How to Protect Yourself and Your Pet From Aggressive Dogs and Other Animals

What do you do when you are walking your dog in the neighborhood and you come face to face with an off leash and unfriendly pooch?

Imagine the scene ... you are leash walking your dog on a quiet street, no one else is around, when all of a sudden, a snarling dog comes running out of nowhere straight at you, and is fixing on your poor, dear Fido. Although terrible, this is actually not that uncommon, dogs unlatch gates, or people forget to turn on the electric fence or dogs just run out of the door when no one is looking.

The streets seem to be full of dogs that aren't under close control, and of course there is always the chance that one of them might be aggressive. What to do? Well, as the old wives tale goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so my best advice to you is to get tooled up, ready for an onslaught, in case it should happen.

Being prepared means you will automatically have more confidence, and dogs take far more notice of anyone with confidence. I carry a bear spray with me when I go out into the great blue yonder with my dogs. I have never had to use it, but I have been faced more times than I can count with a small pack of coyotes, and the confidence of having that bear spray in my fanny pack was worth a million bucks. Each time, I felt like Zena Warrior Princess, ready to take on the world, and drew myself to my tallest height, squared out my shoulders and owned every inch of the sky in that moment. The intent and the energy about me must have been terrifying because they all looked at each other and ran off quickly. One can only get such strength from being prepared and thus being confident.

The second thing I recommend is to carry a tennis racquet. This is not to beat balls into any oncoming dogs (my aim would never be good enough anyway!), but to use as a blocking tool. We use a tennis racquet quite a lot at the ranch when we need to grant space to a dog who feels threatened by space invader dogs. We had a young red nose pit bull, Hudson, here for rehab a short while ago, who was very threatened by the closeness of strange dogs -- his comfort level was about six feet at first. We used the tennis racquet to slow down and eventually block the approach of the "space invader" while Hudson got gradually more comfortable with the nearness of strangers. The humble tennis racquet is great because it is big -- an effective visual block and makes your arm 18 inches longer, so you own more space. We never, ever touch the dogs with it, it isn't a weapon, just a blocking device. In a tense situation such as we are talking about, with your dog potentially being attacked, I would suggest you put your dog behind you, take a step towards the oncoming dog, draw yourself up to your full height height and block his approach with the tennis racquet, not touching him but claiming the space in front of him with it.

Most bullies back down when they realise a stronger character is in charge of the situation. Let's face it, if you are faced with a 75-pound dog who can run at 30 miles an hour, has huge gnashers and fancies your dog for his dinner, you can't outrun him or fight him -- the dog is going to win every time. So, you use your mental capacity, your will and your energy to outwit him, and then you back it up with these tools if the you-know-what hits the fan.

At the ranch I work hands on, off leash, with aggressive dogs every week and I always start from a point of mental superiority and claiming my space. I never bully, but I won't be bullied either. Taking one step forward and stopping isn't an intent to attack, it merely shows the dog that he must come no further and is a VERY powerful tool.

Another tool I recommend is an air horn, the small ones are pretty tiny and fit neatly into a pocket. California behaviourist and author Nicole Wilde recommended this to me years ago, knowing that I walk my dogs off leash on empty building land, and not two weeks after she did so, I came face to face with a pack of three coyotes who were eyeing my schnauzer mix, Noodle, from about 50 feet away. I called all my dogs to me, leashed them all, and then blew the airhorn as hard as I could. Two wonderful things happened -- the coyotes ran off and people started coming out of their houses to see what all the noise was! Had I been on my own in the midst of a dog attack, that alone would have been a life saver!

Lastly, remember that leash laws are here to protect us from irresponsible owners...if you are forced to protect yourself and your dog because someone didn't bother to control their dog, please don't feel guilty if you cause some damage. Your first duty of care is to protect your dog and yourself, explaining to someone why you felt you had to temporarily blind their dog is a whole lot easier than burying your own. 

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Fiona Bagley February 07, 2013 at 08:09 PM
This has happened to me a couple of times. Both times the dog off the leash was a small one. I have a big ole mean looking dog. For some reason even though it is the small dog that is off the leash and comes running at me, the owners seem surprised when my dog goes on offensive and I swear they think it must be my dogs fault as their dog was only being 'friendly'. Well my dog does not interpret too well. If he sees a dog running towards us he will try to protect me if he feels we are being threatened. There are leash laws for a reason!
Tim February 08, 2013 at 10:59 AM
As a Professional Predator Control Operator I can tell you if you are continually being threatened by coyotes, it is only a matter of time before they will take your dog. You are habituating them to yourself and your tactics. While initially they will flee and you will think you have "won" you are educating them to your tactics and they will become more and more comfortable with them. One day, they will just ignore you because they want your pet for food and this time of year, during their breeding season, they are the most aggressive. Your overconfidence is due to the fact that you do not know the animal. I deal with coyotes everyday. Each one that has been DNA tested in several Eastern states here possesses Canadian Wolf DNA. And I can tell you the problem will escalate. The ONLY solution is to trap and remove them out BEFORE they kill your pet or others. Many irresponsible owners dogs "disappear" each" year due to coyotes. They will kill any animal of opportunity to feed the 6-10 pups they have this time of year. They are Predators, they MUST KILL to Survive. Unfortunately, I catch many roaming dogs each year on my traplines that irresponsible owners let run free. It's not the dog's fault. Do not be deceived, do not become overconfident, one day things will change. http://daltondailycitizen.com/statenews/x1896324627/Ga-couple-killed-by-pack-of-wild-dogs-near-home
Tammy Osier February 08, 2013 at 11:32 AM
Thanks Tim. I was wondering if you would weight in. I've often wondered what happens to coyote when neighborhood go up. I know that deer get displaced when that happens, so it stands to reasonthat the smae happens to coyote.
Tim February 08, 2013 at 12:00 PM
And here is something you will not see on the media: http://www.varmintal.com/attac.htm
Tim February 08, 2013 at 12:02 PM
Tammy, coyotes will readily adapt to our intrusion into their territory. Many neighborhoods who see coyotes roaming thru do not realize that there is a high likelihood that there is a den nearby.
Tim February 08, 2013 at 12:18 PM
Fiona Bagley February 08, 2013 at 01:44 PM
I agree that maybe we need to educate purselves more about the habits of coyotes but We need to look at the figures. It is very rare for a human to be attacked or killed by a coyote. When you compare the stats of domestic dog attacks it sort of puts it into perspective. I don't want to come up against a coyote at night but the facts are that I am more likely to get bitten by a neighbors chihuahua.....
Tim February 08, 2013 at 03:19 PM
There are numerous reasons that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources allows us to trap and euthanize coyotes year round. The carry numerous communicable diseases such as Rabies, Canine Distemper, Canine Parvovirus and Sarcoptic Mange just to name a few. Rabies can be transmitted to a human just by a scratch that breaks the skin. Fiona, you don't read the Government and University studies that I do on evolving coyote behavior and habituation to human interaction. As I stated above, as they become more habituated to human contact, they lose their innate "fear of man" and become more aggressive towards humans. You evidently didn't read the link I posted above concerning Coyote Attacks from all over the country and the world. We are now in the Coyotes Breeding Season and from now until September they will become more and more aggressive as they search for any food of opportunity to feed their pups. I am working under contract on one of the largest cattle farms in Walton county where I have set a nearly 2.75 mile perimeter of traps to catch coyotes before they get to the pastures and kill the newborn calves of this landowner. This is his livelihood. Coyotes show no mercy for they can smell the pheremones coming from the heifer's uterus and will shadow her for days until they know she is about to give birth, They will then move in as she is giving birth and actually eat the calf coming out of the canal. Very nice, huh? I have already taken 11 coyotes off of this farm.
Fiona Bagley February 08, 2013 at 07:02 PM
