaction? I am a bitch and his dog is friendly. It was my dogs fault that his dog was attacking my puppy. I am so mad I am still shaking.
This kind of thing ruins your dog. Forgive me while searching for an answer if I disagree that this method will work. I went out and bought pepper spray. I am 65 and disabled, and the owner of the monster dog was verbally attacking me. Not only will I carry pepper spray from now on, but I will carry a self defense weapon for my own peace of mind against nut jobs
Joann, I am so so sorry. It’s just awful when that happens. If it happens to you again or anyone else, my advice is to get between the dogs, as quietly as possible. This does put you at risk, but yelling rarely works and can just make it much more frightening for your own dog. Staying quiet and calm (I know, not easy to do) will help your dog shake it off.
Hopefully you can set up situations where your adolescent poodle has some good play experiences sometime soon. Lots of dogs are very resilient, so I’m hoping he’ll come out of it just fine. Best of luck.