"Protecting your dog on walks" blog article

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Postby TheRedQueen » August 18th, 2010, 10:55 am

http://companionanimalsolutions.com/blo ... -on-walks/

Protecting Your Dog on Walks
Christine Hibbard, CTC, CPDT

In one of my previous posts, Why Dogs Bite, I talked about fear aggression and why asking an owner before trying to approach or pet their dog is so important. But let’s face it, humans love dogs and sometimes people get so caught up in how cute a dog is or how unusual a particular breed of dog is that they just approach or reach out without thinking. In my article, What Is a Reactive Rover?, I discussed different types of leash reactivity and why dogs behave the way they do on leash. Owners of non-reactive dogs simply don’t understand the plight of the owner of a reactive dog. They honestly don’t see anything wrong with letting their dog walk towards your dog for a greeting or allowing their off leash dog run up to your dog for a quick butt sniff.
If you’re the owner of a fearful or dog reactive dog, read on because this post is for you. If you own one of those lovely, non reactive dogs, or maybe you don’t consider yourself one of those clueless dog lovers, you might be tempted to stop reading. Please don’t. When you see a dog owner using any of these techniques or tools while out walking their dogs, you’ll have a better understanding of what is going on.
Dealing With Approaching People

Some people own dogs who are afraid of people. If you’re an owner of one of these dogs, you’re working very hard to counter condition your dog’s social fear and keep your dog from reacting fearfully while on walks. This is difficult to do if well meaning strangers keep approaching and asking you to pet the dog. This is impossible to do if your dog is so adorable that people simply approach and reach out to pet your dog. That’s why one of my favorite products is the Dog In Training vest. It’s a nice neutral color with an equally neutral message printed on it: “Dog in Training — Give Me Space”. Rest assured that if you see a dog wearing one of these vests, the dog does not want to meet you.

Believe it or not, even if your dog is wearing one of these vests, even if a person has asked you whether they can pet your dog and you say, “no, she’s afraid of people”, someone will try to pet your dog! I’ve heard them all from these well meaning but clueless dog lovers. “I’m good with dogs, they won’t bite me”. “Ah, he’s so cute I’m sure he won’t mind”. Really, I’m not kidding. I was working with a client and her fear reactive, unneutered, 140+ pound, male Newfoundland who was wearing a Dog In Training vest. We were working at a park. A man who had to be six feet tall made a beeline for that Newfie and only stopped two feet away from him because I body blocked him by stepping between him and the dog. I explained that the dog was working and even apologized yet the man was still angry when he walked away. I’m going to share an idea from my wonderful colleague Nicole Wilde. Nicole recommends that if someone asks to pet your dog and you don’t want them to, just say, “no, he has a contagious skin disease”. This is hilarious, but it works!

Dealing With Off Leash Dogs

Most owners have non-reactive dogs who love meeting people and other dogs. These owners never consider that their off leash dog who is running towards you might be heading for a traumatic experience. Even worse are irresponsible owners who allow their dogs to escape from their yards or out the front door without ever having trained a reliable recall (come when called command). Sometimes an off leash dog is aroused or may be itching for a fight. Here are some tips for dealing with off leash dogs while on your walks.

The easiest way to tell an off leash dog to back off is is to use your body language and your voice. We’ve selectively bred dogs for 15,000 years to live with us, interact with us, and work with us. A recent study even proved that our domestic dogs understand a human pointing a finger as well as a small child (and better than a primate!). Lean over and hold out your hand like a crossing guard indicating that you should STOP! You can stomp your foot, stomp forward one or two steps, and issue a low, smooth, vocal warning, “baaaccckkk offfffff”.
There’s a product on the market called SprayShield which comes in a small can with a clip which you can clip to your belt or fanny-pack. It sprays a highly concentrated stream of citronella oil which is aversive to many dogs. This spray is handy for breaking up dog fights as well. If you’ve used this product in the past, it used to be called Direct Stop. What if the owner of the off leash dog becomes angry? First off, explain that you didn’t use pepper spray which is what most people will think you have used. Explain that it’s citronella and doesn’t hurt their dog except to make them smell lemony. You can also offer to call 911 for the offending owner since in most cities in America, having a dog off leash is illegal.

The last suggestion I offer to owners is to carry the smallest umbrella they can find on their walks. With this technique, make sure that you’ve used the umbrella with your own dog combined with treats. We don’t want you dog to be afraid of an umbrella flying open suddenly. Once your dog ignores the umbrella when it’s opened outside, you can use it as a deterrent to an off leash dog. Yell something short like “scram”, pop open the umbrella, and slowly move towards the approaching dog.

