Thursday, April 26 , 2018, 1:54 pm | Fair 59º


Inquisitive Canine: Leashed Dog Fears Being Rushed

Family dog fit to be tied when unleashed canines approach

Dear Inquisitive Canine:

Our dog, despite being fearful of new things, does pretty well when she passes dogs that are on leash. However, when a dog runs up to her that is off leash, she gets scared and acts in such a way that often causes the dog to want to attack. She’s never been seriously bitten, but on four occasions she has been “jumped,” resulting in a lot of squealing.

Joan Mayer and her sidekick, Poncho
Joan Mayer and her sidekick, Poncho

We don’t want her to get to the point where she decides to be aggressive to the other dog. So far she hasn’t. What should we do? Unless we know the dog is friendly (or at least not pushy) should we just pick her up for a minute? She is not a small dog (45 pounds) but we can pick her up fairly easily.

–– Brenda

Dear Brenda ...

It’s stressful when our “kids” get picked on, isn’t it? Not fun for us or our dogs. And it’s even more frustrating if we’re in an area where leashes are mandatory, and we’re the only ones paying attention to the laws. Click here for Poncho’s blog on the topic.

As a dog mom and professional dog trainer, I can recommend a couple different approaches when it comes to these off-leash situations. There is “management,” meaning preventing (as much as humanly possible) these scenarios from happening in the first place, (or at the very least, making them less likely to occur), and then there is “training.”

For those times when you choose to manage your situation, you might want to consider the following:

» Since it’s “new things” she is fearful of, walk your dog in familiar places where leashes are mandatory and leash-laws are more likely to be followed. Although not everyone follows the rules, at least there might be less of a chance for off-leash encounters.

» Avoid places where you risk encountering off-leash dogs.

» Ask other dog guardians to abide by the laws if you should happen upon an off-leash dog in a leash-required area.

As far as some training tips, I have a few recommendations based on your general question of: “What do we do when an unfamiliar off leash dog approaches our leashed dog?” Depending on the situation, you’ll have to use your own best judgment for deciding which one(s) to follow.

» Drop the leash and allow your dog to communicate in normal doggy body language. Leashes can create tension in many situations. Not just in the dog, but in whomever is holding it. Your dog reads your body language as “Uh, oh, mom is tense, so I’ll tense up, too!” Plus, the leash itself can thwart your dog’s freedom of movement. Dogs express themselves primarily with body language; leashes tend to get in the way of this communication. So, if it’s safe, drop the leash, or loosen up on it so she doesn’t feel a “pulling” and therefore tense, sensation.

» Give your dog something else to do. This would be good for loose dogs that might come nearby, but don’t actually stop to say “hi.’’ You can play the “Find it!” game: toss treats while saying “Find it!” to your dog, all while keeping the pace moving forward. As long as she is staying focused on you, and still eating, this shows she’s not stressed out about the other dog. She’ll also start to associate other dogs with good things for her!

» Provide some encouraging “happy talk” while you move it along: “Yippee! Look, there’s another doggy!” Your dog will start to associate other dogs with you being happy and in a good mood, instead of giving you that panicked look you want to avoid.

» Set up “play-date” walks with friends and their dogs. (If this is something you and your friends, and your dogs enjoy doing). Sometimes there is “safety in numbers.” Another dog might be less likely to approach multiple dogs.

» Toss high value treats at the other dog! This will hopefully distract the other dog, and motivate them to want to look for yummy treats, versus mingle with your dog.

» Avoid making your dog do anything that involves remaining stationary! For instance, don’t ask her to “sit” or “down” or “stay” while the other dog moves around her. Again, allow her to communicate in her innate doggy language.

» You can also add in the bonus of rewarding your dog with yummy treats every time another dog passes by, even if it’s on leash, and not paying attention to your dog. This will help your dog build positive associations toward other dogs: “Yippee! Another dog! Woo-hoo!” In time her confidence should build, and the stress level toward novel dogs should decrease.

As for “picking her up,” in my opinion this is usually not the best choice, even though in our human minds it sounds reasonable. (Sometimes for those tiny dogs it can help, such as if they’re about to be “lunch,” but rarely does it make the situation better).

Dogs communicate primarily with body language. Just like the tension and interference of the leash, the act of you picking her up causes her to lose all ability to communicate to the other dog. Think of it as you being tied up and not being able to talk or defend yourself. Your dog needs to communicate with this other dog in the best way she knows how, and not just say what she wants to say, but to respond to the message being sent by the other dog. Plus, you put yourself at risk, by either inadvertently luring the other dog to jump up on you and your dog, or risking back injury and not being able to get home.

Management of the situation, allowing your dog to communicate freely and taking the time to teach your dog that other dogs being around make good things happen for her, should help going for walks together pleasant and fun again. After all, isn’t that what going for walkies is all about?

— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified pet dog trainer and dog behavior counselor. Her column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >