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.
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: