The rate of dog attacks in England and Wales has risen by over a third in the last 5 years.

Increased dog ownership during the pandemic, decreased responsible ownership, and the changing demographic of dog breeds in the UK…all of these factors and more have led to more unsociable/unsocialised and badly-trained dogs on our streets and this is a worry for many owners. 

Emilie’s law is a bill put before the UK government in 2023 and initially rejected, but this will be re-heard in 2024 and will hopefully ensure legal consequences for owners whose out-of-control dogs attack other dogs.

But what do you need to be aware of when walking your own dogs in public? We have put together a useful list of tips to help keep you and your dog as safe as possible.

Have a plan for when a dog approaches

The best plan is of course to avoid any altercation with another dog. Busy dog walking areas can be stressful for both owners and their dogs, so alternatives like exploring local footpaths and countryside, or hiring a secure dog field are a great way to give your dog all the exercise and enrichment they need in a super safe way. Sometimes this isn’t possible or practical, so it’s important to have a plan for when a dog approaches that you or your dog aren’t comfortable with.

Firstly, use the traffic light system and do dynamic assessments of dogs in the area you are walking. If a dog has tense body language or their owners don’t seem to have control, it’s a red: avoid! If they seem to have control but the dog is quite excitable or has tense body language then it’s amber: give them space! If they look under control on lead or respond to the owner and stay close then it’s a green and you can continue with your walk as you were. 

Remember some important actions you can take

If a dog starts to approach there are several things you can do:

  • Ask the owner to recall their dog
  • Move out of the area
  • Throw treats on floor for approaching dog to distract them (if very close)
  • Encourage your dog to stand behind you, so you greet the approaching dog, rather than your dog
  • Use an umbrella or similar to block the dog’s access to yours to guide the dog away
  • Have tools ready to use (At the centre our team carry dog walking packs that include a pet corrector spray, noise to startle dogs, and slip leads to leash an oncoming dog if needed.)

Call for help immediately

If the worst happens and your dog gets attacked then you must shout for help. It is very difficult for one person to split up a dog fight. Use what you have on you/in the environment. Water or a loud noise can be used to startle the dogs which may get them to let go. This can be also done through methods such as pinching an ear or inside of a thigh. 

If you can find something solid in the environment like a stick or similar, you can use this as a ‘break stick’ to push into the dog’s mouth and down on the tongue to get them to let go. 

You can also use a lead to make a noose around the attacker’s neck to close the airway briefly. Make a noose with the lead around the biting dog’s neck, move the lead to just behind the ear and jaw. With one hand on the collar or scruff, straddle the dog, and with the other hand on a lead pull up and tight. You will need to maintain pressure for up to 20 seconds.

Separate the dogs, keep them apart 

Once the dogs have let go then secure the dogs away from each other. Check for injuries and consider a vet trip even if injuries look minor as you may not be able to see all injuries. 

Report any attack to the dog warden and the police. There is often little they can do about a single dog-on-dog incident, but if it gets reported it can build a case against the dog’s owner in the longer term and may help to prevent further attacks.