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Dog Park Woes
What to do about an uncontrolled dog

This morning as I was walking with the dogs at Pt Isabel—one of the most popular off leash areas in the Bay Area—I was “approached” by a very large dog in a very threatening manner. This was a first for me, and I must say that it was frightening. The dogs and I were on the path walking back to the car, when I saw this Mastiff mix on the grassy area adjacent to the pathway—I noticed him because I know most of the early morning “shift” dogs, but he was unfamiliar so I wondered who he might be. He was a handsome dog, probably over a 100 lbs., very tall, with a brindle coat, but he was coming at us fast. His owner, a woman probably in her 30s, was calling to him by saying “heel” even though he was far from her. He didn’t pay any attention to her at all, he kept coming fast. I stopped walking, mostly concerned for Charlie who was close by my side (the other dogs were nearby but not that close), I thought the dog might be headed “for” him. I was trying to think of what I should do to protect Charlie. There was something extremely menacing about the way that dog held his body as he charged us. The woman did not change her pace at all, and simply yelled “heel” again. By the time he reached us I learned it was me, not Charlie, who had “piqued” his attention. I calmly and assertively, as I could muster, told him  “No,” and at the same time, called out to his owner, “Get your dog… Put him on a leash”, and then, when I saw that her pace had not quickened, “Run fast, get him.” By that time he had lunged up on to my shoulders, and was growling in my face.  She finally reached us, grabbed him off, and said something inane like, “I don’t know why he did that!”

I was extremely upset and told her that his behavior was totally unacceptable and he must be kept on a leash (she still hadn’t leashed him) she seemed mollified and contrite and mentioned that she was working with a trainer etc. I wish I had had my wits about me to point out that she committed two big mistakes, the first is that she never called him off, never said No or Off, Leave It or anything like that, “heel” doesn’t mean anything in such a situation, and she should have seen that. And, even more importantly, she should have run to us as soon as he did not respond to her, and certainly by the time he was “on” me.

Unfortunately, I have seen this time and time again, perhaps not in quite such a dramatic fashion as what happened this morning. But I don’t understand why if a dog is doing something wrong, is showing any aggression to a person or a dog, that some people seem loathe to rush over to leash up their dogs or say No to them. I’m sure you have seen this too, it is one thing to hold your ground when you are training your dog in recall, but in “real” life situations, what matters most is that you have control over your dog and if a dog isn’t responding to your verbal cues, then you must do everything within your power to divert him, to leash him, to remove him from the altercation.

I am curious to hear your thoughts. What would you have done/said to her? What do you think she should have done? Has something like that happened to you? I must admit that I am still rattled by this.

Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and editor in chief. thebark.com


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Submitted by Carolyn | November 16 2012 |

"...But I don’t understand why if a dog is doing something wrong, is showing any aggression to a person or a dog, that some people seem loathe to rush over to leash up their dogs or say No to them..."

Having been charged by a number of out of control, off leash dogs (so far fixated on my small leashed dog, not me), I have seen exactly this phenomenon. In one case, I saw the owner take a few steps toward us, then turn away and go into the house (we were walking in the road alongside his unfenced yard) leaving me to deal with his barking agitated, territorial Golden! This was a big angry dog -- terrifying! Fortunately, other than scaring us half to death, nothing "bad" happened.

I think that often people realize they cannot hope to control their dogs and don't even try, letting events play out as they will, hoping against hope than nothing really bad will happen and then offering lame excuses in the aftermath. More than likely, these people cannot catch their dogs, cannot call them off and thus chose to do nothing much.

It's appalling and frightening. I have one friend that carries a stick ("to beat them off") on her walks! So glad you and your dogs were unharmed, but I'll bet it was quite some time before the adrenaline abated.

Submitted by Jenna | November 20 2012 |

As the owner of an extremely reactive dog this frustrates me to no end. People always think that just because their dog is 'usually friendly'... that doesn't mean the dog they are charging at always is! While I wish my dog were happy go lucky, he isn't when it comes to being approached by strange dogs. He instantly goes into fight-mode and will not back down. I can't even begin to imagine being in the situation you were in with my dog by my side! There would have been blood, and lots of it, and I fear much of it would have been mine! For this reason I obviously avoid off leash parks like the plague, but the fact of the matter is even in my small town that has a leash law, there are dogs roaming about freely all the time and it's a chore just to take my dog for a walk sometimes.

Submitted by Brenda | November 20 2012 |

I bought my 80 year old mom pepper spray sold in pet stores. An off lease dog kept lunging at her and her dog.

