Taos Bark

Walk softly, carry a big stick (or treats)

By Trish Hernandez
Posted 10/17/19

Ever had a very fearful situation when walking or riding a bike and a dog is running loose, aggressively chasing and approaching you? I mean, who hasn't? Dogs running loose is the most reported animal issue by people in our community just behind dogs being chained without food, water or shelter.

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Taos Bark

Walk softly, carry a big stick (or treats)

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Ever had a very fearful situation when walking or riding a bike and a dog is running loose, aggressively chasing and approaching you? I mean, who hasn't? Dogs running loose is the most reported animal issue by people in our community just behind dogs being chained without food, water or shelter.

Here are some suggestions on how to handle these frightening, stressful situations.

Local dog trainer and behaviorist Tad Schmidt, owner of Taos K-9 Camp, says, "For people who are out walking, I would suggest carrying with you a long walking stick. You are not carrying the stick to strike the off-leash dogs, but simply to give you a reach advantage as well as a mental edge. You are setting a boundary. Dogs will view you as less of a target. Think of yourself as a shepherd and always carry a long walking stick.

"For bike riders - the key is not to trigger the prey drive in dogs by trying to outrun them," he adds. "When approaching off-leash dogs on a bike, stop and get off the bike, wait for the energy of the dogs to subside. Put the bike between you and the dogs and walk calmly by. Use the bike as your shield. Above all else check your own energy in any dog encounter. Do your best to stay calm. Use distance to your advantage. Most dogs are territorial, not aggressive."

You can contact Tad Schmidt at (575) 741-8446 and on Facebook and email at taosdogguy@gmail.com.

The following are Facebook responses to a past post of mine asking for suggestions from readers, based on their own experience dealing with aggressive dogs while walking or riding bikes:

"I carry a large squirt gun (mini-Super Soaker at the Dollar Store) with 50/50 vinegar and water. Aim for nostrils and ears. A can filled with pebbles makes a lot of noise when shaken [and] works well, too."

"Just carrying a big walking stick worked on a bad one in my neighborhood."

"Acting like a bear (in) voice and appearance will so run a dog off."

"Vinegar solution in a high-powered kids water gun."

"I was also going to suggest vinegar, but the method of administrating the spray is just as important. You must have a way of directing the deterrent from a safe distance. A normal spray bottle won't work, but I have seen kids water guns that pack a real wallop from 10 feet. That's what a person needs!"

"I used to be an avid jogger, mind you 'used' lol, but I always carried an electronic whistle. I got this from Cesar, indeed the dog whisperer. However, I only had to use it once and it luckily prevented me from being attacked." You can go on this site for the whistle order at cesarsway.com.

Obviously, vinegar, super kids water guns and big sticks are popular deterrents of choice. Rock throwing and yelling loudly or making loud noises were other suggestions. Also, talking to the dog(s) calmly and always having doggie treats and biscuits were other ways suggested. "Make friends with dogs" was a popular alternative deterrent. If you walk or ride the same route, the dogs may come to expect a treat instead of a pound of flesh.

There are spray deterrents you can buy. Blue Sky Pet and Feed Supply has "Pet Corrector" that gives a loud hissing noise that dogs want to get away from. Taos Tack usually has in stock a deterrent called HALT which the store owner highly recommends and does the job very well.

HALT is a mild pepper spray that shoots out of the can in a controlled stream. One good dose of this in a dog's face and they get pretty discouraged. Personally I do not like pepper spray, but this product has only a small amount.

On an internet search I found HALT on Amazon.com and another highly recommended spray from petsmart.com called SprayShield. Both of these deterrents were highly praised by the comments given and postal workers have used them successfully through the years.

PetSafe SprayShield uses a formula to interrupt dog attacks by surprising and distracting the dog with a powerful citronella scent, giving you time to escape. When sampled on trained dogs, SprayShield was found to be an equally effective alternative to 10 percent pepper spray with none of the harmful side effects.

Also, online I found the Dog Dazer, a handheld ultrasonic aid to dog deterrence. Harmless to animals, a burst of ultrasonic sound is emitted at a high frequency when the button is depressed. The closer the animal gets the more intense the sound becomes. The device is used by various government delivery people and postal workers.

I encourage people to use what works best for the situation. Some attacks can be vicious and you need more than treats or talking calm - you just need to get out of there before you become dismembered.

Keep in mind it is the owner who is at fault - not the dogs. Report dogs running loose to animal control at (575) 758-2216. Owners have to be cited and held accountable.

For information or to provide an animal tip, contact taosbark@gmail.com or (575) 613-3448.

This column "How to protect yourself from loose dogs" originally ran in Taos News in July 29, 2016.

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