Managing Confrontation With an Off-Leash Dog

If the off-leash dog is still in attack mode, it’s time to break out the serious tools. Air horns, compressed air cans, rape alarms and mini umbrellas can be carried in a backpack or treat pouch for emergency situations. A loud noise will startle an approaching dog, and opening an umbrella in front of him may scare him away — and can create a barrier to shield you and your dog. If all else fails, citronella spray can be used to deter an aggressive dog from attacking. This should be a last resort, though, and you should keep in mind that sprays don’t always work and are more likely to be effective when used before an altercation occurs. After deploying the spray, move away as fast as you can.

How to Break Up a Dogfight — Safely

If a fight starts and your dog is being attacked, do not reach in between the dogs to separate them. Instead, try to find someone else to help you. Each of you should grab a dog’s back legs, wheelbarrow-like, and lift up. The instant the dogs let go of each other, move the dog you are holding away from the other dog. If you are unable to find help quickly, wheelbarrow the back legs of the more aggressive dog and pull him away from the fight.

If all else fails, noise deterrents or sprays may be used as a last resort to break up the fight. And be aware: Many of the most commonly repeated strategies for breaking up a dogfight — like putting a finger up a dog’s anus or yelling to distract the dogs — often escalate the situation rather than calm the dogs down. Do not rely on these strategies.

After any altercation with an off-leash dog, immediately call the authorities to report the incident. Leash laws are in place for good reason and should be followed — by all pet owners. And it's a good idea to have your dog checked by a veterinarian, too. Bite wounds can be hard to find under fur, so even if you aren't sure whether your dog has been injured, it's better to be safe than sorry.


Does your dog tend to be the antagonistic one during canine interactions? Read "Living With Occasionally Aggressive Dogs."

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