Submitted by Jaime | November 20 2012 |

I have had a simular thing happen to me and my 2 small Cavaliers, I live in an apartment and always walk my dogs near the entrance, I have seen this little white dog and owners before but never close, the lady let go of the leash and the dog started charging US, I yelled at her and said is your dog friendly? She kept calling and ran to him, we was not and right when I was trying to pick up my 2 dogs and protect them my Happy Jack got attacked, I was horrified and she finally came and grabbed him, it scared the he'll out of me and my dogs . I checked him over and she stayed and said she was sorry, luckily there were no bite marks or injuries, got there just in time to take her dog away, I knew where she lived and reported her to the main office and I said if anything happens later in the day with my dog where I have to take him to vet I'm having her pay the bill.. my baby is fine but traumatized from that and I am more cautious while I walk my boys, I now carry a dog spray with me to keep US safer. I see her husband walk the dog every once in awhile and stay as far away as I can even though I was pretty far from them last time the dog spotted US and came charging... I hope to god that never happens again and if it were a bigger mean dog with no one there to help I don't know what I would have done.

Submitted by Ali | November 20 2012 |

If you had treats with you, you might have tried tossing them to the side and away from you to distract the onrushing dog. Or even toss the treats right at the dog. Or a ball? Might, but not guaranteed, get his attention off you. Then try to move away. Scary situation and glad that you and your pups are alright.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 16 2012 |

I love dogs and have shared our home with them for many years. But, I live in a state where we have concealed carry; and, if a large dog was threatening me in the manner you described, I would have shot him as soon as he was in my face and growling.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 20 2012 |

I have found that a good swift kick to the nuts can make a dog think twice about tackling me! I have no qualms about booting a dog or hitting it with my umbrella etc. when it is acting inappropriately.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 16 2012 |

That is really alarming, and I've seen similar lax behavior all too often.
My dog is never off-leash (where we live, dogs cannot be off-leash in parks except inside fenced dog runs), but I sometimes walk her in a wooded park area where people break the rules and let their dogs run. I wish I had dollar for every time an off-leash dog came at us, panicking my leashed dog, while a clueless owner calls from too far away "oh, he's friendly" or just repeats the dog's name with no command to stop or return.
I wish all dog owners understood that the approach of any unleashed dog can be alarming to a dog on a leash, and that a dog who doesn't have a reliable recall probably shouldn't be walked off-leash.

Submitted by Karen London | November 16 2012 |

Claudia, I feel for you and hope that the ill effects of this distressing interaction don't last long. Unfortunately, situations like this are far more common than they should be, and most of us can probably relate. I've found that if people don't realize that they need to leash their dogs or be proactive in some other way to prevent or de-escalate a problem situation, that they never do so when specifically requested to. I wish that weren't the case, but my own experiences and those of my clients suggest that it is so. Because of that, I just don't count on the other guardian and assume that the person and dog who are being charged are on their own.

There's no sure fire way to handle a charging or leaping dog, but I generally try tossing treats or a toy to the dog to try to change the mood or sweet talking the dog ("Oh, who's so good, what a good boy, aren't you being silly, what a goofy dog you are, I love dogs, what a lovely face, good dog, good dog.") I know it can feel irksome to say such things to a dog who is scaring the daylights out of you, but this is not about honesty--it's about trying to prevent a bite to you or to your dog. Effusive praise sometimes changes both a dog's emotional state and the dog's behavior immediately, turning a scary situation into a harmless one.

Say other things that may put the dog in a good mood, using a cheerful voice. This seems ridiculous to many people, but I swear that changing the dog’s emotional state can work wonders. The phrases that are most likely to have an effect are “Wanna go for a walk?”, “Dinnertime!” and “Where’s your ball?” So many dogs are conditioned to react happily to one or more of these phrases, and that means they have the power to diffuse a tense situation. Speaking in a happy voice, even though you have to fake it, makes this strategy more effective.

Try saying "sit" in a calm, clear voice. Many dogs sit on cue, even ones who are all revved up and charging. A lot won't respond, but a few will, so it's worth a try.

Saying "No" or "Off" or using a stick are all strategies that may sound appealing, but are unlikely to work. They are far too likely to frighten a fearful dog or to be taken as an escalation of any confrontation by dogs who are on the offensive. Avoid staring at the dog, which can be perceived as threatening and also avoid yelling, which makes some dogs more tense.

It's really too bad that so many people put their dogs in situations in which they act inappropriately and innocent people and dogs like you and Charlie have to deal with the consequences. I hope your future outings together are free of such trouble.

