Whether it’s your neighbor’s Doberman that somehow got out the back door alone or a strange dog that’s just been allowed to run off-leash ahead of their owner, the sight of a loose dog heading your away is enough to give you pause. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people suffer about 4.7 million dog bites every year — and about 800,000 of those are serious enough to require medical treatment.
Since you don’t want to be among their number, here’s how to react to a loose dog:
- Use your powers of observation. Is the dog loping your way with a friendly wag and a relaxed mouth? Or does the dog seem laser-focused and intent on engaging you? Use what you see to inform your response.
- Stay calm and don’t run. If you react with a panic and start to run, you could trigger a “hunter” response in the dog. You don’t want to mark yourself out as easy prey.
- Put something between you and the loose dog. If you can, walk around a fence, tree, post or fire hydrant and stop. Putting something between you may cause the animal to pause and keep its distance.
- Pick up your own animal or put them behind you. If you have your own dog with you, you can pick your dog up or step in front of your dog and firmly hold its leash. You don’t want the two animals to tangle.
- Look for the owner. If the owner is nearby, they’ll hopefully take charge of the situation with their dog right away. If you don’t see the owner, try to walk away from the dog so that you don’t cross into its perceived territory.
- Order the dog to stop or go away. Use a loud, firm voice, like you would with your own dog if you’re annoyed. You want to show the other dog that you’re in charge of the situation.
With luck, the incident will pass without any injuries. If you are injured by a loose dog, however, you have every right to seek compensation from the owner for your losses.