Getting charged while walking


My pack, all belted up

I received an email today from my new buddy. She’s as crazy as I am…well maybe a little bit less crazy – she walks three dogs at once, I walk five. Anyway, she asked about what to do when passing by a yard with an unleashed dog who charges when he sees you. This has happened to me. Usually what happens is you are happily walking by and a dog flies out of no where, barking and charging. Sometimes it stops and barks from a short distance away, sometimes it comes right up and starts roughing your dogs up. Both are examples of territory dominance and I deal with them in similar ways.

First of all, I make sure I am alert to my surroundings at all times. If you are going to walk multiple dogs at once you will not be able to listen to the radio or ipod or talk on the cell phone. Walking any more than one dog (and in my opinion even walking one dog) requires your full attention. So, being alert you should be able to see or hear the dog’s approach before they get within striking distance. This is good. Turn and face the dog full on, bend your knees and square your feet (that means put on slightly in front of the other, hip distance apart) and lift your head. Put your hands on your hips, lean forward and make the most lethal face you can conjure up – the sort of face that says, “bring it on, sucker!” This reads as a dominant posture to the charging dog. Look at the dog’s face but focus on the forehead, not the eyes. Yes, the dog will notice this subtle difference. You are communicating with your body that you are not afraid but not out to cause trouble either. When the dog gets within hearing range say in a firm, deep voice something like “G E T B A C K!” Usually, at this point my dogs have also adopted my stance and at my voice they start up their warning barks that communicate the same thing “leave us the f— alone and no one gets hurt!”

While you are doing this you are watching the charging dog’s body language closely – are the hackles up? Teeth bared? Ears forward, corners of the mouth pulled back? That is a dog who is really pissed off and more likely to strike. Most dogs are just trying to sound big and tough but don’t really want a fight. If the dog hesitates as they get closer, that communicates that your message has been received. Keep up your stance and puff out your chest, trying to look as big and fierce as possible and say again “G E T B A C K!” Usually at this point I add a hand and arm motion also, swinging it out. If the dog holds his place I will take a step forward as I tell them to get back again. If the dog has hesitated up to this point they will probably turn their back and move back a few steps. Don’t think the stand off is over. You can approach a few steps slowly facing the dog. Usually the dog will retreat to keep the distance between you. At this point I walk slowly past but keep my eyes on them. Usually the owner of the dog has arrived at this point but if not the dog will usually let you past. Keep your eyes open though, some dogs will try to strike from behind. If that is the case, turn and face and do the posturing all over again.

As I am doing this I am also thinking of my next step if the situation escalates. I am attached to my dogs by short leashes. These leashes have double clips, so they clip on to the dogs’ collars and clip onto my walking belt (I ordered my walking belt from Nordkyn Outfitters, a GREAT site I highly recommend! The walking belt and leashes I use everyday I got from them.) So, as I am assessing the situation I am thinking about which dog I will release first. If a fight is going to happen I for sure don’t want the dogs attached to me by leashes! I will have my hands on the clips of the two dogs I know will take care of themselves best. If I had to, I would be able to move more effectively to help them fight if I wasn’t restrained by their weight. As I’ve said, I’ve never had to do this but I have often had this plan ready to deploy.

Now, my friend had this happen to her today. Here it is in her words:

“Once I realized the dog was headed straight for us I said “leave it” to my boys and tried to walk quickly away. But, the loose dog ran right up to Thunder and Sinatra, was using it’s teeth on Sinatra’s side and got my crew really riled up. The man ran up while I was yelling “back off” to the loose dog…..he did back off…….then the man grabbed his dog and went away….no apologies or explanations……”

Now, see how the dog’s charge continued because she tried to walk away? Any dog worth his salt will run after a retreating enemy. It is interesting to note that even though the charging dog made contact with one of her dogs, it did back off when she yelled at it. :I suspect that had she adopted the stance I explained above the dog would have backed off before making contact. A bull terrier is a small dog, even though he is a brave and fighting breed he was way out numbered and he knew it. Also, as an aside, it is very sad that the owner didn’t even bother to apologize! Shame.

So, always remember, dogs have developed their highly sophisticated nonverbal communication in order to avoid physical fights. Using their language to communicate that you WILL be allowed to pass and do NOT want trouble will usually help you avoid fights with any dog you might meet on the street. If anyone out there has had a dog charge them while walking, I’d love to hear about it. Send us a comment. Keep on walking and think like a dog!

February 11, 2009 • Tags: , , • Posted in: behavior, recommended products

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