I have a small/medium mixed breed dog who never ever gets along with bigger dogs.

I always have my dog on the leash, but in my neighbourhood people often let their dogs run loose. I usually find myself having to kneel down next to my dog, put one arm around him, and use the other arm to keep the loose dog away from him.

Sometimes this works, and the loose dog stays away from us, but sometimes they come really close. They will bark very angrily at my dog, causing him to panic and move around me, then the other dog will also try to go around me to get to my dog.

I've already tried talking to dog owners and even to the police, but it didn't solve the problem.

Also, over here it's usually quite windy, so I don't think carrying some kind of spray would be a good idea.

What can I do to protect my dog in this case?

  • 1
    You can carry around one of those race siren bottles to scare big dogs away..
    – jeremy
    Jan 9, 2014 at 15:32
  • Everyone seems to be making allowances for dogs roaming around off leash. It is irresponsible of those owners and could cause a car accident (swerving to miss dog) or the dog can get hit by car or get into trash and make itself sick. There are good reasons for leash laws and they should be enforced by police to provide safety.
    – user2899
    Sep 5, 2014 at 13:11
  • 3
    @laura - what difference would it make if we spent 100 words cursing off leash dogs? The poster would still have to come up with a solution that doesn't involve all other dogs being properly restrained.
    – Oldcat
    Sep 6, 2014 at 0:24

7 Answers 7


First, double-check the dog's body language to make sure that it is truly aggressive. If it is an aggressive dog running loose, it is something the police, or animal control should be taking care of. If they have already looked into it, they have either given the owner's a warning, or decided it was not an issue.

Are there leash laws where you live? If not, you could start the process of putting one in place (to have fines for owners who let their dogs "run at large" in town).

Something you should be working on the side, is getting your dog comfortable with larger breeds. Take him to some dog training classes, and get him socialized. rae1n brings up a good point where your actions when another dog approaches actually hinders his ability to socialize. He learned from you that larger dogs are scary, and you need to protect him. It's not necessarily bad, but it's not good that he now panics.

Overall I'd say the best thing you can do is to talk to the dog owner. Ask them if they could keep their dog from running up to you as you're not comfortable with it. Don't accuse them, as they'll get defensive and dismissive. You could offer to buy them a leash so they have one to walk their dog with, or I would ask them if they walk their dog on a schedule, so that I could avoid crossing paths.

Finally, I would not spray someone else's dog while that they were walking. Unless you can safely say that the dog was aggressive and running to attack you, that is assaulting someone's dog, and causing it to fear humans. If the dog is not running up to you in an aggressive manner, the problem is that the dog is untrained. I would say it's up to you to understand dog's body language, almost as much as it's up to them to train their dogs.

  • They do have leash laws here. But often they tell me, no, I'm not going to put my dog on the leash. I've voted up on this answer. Thanks. Jan 12, 2014 at 15:22
  • If you have leash laws in place, then it's a matter of getting the police and animal control involved. Let them know it's a problem; They can fine the owners for not walking their dogs on a leash. Walking a dog on a leash is easier than spending $100 in fines each time.
    – Spidercat
    Jan 12, 2014 at 15:32

What makes you think your dog is in danger? I've seen many instances where large dogs simply come to play (and barking does not mean aggression) and it is the small dog the one that reacts aggressively, prompting the large dogs to react the same way or to go away. Furthermore, I've seen many small dogs that are awesome playmates of large dogs.

If the dogs you mentioned are truly aggressive, their behavior won't be limited to small dogs; on the contrary, bigger dogs represent an even bigger threat for them. I doubt the owners or the police simply ignored large, loose, aggressive dogs "attacking" other dogs. This drives me to think that they are just curious about your dog and not necessarily aggressive. Remember that when you try to protect your dog (by putting your hand around it to keep the other one away) you are teaching your dog the this represents an actual threat and that it is OK for it to feel afraid and insecure in that situation, and even to react aggressively.

My suggestions would be to slowly let your dog be around larger dogs, to the point it feels comfortable in this situation and try to show it some positive feedback when it does not react aggressively.


First, you should realize that this is not you or your dog's problem. Don't blame on yourself or your dog. Dogs have different levels of energy and aggression, some of them are more territorial by (bad) training or by instinct.

