A regular problem on walks is loose dogs racing up to your dog with the owner shouting "Its OK, he's fine, he only wants to play". But what if your dog doesn't want to play! These dogs are usually bouncy and unfortunately haven't learnt any canine manners. They rudely push their nose up your dog's posterior and despite your dogs desperate attempts to convey their discomfort won't give up. The handler has absolutely no control over them and can't get them back so you are stuck with a situation where your dog is becoming more and more distressed. Sound familiar?
Of course its not the dog's fault, they simply haven't been given the opportunity to learn this isn't acceptable, probably without appropriate socialisation and habituation. There can of course always be the odd occasion where accidents happen, we're only human. You're in a quiet area, dog off lead, your mind has drifted and a dog suddenly appears from behind a tree or from round a corner. I can hold my hands up and say this has happened to me, but I have quickly gathered my dog up and regained control and apologised. Then given myself a telling off for not being vigilant!
One of the most surprising responses I have had recently when I have warned an owner that my dog isn't friendly was "its ok let him chase them off". So its obviously ok for my dog to be frightened and practice defensive behaviour and not a problem for his dogs to be chased away?? This completely irresponsible approach to dog welfare is baffling to me.
Some people seem to think dogs should be friends with everyone and accept any other dog approaching them. To those people I ask how they would feel if a stranger approached them and gave them a hug or grabbed their arm? I don't think I need to answer this question for you!
So what can you do if you find yourself in this difficult situation? Here are a few ideas.
Keep your dog close and put the lead on. Although dogs can become more defensive on lead, as their ability to flee has been removed, it will remove the possibility of losing your dog if they take flight
Put yourself between your dog and the incoming dog
Call the handler to get their dog (doesn't usually help, but its worth a shot!)
Throw a handful of food at the incoming dog - it might help as the dogs stops to eat you can get away and it gives the handler time to catch up
Don't pick your dog up - that will put you in danger as the incoming dog will probably jump up
If there is a barrier eg a wall or hedge try and get behind it before the dog gets to you
Try to remain calm, if you start shouting it will just raise the level of excitement/stress
Keep walking, talking calmly to your dog to try to keep them calm
If you spend some time rewarding your dog for checking in with you and ignoring other dogs it will help in situations like this and could prevent an altercation between the dogs.
If you need some help with this please get in touch and James or I can teach you how to put this into practice.
If you're reading this and are one of those people who shouts "its ok he/she's friendly" please be aware, not all dogs want to make friends!
Remember, dogs have feelings too!