Submitted by Jan | November 17 2012 |

I had an incident in a dog park about 2 years ago in which a Great Dane mix targeted me, not my dog. He approached in similar fashion to what the Mastiff did, putting both paws on my shoulders so he was face-to-face with me, and then actually knocked me to the ground and started tearing at my coat. His owner was nearby and neither physically capable nor particularly interested in controlling his dog. Fortunately, my husband was there as well and had to actually kick the dog in the side to get him to back away from me.

I was mostly unhurt (I had scrapes on my legs and a sore back for a day or two), but terrified. My husband wanted to wait for the police to arrive, but I knew we'd be there all day waiting (it was Christmas eve). So we exchanged numbers with the owner, who agreed to replace my coat ... but of course, never did.

Quite frankly, I see more of this type pet owner at local dog parks (in Las Vegas) than I see responsible, careful owners. I recently adopted a dog that is not quite 5 pounds, and while I took him to the dog park a couple of times to meet up with a friend's dog, I probably won't go again. I'm so anxious about such a tiny dog exposed to so many ill-mannered, uncontrollable larger dogs that it's just not worth it. I fear I couldn't reach him in time to save him if another dog went after him, and I can't count on the other owners to do the right thing.

Submitted by Cody's mom | November 20 2012 |

Well, that's it. I'm completely convinced. I won't be going back to our local dog park. I've already been too tense there, especially since it's divided into two (not very clearly) marked "Small Dog" and "Large Dog" areas, with no real definition of size limitations.

I'm sorry you had to deal with such a terrible scare, and I doubt I would have reacted any better than screaming. Just walking down our street with our then new puppy, our neighbor's German Shepherd puppy, decidedly much larger, of course, came running across their yard to check out our dog. I'm embarrassed to say I yanked my dog up like a yoyo to keep him out of the dog's way. The owner called out to the dog, who immediately stopped, but then took a step or two closer to sniff my dog. They assured me that he was very gentle, but as that's not been my experience with shepherds, I was of course scared. I've since observed that dog's training has improved to where he does not move at all without the owner's command, but that first encounter was scary enough - we walk cautiously. Thanks to all who posted for tips.

Submitted by Cybele | November 17 2012 |

Sounds like the woman is out of her league with this dog. Probably with any dog. Until she learns to be a responsible person for her dog's sake as well as for society in general, the scenario you experienced will be repeated as will her excuses.
Yes, I have expieced the same situation. Some people are simply in denial regarding the possible ramifications of their loose dog's behavior.
I would have calmly told her to keep her dog on a leash since he is a threat to the other people and dogs who share the space. But from past experience I wouldn't have been surprised if she reacted in an overly defensive manner and told me what to do with myself.
That said, places where dogs are running off leash are unfortunately rife with possible scary and dangerous situations.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 19 2012 |

I could title my article "Why I No Longer Go to Dog Parks" This happens all the time. In fact I find the majority of people who do not train their dogs frequent the parks most often - not knowing what to do with them otherwise. When their dog behaves aggressively, they say things like "He's just saying hello", or "She's just working off energy". I am constantly shocked as two or three dogs will dominate a single dog, with growls, teeth, pinning a submissive dog and the owners will say "Well, that's just the dogs working out the pecking order". All good and fine for the Rottweiler and Pitbull that attacked my miniature Schnauzers while the owners laughed off their dog's nature, or the Visna who attacked and drew blood from my dog while the little old lady said "he gets like that some times" - and refused to put her dog on a leash. There is an owner in a park with of two Male, un-neutered Ridgebacks. The dogs routinely stand on the picnic benches and lunge, together, at the dog of their choice, while the owner drinks coffee and is amused by the dogs power. Of course - this is not the fault of the animals but their lazy and ignorant owners. I love all dogs. I am proud to say I have a well-trained Labradoodle who knows heel, stay, wait, off, drop it, leave it. I can take her anywhere and she is welcomed. She enjoys agility and performs in TV and film - and frightened of dog parks. I no longer go to dog parks, but walk my dog by my side, unleashed, and risk the fines. Her safety and mine are not worth dangers and ignorance of dog park behavior.

Submitted by GailAnn | November 20 2012 |

I never take my dogs to Dog Parks for this very reason. Both my dogs are dog reactive so they are always leashed and I carry a heavy duty walking stick. I hike with my dogs and this is how I handle this scenario. If I have room to get off the trail that is the option I take, I try and avoid whenever possible. If a dog still approaches, first I tell their owner to leash the dog or call him back, that my dogs are reactive. Regrettably, most owners ignore me. I have found that there are a lot of BULLIES (people not dogs) on the hiking trails and their dogs are usually trouble. Next, my stick goes right in front of the approaching dogs nose. Most dogs will back up and go around. I use my stick to set the distance that I need the dog to adhere to, i.e., I follow them around us with my stick right at the dogs side as encouragement. At this point I ignore the owner, and the dog only get one warning. If the dog doesn't back up, shows aggression or doesn't give me distance he/she gets a light whack across the nose. Again, this usually stops most of the remaining dogs. If this doesn't stop or back up the dog and there is growling or teeth showing this dog now gets a VERY heavy whack across the shoulder blades. At this point the dog will turn and run.

