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Protecting your dog from off leash dogs.**

The sun shone down on the grassy expanse of the park, casting a warm glow on the world. You walked through the fields with your faithful companion, enjoying the day's beauty. Your dog was in high spirits, sniffing and exploring every inch of the park with an unbridled enthusiasm that warmed your heart. You felt a deep gratitude for this moment, for this life. The wind blew through your hair, and you felt the soft caress of the breeze on your skin.

As you walked, lost in thought, you suddenly noticed movement from the corner of your eye. The sun disappeared behind a cloud, and a sense of dread gripped your chest. You turned to see an off-leash dog charging towards your pup, its eyes locked onto your furry friend with a predatory gleam. In a split second, the day's beauty was replaced with a feeling of terror.

But you were not one to back down in the face of danger. With a fierce determination, you stepped forward to protect your pup, ready to stand your ground against any threat. Your heart pounded in your chest as you braced for impact, but you knew you would do whatever it took to keep your furry friend safe.

And in that moment of crisis, you realize that true beauty lies not only in the sunny days but also in the moments of darkness when we are tested and forced to rise to the challenge. You stood tall, a beacon of strength and hope, ready to face whatever the world may throw your way.

What would you do? 

As a K9 professional for over 12 years, my experience has led me to deal with many off-leash dogs. I have a lot of clients who feel anxious walking their dogs in the neighborhood due to the presence of unruly off-leash dogs. This isn't fair to anyone involved, so it's essential to have safety measures in mind when going for a walk. I've had simple neighborhood walks turn into literal nightmares, so I find it best to always be prepared for the worst and anything.

So let's talk about it. How do I handle this situation? Well, I have a walking vest that contains crucial items that I can use for deterrents in emergencies. Let me walk you through past emergencies where tools helped me advocate for my dogs and my clients.

Having tools can help you become confident in advocating for your day-to-day walks. I will have a separate blog post about safety tools on long hikes, but for this post, I'm focusing on the things you can keep in your pocket or training pouch to help keep your dog safe.

What I do depends on what my gut tells me within 5 seconds. How the dog approaches tells me a lot in those 5 seconds, but trust your gut at the end of the day.

For example, one day, while walking a trail, my girls were in an off-leash heel command, and a dog approached us. He casually strolled to us. He was some hound lab mix; I would guess he was 4-5 years old and on the calmer side. Then, I knew this dog was no threat, but I still wanted to create distance as I worked on my youngest's reactivity.

By standing in front of my dogs, they knew they were being advocated for and stayed very calm. Then, I grabbed some treats and threw them to the side of the trail. I knew if I did this, there would be a chance the dog would follow me, and I had no issues with that. I avoid face-to-face introductions for many reasons, so I will never allow a dog to approach us and just let them get face-to-face. But I knew that after this dog ate the treats if he followed, he would do so calmly.

How I handled this is very different from how I have handled various situations. In this case, my treat pouch came in handy, and there was no need to escalate it further. But that is different from how it usually goes down.

One time, I was walking with my reactive dog around the block when two small Yorkies came rushing towards us. Luckily, we were close to a trash can, and my dog loves agility, so she jumped right up onto it. She immediately calmed down and stayed still while I dealt with the little dogs. I guard my dog like a dog would guard a bone, using my body language to push back and make it more desirable for them to leave.

I've used benches, picnic tables, and even my car as a place for protection when needed. Elevation can help keep your dog calm and protected and can be a great tool. However, this takes a lot of confidence building and can only be easily applied to some dog in emergency situations.

When I used to go to the dog park, a fight broke out between two dogs over a ball. I was close by and used my ultrasonic device, which I usually have in my vest. One push of the button was enough to interrupt the dogs and de-escalate the problem quickly and efficiently.

Shortly after moving into my new neighborhood, I was walking my dogs when we passed a house with Pitbulls out on tie-outs. One of the Pitbulls broke free and charged towards us, intending to bite. He bulldozes towards us with all hackles raised and produces a deep growl. With my pack of three, this could have been a pretty ugly fight. I was incredibly proud of my dogs as I realized just how much they trusted me. I put them behind me and made it very clear in my body language that I was protecting them. I made it very difficult for that dog to get any closer by yelling and taking stomps forward. I made my body big, loud and continued to claim my pack's space all while making it miserable to continue into our space..

The ultrasonic didn't phase the dog at all, and my pet corrector was out of the air, so all I had left was a mace or a Taser. I kept a Taser in my vest but had never used it before this event. I have never had to use my mace either, but I would rather be safe than sorry. On this day, the taser stopped the dog in its tracks as it tried circling us. I only had to use it once, and the dog gained space. I decided to walk back home, keeping an eye on him, drop off my dogs, and then help the neighbor catch her dog. The dog wanted to bite me and was unhappy that I grabbed his chain, but it was returned to safety, and everything ended well. But only because I was prepared to handle this situration.

Although my dogs are great with other dogs, they will fight back if something is started. Pack mentality can be a dangerous wepon if you don't know how to advocate and read dogs. Thus, my job is always to make sure I am advocating and being proactive so that no fights occur. The taser was my savior that day, but I have had the ultrasonic save me a handful of times, and the pet corrector aided me once or twice. There are many things you could carry, but my suggestions would be:

- Treat pouch

- Ultrasonic remote (rechargeable and with multiple correction tones)

- Airhorn and pet corrector (both run out of air)

- Taser (for scary sound and rechargeable)

- Mace (this puts risk to you and your dogs as well, so only use it as a last resort and be cautious of wind)

- Citronella spray

- A small pocket bottle of vinegar - great for both smell and taste deterrent. If a dog latches on to your dog, it can aid in opening their mouth to release the bite. Pulling a biting dog away is never a good option.

If you are using a sound deterrent for off-leash dogs, ensure you properly condition them to your own dog so they don't have a fear response. This helps everyone gain confidence to tackle those scary moments safely and effectively. Remember, not every off-leash dog is a threat or should be seen as a threat. You must think fast and trust your gut. Learn how to be the strongest advocate for your pup you can be at

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