Tim, I have read the government studies and unless you have access to some super duper secret ones not available to the general public we have the same info : ). I also looked at all of your links - why would you assume otherwise ? Not sure how the one about women in Canada being 'confronted' by wolves is relevant here but.... I understand we need to be careful, we need to protect our pets, we need to be aware of how this animal behaves. And yes, there will be times when an animal needs to be removed. But again I say to you, the chances are slim that any of us here reading this blog will ever be attacked by a coyote. My neighbor however was taken to the ground by a Golden Retriever in December and had to have tendons in her arm stitched - go figure. I understand protecting a farmer and his livestock - I get all that. I however do not understand why some folks vilify the coyote and make it almost a beast of epic proportions. I really get the feeling that some folks would only be truly happy if the coyote was completely eliminated, I really hope that isn't the case..........
Tim February 08, 2013 at 07:57 PM
IF you had read the studies as you say, you would know that since before the turn of the century until now, coyotes have cost sheep, cattle and horse farmers and ranchers millions of dollars each year in lost livestock not to mention the economic hardships to the various industries. They are also attacking and killing pets more and more. They are at the highest population level in history. He is not a beast of epic proportions, he is a beast of very substantial economic and financial destructive proportions. You're ability to foresee our future is amazing. But you cannot deny that the potential is there for an attack. The documented cases are there. How much time have you actually spent with the coyote, studying the animal, tracking him, seeing the damage he can do? How much time have you spent studying the journals and books of the best Professional Trappers in the United States, Canada and Austraila, talking with them on a daily basis on your FB page as I do? How much time have you spent working with the Georgia State DNR Professional Wildlife Biologist from our region as I have? Working together to provide suggestions to the DNR Board of Directors that will have a more effective impact on managing the coyote population? Have you paid to be trained out of state in Tennessee by one of their top ADC Trappers as I have? The answer is No. You pretend to have knowledge that you do not have. And I can see thru that.
Fiona Bagley February 08, 2013 at 09:09 PM
Tim, I don't believe I once denigrated your profession or stated that there was not a reason to control coyotes so I am really unsure why you feel the need to use the tone you do. My replies were in no way an attack on what you do. The post I replied to concerned coyotes in an urban environment. I am pretty sure I did not ever mention anything negating the damage both economic and actual that these animals inflict upon farmers. That is a whole different issue. I think I said. 1. We need to educate ourselves about coyotes 2. It is uncommon for coyotes to attack humans 3. There are considerably more dog attacks than coyote attacks. Yep, that was pretty much it..............
Tim February 08, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Are you a member of HSUS or PETA or any other animal rights organization?
Fiona Bagley February 08, 2013 at 09:19 PM
No I'm not - I'm guessing you're not either..............
Tim February 08, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Fiona Bagley February 08, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Now you have got me thinking......perhaps I am a closet animal rights activist...hmmm Let's just end this on your 'LOL' : )
Tim February 08, 2013 at 10:29 PM
As you wish.
penny miller February 08, 2013 at 11:43 PM
I believe I was responsible for your misunderstanding of the issue at large here Tim. I bow to your immense knowledge about predators, however, in this case I was merely referring to my experience one day while out walking my dogs on some wasteland and what I did to solve a problem THAT DAY. While you obviously have strong feelings about coyotes, even you would probably find it a little over the top to go out and kill/trap every single one in case one decided to wander in to a subdivision. As you know, coyotes are naturally fearful creatures, as are wolves. Wolves are in danger of extinction due to mankinds overzealous protective nature.....as a wildlife expert you must know that all this does is upset the balance of nature. Predators come in all shapes and sizes, and in all honesty, I have had many more clients complain to me over the years about being confronted by off leash dogs in a neighborhood or stray dogs in their area than coyotes, which is what prompted me to write this article. There are unfortunately people who cannot be bothered to walk their dogs, or train them in good canine manners who just let their dogs run through the streets creating havoc with fearful dogs who were just out enjoying a nice evening stroll with their owner. I have dogs in my client list who were dreadfully attacked by such uncontrolled dogs and who, years later, still bear the psychological and physical scars. All of us, human and canine, are defined by our experiences.
Tim February 09, 2013 at 10:59 AM
Penny, I recently "surgically" removed two pet cat killing coyotes from a client's home property near Snellville. He was concerned about his 3 year old grandson being outside since the coyotes were crossing the back pasture during the day. It was a male and female pair that would come up directly behind the homes at night and yip and howl, upsetting the neighborhood while hunting for the pets. I removed those two and things calmed down and the killing stopped. His property is on a major travel way thru his property. A sewer trunk line that runs for miles thru the region. I told him he would always have coyotes due to his close proximity to this travel way. On this cattle farm however, it's all out war and I'm taking out every one I can. The Feds introduced wolves into Yellowstone Park and other states several years ago to control the elk herd and they have bred to such a point that they have decimated the elk and now many states have passed Wolf hunting and trapping seasons to reduce their populations. Dekalb county euthanized over 50, 000 domestic animals last year. As the domestic population must be managed and controlled, so must the wildlife population or nature will take over and disease will run rampant and cause them a slow, lingering, agonizing death. I am very learned and passionate about what I do. www.easternwolferscoyotetrappers.com
Tim February 09, 2013 at 11:01 AM
Loose running dogs do present a major problem not only here but all over the world....and are becoming more so. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/08/0821_030821_straydogs.html
Tim February 09, 2013 at 11:06 AM
Pet owners know the law. If I catch one on my line, I contact the county Animal Control to pick it up even if it has a collar with a tag. I am not going to the trouble to contact an irresponsible owner when I'm running my line under contract for a client. I also carry a .45ACP for personal protection. I caught an old feral bitch dog on the line at the Farm last year, no tag, pregnant, ribs showing. No telling how many calves she was killing. I expect to run across the rest of the pack every time I go over there.
Tammy Osier February 09, 2013 at 12:46 PM
Tim, I imagine that so many people live in the comfort of their homes and don't want to think about what's out there so they deny it, even when the evidence is preented to them through an expert such as yourself. You said, "As the domestic population must be managed and controlled, so must the wildlife population or nature will take over and disease will run rampant and cause them a slow, lingering, agonizing death. I am very learned and passionate about what I do." Glad you're out there.
Racer X February 09, 2013 at 01:44 PM
John B- In that situation would it be OK to take out your .45 and cap him? :-)
Racer X February 09, 2013 at 01:45 PM
Hi Penny- Tim may have been working with this statement in your article- "I have never had to use it, but I have been faced more times than I can count with a small pack of coyotes, and the confidence of having that bear spray in my fanny pack was worth a million bucks."
Racer X February 09, 2013 at 01:56 PM
A coyote got one of my wife's cats. She lets me shoot them now whenever I see one. They never get close enough to me to use my .45 but my AR15 works wonders :-)
Racer X February 09, 2013 at 01:57 PM
Penny- Great article. It really makes people think about things they might otherwise not.
jim armstrong February 09, 2013 at 02:02 PM
when you come across any land animal that goes "a hundred miles per hour", growling or not, capture it and train it to race (a liberal guess at the speed of a cheeth is only 80 mph) lol
jim armstrong February 09, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Unfortunately, for humans etc, coyotes are never wiped out in an area. Add to that the fact that the Eastern Coyote has the genes from Wolves, and hunt cooperately (packs) and you can have a more dangerous situation. In most states, shooting them on sight and trapping them all year long is legal. We can only have a part in 'controlling' them.
jim armstrong February 09, 2013 at 02:11 PM
I guess this is as good a place to blw your own horn, mainly because no one else is gonna blow it for you. sheesh calm down and move on,
Kristi Reed (Editor) February 09, 2013 at 02:26 PM
"They never get close enough to me to use my .45 but my AR15 works wonders :-)" +1
Tim February 09, 2013 at 09:47 PM
Thank you Tammy and copy that on the AR


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