The Time I Kicked a Dog to Save Another Dog

Have you ever had to deal with an off-leash dog (or a dog on a Flexi leash) charging you? What did you do?

This week I shared a local letter to the editor about a dog on a Flexi leash attacking and biting a runner (thanks Mike, for the link). I am a dog lover, but I am also a runner and I said I would’ve kicked the dog had it attempted to bite me. While I love animals, I will defend myself, my family and my pets as necessary, just as I would expect anyone else to do.

If I am attacked by a person, I am going to respond with self defense. No one would question this. Why would it be any different if the attacker is a dog?

This made me think of a time when I actually did kick a dog. In that case, it was to protect the dog I was walking.

Kicking a dog for self defense

While using force is unnecessary most of the time, there are situations when it is the best – or perhaps the only – option.

In this case, I was walking one of my client’s dogs, a 100-pound dog who is a model loose-leash walker unless another dog charges his face. He can become reactive if a dog charges him.

When I’m walking a dog through my dog walking business I treat that dog as though he is my own. It is my responsibility to keep him safe. As we were out on this particular walk, a toy breed was barking at us from its yard. It was tethered and showing extreme excitement and frustration as it lunged several times.

“My” dog and I calmly walked away, showing no reaction, which is usually the best response. My dog was showing top-notch obedience.

This tiny dog managed to pull its leash loose, and proceeded to charge my dog and I.

What to do when a dog charges you?

In these situations, it is important to remain calm but also to react quickly. My first priority is always to remain in control of the dog I am walking. In this case, my dog was perfect. I kept him at my side and he was responding well to the situation. I made a point to keep his leash loose but short, and he didn’t seem to feel threatened by this tiny dog.

I then turned to address the approaching dog, calling out “NO!” while pointing at it with direct eye contact and stepping towards it. This is often my first reaction when dealing with an off-leash charging dog. When I use the right energy, it typically stops the dog in its tracks for at least a second or two.

This is enough time to defuse the intensity of the situation and to allow myself and both dogs to “re-group.” I also move my body between the two dogs to break off any eye contact between them.

My mutt Ace, what to do when an off-leash dog charges you?

In this case, the dog did not stop, and it attempted to get at my dog’s face. Remember, my dog can be reactive and he is 100 pounds. I am certain he will attack another dog if pressed. So, I did what I thought was the best option for the situation. I kicked the small dog directly in the chest, once again yelling “No!”

This time the dog toppled backwards and then stood there, definitely defused. It shook itself off, then turned and ran home.


I did not want to hurt this dog, and I didn’t. But more importantly, I did not want my dog to attack or kill the dog. I was protecting both dogs, and myself. Although provoked, I didn’t want my dog to be faced with any type of dangerous dog labels for biting, injuring or killing another dog. I also did not want the other dog to get hurt.

The irresponsible dog owners are rare

Although off-leash dogs charge me fairly often, most of the time they are friendly, just as the dogs I walk are usually friendly.

As usual, it is the responsibility of each dog owner to keep his or her own dog under control, whether the dog is on a leash or not. It is unfortunate we even have to have discussions about what seems like common sense. But, as with anything else, there is always a small group of people who make life difficult for everyone else.

Have you ever been threatened by an off-leash dog?

For more on this topic, see my posts:

What to do when an off-leash dog charges me?

What to do if your dog runs away

How to get your dog to behave off leash

41 thoughts on “The Time I Kicked a Dog to Save Another Dog”

  1. Don’t get me started…

    1) knocked down and injured by a 100lb sheepdog that ran out a front door and across the street to get to us

    2) charged by a GSD who ran across the street to get to us; “NO” didn’t stop him, pepper spray did

    3) charged by a snarling, hackles-raised JRT mix that ran down the block, across the street, and down the other side of the block to get to us; “NO” x2 didn’t stop him, pepper spray x2 didn’t stop him (But police said it was okay because (and I quote) “It wasn’t a Rottweiler, Doberman, or Pitbull so it can’t bite you.”)

    4) charged by a Lab that ran through an empty park and across the street to get to us; “NO” worked successfully and I was then yelled at by the owner for being mean to her dog

    My dog has been bitten three times and I’ve been bitten in the face (that and the subsequent meds are not something I would wish on my worst enemy)…all by “he’s always friendly” dogs. My philosophy now is “NO” once then kick first, ask questions later.