If you're jumping in to someone's backyard, you don't expect their (let say) Guard dog -- whatever breed, doesn't really matter -- to come and play with you, right? Now if you let that dog walk freely around your block, then he is the Guard dog for the block. You can't tell a dog Look, this is our backyard but that is a sidewalk and it belongs to everyone.

So, what you need to do is to go and solve the problem. Again this is not your problem. It was literally caused by the other owners. Why? by not socializing their dogs properly. And if your dog is afraid of another dog approaching him while barking aggressively, then it's not his problem also. As I said dogs have different levels of energy and of course different characters.

I look at the situation like this: There are some loose dogs that are not very well socialized by their owners. The solution: Socializing them. How? well, how did you do that for your dog? That should be pretty similar.

If I were you, I'd do the following:

  1. Introduce yourself: Go to your neighbor's home without your dog. Let the dog see that you're in his place. Let him see you with his owner. Go and play with the dog. Simply: make a connection. Go and love that dog, don't hate him, he is not doing anything wrong deliberately and he can be so fun and loving within a second.
  2. Introduce the dog to your place and your dog: Now invite your neighbor to your place. Ask them to bring their dog as well -- preferably with the leash on. Dog won't be aggressive because it's a new place and -- based on the smells, it belongs to another dog. Now you take the dog and let your neighbor goes and make the connection. Let them play with your dog for even a few minutes, while you're holding their dog -- preferably touching him as well, and the dog also should be aware -- probably alerted, and see how his owner plays with your dog.
  3. Let them be friends: Walking is such an important activity to a dog. At least from their point of view. Sometimes I think they like it even more than eating. Get one of the leashes in your right hand and the other one on your left hand. Start walking from your place -- preferably without your neighbor accompanying you, and also to the opposite side of your neighbor's place. After a few minutes change your direction towards your neighbor's place and end it up by let the dog goes to his place -- after finishing the walk and while your dog is still with you. You might want to have some small treats with yourself also.

I guess by that time, you will have a big-big improvement in both sides. Just don't you forget that: This lovely dog is not very well socialized, and I am going to help him to have a better life. We all deserve a good life. That's it.

  • I like the different view you brought in this answer, I didn't think about the "ownership" of the area part of it. There definitely would be some dogs that think the own the area that they walk around.
    – Spidercat
    Jan 9, 2014 at 20:24
  • Good points! Though I disagree in one point: A dog can very well (and quickly) learn where the "border" between "ours" and "not ours" is. Of course, only if its owner tells him. The fact that this dog does not know it is because probably nobody teached him.
    – Ingo
    Jan 9, 2014 at 23:13
  • @Ingo Yes, I agree and I didn't mean they can pick it up so quickly. It must be a miscommunication in my post. You're right.
    – Mahdi
    Jan 10, 2014 at 5:56
  • These are all very sensible things to do. It would be a good idea if were only one dog. But everyday it's a new person with a new Rottweiler or German shepperd loose. Jan 12, 2014 at 15:34
  • 1
    While there are good suggestions in the answer but this answers assumes that the OP's dog is socialized and not at fault. It's hard to say which dog is the one at fault without seeing them in action but it is completely possible that the OP's dog is causing it or perhaps the fear from the owner transfers to his/her dog and eventually it becomes an issue
    – Huangism
    Apr 6, 2015 at 18:44

Being over-protective does not help your dog cope with the situation. You need to get your dog used to being in the presence of other dogs. They need to feel that they are not threatened and that the advances made by other dogs are not borne out of aggression but out of sheer curiosity of having another canine friend walking down the neighborhood.

Whenever there are dogs coming your way, observe how your dog reacts. If your dog show an sign of interest to socialize, don't fight it. But be wary that you sense the right signals from your dog.

As a human companion, you should not show to the other dogs that you are afraid that they will hurt your dog. You should show that you are in control and in command of the situation.


Socialization? My Boston Terrier was bitten several years ago when I was walking her (leashed) and an unleashed dog ran up to us from behind and bit her. As a result, whenever another dog gets too close she becomes aggressive (which was never a problem before).

There are leash LAWS everywhere. I expect to be able to walk my dog around my apartment complex without being confronted by an unleashed dog. Period.

If you're not going to be a responsible pet owner then don't own one. I'm so sick and tired of people who think their dogs are "special" and the rules don't apply to them and people trying to tell me it's somehow my fault my dog doesn't want to play. I carry pepper spray now.


