The majority of dog attacks happen during a dog-to-dog greeting. What causes one dog to become aggressive towards another is often unclear to us, and the reasons vary. Frequently, the attacking dog has a strong prey drive and views your dog as prey. This happens often when the aggressive dog attacks a smaller dog. Knowing what to do if a dog attacks your dog while walking can make a big difference in the situation.
The attack could also be due to fear or anxiety on the part of the aggressive dog. Usually, the fearful dog gives many warning signs before an attack. If the humans do not recognize the dog’s attempt to communicate its fear, the dog’s fight or flight instinct can take over. If the dog is on a leash, the fearful dog may perceive that its only option is to fight. In order to know what to do if a dog attacks your dog while walking, the following information will help you in the likelihood of an attack.
Minimize Likelihood of Attack
As a responsible owner, you should learn how to minimize the likelihood of an attack. Pay attention to your surroundings before you decide where to walk. A few things you can do to help ensure a polite greeting between your dog and an unknown dog are:
- Do not allow your dog to race to the face of an unknown dog. This will many times cause the other dog to respond aggressively.
- When approaching another dog, stop a reasonable distance from the other dog and redirect your dog’s attention. Have the dog sit. This should help to calm it down before meeting the other dog.
- Recognize signs of fear in your own dog – looking away from the other dog, crouching, tail tucking, moving away from other dog or showing the whites of its eyes. When your dog shows this behavior, don’t force the dog to greet or interact with the other dog. Overstressing the dog can lead to aggression.
- If your dog is interested in greeting the unknown dog, ask the other dog’s owner if it’s okay for them to meet. If so, do not let your dog go to the end of its leash for the greeting. You should shorten the leash so that the dog is directly in front of you, and insist the other dog meets your dog in front of you.
- Allow the dogs to go nose to nose for a few seconds only. Then lead your dog away by turning toward your dog and keeping your body between the dogs.
- If you notice any signs of aggression during the meeting, use your leg furthest from your dog to push them away from each other, putting your body between the two. Move quickly so that you avoid being bitten. Signs of aggression include growling (do not punish the dog for growling – this is the dog’s way of telling you something is wrong), baring teeth, stiff body posture, ear flattening, or hackles raised.
- When exiting with your dog, always turn in the direction of your dog and keep the dogs in front of you, so that your body is between the two. This offers the maximum protection and avoids many unwanted attacks.
How To React
If things get out of control despite your best efforts and your dog is being attacked, here is what you should do:
Staying calm and focused in the midst of an attack is important, though it might be the hardest thing to do.
Don’t Get in The Middle
You are likely to get hurt if you try to intervene while the dogs are engaged in a fight. Instead, try to distract them by making a loud noise – a sharp whistle, clapping your hands, squeaking a ball or toy or shaking a can of treats. Some trainers recommend carrying a dog whistle or a squeak toy with you to refocus the dog’s attention towards you and away from the other dog. You should know your dog well enough to know what object will get its attention in just about any circumstance.
Release the Leash
If your dog is on a leash, let it go. The dog needs to know that it has the unrestrained ability to defend itself and that flight is an option.
Report the Incident
Ask for the other dog owner’s contact information. Take a photo of the other dog and note any injuries your dog has sustained. You may also want the contact information of any witnesses. Report the attack to the police.
Go Directly to Your Veterinarian
Treat the attack as an emergency, even if the injuries seem minor. Dog bites can become infected. Also, the attack may have severely traumatized your dog. The trauma may mean your dog needs careful and professional training to psychologically recover from the incident.
Speak to the Dog Walking Experts
Keep yourself and your pup safe from dog attack incidents. Get advice on the right way to walk your dog and what to do when greeting unknown dogs during your walks. The dog walking experts at Paw Pals are available to answer your questions about what to do if a dog attacks your dog while walking. Their services include regular dog walking services for dog owners who work full time and dog-sitting services when their owners are traveling and cannot take their dogs with them. Contact Paw Pals for more information about dog walking and all of the services they can provide.