I was recently asked this question: “I was out walking my dog and another dog came out of nowhere: bearing teeth, barking ferociously, hackles up and it flew at my puppy. I scooped my puppy up, but the dog just kept on trying to get to her. Is there anything I could have done differently to protect her better?”

This is something that has happened to me a few times, and there is no denying that it is terrifying for both you and your dog. There is no way to know just what the attacking dog will do. The crucial thing to do in situations like this is to stay calm and in control. Do not kick out at the dog or shout at it, this will only make things worse and can result in you being bitten.

One thing to bear in mind is that picking up your small dog or puppy can backfire with the attacking dog redirecting onto you. If this happens, make sure that you protect your dog by putting her somewhere safe if possible and then protect your head and neck using your hands and arms to fight the dog off.

There are a few things that I have done in the past that have either diffused the situation or that have given me the change to get my dogs and me out of the way.

I have chucked a few handfuls of treats at a dog running towards us and then retreated as quickly as I could. If you can make some of them hit the dog coming at you, then that is good. The idea here is to startle the dog but not to hurt it. Most dogs are trained using reward based methods these days and throwing tasty treats at them makes them pause and hopefully stop to eat them. This method has worked for me those times that the dog has been merely excited and ran over to come and see us. I must say though that if the dog is in full attack mode, this method is unlikely to stop him, especially if its eyes are locked on to your dog.

With a dog in full attack mode, I have stepped in front of my dog and instructed her to stay behind me. This method has worked for me in the past. It breaks the locked eye contact that the attacking dog had on my dog. The key with this method is that you have to stand your ground, be calm, make yourself as big as possible and that your dog stays hidden behind you and doesn’t react. The attacking dog disengaged when it noticed me, shook itself and returned from where it came. During this encounter, my dog sat quietly behind me. If you have a backpack on you, then take it off and hold it in front of you. If the attacking dog doesn’t stop, you will have something to use to keep between you and your attacker. An umbrella, which you can pop open, will work well in this situation.

Asking your dog to come to Middle and sit, is an excellent alternative strategy. Middle is when your dog comes and sits between your legs. This means that your dog is now protected by your legs from the advancing dog. No matter what angle the attacking dog is coming from he won’t be able to get to your dog. It is a very safe place for your dog to be. Be calm and assertive, square your shoulders and hold your hand out like a police officer and say: “No”, “Sit”, “Stop” or “Stay” in a calm but firm voice. This may be enough to startle the approaching dog and stop it in its tracks.

While none of these methods will work in every case, it is a good idea to have some clear options in the back of your mind. The problem with situations like this is that dogs can be very unpredictable. A dog that appears to be friendly can suddenly become aggressive and fearful dogs that initially seemed to be aggressive can suddenly decide to break off and run away instead or even say hello nicely once they realise you and your dog are not a threat.

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