This one trainer-approved tip could help keep you safe if confronted by an off-leash dog

Man out for a walk with child on his shoulders and German Shepherd dog either side
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've ever been confronted by an off-leash dog, then you know what a scary experience that can be. Even if you've been fortunate enough to avoid finding yourself on the other end of threatening canine behavior, the very thought of an aggressive looking dog running full speed in your direction is likely enough to fill you with fear.

Whenever we encounter a potential threat to our safety, our body is hardwired to want to run in the other direction to escape that threat. However, when it comes to trying to figure out how to calm a reactive dog so that you can get out of the situation unharmed, expert trainer Adam Spivey says running is the worst thing you can do.

To help keep yourself safe from a dog attack, Spivey has shared a brilliant video to Instagram in which he outlines his top tip for reducing your chances of having an off-leash dog bite you. You can check out the video below or read on for a summary of Spivey's advice.

When it comes to what not to do, Spivey says it's imperative that you do not back away from the dog when it charges over to you. "As soon as you back away, you become prey to a predatory animal. Don't run away — you're not going to outrun a four-legged animal." 

So, if backing away or running are off the table, what exactly should you do in situations like this? Well, according to Spivey, your best chance of not getting attacked is to stand your ground. Sounds scary we know, but Spivey says it works.

"Nearly every dog on the planet knows the command 'sit', it's one of the first things we teach a dog. So stand your ground, stamp your foot and say (in a very firm voice) 'sit'. The dog's either going to do it or it's going to be so bemused that you've asked it to do it that it's going to walk away."

Another important tip is that if you have a child with you when this sort of situation happens, you always want to put them behind you as opposed to lifting them onto your shoulders. This means you keep your hands free and can use them to create a barrier between the child and the dog.

One final note from Spivey is to remember that off-leash dogs who come charging over to you and start behaving aggressively are actually insecure and you need to deal with this insecurity carefully to avoid escalating fear-based behaviors.

"Most dogs when they run over to you are coming from a place of insecurity and that insecurity turns more dangerous as soon as you try to run away." So remember: don't back away and don't run, instead stand your ground and issue the command 'sit' in a firm voice. Following Spivey's advice could save your life.

For more great canine content, check out our guide to the three reasons why your dog’s recall isn’t reliable (and what you can do about it).

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.