A Guide to Handling Canine Encounters and Navigating Public Spaces

| February 20, 2024

Recently, the Toronto Economic and Community Development Committee proposed a controversial initiative – the creation of a website to list animals served with “Dangerous Dog Orders.” While Toronto Humane Society refrains from speculating on the matter until a thorough evaluation is conducted, we stand firmly behind the promotion of public education on humane dog guardianship. In the spirit of fostering understanding and cooperation between pet parents and the community, here are some essential tips for dog guardians to navigate potential confrontations and ensure the safety of all. 

If a dog is displaying escalating aggression, follow these steps to ensure safety and prevent further escalation: 

  1. Stay Calm: Maintain a calm demeanor to think and act rationally. 
  2. Seek Safety: Move to a secure location, using barriers or elevating yourself to avoid direct contact with the aggressive dog. 
  3. Distraction Techniques: Distract the dog by throwing food or a toy to divert their attention away from the escalating aggression. 
  4. Confinement: Safely confine the dog to prevent any potential harm, ensuring both your safety and the safety of others. 
An infographic highlighting levels of escalating dog aggression. Source: FearFreeHappyHomes.com

If you find yourself being bitten, follow these steps to minimize injury and address the situation: 

  • Stay Calm: Keep a calm demeanor to handle the situation effectively. 
  • Minimize Potential for Injury: Avoid excessive eye contact, refrain from pulling away abruptly, and don’t tighten the leash. Shield vulnerable areas such as the face, arms, and hands, which are most prone to injury. 
  • Techniques to Stop Biting: Feed the bite by gently pushing into it, and if the dog is biting and holding, go limp. If multiple bites occur, release, and create a barrier between you and the dog if possible. 
  • Containment After Biting Stops: After successfully stopping the biting, contain the dog to prevent further access. This can be done by using a leash, moving to an entry pen in a dog park, or removing the dog from the environment entirely. Ensure the safety of both yourself and others in the vicinity. 

When encountering a dog off-leash while walking your dog on a leash, follow these guidelines for a safe interaction: 

  1. Be Aware of Surroundings: Prioritize awareness of your surroundings and maintain a safe distance whenever possible. 
  2. Dealing with a Threatening Dog: If you spot a potentially threatening dog at a distance, move away at a normal pace to a location where you can establish a barrier between you and the approaching dog. Avoid running, as it may provoke chasing. Stand slightly sideways and avoid direct eye contact to prevent provocation. 
  3. Analyze Body Language: It’s crucial to analyze the dog’s body language. Recognize signs of potential aggression, such as a dog that stops, stands stiffly, and stares directly at you with ears pricked forward and tail high. Click here to read more about canine communication 
  4. Use Caution with Loud Noises: While loud noises can startle a dog, exercise caution as it might provoke aggression in certain situations. 
  5. Distraction Techniques: If the dog approaches, attempt to distract them by tossing treats or a ball away from yourself. If needed, use an umbrella to create a visual barrier. 

Things to Consider When Walking Your Dog Off Leash

  1. Choose Official Off-Leash Areas: Here is a list of officially designated off-leash areas in Toronto.  
  2. Recall Training: Where animals respond to cues and return to the handler when off-leash.  

If There is a Dog Attack

  1. Seek Higher Ground: If possible, climb onto a car or lift your small dog to a higher position. 
  2. Be Cautious When Picking Up Your Dog: Exercise caution when lifting your dog, as the attacking dog may pose a risk. Each circumstance varies, so evaluate the situation carefully. 
  3. Stay Calm if Bitten: If bitten, maintain composure to handle the situation effectively. 
  4. Minimize Tearing: If the dog bites and latches on, avoid pulling your dog or body part away. Instead, push into the bite to minimize tearing. 
  5. Call for Help: Call for assistance. Leash the dog or grab their collar. If available, use a coat over the dog’s head to facilitate release and create distance. 

Enroll in Dog Training Courses 

In addressing the concerns raised by the initiative, Toronto Humane Society underscores the importance of education. By fostering a community that prioritizes humane dog guardianship, we can build safer and more harmonious neighbourhoods for everyone.  

Our Public Training Services offer a variety of private and group dog training classes taught by highly certified and experienced trainers and behaviour consultants. Click here to learn more about our affordable array of classes.