Dear Lisa: Can you give me some advice on how to handle dogs that run up to my Miniature Poodle (12 lbs.) and me while we're taking our daily walk? I've recently had two pit bulls and a Lab rush up to us, and I had no idea what they were going to do. I picked up my dog and turned away, but if any of the dogs had jumped up, they would've easily knocked me over. Luckily, all three times the owner was nearby and was able to run out and take control of the dog. One of the pit bull owners became very angry and said that she is sick of people being afraid of her dog! I'd like to know the best way to handle these situations in the future. --Nervous Nellie
Based on your question, it sounds like the other dogs were off-leash. Is there a leash law in your town or at the park where you take your daily walk? Clearly, the best way to handle this situation is to gently remind the other dog owners that their dogs should be leashed especially if there is a law. This way no loose dog should ever be running up to you.
What I find frustrating and I have had this happen to me in a state park where there is a on-leash policy, is that owners ignore the restrictions and let their dogs run loose. They erroneously believe that they have total control over their dog if it is off-leash and dogs being dogs when they see another one of their species, they automatically want to run over, say hi, check them out and immediately offer to engage in a play session.
However, this can be frightening to the owner with the dog on-leash because they do not know what the intent of the loose dog is. Is it friendly or could there be trouble? So where does that leave you?
In such a situation, as you see the dog coming at you, pick up your dog while you alert the owner in a loud voice to "call your dog off." Sometimes there isn't enough time for the owner to collect up an approaching dog. As a backup I keep a small can of pepper spray with me and if the approaching dog does become menacing I wouldn't hesitate to use it for the safety of all the dogs and their owners. Better to deter a potentially dangerous dog first than to be faced with breaking up a dog fight or defending yourself later.
If you have a question, send it to Lisa at AskLisa@AKC.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.