Most of us at one time or another have encountered a dog we don’t know. You might have come across a stray while walking your dog or had an unfamiliar pooch show up in your neighborhood. Dogs in this situation can be fearful or aggressive. Knowing how to calm the stranger can help to defuse a threatening situation.
As soon as you spot a strange dog, stop and be still. Take a moment to assess the dog’s behavior. Does the dog seem afraid or aggressive? Is he acting strangely? If so, he could be rabid or ill.
Do not run, make any sudden moves or turn your back to the dog. Dogs love to chase, and if the dog is aggressive or has a strong prey drive, he may chase you. You also want to keep him in your sight at all times.
While keeping him in your peripheral sight, turn slowly so your side is facing the dog. In canine communication, this helps negate a tense situation. Facing a dog straight on can be seen as a dominance challenge, which you want to avoid.
Keep your eyes low and do not make direct eye contact with the dog, as this too can be interpreted as a threat.
Slowly move yourself to a safe area. A safe area can be your house, a nearby house, a fenced yard, a business or a vehicle. Keep your body as small and non-threatening as possible. Once you reach a safe area, contact your local animal control or police department. Give them a description of the dog, his behavior and location.
If the dog is too close to move away safely and you have treats or food with you, try throwing some toward him. Once he begins eating them, throw them in the opposite direction of where you want to go to distract him while you retreat. If you don’t have any food with you, try talking to him using “baby talk” in an upbeat, high-pitched tone.
- If the dog isn’t aggressive and you would like to try to bring the dog to safety, kneeling or sitting on the ground while keeping your side to him and avoiding eye contact can make you less threatening and arouse the dog’s curiosity. If you have treats, try tossing them to him. If he eats them, shorten the distance you throw them each time. He may eventually come close enough to you that you can pick him up or leash him.
- Any dog can bite, even if you take all the right steps to calm him. As a dog lover, hurting him is probably your last resort, but if a bite is imminent, you need to protect yourself by any means available. This may mean pepper spraying the dog, kicking him or using a stick to fend him off.
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