Rescue Tails / WHEN DOGS BITE Part 3

This week we are continuing our efforts to decrease dog bites and increase community safety. The third and last installment in the series focuses on ways to reduce the risks posed by free-roaming dogs, the nemesis of many delivery folks, joggers, and responsible pet parents. Unleashed or loose dogs are often the cause of dog bites, dog fights, and although not as common, full-on dog attacks. These unfortunate situations typically do not occur because dogs are behaving abnormally for their species. The problems arise because certain natural expressions of canine behavior, often coupled with some dog owner failure to adhere to local ordinances, collide with the need for public safety.

The problem of loose dogs is by far not unique to our community. Too often the victims of dog bites and fights are people simply going about their lives, engaging in normal activities such as strolling, jogging, biking, or walking their leashed dog through the neighborhood. An unknown dog appears on the scene and sometimes bad things happen.

So how can we protect ourselves and our pets? First, it helps to know what leash laws are on the books in your community. Monroe County has a leash law but other local jurisdictions/cities within the county may have different laws which can supersede county ordinances. Some jurisdictions consider verbal control an acceptable means of control while others require a leash.

Despite the laws, the risk of loose dogs is still ever-present and being prepared is key to staying safe. While there no guarantees, there are tools and techniques that give us a chance to avoid an unfortunate bite or injurious attack.

  • If strolling, jogging, biking, or walking your dog, whenever possible choose a walking route away from neighborhoods known for loose dogs or aggressive dogs in yards. Fences break and gates get left open or pushed open by strong, powerful, highly aroused dogs! While inconvenient, it may keep you and your dog safe.
  • If you see an approaching dog, remain calm. If possible, reduce tension on the leash. It may help your dog remain calmer and also allows for tension-reducing body-language/communication to take place between the dogs, which can happen even at a distance.
  • Carry small but tasty dog treats with you. Throwing a handful of irresistible treats at an approaching dog has been known to occupy the dog long enough for you to move to safety.
  • Sometimes firmly yelling NO, SIT, or GO HOME can discourage a dog from approaching.
  • Small dog safety measures include stepping in front of or picking up your little dog (which could put you at greater risk), putting it on a higher location, or putting something between the dogs, using whatever is available nearby.
  • Carry a dog-walking safety kit which might include the following:
  • Tasty treats(see above). Toss the treats far enough away to prevent your dog’s access.
  • Petsafe SprayShield(Citronella) is an effective deterrent for many dogs (Note: it can blow back on both you and your dog but is not harmful like pepper spray.)
  • Small marine horn(Note: This can frighten your dog unless desensitized first.)
  • Small pop-open umbrellaused to startle an approaching dog. It can also serve as a visual barrier and shield to protect a small dog. “Googly eyes” painted on the umbrella may increase the deterrent effect to an oncoming dog. (Note: Desensitize your own dog to the umbrella and practice before taking it to the streets.)

There are no sure-fire methods to prevent harm and no tools are perfect and risk-free, but by being alert, aware, and prepared, you can reduce the chances of a good day turning into a bad day because of a loose dog.

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