I dislike having to hit dogs but my role is to protect my dogs. My dogs do not want to fight, they just want to be left alone. MY DOGS ARE LEASHED AT ALL TIMES! I have no use for STUPID owners who cannot or will not control their dogs.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 20 2012 |

That is very scary! While that has never happened to me it has happened to one of my dogs. The entire time the dog's owner had no idea it was happening as she was sitting down half way across the park.

Sometimes I think people use these off leash parks as only exercise for their dogs and sit down the entire time not paying attention to their behavior.

I think that there should be monitors or proctor during busy times at these off leash parks to monitor this type of behaviour.

Submitted by Kristen | November 20 2012 |

If the dog was on you and growling in your face, that woman was seconds away from a dead(euthanized) dog and a MONSTEROUS lawsuit. An unprovoked bite to the face would have had serious legal repercussions for her and maybe she'll finish her work with the trainer before letting the dog off leash again (and hurry her ass up when the dog ignores her recall). But I'm not sure if I would have had the presence of mind to present that in you situation. I would probably just have screamed curse words at her, lol.

Submitted by Mandy | November 20 2012 |

This happens to me almost weekly with my neighbor who has 3 mixed rots. He comes
After me and my dog. Who is a yorkie. I've asked her
About it and have called our home owners assoc. I'm not sure
What else to do. I do keep pepper spray on me now

Submitted by Crysania | November 20 2012 |

This is utterly appalling! And a reason why these precious few off leash areas keep disappearing. If your dog has issues, do not let him off leash unless in a safe fenced in area alone with you. Off leash privileges, in my mind, are EARNED. If the dog can prove he/she is safe around other people and dogs and has a solid recall (and/or a solid "STOP" command), then he/she has earned the privilege of being off leash. Otherwise, forget it!

Submitted by Jan | November 20 2012 |

As a trainer, I've learned that carrying a small collapsible umbrella is the best way to ward off an attack. It's easy to carry and takes only a second to flip the umbrella open, providing a visual barrier between you and the aggressive dog until help arrives. The woman at the dog park is an idiot and should be banned from dog parks everywhere.

Submitted by Patty | November 20 2012 |

I've had two bad incidents with my now 12 year old Cocker, Sasha. Once was at a "dog friendly" restaurant in Seattle where she was brutally attacked by an older dog and another on a walk by the bay in New Jersey where a nasty little Jack Russell kept biting her as I (same as you!)tried to get its owner to hurry over and help me avoid a bad fight. Both owners seemed surprised, but it comes down to them missing important cues. It leaves me to wonder how much time they actually spend with their pets. I am now a very nervous dog owner and Sasha is very defensive and not very friendly any more towards other dogs!

Submitted by Chris | November 20 2012 |

As a dog trainer, it has been particularly frustrating to see this type of action, and try to help the owners. I am always kind and I don't chastise them. I try to give better options and advice. I have not had one person listen to me. Most get a bit offended and huff off.

Perhaps I am too soft and I should confront with the fact that their dog is dangerous, not only to other dogs and humans, but to him/herself because repeated behavior such as this can have them labeled a "dangerous dog" and he/she could be put down.

Once, I even had a booth set up for training advice. A person came and visited with me about their dog. A few minutes later, I saw that the dog needed a break from a play group. The dog was getting aggressive. When I pointed this out to the man, he blew me off and said, "That's just the way he plays."

I don't have children and was wondering if this happens at human playgrounds. Would people allow their child to act like this?

My first priority is always to protect my dog. I have been known to carry a stick or mace in certain circumstances.

Other things that I've found that work: Have a towel or jacket handy and throw it over the dog's head; squirt water from your water bottle on the dog; throw treats behind the dog; give the dog a command and treat.

I'm not saying that these will work, but they are better than nothing in a pinch.

Submitted by RDS | November 20 2012 |

I bought a playset for my backyard for my kids for the same reason I no longer go to dog parks. Whether it is dogs or children some parents just don't pay attention, correct when necessary or leave when it proves to be too much.

Submitted by Basil Brown | November 20 2012 |

I once had to threaten to tear gas a dog, before the owner would take any action in getting her dog under control, after it attacked my older dog. Don't fault yourself for not "doing the right thing". We can't always think clearly in those situations. I didn't want to, but I was willing to tear gas that dog to keep my 12 year old dog from being hurt.

