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How to Handle a Charging Dog

How many times have you been walking your dog and been bombarded by an off-leash dog? How often have you heard, “He’s friendly!”? What do you do? How can you protect your dog?

My dog Rosa is afraid of other dogs. We walk certain paths in our neighborhood that we’ve learned are generally free of off-leash dogs to reduce the chances of her being approached. This works most of the time, but you just never know when a dog will come out of nowhere. This is one of the reasons I carry Spray Shield with me. I keep it attached to the side of my treat bag so I can grab it easily.

What is Spray Shield?

Spray Shield is a small can of condensed citronella and it is quite effective if you spray the oncoming dog in the face as he approaches. The effects do not last long but it works well enough to stop most dogs in their tracks.

Does it work?

I have used Spray Shield dozens of times now and it has worked all but once. The last thing I want to do is spray a dog in the face with something it dislikes, but it’s better than the alternative which could be fights and bites.

Should every dog parent be concerned?

For dogs that love other dogs, they may really enjoy meeting tons of dogs when they’re out walking. But for dogs that are fearful, it can be their worst nightmare.

Rosa, as mentioned above, is afraid of other dogs. This means that for her, having a dog run up on her, even if no fights or bites happens, is going to increase her fear of other dogs. It’s like having your worst fear literally come running up on you quickly.

Here are some steps to help prevent your dog from having a run-in with another dog. 1. Pick your route carefully

Consider walking around the areas you want to walk without your dog first to see what it’s like. You may notice lots of dogs behind fences, dogs off leash or no dogs at all. Obviously walking through once isn’t going to mean you know exactly what to expect, but it’s helpful.

2. Keep your head on a swivel

Even with a carefully planned route you may still encounter dogs. Sometimes people let their dogs out for a moment off-leash assuming it’s going to be for a quick bathroom break and that is that. Other times people feel like they can call their dogs back to them in any scenario and so they’re not concerned with a dog appearing. There are also people out there that aren’t aware of the fact that some dogs are fearful and need space. When we were walking and the dog was running towards us, I heard “he doesn’t bite!” Those words are supposed to be comforting but they're not for me. All I can think of is that Rosa may defend herself and bite.

3. Have your Spray Shield at the ready

I always have my spray shield at my side. I shake the can at the beginning of the walk to ensure that it’s ready to go if I need it. If I need to use it, I grab it and wait for the dog to be around 10 feet away and then I spray the stream. It’s pretty easy to aim the stream, especially after it's started.

4. Stay cool under pressure

This can be tough in the moment, but panicking will not help. As soon as you start to panic you’re likely to drop the can or spray yourself instead. If you have everything ready you should be able to get your can out and spray within 3 seconds. As long as you see the dog coming, you’ll have time. If the dog truly comes out of the blue and is already there, your best option may still be to spray to get the dog away.

Final thoughts

If it isn't obvious yet, I am a big fan of carrying Spray Shield with me during walks. Believe it or not, even for dogs that are very social with other dogs can quickly build negative associations if approached and something bad happens. This could lead to leash reactivity in the future. So this means that a dog that was fine and happy to see other dogs (or just indifferent about other dogs) may end up barking and lunging when one comes into sight.

Be proactive and keep your head on a swivel. If your dog is currently barking and lunging when he sees other dogs, set up a consult with us to give you a plan to follow.

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