Safety tips for people and their pets around dangerous dogs

Kim Jones
Kim Jones
Updated 6 May 2022  | 4 mins read

You may have taken your dog to training classes since they were a puppy, practised recall on a daily basis and read up on behaviour tips in your spare time, but you can’t control how other dogs are going to react.

Unfortunately, situations can arise when you may come across an aggressive or anxious dog.

Here’s how to keep yourself and your pet safe from danger.

Key points

  • Socialising your dog from an early age will help them feel confident and relaxed around other dogs
  • Learn the signs of an anxious or aggressive dog, so you can avoid them on walks
  • If your dog is attacked by another dog, get the owner’s details and a photo of the dog. Take your dog to a vet to be examined as soon as possible, even if the injury seems minor
  • Third party liability as part of a pet insurance policy can pay for vet bills if your dog injures another dog or person

Safety tips for people and their pets around other dogs

While you can’t control other people’s dogs, you can take steps to avoid danger as much as possible.

Be polite and respect the dog’s wishes

Your dog may be a sociable soul, but not all dogs are relaxed in the company of others. Some are anxious or scared and would rather be left alone. So, if you’re taking a walk and an owner is obviously trying to keep their dog away from yours, then you need to respect that. Take your dog’s focus away from the other pooch by capturing their attention with a command or a treat. When you walk past, make sure you give the other dog as much room as possible.

Train good recall

If you let your dog off the lead when you’re on a walk (when it’s safe to do so), you should be confident that your pooch will return to you directly when called. That way, if you see any danger ahead, spot a dog showing signs of anxiety or aggression, or walk near an owner who appears to be discouraging interaction, you can be certain your own dog will return to you when called. Then you can quickly and easily remove yourself from the situation.

Learn to recognise dog body language

As we’ve mentioned, some dogs are uncomfortable or nervous when other dogs get too close, and if a dog is anxious, it can lead to aggression. So, if you can spot the signs, then you can give them a wide berth.

Signs of anxiety in a dog include:

  • Ears that are normally upright or relaxed pinned back against the head
  • Tail tucked between legs
  • Excessive licking or yawning
  • Panting for no reason
  • Eyes wide with whites showing
  • Rigid posture
  • Looking away, moving away or hiding behind their owners

Signs of aggression are more obvious and include growling, baring teeth or lunging.

What is classified as a dangerous dog in the UK?

It’s against the law to own these dogs in the UK as they’re considered dangerous dog breeds:

  • Pit bull terrier
  • Japanese tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro

Even if your dog just has many of the characteristics of one of the breeds above, it can be classed as a banned type.

The police or local council dog warden can take away and keep a banned dog, even if it hasn’t been reported or isn’t acting dangerously.

You can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months for having a banned dog and it will be destroyed.

It’s also illegal to sell, abandon, give away or breed from a banned dog.

If you can prove your dog isn’t a banned type, the courts can return the dog to you.

In certain cases, if your dog is a banned breed but the courts agree it’s not a danger to the public, it may be put on the Index of Exempted Dogs (IED) and you’ll be allowed to keep it. You’ll be given a Certificate of Exemption but you need to ensure that your dog is neutered and microchipped. It’s also a condition that your dog be kept on a lead and muzzled in public.

Dealing with a dog attack

If your dog is being attacked by another, your instinct may be to launch into the fight to separate them. But this would put you in danger of a serious bite injury. Instead:

  • Stay calm and try not to scream at or make eye contact with the dog, as it could rile it up even more
  • Let go of your dog’s lead, so it has the chance to run away
  • Don’t try to pull the dogs apart. If the dog has its teeth in your dog, this could make an injury even worse
  • Try putting a barrier in between the two dogs - such as your bag
  • If you have a water bottle with you, pour it over the dog to shock it
  • Distract the dog with a noise, like loud clapping

If your dog is injured, you should get the owner’s details and take a photo of their dog.

Photograph your dog’s injuries, too, and take it to the vet to get checked over. Even small wounds could cause bacteria to spread into your dog’s soft tissue and become life-threatening without appropriate treatment.

What can I do to help my dog with behaviour problems?

Socialise your dog as early as possible. If your puppy gets used to being around other dogs from the start, then it’s more likely to be friendly and comfortable around other canines. Take them to puppy classes and let them sniff and play.

Even if your dog is older and not used to other dogs, you can still socialise them in a controlled environment. Start by introducing them to a kind, calm and friendly dog you know. As their confidence grows, gradually introduce them to other dogs and places where you’re likely to meet other pooches.

However, if your dog shows extreme fear or aggression when it’s around other dogs, then you’d be wise to enlist the help of a certified dog behaviourist.

What insurance options do I have?

If your dog is attacked and injured, your pet insurance policy will cover your vet bills. Your insurer may claim the costs from the other dog owner.

Third party liability cover is included in some pet insurance policies, but you may be able to add it to a policy that doesn’t automatically include it.

It provides cover if your dog:

  • Injures someone
  • Injures another dog
  • Damages someone else’s belongings or property

This is provided that your dog doesn’t have a history of aggression.

Third party liability cover will pay for vet bills, legal fees and damage costs.

Without this type of cover, you may have to fork out for steep vet bills or compensation if you’re proven legally liable.