How to Stop an Off-Leash Dog from Rushing You

January 9, 2014

By Langley Cornwell

What do you do if you’re peacefully walking your dog on a leash and an off-leash dog rushes up to you? How does your dog behave in this situation? I’ll be honest here – our dogs are not good under these circumstances, and it happens far too often. What’s worse, as the approaching dog races towards us, their owner invariably shouts, “don’t worry, he’s friendly!”

See, it takes our dogs a while to warm up to another dog. So no matter how “friendly” the approaching dog is, ours may not appreciate the greeting. Even worse, our dogs may not act friendly towards the unleashed dog.

When a dog is leashed, having an off-leash dog rush into his personal space uninvited is stressful. And the stress is compounded by the fact that he is restricted by a leash and can’t avoid the interaction – whether it’s friendly or not. As a responsible pet owner, you must be able to handle this socially-unequal situation for your dog. Be prepared to evaluate the situation quickly and employ one or more of these tactics:


When the dog running towards you displays positive body language, sometimes the solution is as simple as tossing a few CANIDAE TidNips treats on the ground. Even if the approaching dog doesn’t go straight for the treats, the motion and sound should catch his attention. When he stops to investigate, he’ll realize there are treats on the ground and devote his attention to consuming the TidNips instead of rushing you and your dog.


If the dog that’s rushing doesn’t appear to be overly aggressive, step in front of your dog (between your dog and the oncoming one) and use a body block. Stand tall, square your shoulders and hips, and hold out your hand in the universal stop sign. In a low, firm voice, issue a “no” or “stop” command and stand your ground.


If you’re not sure a simple body block will work, try the block-and-startle technique. Carry an umbrella when you walk your dog and if a dog rushes you, open it in the direction of the approaching dog. An umbrella is a good device because it will startle the oncoming dog while providing a physical and visual barrier.


If you feel like you and your dog are in harm’s way, you may opt to use a benign spray of some type. I’ve heard that compressed air may work in these circumstances. There are also citronella-based products manufactured for this exact situation. Whatever spray you decide to carry, never use pepper spray. It’s inhumane and unsafe. The wind can blow in the wrong direction and you may end up with pepper spray in your dog’s eyes or in your eyes. Pepper spray is just a bad idea.

In most cities, there are designated dog parks and/or beaches that allow dogs to play together unleashed. That’s great for dogs that are good under those conditions. But there are pet owners who stick to locations where unleashed dogs are not allowed because that’s what works best for their dogs. If people don’t respect the designations, however, it’s always good to be prepared.

Top photo by paeppi
Bottom photo by Mikael Bergman

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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  1. The OP Pack says:

    Mom says you took a page out of her book – we have that exact scenario happen to us when we walk in our neighborhood. Some pet owners just don’t get it. Mom stops and yells at the other dog NO or STOP. She usually has two of us with her and it can be quite the challenge for her to hang on to us. It is not a fun time at all. Thanks for the tips.

    Woos – Phantom, Ciara, and Lightning