My sister has just come back from walking her 7 month old German shepherd dog in her local park and told us that he was attacked by an English bull terrier.
It took the dog's owner and my sister to get it off her dog. She is very experienced in dog handling (she's in her 30s and our family have owned German shepherds for 30 years), but is obviously very shaken.
Her pup is very friendly and obedient. The bull terrier's owner knew it was aggressive, but still had it running off the lead. Please could you advise me if there are any legal defence products in this country that my sister could carry with her to prevent any such attacks?
My 3 year old daughter is a regular visitor to my sister's home and I don't want the pup to become nervous or aggressive due to being attacked.
(L.V, 13 March 2009)
Sadly not everyone follows bylaws when out with their dogs. Loose dogs can be a problem especially if you have a shy dog or a young puppy that can be frightened for life by an aggressive older dog.
One way to stop a loose dog approaching another dog is to use a voice command such as ‘down’ or ‘leave’ in a very deep load voice. Even if a dog has not had obedience training it will realise that you mean business and walk away. The loud command will also attract the dog’s owner to the problem and hopefully they will come to your aid.
Many people are not aware that dogs should be kept on a lead in public places and if possible point this out to the owner. If loose dogs in your park are a big problem telephone the local dog warden and ask for their help. Dog wardens can be contacted through the local council offices.
By all means carry a walking stick or a furled umbrella but be warned that if a dog is really vicious it could turn on you if you wave a stick at him. A water spray or a hand held air horn are excellent ways to break a dog’s single minded thought of fighting – sometimes it only takes a moment for the dog’s attention to break and the fight will cease. Be very careful when using any form of defence against another dog as you could be prosecuted for cruelty.
Picking up a Dog
Never be tempted to pick up your dog is another approaches as you may be hurt if the dog attacks. Also, never step in between dogs in a fight as they could both turn on you.
You say that your sister is experienced with dogs but she should still take the dog to obedience classes as this will teach the dog to be confident as well as obedient. Then, if the dog is ever involved in a fight with another dog she will be able to call him back and hopefully have him under control. Perhaps your young daughter could attend training classes as well as then she and the dog would be used to each other and although no dog is completely safe the dog would have an affinity with the child.
Why not look for other places to walk your dog? Quite often walking in public parks is the place to find loose dogs and by going into the countryside or through a wooded area your dog will be alone and unlikely to meet an aggressive dog.