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My Pet World: How to handle approaching dogs on a walk

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I have a 16-pound Havashu. We do not have a fenced yard, so she is walked several times a day. There are quite a few large dogs that we encounter on our walks through the neighborhood. Some are being walked and are leashed, and some are allowed loose. Sometimes, the people with the leashed dogs want our dogs to meet. If they are really large, I am reluctant because of the size difference. The loose dogs charge at us. I am afraid of large dogs (having been cornered by a pack as a child), so my fear transfers to my dog. What is the best course of action? Fortunately, at every encounter, the owner was nearby and came to our rescue, but I am afraid that one day we will meet a dog without its owner. Can you please advise me on what to do? -- June P., Patchogue, NY

Dear June,

I understand your fears. My dog and I were once cornered by two dogs without their owner. My dog fought them off trying to protect me and was injured. After that, we could not walk around the block without him feeling anxious about every passing dog.

Even if you haven't been cornered by a dog, it can be stressful to see a large, unleashed dog approaching you. Your dog will feel your tension through the leash, so whatever you can do to ease your fears, like deep breathing, can be helpful to you both.

There are only a handful of things you can do. You carry an umbrella, which when opened can serve as a barrier between you and the approaching dog. You can shake a can of coins, toss the can onto the street (never at the dog), or use a Pet Corrector, which emits compressed air, to startle a dog and hopefully stop them from coming any closer.

Another technique is to put your leashed dog behind you in a sit position, and stand in front of him, letting your dog know "you got this." Then, lean toward the approaching dog, yell "enough" as loudly as you can, and point outward over the dog indicating you want the dog to go away. Surprisingly, it works well in getting curious dogs (not aggressive dogs) to step back.

As for the people and pets who want to meet you, it's OK to say, "No thanks." You are allowed to set boundaries for you and your dog. Let me know how some of these strategies work for you.

Dear Cathy,

I have five inside cats, and feed three stray cats in my yard, which has woods behind it. I have been feeding these cats for five months. There have been others in the past that I have trapped, had neutered/spayed and rehomed.

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The problem is, my family and I are moving to another town, and I am worried about these cats. I do not want to leave them, but I can't bring them with me as we are moving to a condo community. One cat appears feral, but the other two are cats that have been left on our block. One lets me pet him and has a tipped ear. I cannot touch the other two, even though one rolls on the ground and shows me his or her belly. I would appreciate any suggestions. -- Kathy M., Sayville, NY

Dear Kathy,

How kind of you to take care of these community cats. I am glad to hear you get them fixed and find homes for the ones who are friendly. You are certainly doing your part to help animals.

There are two things I would do. First, it's always best to leave feral cats where they are, so call the local feral cat group and let them know you are moving to see if they have any volunteers in your area that can help feed these cats. Second, ask around your neighborhood to see if there is someone who might be willing to feed these cats after you move.

If you can't find anyone to take care of them, then these cats will have to find another food source, which may make them a nuisance in neighborhood trash cans. But if a neighbor agrees to feed them, then these cats will hardly be noticed in the neighborhood. Use this argument as your "selling point" for convincing someone to help.

Sometimes, the people moving into a new home are willing to take over this care too, if you ask them.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)



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