Taos Bark: How to protect yourself from loose dogs

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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 one of the most-reported animal issues by people in our community, along with dogs being chained without food, water or shelter.

“For people who are out walking, I would suggest carrying a long walking stick,” said Tad Schmidt, a local dog trainer and behaviorist and owner of Taos K-9 Camp. “You are not carrying the stick to strike the off-leash dog, [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 bicycle riders, Schmidt said the key is to not trigger the “prey drive” in dogs by trying to outrun them.

“When approaching off-leash dogs on a bike, stop and get off the bike and wait for the energy of the dogs to subside,” he said. “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.”

Contact Schmidt at (575) 741-8446 for more information or email taosdogguy@gmail.com.

The following are Facebook responses to a post asking for suggestions from people who have had experience dealing with aggressive dogs while walking or riding bikes.

• Carry a large squirt gun (mini super soaker from the Dollar Store) with 50/50 vinegar and water. Aim for nostrils and ears. A can filled with pebbles that makes a lot of noise when shaken works well, too.

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

• Vinegar solution in a [high-powered water gun for kids].

• I was going to suggest vinegar, but the method of administering 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 and I always carried an electronic whistle. I got this from Cesar [Millan], 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: cesarsway.com.

Obviously, vinegar, kids’ water guns and big sticks are popular deterrents of choice. Rock throwing and yelling loudly 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 & Feed Supply in Taos has a “Pet Corrector,” which gives a loud hissing noise that dogs want to get away from. Taos Tack & Pet Supply usually has in stock a deterrent called “Halt!” The store owner highly recommends it because it does the job very well. Check to see if it is in stock.

On an internet search, I found Halt! on Amazon.com and another highly recommended spray from Petsmart.com called “Petsafe Spray Shield Animal Deterrent Spray.” Both of these deterrents were highly praised, and postal workers have used them successfully through the years.

• Spray Shield ($11.99 at Petsmart.com) 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, it was found to be an equally effective alternative to 10 percent pepper spray with none of the harmful side effects.

• Halt! is a mild pepper spray that shoots out of the can in a controlled stream. One good dose of 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.

• Also online, I found the “Dazer” handheld ultrasonic aid. Harmless to animals, it gives a burst of ultrasonic sound at a high frequency when the button is depressed. The closer the animal gets, the more intense the sound becomes. Dazer is used by various government delivery people and postal workers. More information is available at dazer.com.

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

And please 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.

Contact Hernandez at taosbark@gmail.com or by calling (575) 613-3448.

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