Here is a situation we have all face at one time or another. You are walking home or visiting the shops when just down the street you see a dog tethered to a bench or a pole – blocking your path. This is especially important for a frail person or for someone walking with a young child.
Is this situation inherently unsafe? I believe the answer is yes. A dog is genetically programmed to protect its’ territory and the situation above sets this natural behavior against the social norm of our society. Personally I believe that it should not be permitted to leave a dog unattended in public in any situation.
However, given that this situation is common let’s outline the steps that will make the risk less likely:
- If at all possible – seek another route. This is an inherently unsafe situation and the safest thing is to take yourself out of it.
- If you can identify the owner, ask to have the dog held back while you walk past. Try to avoid walking between the dog and the owner as that is more likely to trigger the dog’s aggression.
- Observe the dog. Is the dog alert and looking at you? Are the ears pricked up and the hair is standing up on the back? In that case the dog is more likely to be in a state of high arousal and react aggressively.
- Estimate the length of the tether. A dog is less likely to behave aggressively towards someone walking outside his ‘protection zone’.
- Do not attempt to touch the dog or offer food. Walk briskly past by the shortest route that will lead you furthest from the dog. Look down or away from the dog. If you have a child with you, have him walking on the side opposite to the dog.