dog problems

Off Leash dog? What to do!

There are many people that the title of this article will race shivers up and down their spine, they may have a dog that was, is or could be reactive or aggressive or one they do not want hurt, and when they see an off leash dog coming towards them, their world takes a big tumble.

I cannot count the amount of times that I have been asked “what do you do when you are approached by an off leash dog“?

I am sorry to say, there is no one solution for this situation, there are too many variables to find one answer for every off leash dog that will come running up to you.

What motivates the off leash dog to run towards yours? Does he or she want to play, are they defending their territory? Are they more interested in you than your dog? Are they hell bent on attacking your dog for some reason?

Is your dog welcoming the off leash dog, desperate to play, aggressive, fearful, frustrated?

Are you relaxed, stressed, anxious, frustrated, angry or scared?

Is your dog on leash, off leash, if on leash is the leash tight?

All of these things applied in various orders can produce different outcomes and this is why it is incredibly important that if you allow your dog off leash, please do not allow your off leash dog to run up to other people unless they say it is ok.

So how can you train your dog to be an off leash dog?

To start with your dog must be effectively socialised so that when he or she see’s another dog or person, they can regulate their emotions and not engage them full of emotion. This would be better done on leash before you start trusting your dog off leash.

A long line is a must for recall training and off leash management

Next would be that I would not let a dog off leash that has a behaviour problem or is under rehabilitation of a behaviour problem.

So assuming you have a dog that will not lose self control around dogs or people, I would start training the Recall exercise on a Long Line.

Use rewards and a system that works, we can certainly help you with this too.

Long Lines are also great for managing an off leash dog, the leash is taken off as the line is fitted and the dog can drag the long line around.

A 10 metre long line makes it a lot easier to catch a dog than no line! It means you may be able to test your recall and if your dog fails, not all is lost, grab the line and reel him or her in.

This is much more responsible than letting your dog off leash and losing control. Our Long Lines come in various lengths and widths so that they suit any size of dog, we have lines that are 100% weather proof, uneffected by water, will not absorb water, rot or break even if left wet.

We are the Australian Distributor for Gripleash USA and these lines are a great line as they are rubber impregnated and will not slip through your hands.

We have lightweight lines that are great for smaller dogs or puppies too, so we have you covered.

So what do you when an off leash dog comes running at you?

This is what I do, but it is far from fool proof, after all, fools can be pretty determined.

  1. Train or work on training your dog to walk on a loose leash and sit and stay on cue. If your dog has some self control, it will leave you more time to control the off leash dog.
  2. If the off leash dog comes out of a house or driveway behind you, keep walking, it is likely the further you get away from the dogs home territory, it will likely give up and return home.
  3. If the off leash dog comes out of a house that is front of you, turn around and go back if you can. Avoid problems where you can.
  4. If the off leash dog runs up to you, where safe try and put your larger dog behind you and pick up your small dog. Putting yourself between your dog and the other dog may deter the dog. I would stand with my arm outstretched and hand opened like a stop sign, and shout at the dog to “go away!“. My dog is behind me and as soon as the off leash dog started to back off I would walk after it to drive it away, hand still outstretched.
  1. If the off leash dog attacks your dog, I would let go of my dogs leash, so I am not holding him still to be attacked, and now that my hands are free, I would do everything in my power to make the other dog go away. Yes that includes, kicking, screaming, grabbing it by the collar or whatever I need to do. I will do anything I have to in order to protect my dog.

As I mentioned, there is no guaranteed way to avoid all risks and control all variables, in some suburbs it is a potential minefield and others not so bad. Some clients walk with a stick to ward off dogs racing up to theirs and some walk late at night and in early mornings where the chances of being accosted are less.

It should not have to be this way.

It is vitally important, especially for dogs under 18 months of age that they don’t learn that they need to protect themselves from dog attacks or this can trigger fear aggressive behaviours.

It is your job as a leader to protect your dog from other dogs and other people, or they will take matters into their own paws and that can be harder to reverse than you might think.

Many dogs that I treat for aggression rehab have suffered being attacked by an off leash dog when under 18 months of age. These can be the hardest dogs to rehab.

It’s ok! he’s friendly!

off leash dog
Your dog might be friendly, that does not mean all dogs are. Keep your dog ON LEASH unless you have effective control.

If you are a person that has a friendly dog and you allow it to run up to other people to say “Hi!”, be aware that there are many people that do not like this and whether you agree with it or not, it is their right to privacy and their right to walk their dog in public without being accosted by your dog.

If you allow your dog off leash and he or she runs up to a person and will not recall, you can be fined for not having effective control of your off leash dog, yes even in an off leash area.

