How to protect against dog attacks while walking

  • Protecting yourself and your pet from aggressive dogs involves many factors including trying to avoid the dog to taking physical action against it. (YuriyGreen/iStockphoto/Getty Images/TNS)

Dear Joan: Would you let us, as readers and dog walkers, know what to do if an unleashed stray dog approaches while we’re walking? It was heartbreaking to hear about a woman being attacked on a trail by two dogs that killed her small dog.

What could she have done, if anything, to protect herself and her dog. I’ve heard pepper spray isn’t a good option as it goes everywhere. I believe that any breed, when running together, can turn into a pack and attack.

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— Yvonne

Dear Yvonne: Avoidance is always a good first step. If you see unleashed dogs and have time to react, reverse direction or look for some sort of shelter. In most cases, once you’ve seen the dogs and they’ve seen you, it’s too late for avoiding them.

I have a Chihuahua, and my first instinct is to pick him up, but experts say that is not a good idea. That apparently makes your dog more of a target because pursuing dogs see it as a prey avoidance move, or a game of keep-away.

Some experts recommend dropping your dog’s leash and letting it escape while you try to distract the dogs. Dog lovers may understand the sacrifice, but others see it as crazy to put yourself in danger.

When trying to escape charging, aggressive dogs, try to put a large object between you and the animals — get behind a parked car, use a garbage can as a shield, or whatever you can find.

If the dogs are attacking your dog, trying to get between them is dangerous. Experts recommend pulling the dogs away by their hind legs. It can be so shocking that it often makes the dog break off the attack.

Hitting and kicking attacking dogs is usually not that effective unless you strike them hard enough to get their attention. For that reason, some people carry heavy canes, bats or golf clubs when walking.

Be aware that these actions may divert the dog’s attention from your dog and direct it onto you. Now that it’s getting colder and you’re more likely to be wearing a coat or sweater, let the dogs bite and pull at that. Often, if they can get the clothing off, they’ll run away with their “prize.”

As you noted, pepper spray can be tricky. You can’t always control where it goes and it also can serve to enrage aggressive dogs even more.

Loud noises are effective in disrupting attacks, so carrying an air horn that blasts a loud noise can startle and distract attacking dogs and often makes them run away. It also helps draw the attention of others who can help.

Dear Joan: I am 80 years old and my husband is 85 and has Parkinson’s. We just moved and I find myself in need of company for my daily walk.

I would like a dog, maybe 4- to 5-years old and not too small, but small enough to want to sit on my lap or hopefully my husband ‘s lap. I am sure that you have suggestions.

— Ulla

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Dear Ulla: I’d recommend you contact any of the animal shelters and rescue groups, tell them about your needs and concerns, and let them recommend dogs for you. Most of these animals have been in foster care and the groups have a good understanding of the dogs’ personalities and abilities.

I know you’ll find the perfect pet for you and your husband.

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