Submitted by gretchen | November 20 2012 |

This is exactly why i have stopped going to the dog park. I see it time and time again where dogs are not being kept under control by their owners and when aggresssion occurs you hear "oh my! I have no idea what has gotten into my little pookie bear"... Or I love the one where you are walking in a leashed area (the street or park or whatever) and a dog comes running up to your dog and they say "oh, my dog is great w/ other dogs". Well what about mine?? There seems to be a growing number of people with dogs who lack the basic understanding of dog behavior. I must admit years ago when I first got my dog I behaved a bit ignorantly. However I spend a lot of time learning the ins and outs and took the responsibility on of managing my own dogs behavior.

one thing you can do when being approached by a menacing or aggressive looking dog is to take the leash and twirl it. the dog will not come near it. I learned this in a dog behavior class and have heard that it has worked even when a dog is approaching full speed ahead.

I am sorry that this happened to you today. It is unnerving to say the least.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 20 2012 |

What a frightening experience. Not long ago I was walking on a leash only trail. I was walking by a couple who where each walking very large dogs on leashes. The dogs started lunging toward me and my leashed dog; they were dragging their owners along. The owners were trying to control their dogs, but were physically unable to contain them. My dog got behind me, and I started yelling at the dogs in a loud "growly" voice. I also made myself as "big" as I could-- arms up, stand tall, etc., and they backed off. I was fairly shaken after the experience. The owners apologized, and mumbled something about their dogs being friendly. Makes me wonder about carrying a stick/club, though I don't know that it would have made much difference against these two very large dogs.

Submitted by Two Poodles and... | November 20 2012 |

Lame, but all too common. In general I expect little of other owners, that way I'm pleasantly surprised when I encounter the good ones rather than caught off-guard with the bad. I don't think there was much you could have said to her to help her get a clue(oh, except "have you thought about subscribing to Bark to round-out what you're trainer is telling you?").

I understand the "carry a stick" sentiment expressed in the previous comment, but think it would be more dangerous than it's worth. One of my dog training mentors told me years ago to carry kibble so that if you are approached by a menacing dog you can throw a handful in its face -- hopefully it will be a big enough distraction so you can scoot to safety, and what clueless owner is going to take issue with you giving their dog food?

Submitted by Claudette | November 20 2012 |

I was charged by a black lab mix one day when walking my coonhound Lucy. Now, Lucy is pretty scrappy herself so I keep close tabs on her but as this guy was crossing the street towards us I noticed she had positioned herself between my legs for safety . Appsrently she realized he meant business. His owner was in her yard and she heard me yelling at him to "stay". I was able to hold him off with my " no" hand and repeatedly telling him to "stay"..... But it took her forever to get to us. AND when she tried to take him by his collar he snapped at her. I could see she was afraid of him!! Yikes! Finally she got control of him and we went on. Hus Lucy not realized to play passive I cringe to think what might have happened. I carry pepper spray with me on all walks now.

Submitted by Jen, Dogthusiast.com | November 20 2012 |

I'm quite lucky that I haven't had a dog threaten me. I'm not sure that there is anything that could be said to get through to someone so daft and careless about a dangerous situation, and by the sounds of it, dangerous dog. To get through to them, it's possible that you'd have to go so far as to tell them a story about someone that threatened legal action on the owner of a reckless dog (maybe say that you had a friend that successfully sued someone, etc so it's not as confrontational). Or tell some story about where a person defended themselves and had to injure the dog to do so. The main thing is to not get their back up, perhaps by telling a "third party" story, or you get no where. Sadly.

The most menacing situation I had was at Ocean Beach (SF Bay Area too), where a large dog was clearly stalking my medium dog. He had many of the signs to alert me - stiff body posture, excited hackles, intense stare, slow and low stalking walk (not the playful stalk at all). My dogs reaction confirmed this, he was doing everything he could to ignore this dog. No human in sight that the stalking dog might belong to. So I used every positive note in my body to distract him from my dog - cheery voice, lowered down on my haunches and made it a "party" over where I was at (moving away from where my dog was, and he was sniffing the ground and trying to be invisible ... he was such a good boy). Finally after a *ton* of the cheering and hoopla, this dog let all of his breath out, relaxed visibly, and came my way a few steps... then wandered off.

I'm so happy that you and your dog is safe, and sad to hear it happened at such a wonderful dog mecca. Love Pt. Isabel!