There can be any number of reasons why people do not want your dog saying Hi and the more you allow your dog to do this, eventually there will be nowhere we can have our dogs off leash.

Please respect other people’s right to choice and train your dog behave in a manner that will not offend, it may be a small loss to your dog but a big win for all dog owners in the long run!

This article (Dog etiquette, he’s friendly) can be a great read if you need to know how to be responsible.

As always, please share and comment!



About SteveK9Pro

Steve Courtney is a Nationally Accredited Canine Behaviour Specialist, Obedience Trainer, Law Enforcement Dog Trainer and ANKC Breeder. Steve has been training dogs all his life and in these articles he shares with you his experience...

Check Also


7 steps to being a great leader

One of the most common areas people struggle with is being an effective leader for …


  1. This is awesome.
    I’m in training with my very reactive dog aggressive dog.
    I’m too afraid to walk her atm as I’m so scared that another dog will approach & my dog will just attack… no butt sniffing… just goes for it.
    She’s grown up (she’s 2 & a half) with our staffy & she hates her too now, so now they’re separated. I’ve considered a muzzle & I do muzzle training with her, but if another dog attacks her, then she can’t defend herself.
    She does well with training and I think I could get her to ignore other dogs around her, but if they came up to us…. I don’t think she’d ignore them.

  2. On point. i live across the road from a dog park. Owners regularly let their dogs run from their car to the front gate of the park. the dogs usually end up detour and run up to every other person with their dog on a leash. it’s a living hell just using the footpaths around the area because of how much this stuff goes on. Wish they would all read this.

  3. I live in one of those “minefield suburbs”, and have 2 large reactive dogs, which I walk one at the time to keep things under control (especially considering the high and completely unpredictable chance of being approached by one or more off leash dogs at any time).

    I’ve also experienced multiple dog attacks, one last year required a vet visit and landed me in Emergency next day with an infected dog bite (the dog was not attacking me, but I got my hand between its teeth while struggling to wrestle its hold-bite off my dog’s neck), and of course my dog’s improvements re. her reactivity went south again for a while. There have also been not-dangerous but ridiculous encounters, like little dogs jumping on and standing with front paws on my fuming, reactive large dog, whose front I’d lifted off the ground so her teeth couldn’t get near the little dogs…

    My best strategy is to always carry a treat pouch with pet roll treats (dogs love them) on walks. I can use them to train my dogs of course, but they also serve as self-defence for those situations where an intrusive off leash dog approaches me and my dog, especially when there is no owner in sight … The treats work wonder to deflate my own dog’s reactivity, and then I’ll throw a handful of treats as far away as I can for the invading dog and quickly try to sneak off with my dog while the stranger dog is busy pursuing the treats. Even if I don’t manage to get rid of the stranger dog, the treats still help to avoid/deescalate potential conflict by getting the approaching dog to focus on the treats rather than on my dog, and by getting my dog to focus on the treats instead of the “enemy invasion”. The biggest danger with being approached by an off-leash dog when having a managed reactive dog on leash, is the risk of the dog on leash reacting antagonistically to the approaching dog when it comes too close, thereby converting the situation from “rude invasive, but friendly approach” to “attack”

    • There are a few issues with this strategy, one is that you are rewarding the dog for apporaching you but the real problem is that if you are going to be attacked by a serious dog, it will not stop for treats. And whilst you dig through your pouch to get them out, you could be doing something that will work.

  4. Yes great article.

    I not only find a lot of people who let there dogs run up to you and your dog off leash (I have a reactive Mastiff who I am slowly getting better) but also I see children walking dogs who have no idea on dog behavior or the ability to manage them. I constantly have to be on the watch and had a situation where dogs were coming at me from all angles and whilst I removed my dog from the path of these dogs an off leash dog from house nearby came along and approached my dog from behind. A fight ensued with me having to kick the dog in the head to get it off whilst controlling my dog! No owner was around at the time and the dog limped off with injuries but their was nothing I could do but walk mine away. She got a few tooth marks on her face (that she didn’t seem to even notice) which healed up. I thought it would send me back in my training but it hasn’t thankfully. Its a shame people aren’t a bit more responsible with dogs.

  5. Great article Steve. I think it’s really good to have these ideas in place so it’s easier to remain calm under these circumstances!

  6. Thanks for another fantastic blog post.. This is something all dog owners should read about.

    I found myself agreeing with your blog the whole way through – like Number 4, after what to do if you have an off lead dog run at you and your dog. Fortunately this has only happened to Zig and I once and that is exactly what I did.
    It is a scary thing to have a dog run at you and your dog because you don’t know if they are friendly.

  7. Christiane Weissbach-Berger

    Brilliant as usual

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *