Unleashed dogs present some very real cause for concern.
This is particularly true if a dog is roaming a neighborhood with lots of kids or other animals.
While I’m a strong believer that almost all dogs are naturally friendly, tragedy can still strike when dogs are off-leash in areas where they should be leashed
To compound matters, owners who allow their dogs to roam like this in areas where it’s not common (like rural areas) typically haven’t trained or socialized their dogs properly.
That means that the likelihood of a negative incident increases dramatically.
So let’s take a look at what to do if you have a roaming neighborhood dog.
What to do About Unleashed Dogs
It’s important to remember that not every dog you see running around off-leash is a killer.
In fact, most of them aren’t.
However, in the end, dogs are animals driven by instinct, so an unleashed dog roaming the neighborhood is cause for concern.
I want to stress that this sort of incident should be handled the same way no matter what kind of dog you encounter.
The big myth is that Pitts, Rotts, Shepherds, and the like are extra aggressive, and it’s just not true.
No matter what type of dog you encounter, these tips all apply because in the end, dogs are dogs.
Assess the Situation
First and foremost, do not panic.
Screaming or yelling at the dog, dragging your dog away quickly, and running are excellent ways to kick another dog’s prey instinct into gear and cause, at the very least, a bite.
Remain calm. Scan the area for the dog’s owner.
If you are on your own, and the dog seems friendly, take a quick peek at his collar to see if his home information is on it.
In some cases, and unleashed dog has run away, often without the owner even realizing it.
The biggest takeaway here, though, is to remain calm.
The entire incident might only end up being a quick interaction with a friendly pooch who wants to say hello to you, your kids, or your dog.
Remaining calm helps ensure that that’s all it leads to.
Calmly Extricate Yourself
Whatever the demeanor of the dog, its best to remove yourself, your dogs, and/or your kids from the situation as quickly as possible.
Calmly, and slowly back away from the dog. Don’t turn your back and don’t run.
Calm is the key. No matter how nervous you are, keep your cool.
Dogs can pick up on nerves. If you have a dog with you, that can mean that your dog feels that he has to protect you, and you do not want that.
So remain calm, back away, and continue to do so until you are well away from the dog.
Then you can turn and begin walking normally if the dog hasn’t followed.
If the dog continues to follow you but remains friendly with you and your dogs or kids, treat it like it’s no big deal.
This keeps everything nice and friendly which is key with unleashed dogs. Start heading back home, even if the other dog continues to escort you.
This may seem scary, but it’s actually not. The thing with dogs is that you pretty much know their intentions within the first minute or so.
If the dog is friendly and continues to be friendly, there’s no need to escalate or change the situation by your demeanor or actions.
So just head back home, random dog in tow.
This keeps the other dog feeling friendly and chipper, your dog and kids calm, and avoids any possible bad outcomes.
Contact Owners About Unleashed Dogs
Unless the dog in question is chronically off-leash, talk with the owner before getting the police involved.
Chances are, the dog simply got out without anyone knowing, a common occurrence among owners who let their dogs out into fenced-in backyards.
Speaking with the owners first lets them to correct any issues that led to their dogs’ escape without escalating the situation further.
For the most part, you’ll encounter owners who had no idea their dog was out at all and will be grateful for the heads up.
Contact the Police about Unleashed Dogs
Of course, every coin has two sides.
If the dog in question is chronically on the loose or you have a bad interaction with his owner, it’s time to call the police.
They should be made aware of any dog that is allowed to roam free because, unfortunately, even the kindest, gentlest dog can end up in a bad situation if he isn’t supervised.
Contacting the police is for the dog’s safety as well as your own.
A dog given free rein can get into all kinds of trouble from getting into a fight to getting hit by a car.
In the worst case scenario, he could seriously injure another dog or human, leading to possible euthanasia, and none of us want that.
Keep Protection on Hand
If you have an iffy dog in the neighborhood which is constantly off-leash, consider getting a self-defense spray.
There are self-defense sprays available designed specifically for dogs. These sprays are essentially extremely weak pepper sprays.
In a previous article on dog fights, I cautioned against pepper spray due to how dangerous it is to dogs.
However, these sprays are extremely diluted, giving only a brief period of discomfort that does not permanently damage.
It’s important that this should only be used when a dog is being overly aggressive to the point of an actual attack feeling imminent. It’s the last resort option.
Do Nothing about Unleashed Dogs
This is purely a case-by-case, at your discretion decision, and it’s more relevant to people who live in rural areas or are familiar with their neighborhood’s dogs.
Sometimes, it just isn’t a big deal. You’ll know when it isn’t.
For example, there are some neighborhoods that almost have a mascot in a roaming dog or a dog that walks itself.
When I lived in Michigan, there was a man with an Irish Setter who walked himself. It was the talk of the town.
I have never seen such a good dog in my life.
The dog stayed right next to the man, bebopping down the sidewalk with his own leash in his mouth. Just happy as a clam.
The neighborhood kids would run up and greet the man and his dog.
The dog would romp for a minute or two, and then it was back to his walk. Every person and pet in the town knew this dog, and no one was nervous about it.
Down in Alabama, my father had a boxer who would constantly head out and visit downtown.
He’d make the rounds at the local pharmacy, gas station, and grocery store.
He’d trot in for a treat that all the owners kept on hand, get a few scratches from the locals and be back before my dad even knew he was gone.
Of course, the big caveat to BOTH of these stories is the towns were rural, where almost no one had a fenced yard and leashes were not even a thing.
It’s purely a discretionary decision on your part, but in these types of situations, it seems to serve no purpose to get authorities involved.
Unleashed Dogs Don’t Have to be Terrifying
Unleashed dogs aren’t a cause for panic in most cases.
Unless the dog is actively charging, remaining calm and acting like nothing is out of the ordinary usually does the trick.
Dogs are inherently friendly creatures, and if you don’t freak out, they won’t freak out.
When encountering unleashed dogs that you don’t know, just remember to remain calm and take it slow.
That is almost always the best course of action.