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Home > Dogs > What to Do When an Off-Leash Dog Approaches: 5 Vet Approved Tips

What to Do When an Off-Leash Dog Approaches: 5 Vet Approved Tips

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

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Encountering an off-leash dog while walking your dog can be scary. You have no way of knowing if this strange dog is healthy or how it will react. So what should you do if an off-leash dog approaches your dog? What’s the best way to protect yourself and your dog in this situation? We’ll discuss some techniques to handle an off-leash dog, how to report a loose dog, and if pepper spray is appropriate.

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The 5 Things to Do When an Off-Leash Dog Approaches You:

Some free-roaming canines may be amiable and non-aggressive, but it’s best to stay away from them; even a happy-looking pup can attack or spread parasites like ticks and fleas. By following these steps, you can avoid any dangerous confrontations.

1. Avoid walking past the off-leash dog if you have space and time to do so

Cross the street, turn a corner, or walk (don’t run) away.

shiba inu dog walking with his owner
Image Credit: ikate25, Shutterstock

2. Yell a command like “No!” or “Sit!”

Yell these commands if an off-leash dog starts to approach you and your dog.

3. You can distract a loose dog with dog treats

Throw the treats on the ground, then walk away in the opposite direction. However, a famished dog may decide to follow you.

A dog sniffing a scent
Image Credit: Pawtraits, Shutterstock

4. Try to put a physical barrier between yourself and an aggressive off-leash dog

Look for a row of parked cars, a wall, a doorway, or a solid fence.

5. If your dog is small enough, pick them up

Carry them away or put them on an elevated surface.

person carrying a white dog in its shoulder
Image Credit: 8777334, Pixabay


Are Off-Leash Dogs Illegal?

Most municipalities in the U.S. have leash laws. Dogs in public areas must be on a leash or lead and under the control of their handlers. The exceptions, of course, are designated off-leash dog parks and recreation areas.

Dogs that run loose can pose a threat to the public and are in danger themselves. They could be hit by a car or encounter abuse from humans.

How Do I Report an Off-Leash Dog?

If you live in an urban area, report loose dogs to your local animal control department. Smaller cities and rural areas may not have animal control staff. In that case, call your police department’s non-emergency number to report an off-leash dog.

Dogs that are a threat to public safety, such as those displaying signs of a rabies infection, warrant a call to 911. Be as specific as possible when you report a loose dog. Make a note of the dog’s size, coloring, and any distinguishing features. Take a photo if you can.

woman making a phone call
Image Credit: guvo59, Pixabay

Can I Use Pepper Spray on an Off-Leash Dog?

Sources are divided on whether pepper spray is appropriate for an off-leash dog that poses a threat. Supporters consider pepper spray an effective, non-lethal way to defend yourself against a loose dog that threatens your safety. Spraying an off-leash dog with pepper spray will irritate its eyes and mouth, but these effects are temporary.

Critics of pepper spray warn against the danger of the chemical ricocheting and hitting you or your dog. Others claim that pepper spray is inhumane and could cause the dog to become more aggressive.

Pepper spray is legal in the U.S. at the federal level, but some states and local municipalities regulate it. You should know your local laws for purchasing, carrying, and using pepper spray.

Air horns and personal alarms are less controversial alternatives to pepper spray. The loud noise will startle an off-leash dog and hopefully cause them to run away.


Final Thoughts

The best way to handle a non-aggressive off-leash dog is avoidance if possible. Walk away, cross the street, or scatter dog treats in the opposite direction. You can protect yourself from an aggressive off-leash dog by scaring it with an air horn or personal alarm. If an attack is imminent, put a barrier between yourself and the off-leash dog.

Although you may be hesitant to call animal control on a loose dog, it may pose a threat to the public, and when you’re sure it’s not your neighbor’s friendly pet, alerting the authorities is the right decision.

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Featured Image Credit: Roman Seliutin, Shutterstock

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