13 January 2008 20:33
What's the best way to deal with a snarling dog that is not under control?
Become a tree! Plant your feet firmly to the ground, wrap your arms around your chest and stand still. Children are recommended to quietly say a nursery rhyme as this will calm them down. Adults may find repeating a nursery rhyme equally effective at calming themselves down. Finally, look at the ground so there is no face-to-face contact with the dog.
The above is often enough to stop a dog progressing an aggressive challenge further and it will tend to stop and may walk off once it realises you are not a threat. If it does not stop, shouting “Help!” may draw the attention of passers by. Some people even recommend saying the word ‘sit’ or ‘down’ firmly, and this can work if the dog is trained.
If all that fails then the next stage is to slowly back off, without turning away and without making the dog more aggressive. This may be enough to stop the dog barking and growling if it is guarding a territory.
If the dog is following and remaining aggressive, then look for something you can get behind, such as a wall or door, and slowly back away towards it.
Another tip is to have something you can give to the dog, such as some food in your bag, your bag itself or a jacket. Throwing such items to the floor for the dog to have may distract it enough to allow you to calmly walk back and away from it.
It helps to understand why the dog is being aggressive towards you. It may be frightened of you entering what it thinks is its territory, or it may think you may take something from it, such as its food. The dog may also be driven to chase by your movements if you are running or walking. It may simply be frightened of you for some unknown reason. Some dogs are frightened of people with beards, caps, sunglasses or those that smell of beer, for example! So the dog is acting to protect itself or its property – and this is why it is so important not to give it more reason to be scared of you.
Even the most aggressive dogs are not aggressive all the time and most will stop being aggressive when the person stands still and ignores them before slowly moving away.
>> The Kennel Club Safe and Sound Scheme provides more information on how to behave around dogs:
>> Trail gear tester, Graham Thompson, is a dog trainer and pet behaviour counsellor and graduated in Applied Animal Behaviour from Southampton University in 2007.