Since that article ran in June, three dogs who have graduated from my Growly Dog class have been attacked by off-leash dogs. My clients work hard to calm their dog’s anxiety when they see other dogs (which often stems from being attacked the very first time by a rude, off-leash dog!). We help these over-anxious dogs learn to trust their handler, and we rebuild their faith that they can walk safely in their own neighborhood. We make significant progress in keeping these dogs calm and focused on their owners instead of hyper-vigilantly scanning for dangers . . . such as an off-leash dog. In some of these cases, the unleashed dog owner was held responsible and now must pay fines in addition to medical bills; one of my clients ended up having an $8,000 hand surgery after breaking up a dog fight. I have enough stories like that to fill up a very long, pathetic book.
Keep moving on a walk instead of stopping and chatting with others. While you and the other person are smiling and looking at each other, your dogs may be sending signals to one another that they are uncomfortable. Keep moving and stay focused on your dog’s body language. If your dog stiffens, growls, starts randomly sniffing or scratching, or you can see his hackles (among other warning signs that your dog is getting uncomfortable), do a U-turn and put something visual between you and the trigger upsetting your dog.
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