Tuff Pup Training Blog

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How to Handle Being Approched By A Loose Dog

Handling Loose Dogs.

There you are, walking home with your dog who is very much on-leash and under control when an off-leash dog comes running up to you. Especially for reactive dog owners this is can cause your blood to run cold. It's important to have a plan of action thought through in advance. It with take juggling some spur of the moment decisions and remembering to breath.  Here are a few considerations to help you plan for the approach of an off-leash free-running dog:

When you can, Get out of there.

If you don't have to, don't make this off-leash dog any of your business. You have your own dog and your own safety to think about. The moment you sense that the dog across the street or park is actually off-leash start looking for a good exit strategy. If you can't just walk away look for trees, cars, benches or anything else that might help to block your dog from view until the off-leash dog has moved along. 

If you see an off leash dog on a city street and it's far enough ahead, You can employ your emergency U-turn. You can review our post on emergency U-turns to get pointers on mastering this safety measure.

Are you cornered?

If you are forced into a confrontation with the off-leash dog...

  • Stop and body block. Shorten your leash and step in front of your dog. Lean your body posture forward. Step forcefully to counter the movements of the off-leash dog. Don't give this off-leash dog an easy path to your dog. The forceful posture will often get the dogs attention and cause them to pause and look up. Then..
  • Use a calm but assertive tone to shout... "Get Your Dog" or "Call Your Dog". Don't feel bad saying "my dog bites" if it helps bring a sense of urgency to the other owner. Even if their is no other owner, your shouting may elicit the help from a passersby to wrangle or distract the dog to give you and exit opportunity.
  • If you are still confronted with the dog you can try leaning your posture forward, stand tall and confidently say "Sit!". Giving a sit to off-leash dogs can often have surprising effects. Alternatively you can say "stop", "stay" or "down". If the dog pauses at all or actually listens to the command you can toss a handful of treats over the dogs head as an attempt to create another exit opportunity.

Safety Note: Throwing treats as a distraction may have actually been your first thought. Although using food as a distraction for the off-leash dog it tends to only be effective in cases where the off-leash dog is actually dog-friendly to begin with. If the off-leash is fixated on your dog and agitated it will then that dog will take treats and will likely ignore them on the ground.

What If a fight breaks out?

Stay calm. If someone is there to help you: Grasp the dogs by the hind legs, lifting as you would a wheelbarrow, rather than reaching for collars or the teeth-end of the dog! Remove fighting dogs from one-another and trade contact information. You may need to create a distraction or interruption before being able to grab the dogs (e.g. air horn, dump water bowls or spray with a water bottle).

If you are in a neighborhood where this happens often you might consider carrying citronella spray and/or a pepper spray like "Direct Stop" by Premier. These kinds of sprays can be a important last resort. Make sure to read the products full warnings and guidelines.

If possible, take pictures of the other dog. Take pictures of any bites and follow up with the other dog owner. Become familiar with local leash laws. Avoid having your dog around other dogs for at least 78 hours to avoid the adrenalin from the fight causing your dog to be triggered in another social interaction. After that, contact your close friends or family who have dogs that your dog likes. Ask them to go on a walk with you or set-up a structured play-date.

Warning: Breaking up a dog fight can be very dangerous to you. These suggestions should be followed at your own risk. Please stay safe.

Dog fights can be as bad or worse then car accidents. Even in the best case scenario, everyone's nerves are left fried. Dog owners left disheartened and scared. Learning how to read canine body language and teaching your dog public safety skills like eye contact can keep you and your pup safe for future walks.

For more info on at-home training programs for leash walking and dog park play contact tuffpuptraining.com.

Your Dog's Physical and Mental Enrichment Plan.

Mom, I’m bored.

Dogs are a lot like children. If you don’t give them something fun to do, they will make their own fun—and often not in ways you approve of.

Give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise, and you get a happier, healthier, better-behaved dog. Well-exercised dogs bark less, chew less, sleep more, and rest easier if left home alone. They are also much less likely to rummage through the trash or attack the couch cushions.