    /rant /elevatedBP

  2. Rebecca Roberts

    I am a first time owner, and we rescued a male dog about a year ago, and were told he was a little reactive to other dogs getting in his personal space when on the lead. I am a natural worrier so my dog picks up on this and tends to be more lead-reactive with me than my other half. We have no end of “friendly” dogs come bounding up to ours who instantly feels like he is going to be attacked and it all ends in barks and lunges. Luckily we’re know now to local dog walkers who have the courtesy to put their dogs on lead, but there are still a few!

    To name one – a lady with two border collies; one who is calm and she keeps on-lead (?) and a very reactive, growly, teeth-baring, unfriendly one who she keeps off-lead. The off-lead one has attack our dog once and despite shouting and feet stamping still tried to get our dog (the lady owner was on her mobile phone at the time), and a second incident with my other half alone, where both dogs had escaped the car and were running with lead attached towards him down the path – he obviously is more scary than me as his shouting managed to stop the dogs in their tracks! Still once the lady owner had caught up with them, and mumbled an apology she took them into the field and let them off lead. I don’t understand some people!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I don’t understand that, either. You’d think she would want to keep her dogs on leashes for their own safety, as well as the safety of others. Too bad it’s going to take a serious incident in order for her to take a hint.

  3. Yes, it’s happened to me and Shamrock. He is a model of non-reactive, usually. He lets children ride their bikes right at him, squealing his name – he sits down and wags his tail and waits for them to get off their bikes and pet him. To me, that seems pretty amazing. But he has a real “thing” about being on a leash when an aggressive dog is off-leash. I can’t blame him. So far, it’s always worked to step between them, so they can’t stare each other down. And I did call the police about an aggressive off-leash dog, at least once. I always have my phone with me, so I decided to use it for an actual phone call! How retro 😉

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’ve never had to actually call the police about a dog, thank goodness. But I think it’s the right choice if the dog is a danger to others.

  4. My dad told me a story about a time he was walking his dog, a rat terrier, when an off leash German Shepherd aggressively rushed his dog. You can bet the shepherd got a swift kick. If you have a dog that is ever aggressive or confrontational and you walk it off leash, you should expect this to happen at some point.

    I was once charged by a very frightening off leash Rottweiler that probably weighed over 120 lbs while walking my 70 lb. lab Jack (who was on leash). Actually, it charged Jack. He was my first dog, so I had never been in this situation, and I was afraid, but I was afraid for my boy too. I yelled a loud and aggressive “YOU GO HOME!!” at the dog, and it turned and split. Thank goodness.

    I really believe that an aggressive, off leash dog must be handled aggressively. First verbally, of course, and then, ideally, pepper sprayed or kicked if need be. That would teach irresponsible owners not to let their dogs go around terrorizing people.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m so glad you were able to re-direct the dog that was charging you. It was hopefully a friendly dog and felt bad after you yelled at it.

      I make a point to yell “NO!” at all dogs that charge me, even if they are friendly. They have no business acting that way, for their own safety. I’ve had owners look at me with shock, even as they are calling their dogs and their dogs are not listening. If I call my dog and he doesn’t listen, I would definitely want the person he is approaching to yell out a mean “NO!” even though he’s super friendly.

  5. This is something that happens to me very often. Though I live in Fargo, where there are leash laws, more often than not, they are ignored, at least in my neighborhood. I have reactive dogs. Though they are good and obedience trained, if a strange dog charges, all bets are off. It has gotten to the point now where I can only walk one dog at a time (I have 4) with no “pack” walks as I just can’t handle them anymore when the loose dogs come running up. But, for a new twist, the other evening, my dogs and I were in the house with the door opened and a locked screen door. A runner came by with two off leash Golden Retrievers running behind. The dogs came into my yard, up to my screen door, and got in my Pit Bull’s face through the screen. My dog had been sitting still watching them run by but that did it. He launched and, had I not been there, he’d have gone right through that screen. The goldens did their taunt and pranced on. Had my dog gotten out and gone after them, he’d have been blamed. What can I do? I don’t know. I have talked to a few owners, cussed at a few more, and, without exception, they blame my dogs, stating “their dogs are friendly.” With so many loose dogs out there it just seems futile. Have I been attacked by a dog? No. But I always have my anti dog protection with me.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Wow, that is so frustrating. And of course, people would blame your dog for the screen incident. Unfair.

