Dear Miss Behavin’: I have a large dog, Nancy, who is reactive to other dogs. Recently, an off-leash dog ran up to us on our walk and started a scuffle. Nancy was on leash, but we couldn’t escape the other dog. Do you have any tips for avoiding conflict like this in the future?
It’s unfortunate that another dog owner was irresponsible and put both pups in a risky situation. As you know, there are many reasons that it can be unsafe to have your dog off leash in undesignated areas, one being that they may approach a less friendly dog and get injured. They also run the risk of getting hit by a car or running off too far and getting lost. Lost dogs may end up at the shelter or can even be stolen.
As the owner of a reactive dog, you likely already take certain precautions when out walking, like being aware of your surroundings and keeping an eye out for other dogs. If off leash dogs are common in your area, you may want to consider driving to a different neighborhood for your walks to avoid future conflict. Another option is to try walking downtown early in the morning, where it is likely to be quiet and any dogs you encounter are more likely to be leashed.
If you are worried about future incidents, read up on how to safely break up a scuffle. It is typically not recommended to reach into a dog fight with your hands, but a loud noise can help startle both dogs long enough for them to take a break and you to gain some control. Consider carrying a small can of compressed air. This is a lightweight tool that easily fits in a pocket or treat pouch, and makes a loud hissing noise which is often effective in getting the dogs’ attention.