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Found a Lost Dog? This is What to Do

By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President

Imagine you’re on a hiking trail or a city sidewalk and suddenly you notice an unfamiliar off-leash dog headed in your direction.

What would you do?

If you’ve ever encountered this situation – either while out with your dog or alone – you know how challenging it can be to react quickly and appropriately.

The key is to know the proper steps to take, before you have to take them. Each situation is different, but here are some general tips to keep in mind.

  1. Assess the dog’s body language
    Try not to judge the dog solely on its appearance. For example, never assume that a big dog is dangerous or a small dog isn’t a threat. Instead, watch his body language for clues about the dog’s demeanor.

    If his body is loose and his facial expressions soft, he’s most likely friendly. If, on the other hand, he is tense and barking, he is probably either afraid or aggressive.

  2. Do not run.
    Even if the dog appears to be aggressive, fight the urge to run. A dog’s natural instinct is to chase, and running may arouse him even more, resulting in a bite.

    Try backing slowly away and avoid eye contact so that you don’t appear to be a threat. Look for a safe place to get out of harm’s way, such as a fenced area or a neighbor’s porch.

  3. Carry treats.
    Most dogs are not truly aggressive and can be easily distracted. Tossing a handful of treats or kibble away from you may help buy you enough time to put some distance between you and the dog. If the dog comes back for more, continue throwing the treats farther and farther away to keep his attention off of you.
  4. Take command.
    What if you are rushed by a dog and have little time to react? Again, do not run! Often the best thing you can do in this situation is to stand your ground.

    Make yourself look as big as possible and shout “NO!” or “STOP!” or “GET AWAY!” Because most dogs have no real desire to engage in confrontation, this may encourage him to back down or leave the area.

  5. Keep control of your dog.
    If you’re walking with your own dog, try to keep him calm. Encourage him to stay by your side or behind you, and put him in a sit or down if possible. This will allow you to deal with the other dog without worrying about your dog’s reaction.

    There’s no question that this can be difficult, especially if yours is protective or afraid, so practice this regularly on your daily walks.

  6. Be startling.
    Often, all you need to do is break the dog’s attention or frighten him into leaving you alone. Loud noises work very well for this so think about carrying an air horn or an extra shrill whistle. Visually startling him is another good option. Use a walking stick to block him or pop open a small umbrella. Both of these will also help shield your body from the dog.

I’d like to hear from you! If you have questions you’d like me to address on this blog regarding pet health or behavior, send an email to

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Posted on Aug 06, 2015 by VOYCE Behavior & Training