      Thank you for sharing The Forum link with me earlier this week.

  6. As a first time dog owner, and having only had my dog (an adult rescue) for two weeks, my dog was attacked by another dog that slipped its collar and ran 1/4 mile to viciously confront my dog. He had tooth marks on him, but fortunately no skin was broken. I was knocked down in the scuffle and was very frightened.

    Since that time my dog has been attacked in two other incidents by loose dogs. In the second incident, I kicked the dog twice. He left. I felt badly, but I was going to protect myself and my dog this time – no matter what. The third time it happened, the owners happened to be in the yard when their boxer ran out into the street to attack my dog. The owners got their dog, but I was angry. I told them that if they did not have total control of their dog off leash and he didn’t have a 98% recall, then they had no business letting the dog run around loose in an unconfined space. They admitted that they were just visiting friends and not familiar with the area. I told them it was no excuse and actually it was even more of a reason to have the dog on a leash in an unfamiliar area. I have learned to stand up for myself and my dog. There are times that I have entertained getting a taser for protection because I walk/run with my dog every day. What I am thankful for is that despite these attacks, my dog is friendly toward other dogs. He is polite and calm. He rarely barks at a dog even if it is madly barking at him.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sorry to hear of these incidents but glad to hear your dog seems to still be friendly towards other dogs.

  7. I feel bad because I was “the bad guy” once earlier this week. We have Invisible Fence and my 2 dogs are usually good about not leaving the yard. But the other day, I let them out and didn’t see a woman walking her dog across the street. (I always check before letting mine out, but a giant RV was blocking the view). My dogs started barking before they came into view, and one of my dogs got very barky and hyper. I told her “stay,” and she did for awhile (as long as she could stand it), but the woman seemed apprehensive and just stopped walking, and my dog ran at them. I shouted “no, come” and my dog came back immediately; I don’t think she even made it all the way up to them. But the other woman was upset and said something like, “It’s really not good to have your dog charging at us!” I was too flustered to even apologize and just took my dogs back inside. Even though nothing happened and my dog was only approaching out of excitement and curiosity, it made me feel guilty.

    I don’t get upset when other dogs charge at us because they’re usually friendly, but also because I know that everyone makes mistakes! Fortunately we have never been attacked. I usually just keep walking to try to distract my dogs.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I think we’ve all been there in one way or another, so good for you for coming forward and actually admitting it. There was a time last winter when I had my dog in the yard off leash and he began to charge up to my neighbors’ dogs as they came out the door. I was so embarrassed because I normally have him under voice control, but it was late at night, dark and I admit I wasn’t paying attention. I’m still mad at myself for it, even though he stopped and came back to me.