Submitted by Jen, Dogthusiast.com | November 20 2012 |

I'd just like to add, after viewing some comments, that Pt. Isabel is much more of an off-leash recreation area as opposed to a "Dog Park". Most dog parks are very small, fenced in areas. These are prone to many, many more issues and stresses than those encountered at off-leash recreation areas (like Pt. Isabel). Obviously, there can be issues in any area, park or not, and more so in higher traffic areas like Pt.Isabel on the weekend. However, "dog parks" are by-design to have more issues due to the fence, size, lack of environmental items to "break up" the area and create natural distractions, etc. This is not the case at Pt. Isabel.

I'd almost hope to change the title of this article to reflect this, or there will be many more "this is why I never take my dog to dog parks!" (I don't, either, but I would still take them to Pt. Isabel!)

Submitted by Kathy Lee | November 20 2012 |

This brings to mind the case of Diane Whipple who was mauled to death by two presa canarios because their owner was unable to control them. If your dog is bigger than you and you cannot verbally control him, leash him.

Submitted by Hez | November 20 2012 |

I find that most off leash dog owners just get angry when you point out their bad behavior. I had one lady call me a bitch (in frond of both my kids) because I pointed out that her puppy was out of control and she had been nowhere to be found.
Another person I had pointed out that they were walking off leash in an on leash only area said "I guess dogs really are like their owners" because my leashed dog didn't like the face to face confrontation that her dog gave to my dog and he got snippy about it.
Personally, I don't care how "friendly" your dog is, keep it away from me and my dogs!! I haven't in all the years I've been walking my dog, seen a single dog with 100% recall.

Submitted by Heather | November 20 2012 |

My dog was actually attacked and bitten at the dog park when she was only 8 months old. The "attacker" was a very gentle-looking yellow lab that apparently had protection issues with its owner... when my dog approached the other dog's owner (because he was throwing a tennis ball, and she wanted to play) the dog attacked her. She had a deep bite wound on top of her snout that was gushing blood. The other owner just shrugged and said "you're dog got bit"... like it was nothing! Ever since that incident, my dog has had her own "issues" at the dog park and gets very defensive around other dogs, presumably because she's afraid of being attacked again. I keep her on an e-collar at the dog park so I can "beep" her to come back to me when she gets too close to another pack of dogs because I don't want her to be labeled as the "bad dog" at the dog park if she decides to get snippy. I rarely take her to the dog park anymore... it's become a place for people who don't know how to handle their dogs, or much less care to learn, to take their dogs and let them act out their bad behavior on each other. Unfortuately we have not had many good experiences at dog parks; she still has a scar on top of her nose after 2 years.

Submitted by Jill Prescott | November 20 2012 |

I would have demanded her name and number and called the police. That dog will hurt someone or another dog and needs to be brought under control immediately.

Submitted by ev ross | July 8 2013 |

The women is there every morning. You are not the only one with this encounter. Infact, Pt Isabel has the same people (the "morning shift" someone called) and some of the dogs are attackers. Mt dog is recovering from an all-out attack-to-kill last week. I find out mine is the third attack from this dog "Sugar" and the owner "John". I have names. I made a polic report. I have pictures. How do we communicate to the "nice" dog owners who want a care-free walk at Pt Isabel. When is the EB Regional Parks Board of Directors going to take some responsibility and action and make these owners put a muzzle on it?!

Submitted by Annette Dumont | November 20 2012 |

I encounter this far too often. My two most recent encounters the owners were beligerant with me. I told one guy that it was unacceptable to have his dog off leash (we were at the National Mall, not even a 'park' and there were lots of people around). He scoffed at me. The other guy and I had a screaming match.

Each encounter I've had has confirmed my opinion that responsible owners of any breed act responsibly and never put their dogs in off-leash situations that aren't successful. It's the owners who think nothing will happen - that their dog is 'good' that let their dogs off leash to run around and terrorize other on leash dogs. It NEVER ceases to amaze me that somehow I'm the bad ownder for having my DINO dog on a leash in the park and that I'm upset that we're approached by a dog who barks, lunges and otherwise acts intimidating.

I do what you did. I tell the other dog owner to leash their dog, I tell the other dog NO. And I do both in a loud and assertive voice while also turning my dog around so they can't make eye contact. And then I cross my fingers, hope my heart stops pounding and pray that everything goes well.

Submitted by Old Surfer | November 20 2012 |

I carry a "dog-whacker" for such creatures. It is a Swiss Army knife on the end of a 14" lead. I can break a 2x4 with it, and if worse comes to worse, I have a 4" razor-sharp blade with which I can defend me and mine. It is very effective and empowers me to assure the better ending to any confrontation.

Submitted by Jacqui Naud | November 20 2012 |

Once my mini Aussie, Leo, and I were at a dog park and while I was talking to an older woman, her dog attacked my dog totally unprovoked. It happened quickly and the fight was about 2 feet from us. The other dog owner was literally petrified with fear, but I quickly yelled "leave it" to Leo and at the same time I threw his leash at both dogs. I quickly leashed Leo up and walked out of the park as the other dog owner said "I don't know why he did that". I didn't have the time to talk to her about her dogs behavior, but I never saw her and her dog at that dog park again.

Submitted by Denise | November 20 2012 |

So frustrating. If you're going to own a Mastiff, it seems like a no-brainer you need to be able to control it (although, all the Mastiffs I've met have been big softies). At the very least, if you have a dog you're in training with, you don't let it wander very far from you off-leash (or maybe you don't let him off-leash at all).

Submitted by RDS | November 20 2012 |

While walking our dog (always on leash) in our apartment complex we were threatened by a boxer mix. The sitter, not the dogs owner, NEVER moved off the sidewalk even after the dog started to try and attack mine. My husband kept putting himself in between them thinking the dog would be caught and removed. Only due to my ear shattering scream did the dog run off. My husband was bit in the calf, we assume by our own dog. The dog ran off into its building as did the woman who stood by to do NOTHING. I followed her asking why she did nothing to protect us or the dog. She then finally RAN into her apartment. I reported it to the management company insisting that the leash rule be enforced. They were just worried if we were going to sue. We moved out shortly afterwards because it just was not a safe place for us or any responsible dog owner. Anyone who assumes that a dog will return 100% of the time is not being responsible. There will always be a time when something is more interesting than us yelling their name. And no one should be hurt when it is very easy to avoid dangerous situations--it's as easy as clipping a leash.

Submitted by Amber | November 20 2012 |

I was walking my 20-pound dog when a 110-pound dog broke free from the 8 year-old boy who was holding her and attacked my dog. The kid was crying, I was yelling. All I could think was she was going to kill my dog so I finally laid down on the pavement and shoved my legs between her and my dog. Probably stupid but the only thing I could think to do at the time to save my dog. Luckily, this startled her enough that she hesitated long enough for the adult owner, who had watched all this happen, to finally saunter...I kid you not...SAUNTER over and pull his dog off. He was walking back to his house with her before he finally turned around and said, "Is your dog okay?" I was shaking and said, "I'll let you know." I was just so stunned, I didn't know WHAT to say. I'm sure you felt the same way.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 20 2012 |

Did you report the incident to Animal Control/the police?
They cannot take action if we do not report it. They understand if you don't think of it in the moment and call them later, but they need to know about a dog that is off its property and attacks.

Submitted by Doglovrr | November 20 2012 |

I live way out in the country and have had a number of really bad scares with dogs running loose. Even here, there are leash laws and people moving here think that they can just turn their dogs loose, since it is largely open woods and farmland. They are wrong. These people dont know how their dogs behave when they are miles from home. Most recently, a pair of dogs came onto our property and was killing chickens (right outside my bedroom window) At first I didnt knnow what was going on and ran out to see what the commotion was. Going down the driveway I saw a dog come from by our chicken houses (free range organic pets) and decided to walk down to see if their were any deaths. I heard a growl, saw a flash of teeth and this huge dog was coming at me fast and aggressive. I shot it. Had I not, I am scared to think how bad it would have been. I am disabled and am not very stable on my feet.
I found the owners, who lived a mile away, who were indignant, unapologetic, accused me of just shooting for no reason, and have told terrible things to everyone who will listen. Why is it that animal control does nothing at when there is this type of abuse. To me, allowing a dog to run is not good pet management. There are tons of things that can happen, not only to the dog, but to unsuspecting people like me. What if it had been a child? Why isnt the owner charged with neglect? Reckless endangerment? The last thing I wanted to do or expected that day was to encounter a 100 pound head full of teeth. I have to live with what happened, but I know that people like this dont learn. This wasnt the first time a dog has done damage to me and mine, and I know it wont be the last. I hope for stronger penalties and better dog owners.

Submitted by Anne | November 20 2012 |

My bad experience happened last weekend when we were taking our Sophie and copies of her book back to visit the rescue organization where she had lived before living with us. She whined to go potty on our way over. We stopped, took her out with the leash attached to her car harness. After much sniffing, she went potty, and we headed back to the car. Soon I realized that there was no tension on the leash. She had backed out of the harness--something that had never happened before, and was running towards the highway. I screamed, something I shouldn't have done. She did stop and looked back with, I swear, a smile on her face, and started running around the grassy area. Then she heard a dog bark at a business away from the road. I yelled to my husband that there were treats in my purse. He jumped out of the car with the leftover frenchfries from lunch, fell on the ground and scattered the fries calling Sophie. Thankfully, she ran to him to eat her favorite treat and gobbled down the fries. It was a terrifying experience as we know that Shelties tend to run. Felt so blessed that she came for her treat!
As soon as she was back in the car, I tightened all the areas on the harness. When we arrived at the rescue house, she stayed in the car with Dad while I took "Sophie Tales" into her first friends. As we headed home, she lay down and slept the entire two hours back.

