What Do You Do if an Off-leash Dog Approaches You While You are Walking a Dog?

What Do You Do if an Off-leash Dog Approaches You While You are Walking a Dog?

Author WDF Staff


Most dog owners are really looking forward to walking their dog. Those of us that already know how fun, relaxing, and enjoyable dog walks can be. However, there are cases when a relaxing walk can turn out to be stressful and hectic.

Some dog owners walk their dogs off-leash, and they might believe their dog is the sweetest pet ever, but you can never be sure how they will react when you come along with your leashed dog. Becoming a responsible owner is not easy, and it will include learning to handle uncomfortable situations. The off-leash dog that is approaching you might be really friendly and playful, but you know your dog, their training, and willingness to interact with other dogs. Here are some things you should know about what to do if an off-leash dog approaches you while walking a dog.

How to handle an approaching off-leash dog?

You have every right to walk your dog in areas that allow that. There is no reason you should be scared for your dog’s safety or well-being. Unfortunately, some dog owners are not the best at following rules we as a society have put in place. Those rules are meant to keep our dogs and us safe, and not following them makes you irresponsible. However, these things happen relatively often, and if they happen to you, you should know how to adequately react. Check out these tips for handling an off-leash dog that is approaching you while you are on your walk;

Observe the dog’s body language

The first thing you should do is to keep an eye on the dog’s body language. That goes for your dog as well as for the dog that is approaching you. There is a chance the dog is friendly, and the interaction will go really well. However, you should notice things like the dog’s tail position, ears, hair, and overall body position to determine whether they are friendly or not. The same goes for your dog. Make sure they are relaxed, and you don’t feel anxious. Your dog will pick up on it and become scared.

dog on leash on beach

Keep your route

The worst thing you can do is start panicking. Your dog will pick up on your energy, and they will react in kind. The best thing you can do is keep walking at the same pace and direction you were already going. Whatever command you say to your dog, make sure it is in a calm, peaceful, but commanding tone. There is no reason to lift tensions.

Running or turning your back is not the best idea. That might provoke the off-leash dog and cause them to charge at you. The best thing to do is to turn 90 degrees and lead your dog away if the approaching dog doesn’t seem friendly.


Most experienced dog owners or dog walkers can tell you that carrying dog treats with you on walks is a good idea. You can easily distract your dog or even the approaching dog with treats. This distraction works well on friendly dogs. They are open to other stimuli and will not focus on your dog but rather on the smelly thing you threw their way. Throwing a treat can even work on potentially aggressive dogs. You only need to distract the approaching off-leash dog for long enough to go to safety. 

dog running in forest

Stop or block the approaching dog

If you notice the approaching off-leash dog does not approach with the best intentions, you can try to physically block them. You should position yourself between the approaching dog and your dog. You can do that by distracting your dog with treats and leading them behind you. Try shouting general commands to the approaching dog, like “Stay,” “Sit,” or “Go Home.”

If you have an umbrella, a stick, or a can of SprayShield, you can use that to startle or scare off the approaching dog. Never use pepper spray! Not only is it inhumane towards animals, but it can easily blow back to you and your dog. Plus, pepper spray can trigger an aggressive response from the approaching dog.

Mind your surroundings

If nothing works and the off-leash dog is still approaching you, start looking for physical barriers you can use to keep your dog safe. There are stories where dog owners used different objects to keep their dogs safe. One Dachshund owner saved her dog from a charging off-leash dog by placing her dog in a trashcan. This might be a bit extreme, but you can clearly see different things you might do to keep your dog safe. If you are in a parking lot, you can place your dog in the back of a pickup truck or on top of one.


This is the last resort, but you might have to get physical to protect yourself and your dog if it comes to that. A charging dog can be an “easy” target; they will be completely focused on your dog, so when they get close enough, a short push/kick can startle them.

Another thing you have to prepare yourself - you might get bitten, and it might be painful. Physically getting between your dog and the attacking off-leash dog is dangerous. The better option is to get behind the attacking dog, grab their hind legs, and pull them away.

Can such encounters be prevented?

Unfortunately, we cannot influence what other people do and how they treat their dogs. The best thing you can do is to make sure your dog is as trained and as sociable as possible. Start training them early and make sure they are comfortable around strange dogs. Listening to your commands can mean the difference between no injuries and severe injuries.

Here are some commands all dogs should know - Basic commands all dogs should know.

Another good thing you can do is ask for professional dog walking services. dog walkers know the best and safest routes and know how to behave in such situations. If you don’t know how to do that, there are services you can find online. You can read more about picking the ideal dog walker here - How to find a dog walker?

World Dog Finder team

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