  8. I along with 2 adult-thankfully-family members were walking 3 dogs, a collie cross, Spaniel cross and a Jack Russell cross. We had put them all on lead to leave the park when 2 Staffordshire Bull terriers raced towards us, straight for me with the Spaniel cross. The first Staffy went for him and luckily he responded by managing to pin it down. The 2nd staffy then bit the other staffys leg, pulling and tugging it. I guess it saw it’s housemate in a vulnerable position and decided to go with the flow. My dog and I casually walked off and I instructed my sister and her boyfriend to do the same–get as far away from those dogs as possible. A lad of about 11 years old came along ,obviously upset at seeing his dogs attacking each other. I had told him to not dive in there as he could get hurt. His father cam along soon after.I’m not too sure of what happened next but my sister and boyfriend had gone a different way to me and out of sight. The next thing the 1st staffy had got the collie, which my sister was walking. By pure good luck he was wearing a halti and this is what the staffy had hold of and wasn’t letting go. Zippy, the collie, had had a snarl and boxed at the staffy before it’d gotten hold of his halti but then proceeded to sit still and calmly whilst the owners tried to gain control of their dog. apparently his collar had broken.I dread to think what damage would have been caused had Zip not been wearing his halti. I no longer go to that park but have passed the area a few times and the amount of dogs off lead on the streets it unbelievable. It does annoy me that owners think their dog is OK off lead but they don’t always know the reactions of the on lead dog! I have to use a mobility scooter sometimes to exercise my dogs and had another incident on a public path along a river embankment and high fencing the other side so nowhere to escape easily. A huge Husky cross off lead insisted on trying to sniff my dogs rear end and wasn’t put off by being growled at. With me being on my scooter and on a narrow walkway with an off lead dog running back and forth around me to get to my dog it was a bit unnerving. The owner was simply calling her dog and telling me he was only a puppy and harmless. I tried to keep on going but my dog became very agitated with this large dog bounding around trying to get to him. I had to tell her to come get her dog as he obviously wasn’t paying her attention. I had carried on moving as I hoped her dog would realise she was going another way and he’d rather be with her. She asked me to stop but I was concerned that it would escalate to a fight and I had the lead hooked over the arm of the scooter unable to give Phantom any escape route or flexibility to move. I felt like he was a sitting duck or would topple the scooter over on him, either way getting hurt. Thankfully, and don’t laugh, but I careered into a fence! It kind of broke the moment and she had chance to catch her dog. We had a conversation where I tried to explain her dog may be friendly but some (most) dogs or people don’t want to be approached by an excited, bounding dog on a public pathway or even a park. I always try to be reasonable and calm with owners whether it’s a friendly or unfriendly encounter. We all don’t have the perfect recall and even friendly encounters go awry-I know, I’ve taken dogs out that have gotten into squabbles. I would like to be able to walk my dogs on a public pathway without off leash dogs and owners causing incidents. On the park I expect a few roaming inquisitive dogs, mine have done it. I use a long line on one of my dogs as he isn’t consistent with the dogs he meets. It also gives a clear message to owners that I don’t want to be disturbed. If I see a dog on lead I’ll put mine on lead til we have space between us. I take it as a sign of ‘ do not disturb’ or ‘my dog doesn’t want to mix thank you’.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It is annoying when the dog doesn’t listen, and then the person just keeps standing there, yelling. Come get your dang dog!

  9. Reading the past comments it seems that dog owners aren’t aware of doggy etiquette, emotions or perceived threats. If I had a stranger coming up too close to me, running at me or approaching me, from behind say, I’d be on alert and ready to fight, flight or freeze. I’d feel uncomfortable and react with the equivalent of a growl, snarl or defending myself. Or probably freezing!

    1. This! (Except, if you’re on a leash you aren’t going to be able to “flight” very well.) The analogy I use with the “oh, but’s he’s friendly” people is:

      How about I tie a rope around your neck and tie you to a pole, then have a 300-pound stranger come running up to you, yelling and waving his arms? How would you feel then? C’mon, I promise he’s friendly.

  10. Oh I am so annoyed by off leash dogs in my neighborhood. I have a choice when I bike and walk my dog: leave the house and go left or right. Left is a shorter but dog-free route. Right has no less than five off-leash dogs to contend with. Only one dog, I feel, is a potential fight danger, but all will charge me and my dog. I often consider calling the authorities, but my biggest fear is that if these families are pressed by the authorities, they will chain their dogs up outside. I see this a lot around town, and as long as the dogs are fed and watered, the authorities will allow a dog to be chained 24-7.

  11. In situations like yours, my first reaction (after “no!” and standing between the dogs) would be to scruff the offending dog. I figure kicking can miss its intended target, and scruffing will most often immobilize the dog, or at least stop it from biting my tiny 6 lb, ultra-submissive mutt. But thinking about it now, I can imagine that putting my face closer to said aggressive dog is definitely not the best idea. I’ve worked with dogs, and don’t have a problem getting bitten if I’ve done everything I can to avoid it, but it is not the best outcome for either parties.
    I definitely think you did the right thing. It is SO annoying meeting dogs who have never been disciplined before. They attack since they have never been told not to, then when you step up and say no or have to resort to using physical force, they have no idea what happened. People look at me like I’m crazy when I tell their annoying barking dogs to be quiet or don’t let their charging leashed dogs say hi to my well-behaved dog. Too many times I’ve gotten “oh, can we say hi?? He’s VERY friendly!” I’m sorry people, but a “friendly” dog who has no manners is not one I let my dog acknowledge. And more often than not, they end up growling and snapping at my guy anyway. People need to understand leash etiquette. End rant! 😛

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Interesting about the scruffing. Others have said they have successfully scruffed a dog and it worked. Personally, I wouldn’t try it. Even if the dog is friendly, it could still scare them if a stranger (me) reaches for them. I’d rather just block the dog with my body, yell “No!” and kick the dog away if necessary.