Submitted by Penny | November 20 2012 |

I have a 100lbs Lab with hip & elbow dysplacia. She is sweet but other dogs sense she is weak & go for her. We walk in places where others don't for this reason. But on occasion we do bump in to others. I put her on leash straight away before we are even close...whether people have dogs or not. I expect because I have her on leash that others will recognize this as a sign & put their own dogs on leash. But nope. Instead I get told, " My dog is friendly..he won't bother her" and 10 seconds later, he is going for her. Followed by," I don't know why he did that..never happened before". Followed by me explaining that dogs go on instinct....he may be your best friend & sweet but he still has instincts. It drives me insane! People look at me like I am mad because I have taken an obviously very friendly Lab off trail to get out of the way of them & their dogs.

As dog owners we need to train our dogs, because training is the only thing that can sometimes overcome instinct. And we need to recognize that if someone has their dog on leash...there is a reason, put yours on leash too.

Ok climbing off soapbox now. I hope you don't experience this again....very scary.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 20 2012 |

I own a large dog who is insecure and therefor growls at strangers. I don't believe that any dog is predictable so I never, ever let her off leash when in public. In fact, my dog got worse after being attacked by another dog at a dog park. Ever since then I've been carrying pepper spray just in case. I keep thinking about what I would have done in your situation and I think I would have sprayed the dog after giving the owner a clear warning. It is not acceptable in any way for dog owners to be so casual in situations where their dog can cause serious injury to another animal or person. There are laws that would hold them criminally responsible.

Submitted by Jodi Burton | November 20 2012 |

Perhaps consider switching to citronella spray. Many dog daycares use it as a deterrent and it is less likely to incite violence from the angry off leash dog owners. Learn the difference so you can announce loud and clear that it is not mace.
It's kinder and less likely to cause everyone suffering, including you and your dog. As well, mace can increase a dogs hostility

Submitted by Anonymous | November 20 2012 |

I know what I would have done - started shrieking. Unfortunately this is how I respond when my dog gets into an altercation with another dog and then I pull her tail. However, I only take Lucy into our dog park in Collinsville when there are no other dogs or people there because each time I have gone in when there are other dogs they immediately charge me and Lucy and their guardians do not put their leash on them. If there are other dogs, we don't go in because Lucy is a scary dog and hides behind me and I'm afraid I will be attacked.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 20 2012 |

I too am also consistently surprised and aghast at these sorts of situations and owners. It always seems so flagrant too. Recently a friend of mine had her dog attacked by another dog who was on leash but the owner was not holding the leash AND was instead reading a book.

I understand that owners whose dogs attack other dogs are probably embarrassed but the lack of speed by the other owner in your situation and the lack of correction is just inexcusable.

I'm just the same as you where I'm so flustered that I never seem to have my wits about me and only later think, "I should have said such and such to that owner." I think we can maintain politeness but still be stern and communicate that they're doing wrong and need to correct it.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 20 2012 |

I am sorry you had this scary experience. It gives an adrenaline spike, your body switches to fight/flight, making it hard to react any differently. And with such a powerful dog and a clueless handler, it's wise to get away asap before she looses what little control she gained over her dog. This owner has a dangerous weapon, her dog, better not get her irate by being confrontational.

But if I can, with as little gesture as possible, I take a cell phone picture or video clip of dog and owner. And call 911. If less threatening, call police/animal control. I have their numbers in my cell phone for the areas that I walk my dogs in.

I carry a can of Sprayshield (citronella), but have never used it. I wonder whether I have the dexterity in such a scary situation, and whether it might actually make an aggressive dog worse. Be careful about the wind if you think about Sprayshield or even pepper spray, it could backfire into your and your dog's face.

What I have used is kibble - carry cheap, stinky kibble in my pocket and throwing it as wide as I can towards the approaching dog. Do practice before you have to do it for real. Don't do it if your own dog guards his food and that could set him off. Owners tend to get angry about feeding their dog, tant pis.

Submitted by lp | December 9 2012 |

I have thought of doing that too, throwing food to distract them. BUT doesn't that just encourage them to attack people? I carry dog mace called muzzle and a stun gun in case things get really bad. Mace a dog that is running at you and you might teach him to not run at anyone ever again.


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