Most of the time, these things work. The only time they don’t work is when the off leash dog is truly dog aggressive (rare) or when the off leash dog has been trained to fight other dogs. So, what if none of these things work? If your dog is small, you can pick him up. If your dog is too big to pick up, drop your leash. I know, dropping the leash seems counter intuitive but if your dog is going to fight for his life, you don’t want him to be handicapped by you restraining him on leash. Just drop your leash and call 911.

Whew, well that was a stressful way to end this post but I hope this information was helpful. If you have a fearful dog, please take the time to tell us about your journey. We want to hear from you!


And here's a link to the vest she refers to in the article in case the link doesn't work:
http://www.pawsitivedog.com/DogInTrainingVest.html
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby amalie79 » August 18th, 2010, 11:14 am

Thanks for posting this!

I was just thinking last night about what to do in some of these instances. We encountered one off-leash dog (iggy/JRT mix?) while walking Robin, and one snarly poodle/maltese on leash, but with the owners doing nothing but standing there. Robin was told to leave it and given lots of praise while she walked by Mr Snarly Poodle-Pants, who flipped and flopped at the end of the lead. And I'm glad to know I took basically the right approach with the Iggy-- took a step toward him and made a sharp "Ah!/Ack!" sound. Luckily it worked!

Now, barking, lunging, snarling big dogs behind fences are another story altogether...
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Postby maberi » August 18th, 2010, 11:20 am

Nice article, thanks for sharing!

The only thing I found odd was the following:

The only time they don’t work is when the off leash dog is truly dog aggressive (rare) or when the off leash dog has been trained to fight other dogs.


Is dog aggression really that rare? I also think it is a huge misconception that dogs are trained to fight
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Postby TheRedQueen » August 18th, 2010, 11:25 am

I've never had my dogs attacked by a dog that couldn't be put off by yelling/throwing things...I've not encountered an off-leash dog that was truly dog aggressive. :|
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Postby LMM » August 18th, 2010, 11:38 am

TheRedQueen wrote:I've never had my dogs attacked by a dog that couldn't be put off by yelling/throwing things...I've not encountered an off-leash dog that was truly dog aggressive. :|



Ditto what Erin said. I think the author may be talking about all out, no holds barred, you will not stop this dog, this dog will break anything to get to another dog, dog aggression. In my experience that is fairly rare.
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Postby maberi » August 18th, 2010, 11:41 am

TheRedQueen wrote:I've never had my dogs attacked by a dog that couldn't be put off by yelling/throwing things...I've not encountered an off-leash dog that was truly dog aggressive. :|


Hmm, well count yourself as lucky. :wink:

This totally isn't a shot at you, but I don't think we can say dog aggression in general is rare based on the fact that we haven't experienced an off leash dog attack one of our dogs.

I've had dogs attack Earl, try to attack Kayden and Yoda and have numerous friends who have had their dogs attacked on walks (but at the time I wasn't using the crossing guard form they suggest in the article) :wink: . In saying that, I don't think any of that would lead us to the conclusion that dog aggression is common, but I also think the statement that "true dog aggression" is rare is a bit misleading.

Just my honest opinion
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Postby LMM » August 18th, 2010, 11:44 am

You have to remember (which I'm sure you do!) there are levels to dog aggression. I think the author may have done a poor job of communicating what she meant to say. I think her use of the word true is her trying to convey those dogs that I described above. I could be wrong but that's just my take on it!
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Postby maberi » August 18th, 2010, 12:01 pm

LMM wrote:You have to remember (which I'm sure you do!) there are levels to dog aggression. I think the author may have done a poor job of communicating what she meant to say. I think her use of the word true is her trying to convey those dogs that I described above. I could be wrong but that's just my take on it!


Yep, I totally understand there are varying levels of dog aggression and maybe I'm just getting hung up on the fact that she indicated the only reason those techniques would not work was due to true dog aggression (assuming she means the high end of the dog aggression spectrum).

Quite honestly if I didn't keep Kayden behind a fence at home and a dog and handler walked past the house, I'm pretty sure he would charge up to them (and Kayden is very dog tolerant (low end of the dog aggression spectrum) but if the other dog reacted and went after him, he would reciprocate). I'm also pretty certain that holding your hand out, stomping your foot, shoeing him away with an umbrella or spraying him with citronella wouldn't be that much of a deterrent other than to probably piss him off.

I guess my experiences and perception on the subject are a bit different (which is not at all uncommon) :wink:
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Postby LMM » August 18th, 2010, 12:13 pm

Well it's definitely not a solve all approach!