      Usually, though, the dogs are friendly and I pretty much just ignore the oncoming dog and continue on my way.

  12. I’m laughing so hard about you kicking a dog. I know it’s not funny, but I’m not a fan of drop kick dogs. And I’m remembering all the bazillion times, growing up, people’s loose dogs chased me when I rode my bike to school – the terror I felt as I peddled as fast as I could. What I wouldn’t have given for the chance to boot one in the head. They were mostly big, scary dogs.

  13. Lawd, this topic sure gets me fired up. People can be so irresponsible. I won’t bother sharing my stories as they’re much the same as other people’s. Rude, aggressive dogs whose owners don’t even offer as much as an acknowledgement of me and my dogs discomfort (or fear!).

    I don’t let my dog off lead because he only has a 90% reliable recall and because even though he is amazingly lovely with other dogs, it is not my place to decide that he can go up to another dog. Although, bless his cotton socks. my dog lies down when he sees a dog coming, so not very intimidating! Of all dogs in my neighbourhood my dog is probably one of the better ones to have off leash, but because I observe good etiquette and know my dog’s limits, I walk on leash most of the time. I wish others could offer me the same courtesy!

  14. My mastiff is reactive when dogs approach her face. Usually yelling ‘NO’ stops rushing dogs, but I also carry around decent sized rocks that I will throw at charging dogs. It works pretty well. If a dog gets close enough to kick, my pup will already be reacting and I will need all hands on the leash and all feet on the ground to keep her under control.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Good points, especially the part about it being too late if a dog is close enough to be kicked.

    2. I also have a mastiff who is reactive when dogs charge up to his face. Like you, once the approaching dog is close enough it’s too late for me to do anything but hold on to my guy! I generally resort to yelling, but am going to try the rock idea.

      This issue is actually a huge problem for me in my neighborhood, and I think it extends even beyond aggressive off-leash dogs. A lot of dog owners who walk their dogs off leash are only thinking about how their own dogs behave. They don’t take into consideration how OTHER dogs will react to their dog, especially if the other dog is reactive and is restrained by a leash. Even friendly off-leash dogs could get into serious trouble if the other owner can’t control their animal.
      Not to mention the fact that I live in a really busy Los Angeles neighborhood. It seems unsafe to let dogs run around off-leash in a traffic-heavy neighborhood like mine.

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        I agree. If your dog is not under voice control, he should not be off leash, even if he’s friendly.

  15. Our dogs have been very friendly and social over the years. Well, two in resident Poodles had their issues. The larger and newcomer was antisocial to the resident and smaller blind one. BAAAD dog. I had to break up a fight while driving at one time. My late wife fussed at me for letting go of the steering wheel while doing so, Oh me.

    If one finds it necessary and wise to use a foot, use the instep in lieu of the two. Just as effective and less liable to injure kickor or kickee. Just my idea.

    Few if any dogs off leash around here. Many dog walkers, though, Short leash and long retractables. All quite friendly or very shy!!

    Well, my new ARF pal, Coco isn’t. AT an overweight 28 pounds, he flips on sight or smell of a dog or cat!! So, his on leash walks are confined to my yards. Fortunately quite large. He was tethered at the front porch, while I was near, in the garage. The UPS guy made a delivery. No problem to Coco, or when the telephone guys were restringing my service. OK with Coco. But, last night, a neighbor’s cat was visiting as he/she has for years in the back. Coco flipped. Of course, on leash, no damage to either. Something in his background, that I’ll just have to live with. otherwise, he loves me to death, and I, he!!!

