Unexpected Encounters with Community Dogs:
3D’s to DEFEND Yourself

Unexpected Encounters with Community Dogs:<br data-lazy-src=

But first, a quick word in defense of our community dogs.

They did not choose the street life with its hard knocks and rough living. Unwanted, abandoned, and often forced to relocate in the name of redevelopment, many of these dogs are just as frightened of us as we are of them, if not more so. We can all do our part to keep ourselves safe while respecting their needs.

Practise the 3 D’s to DEFEND yourself. Some of these tips are also handy in other situations, such as when encountering more than one dog or other animals like wildlife.


  • Steer clear of the dog’s path and take a detour if possible. No matter how friendly the dog looks, do not approach to take photographs. It is hard to read the body language of an unfamiliar dog. For example, while tail wagging is often taken to mean a happy dog, it can also signal aggression. The most accurate way to interpret body language is to watch the dog’s whole body and face and situate the behaviour in the specific context, which you may not have time to do. Choose to err on the side of caution and retreat.

  • Do not engage with the dog by making eye contact or hand gestures. Instead, avert your gaze while discreetly monitoring the dog from the corners of your eyes.

  • Do not run as it can trigger the dog’s prey drive.

  • Make yourself less of a threat by standing sideways to the dog rather than head-on which can seem confrontational. Keep your hands close to your body and avoid sudden movements as the dog might misinterpret that you are going to attack.

Image Credit: https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/dog-advice/understanding-your-dog/signs-your-dog-may-be-stressed

If the dog has already caught up with you…


  • Throw an object behind the dog or to the side so that attention is diverted from you. Never throw the object at the dog as this will hurt the dog and could also trigger defensive aggression.

  • Make a loud, non-human noise if you have a convenient object nearby. For example, clang a metal post or repeatedly ring the bell of your bicycle. Sometimes, a loud and firm ‘no’ could work.


  • Locate a barrier, such as a bench or shrubbery, and get behind it. Vertical distance is also a good barrier so if you are able to, safely climb up a tree or raised structure to stay out of the dog’s reach.

  • If the dog bites an item you are holding, drop the item immediately.

  • If the dog bites you, minimise damage by staying still and calm and pushing INTO the bite. The dog’s jaws will reflexively slacken, and you can extract yourself from the bite. If you pull away from the bite while the dog’s teeth are still in you, this can lead to a tearing wound.

As a community, it is our shared responsibility to coexist harmoniously with animals, respecting their space while ensuring our safety. By practising caution, compassion, and understanding, we can create a safer environment for both humans and our beloved community animals!