I have a small/medium mixed breed dog who never ever gets along with bigger dogs.

This seems to indicate that your dog has poor doggie manners. The most obvious and ultimate long term solution is to get some help/behavior training with your dog so that he can get along with others.

All big dogs don't just suddenly decide to bark viciously and try to eat all the little dogs. There's something up, here.

I usually find myself having to kneel down next to my dog, put one arm around him, and use the other arm to keep the loose dog away from him.

It sounds like you do this a lot and that isn't good, either. When there is a loose dog, what you should be doing is keeping your dog close and change course as much as possible, even if it means venturing off the trail or sidewalk. You should retain a calm, relaxed, and casual manner. Your writing here reads to me that this becomes a very anxious, very stressful event where perhaps you instantly stop in place to protect your dog until the big dog is gone - if it's anything like that, then your behavior is perpetuating the bad air. 95% of the time, merely walking away will solve the issue - people who have their dogs loose trust their dogs enough to control them off leash - so you control your dog by walking away, and let them control their dog. Again, when you kneel down to protect your dog, you heighten the situation and make everything a lot worse - it also doesn't help that this is the last thing that another dog owner expects you to do, so you're surprising the other dog owner, which takes some of their control of the situation out of the picture. (Just to be clear, remaining on the sidewalk/trail is an unspoken word "Me and my dog are ok and safe, no issues here.")

The amount of anxiety and emotion that's going on here is really out of control and I think both you and your dog need some intervention from a trainer because it's going to be that - much more than the bad doggie manners - that causes a dog fight. Having some positive experiences instead of so many negative ones will also help you immensely.

I don't think carrying some kind of spray would be a good idea.

You can carry gel pepper mace but you must spray BOTH dogs. Otherwise the sprayed attacker will become the victim by your dog because dogs are opportunistic. Spraying both dogs also helps it look like you're NOT randomly attacking any dog you come across with pepper mace.

You can also carry a walking stick. Use your best judgement; I'm not advocating beating every dog you come across with a heavy club. : )

There was a mention of Leash Laws. It's important to understand what your leash laws are, exactly. There's many people who infer that "leash law = illegal to have dog off leash" which is probably very rarely the case.


It just so happens that not in every neighborhood in the world the police is always there to protect you.

It also happens that it doesn't matter to how many socializing events/courses you take your dog, some dogs don't want to be friends with every single dog in the neighborhood.

It quite possibly also happens that even though there are leash laws that say your dogs must be kept on the leash, some dog owners don't respect them, for one reason or another. It's also very likely that these are precisely the people who'll give you a big mouthful if you ask them to put their dogs on the leash. Plus, you don't always have the time to start this discussion, once a German Sheppard is running towards your dog.

You might also know your fair amount of dog body language, and it just so turns out that all the hair on the back of the loose dog is puffing out and he's trying to make himself look bigger, his ears are pointing forward and his staring your dog down, like on the picture below. Or you're not quite sure of the other dog's intentions but simply don't want to bet your dogs neck on it, as after all, we're not all dog whisperers.

enter image description here

Given these circumstances, 2 things might keep these other dogs away from your dog:

  1. kneel down next to your dog, put one hand around him, holding him tight and put your other arm in front of him. In my experience, this has kept a fair amount of dogs from coming any closer, as it even breaks off the whole staring competition. In some cases, the other dog might want to circle around you to get to your dog, so if you can find something to protect the other side of your dog, like a wall, or a car, that keeps the from doing that.
  2. If you have a walking stick, point the stick at the loose dog. When I lived in a condominium of farms, I'd walk my 6 dog pack around with a walking stick. All cocker spaniels or smaller. Once in a while we'd meet another pack of loose dogs. Sometimes it was alright to let them greet each other and smell each other to an understanding, but sometimes it was just to risky, as the other dogs had even Fila Brasileiros on their side. I always managed to keep them away simply by pointing my walking stick at them.
  • 1
    The walking stick idea is just crazy. I am sure you'll get killed sooner or later when you make it a habit to threaten big dogs with sticks.
    – Ingo
    Jan 13, 2014 at 0:21
  • It just so happens that I've been doing this for years now and I'm still alive. Also my dogs haven't been bitten a single time. Jan 13, 2014 at 3:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.