  16. It is so unfortunate that this is such a common occurrence. My husband and I moved to new area last summer and I was happy at first that so many of my neighbors had dogs, but it only took a few weeks to figure out that they just leave them in their yards all day. Bored dogs will find something to do. I’ve had a few incidents where my dog and I were charged by either boxers or a german shepherd (always alone, never when my husband was with us). It’s terrifying. I no longer walk Lucy alone, and that is even more frustrating to me.
    A neighbor across the street leaves her very aggressive german shepherd outside in her yard all day and he actively tries to jump the fence when he sees another dog. It made me uncomfortable since the first time I noticed it. My husband assured me he couldn’t jump the fence and not to worry. One day, I was walking my Lucy (now a year old blackmouth cur, she had been jumped on by a boxer when she was only 5 mo, at the time of this incident, she was abt 8 mo), and I heard the women call the dog’s name, and I realized it was on their front lawn. I managed to get Lucy up our front steps and when I looked behind me when closing my storm door, the shepherd was immediately behind us. He had to recoil to keep from getting hit by the door. I was beyond scared. I kept thinking about what could’ve happened, what if he got in our house? Etc. Then the woman had the nerve to tell me that her dog is scared of other dogs and therefore would not have hurt my dog.
    Recently walking with my husband, 2 giant boxers tried to jump their fence to get to Lucy, while their owner remained seated on her front steps and just called out “oh, they’re fine”. I don’t understand why just anyone is allowed to have dogs (and children). It just breaks my heart.
    * Sorry for the long post but it helps to get it out

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That incident with the dog charging to your door sounds scary. I’m so glad nothing worse happened. Yikes.

  17. I used to live in a bad neighborhood where dogs hung out in packs. They’d harass people all the time. I’d take my stand, yell at them to back off, stomp my feet at them, and sometimes even throw a few rocks. They’d generally backed off and left me alone. But one day they didn’t. The leader of this pack was being particularly feisty and actually came at me like he was going to bite. Yes, I kicked him. And I kicked him hard while also yelling no. After that, the pack would bark at me if they saw me, but they never came after me again.

    I also had a time where someone kicked my dog. We were camping and I had let him off his leash. I was young and ignorant back then and didn’t consider the fact that he was young too and didn’t have a good recall yet. So when he eagerly ran up to this guy who was walking by our campsite, the guy kicked him. It wasn’t a hard or even malicious kick. I’m sure he was just startled and reacted defensively. No, I wasn’t mad. I was ashamed. Both my dog and I learned a lesson that day.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Wow those are quite the stories! I have never been in a situation where I felt threatened by a group of dogs. Yikes. That would be scary.

      Growing up, my family’s golden jumped on people all the time. Like, really bad. I’m surprised no one kicked her. She was really friendly but she practically knocked people over. Not good.

  18. We actually had to carry an umbrella to use because whenever we would walk our three dogs (who are reactive when confronted), we would have dogs running out all the time. Even when they are screaming my dog is friendly and ours are going ballastic, the people did not get it (as we were screaming “ours aren’t friendly). So we would pop open the umbrella to shield our dogs and to try to scare away the other dog. I had read that someplace online years ago. In my own yard we have 20 acres to walk now. But if a stray dog came on our property as it is not fenced in, I am not sure how I would convince my dogs to settle down and go home with me. I am constantly thinking as I have to protect my family.

  19. For 45 years with 1 Irish Setter and 4 Standard Poodles, we’ve had other loose dogs attack ours on leash. The worst was with our first dog Ryan O’Malley, Irish Setter. I was at a neighborhood park with him and my one year old son in a stroller. Two large St. Bernards, huge, jumped out the back of a pick up truck and ran to us. To protect my son, I let go of my leash on Ryan, one dog on either side of my Ryan. Ryan was a happy go lucky Irish, but I could tell he was nervous. All of a sudden, both dogs ripped up his back. I screamed and the man, supreme jerk, finally got his dogs off him. Now I had a bleeding dog, baby and had to walk 12 blocks home and then get my doggie to the vet for stitches. Husband at work at the time. I reported the dogs and they had killed a pet rabbit next door to them. I had hoped the 2 St. Bernards were destroyed. They were killers.

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