What about leash walks?

Leash walks are great brainteasers because of all the sensory information dogs get from them, but they don’t count as aerobic exercise. Your dog needs to run, swim, or do something else that gets his heart pumping for at least 30 minutes every day. For those dogs who become anxious on leash walks, note that there are other great ways to mentally and physically enrich your dog.

Workouts for the body.

  • Chasing a ball or Frisbee
  • Swimming
  • Playing tug
  • Active play with other dogs
  • Off-leash romps or hikes.

Workouts for the brain.

Work to eat. Biologically speaking, your dog is not supposed to have a bowl of kibble plunked down in front of him. He is a hunter by nature, built to work for and find his food. Mimic this by serving your dog’s food in a Kong or treat ball. Your dog will spend the first part of the day figuring out how to get at his food and the rest of it recovering from the mental effort. Perfect!

Toys galore. Toys are a great way to engage your dog’s brain. Dogs have distinctly individual toy preferences, depending on the day, time, and situation. Do some detective work and find out what truly interests your dog.

The best toys have a purpose. They deliver food, present a challenge, squeak, or make themselves interesting in some other way. Some classics to consider: Rope toys, plush toys (with or without squeakers), Hide-A-Bee (Squirrel, Bird), tricky treat balls, soft rubber toys (vinyl), and hard rubber toys like Kongs and nyla bones. 

Once you have a good selection, develop a toy strategy. Designate a popular toy for use only during alone time, like when you need to leave your dog in his crate, confinement area, or a spare room. Then, rotate the other toys daily to keep the novelty factor high.

Recommended Toys:



    To make sure your dog gets the exercise and stimulation he needs, the best thing to do is to create a plan. Think about your dog’s daily routine and choose what type of exercise (for the body and brain) your dog will receive, who will be in charge of making it happen and for how long. 

    Here are some people whose help you may be able to enlist:

    • Partner, family members, friends & neighbors
    • Dog walker 
    • Dog daycare

    For recommendations on local Philly dog walkers check here. 

    Types of activities:

    • Leash Walks
    • Teach Tricks
    • Fetch
    • Visits to Dog Daycare
    • Toy Dissection
    • Stuffed Kong
    • Tug-of-war
    • Chewing bones
    • Bully sticks, etc.
    • Treat Ball (for meals)
    •  Swimming   
    • Other:_________________

    The plan

    Here is a good example of a mental enrichment plan for a dog (with low impact for an owner and high enrichment impact for the dog).  

    1. Wake up, take your dog to potty and then feed your pup half a meal from food dispensing toys (Kongs, Busy Buddy, etc). Use this time to get dressed or cook breakfast for yourself. 
    2. Then take ten minutes and play a training game to teach your dog a new trick or to sharpen and old skill. If you need ideas on fun training games to play contact Tuff Pup Training.
    3. Pause for 30 seconds and then play fetch or tug-of-war with your dog for another 10 minutes. Fetch and tug are both mental and physical enrichment games. Plus it will get any stress out of your dog's system that may have been pent up from the training.   
    4. Pause 30 seconds as you put away the toys and then take your dog for a 10 minute walk around the block. This gives time to potty and a chance to come down from the adrenaline of playing fetch and tug.  
    5. Finally, give your dog a Kong (stuffed frozen with a little peanut butter or yogurt) or other chew toy inside of their crate or on their dog bed. This will focus any energy left over into a calm state. The chew toy will help them self-sooth and forget that you might be leaving them to go to work.   

    The example plan described above will only take 31 minutes while effectively getting your dog tired, happy and smarter all before you leave for work.  

      Lastly, keep track of your dogs plan in writing. Make notes about what works best. Make reminders on your phone that can alert you of planned activities with your pup (though your dog will probably remind you). Set a timer for 10 minutes if you follow the plan above. Try making a chart with your family that looks like the following:

      For help exhausting your dog in new fun ways check out Tuff Pup Training program options here.