by Julia Levitt of In Harmony Dog Training
This May 18th starts Dog Bite Prevention Week and I have made a few suggestions below on ways to help diffuse a potentially volatile situation when you are outside-on a walk by yourself or with your four-legged friend. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of respecting a dog’s space. What does this mean? And how can this be achieved?
When you are on a walk, you see a person walking their dog. You stop to talk to that person. At this point I keep a distance from their dog. A few feet is fine. Then I allow the dog to approach me. If the dog is interested– and by that I mean if it comes up to me and sniffs me– only then would I ask if I could pet the dog.
The second question I am often asked when I teach a class is, “What if a strange dog is running toward me?” This answer applies if the owner is nearby or no human is in sight: stand completely still, do not raise you arms, and do not shout at the dog to get away from you. I know this suggestion is very difficult but you will have far fewer problems when a loose dog approaches you because it means that the dog is excited. If you display excitement toward the approaching dog, a collision between dog and human will happen. If the owner comes to get their dog, do not chastise the owner if they say, “That’s okay, my dog is friendly.” Make sure the owner has their dog and go on your way. If a loose dog approaches you, do not move. The dog will get tired of a boring person and go away.
The last part of this question is, “What if I have a dog with me?” The second your dog gets ahead of you and barks excitedly or aggressively toward another dog, the problem begins. If you make sure your dog is sitting quietly at your side the odds of an altercation lessen.
Finally, my best advice to you is to train and socialize your dog. As Cesar Milan the Dog Whisper always says, “Stay calm and assertive.”
Julia Levitt is the owner of In Harmony Dog Training and is a partner with the Animal Hospital in offering training classes. Check our website blog for her monthly schedules.