Mama is very fearful and on the low end of the dog aggression spectrum. In some cases a foot stamp most likely will send her scurrying for the underside of the nearest brush but in other cases, that foot stomp may get you chomped.
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Postby TheRedQueen » August 18th, 2010, 3:31 pm

Why don't you post and ask Christine...she's a friend of Greta's. ;)
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

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Postby maberi » August 18th, 2010, 3:33 pm

TheRedQueen wrote:Why don't you post and ask Christine...she's a friend of Greta's. ;)


Lol, no thanks

If she is anything like Greta, that is not an argument I want to get into :wink:
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Postby aussiepitty » August 19th, 2010, 4:46 am

I live in a small desert town called Charleville in Queensland Australia. Everyone out here has savage dogs all used for pig chassing i have never had a dog i wasn't able to chase away. The only dogs i worry about is the little ones like chihuahua's and those sort of breeds cause i have found them to more aggresive out this way.
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Postby Malli » August 19th, 2010, 1:37 pm

I think there are many more dogs with bad doggy skills then there are with true aggression.

We have met aggressive offleash dogs, but its because we go to less popular and more secluded areas, and I've always found the owners will catch their dog (as I do with mine) for the "walk past".

We have met many many many more dogs who are not correct in their greeting behaviors and have those bad doggy skills, because generally, if a dog is very dog appropriate or skilled at body language, Oscar won't have a problem with it.

A bit OT - what do you guys do for the "neighborhood nemesises" - those bad dogs you have around the neighborhood? We have several and although Oscar's reaction is fairly appropriate I'd prefer he have none at all ;) We have 3 barking and lunging Westies on a splitter, a puffy chested Samoyed, and a barking and lunging Frenchie.
He has a lot of difficulty controlling himself with these guys. Though I am pleased to say that often the reaction is just that, a reaction to the other dog's behavior.
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Postby amalie79 » August 19th, 2010, 1:55 pm

Malli wrote:A bit OT - what do you guys do for the "neighborhood nemesises" - those bad dogs you have around the neighborhood? We have several and although Oscar's reaction is fairly appropriate I'd prefer he have none at all ;) We have 3 barking and lunging Westies on a splitter, a puffy chested Samoyed, and a barking and lunging Frenchie.
He has a lot of difficulty controlling himself with these guys. Though I am pleased to say that often the reaction is just that, a reaction to the other dog's behavior.


Ugh. We have a bunch of those, too-- some off-leash (a ridiculous, aggressive JRT, who gets about 2mm from my guys' faces), some behind fences, and one giganto German Shepherd with a history of (damaging) dog aggression who is still allowed by the owners to go for his potty-break in the front yard, after dark, unattended. >( We avoid that block.

But I'm not sure what to do about the others, except ask Robin to "leave it" and praise her loads when she looks forward. :| And sometimes all I can do is keep forcing her to walk-- some of them really get her riled and she turns into one big raised snarly hackle.
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Postby katiek0417 » August 20th, 2010, 7:32 am

Erin, this is a great article! Thank you for posting this...I'm sure everyone has seen my posts on FB regarding dogs running up on Nemo and I...and while Nemo isn't DA AT ALL (he absolutely won't start a fight with another dog), he won't back down...

I'm big on using body language now...I've found that all the dogs that have run up on us, if I yell (not scream) "No" and move towards it, it takes off the other way...
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Postby furever_pit » September 5th, 2010, 7:56 pm

Good article.

I too have found that me yelling or moving toward a dog threateningly will usually chase them off.
But I have also twice been put in the position where that unleashed dog was coming and they were coming hard, fast, and with teeth bared. In both situations, I removed the leash from Dylan and stepped out of the way. Did it suck? Yes, but Dylan can take care of himself and once grips are taken I have no problem walking into a fight and breaking it up. It also generally teaches the other dog's owner to use a leash.

ETA: I LOVE the contagious skin disease thing. I am so gonna use that next time I run into one of those idiots who insists on not listening to me telling them that no they cannot come pet my dog.
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Postby fenella » October 27th, 2010, 4:36 am

Don't know how I missed this before.
I totally agree...people are just stupid when it comes to dogs sometimes. No matter how many times I tell people not to pet Murphy, they just keep coming. I also *love* the question, "Does he bite?" Um, he's a dog. I'd never guarantee that my dog would not bite (though he's never done it before). Even when I say "He may" to that question, people still try to pet him. (To be fair, I've never really allowed murphy to get into a situation where he was cornered by a stranger with no way of escaping.) I've had people set us way back in training because they reach for him, often saying, "Oh, dogs love me." :rolleyes2: I've learned to be pretty vocal about it and creative in my body blocking. I've pissed some people off, but too bad for them.
I've also had some scary encounters with off-leash dogs. While I do agree that the recommended techniques may fail even if the dog is not at the high end of the aggressiveness scale, I think the word "rare" is somewhat correct. I do think she's talking about dogs who truly want to kill another dog, which i do believe is rare, especially considering the entire population of dogs. Murphy has been DA, or maybe more appropriately, reactive, but he has never actually harmed another dog...lots of posturing, pinning, growling, yes...but not true I WANT TO KILL YOU.
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