Scary Experience While Natur-ing - What Do You Bring for Emergencies?

Yesterday I was doing some urban scouting, looking for some plants and animals to photograph in wooded park. I often bring my foster dog with me because I feel a little safer than being alone.

But yesterday was a near disaster, and I feel terrible because the county shelter that owns the dog I am fostering is leaning toward euthanizing her after the incident.
A stray dog came up to us. My foster was freaked out when it approached us, and it kept following. The stray was acting more curious than anything, but it kept following us and circling around us (it was one of those herding dogs, so I’m not sure if it was trying to herd us or something) but my foster was completely terrified and ever time it got close she was defensive and snapping.
She is strong. The stray would not leave us alone. I kept pulling my fosteraway and I had to resort to spraying a can of compressed air and throwing little rocks, but the stray kept trying to get close. Nothing was helping and the two dogs were acting like they were going to murder each other if they got a chance.

I dragged mine across the street and eventually into someone’s garage, trying to get away but the stray just kept trying to get close. I was trying to catch my breath and the stray got close enough to sniff mine and it was all I could do to clamp both hands around her snout.
once I caught my breath, I yelled at the dog to go home and I dragged mine out of the garage and a few more feet closer to where I parked my car. she just kept trying to torpedo toward the other dog. I pulled her a little further up the road and was yelling for help, hoping someone could secure the stray while I took my foster to the car.

At some point I thought I might have to drop the leash and just do my best to make it to my car and hope they didn’t kill each other. The police showed up right when I flagged down a truck to help, and the people in the truck secured the stray dog, but it took a while for my foster to calm down.

I was really shaken up. In the end neither animal was injured, but I did not know how much longer I could keep fending off the stray while holding my foster back.

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Dogs may be a real problem also here when doing trekking. Especially shepherd dogs and watchdogs if left unguarded or if the gate of a private property is left opened.

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Yes, it was really scary. I just keep trying to think what I could do for better protection. I always carry a little can of compressed air, and in the past the loud noise it made was enough to scare off a stray dog. I feel like I need a better non lethal defense.

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I don’t know much about this, but would pepper spray or bear spray be safe to have around?

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Thanks- it’s not a bad idea. I had shied away from pepper/bear spray because I’m not sure I would remember in the heat of the moment to make sure wind wouldn’t blow it back in my direction. But I just went and looked at some bear spray and it looks like the initial spray is somewhat forceful so there might be enough time to spray and move even if a breeze were coming in my direction.

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Is it possible that your foster is coming into heat but not yet receptive?

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It’s a good thought, but she is spayed. However, sometimes I wonder if the vet left an ovary or something, because sometimes she seems like she has symptoms of coming into season.

I had a (spayed female) dog who was protective of me while she was on leash, and if I was in the exam room at the veterinarians.
I wonder how your foster behaves in other situations, with you or other handlers, in other situations. Work with her, the training will help her anxiety, and help her find a home.
In my opinion she is justified in reacting to an unknown loose, unsupervised canine, Especially on a restrictive leash held by a justifiably reacting human.
Look into self defense things like an alarm or other loud deterrent. That can get the attention of other people for help, too. Carry it or attach it to the leash, where you have it ready to use.
I agree with your concerns with the wind and even pointing a spray correctly; a difficulty in a scary situation.
Others have mentioned a stick sort defense and I agree. I have used a walking stick and a monopod as such, in defending myself against bossy geese.
Good luck, and thank you for fostering!


One issue I have heard with bear spray is that it targets the bear’s smell sense, which is much stronger than a dog’s, and therefore is unreliable against anything other than a bear. Bear spray is not the same as pepper spray sold for defense against humans
Also don’t set it off in you car, I’ve heard of people ruining their upholstery doing this when they sit on the can on a belt holster ect

Also with any weapon make sure to be aware of local laws, depending on where you are there can be laws where a legal object becomes illegal if the reason you are carrying it is defense, or laws that don’t actually say this but are treated as if they do by police and prosecutors

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You didn’t mention how big your dog is, but often simply picking up your dog stops the interaction, then you can carry it to the car. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work if the dog is huge or if they’re already in attack mode.

While walking my rural neighborhood when I lived in WA, I was followed by 3 growling dogs. I reached down and grabbed a fallen tree branch and smacked it hard to the ground while shouting “go home,” and they hightailed it out of there.

If you’re in a neighborhood and can find a hose (my house has one at the front of the house), water is always a good deterrent.

You said the offending dog was mostly acting curious, not aggressive, so it sounds like your foster needs some expert socialization training not euthanasia. If you’re in an urban area and are nervous, your dog will pick up on that and think it needs to be your protector, instead of looking to you for guidance.

As for what I carry while out birdwatching, I carry pepper spray and a whistle. I also have emergency supplies and a first aid kit in my car.


Thank you!


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