Trainer shares what to do if you're approached by an off-leash dog for a drama free walking experience

Dog running through the park on a fall day
(Image credit: Getty Images)

An off-lead dog approaching you when you’re out with your pup might well be harmless, but – for both you and your dog – there’s no way of knowing for sure. Likewise, there’s no way of knowing how your own dog will react and even the best dog treats aren't always enough to keep them distracted.

At worst, an off-lead dog running up to you with no recall could prove dangerous. But, while you can’t force owners to put their dogs on leads, you can help reduce the risk of anything serious happening.

Adam Spivey, founder of Southend Dog Training, has shared advice on how to deter dogs who run at you without recall. You can listen to what he has to say in the Instagram video below or continue reading to find out more on keeping safe around an off leash dog.

Spivey recommends that you should stand your ground against the dog, moving forward to them if you need to. And then, he says that you should give a clear cue that the dog will understand – in the video, he can be heard saying “On you go” and “Go on” to the dog approaching him, and he recommends ‘Away’, ‘Go’, and ‘Sit’ as simple commands for the dog to follow. 

Something else Spivey recommends is keeping some food in your pocket. If you need to get the dog away from you – perhaps if your own pup isn’t happy with the situation – you can throw some treats away from you for the dog to get.

It’s also worth familiarizing yourself with dog body language, so you have a better idea of how the approaching dog feels – and how your own dog feels about the dog coming up to you. Sometimes, an off-leash canine just wants to say hello and make friends, and your own dog might be the same. If so, that’s great. 

But if your dog is reactive towards other dogs, no matter how friendly they appear, or the approaching dog looks aggressive, it’s time to act. If your dog has a history of reactivity, or shows signs of fear, walk away if possible. Learning how to calm a reactive dog can be instrumental in unpredictable situations with other animals.

And, while you can’t control how other dogs act, you can instill some good walking behaviors in your pup. Learning the ropes of loose leash walking is a great place to begin - why not read our guide on how to stop a dog pulling on a leash next?

Your dog will react to your own body language and behaviors too – they might sense your anxiety and react accordingly. Anxiety in dogs isn't unheard of and can often be provoked out on walks where there are lots of triggers.  It’s important to give any commands slowly and calmly, as you would in a regular situation, and not run away with your dog. 

When an off-lead dog approaches you, it can be scary or anxiety-inducing. But, by following Spivey’s advice, you can take control of the situation and help keep everyone involved safe. 

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.