Friday, May 23, 2014

Curbing an unwanted approach from an off-leash dog can be done in a couple of easy steps

I find the following scenario irksome, if not dangerous: I'm with a canine client for a leashed walk, either in the woods or in a neighborhood and suddenly, an unfamiliar dog (or three) appear and are charging toward us.

This is a scenario that I need to be hyper-aware of, as several clients on my roster are in the process of learning to be better socialized (and admittedly yes, some of them will never change). Others have had a recent surgery, or have painful injuries or arthritis. Some are seniors and do not see or hear well, and that can complicate sociability.

It's not unusual for me to hear a distant human voice exclaim as they try to catch up to their four-legged pal, "Don't worry! My dog is friendly!" (We dog professionals refer to this as MDIF, by the way.) Then I respond, "But this dog has difficulty, so it's appreciated that you please give them a little space."

Being prepared to get out of situations like this is crucial no matter who you are, but as a professional, I can offer a fast and simple way that I buy myself a little time to get a handle on the situation and get some much-needed distance between the dogs involved.

First, always have a pocketful of tasty dog treats handy when out on your adventures.

If you find yourself in a sticky situation like this, employ what I call a 'fast sit and stay': ask your dog to sit and stay behind you while you step forward a bit and toss a handful of treats into the face of the dog that is coming toward you.

Tossing the treats usually distracts the dog enough so that they spend several minutes sniffing them out on the ground while you and your pet make a quick, quiet exit.

If you're not able to get your own dog "on a stay," as we professionals call it, the surprise of tasty treats tossed in the other dog's face will usually keep them occupied for at least for a couple of minutes.

This is a useful idea for anyone who runs or walks, whether you have a dog or not.

(I should note that this isn't likely to work in a situation where there is a highly stimulated, aggressive dog that is solely focused on attacking either you or your pet. That unfortunately is a much different scenario.)

For more tips on getting the most out of your walking adventures with your dog, click here.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.