If I recounted every time we have enountered loose dogs on our walks with our two Kerries, I would probably scare everybody to pieces (and make myself paranoid). In our rural area, almost no one leashes their dogs but us--even in the town parks! We've enountered a pack of 4 loose dogs that closed in on us, been approached by a growling Rottweiler with no owner in sight, and been charged by any number of playful puppies--that my dogs did NOT want to play with. It's a jungle out there, so why do we persist in walking our dogs?
Because walks keep a Kerry happy, active, and alert. And because there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself, your dogs, and the loose dogs you encounter, without having to deny your Kerries the pleasure and stimulation they get from being out and about.
1. Carry pepper spray (available from pet supply catalogs), and don't be afraid to use it if you have to. It washes out in water and the dog recovers in 45 minutes with no after effects. I have never had to use it, but my hand has grabbed it in my pocket on a number of occasions!
2. This may sound terribly naive, but shouting "NO!" in a firm voice to the approaching dog is incredibly effective. Most dogs respect human authority, and most dogs know the word No. I've seen this simple command change a dog's mind about coming closer, and it buys you time until the irresponsible owner arrives on the scene.
3. Use a leather lead, rather than a flexi-lead. This gives you something to swing in the air at the approaching dog to distract him. By keeping your dog on a short lead, you'll have a couple of feet of leather to snap in the air to scare off the other dog. This technique is what kept the growling Rottweiler at bay until his owner arrived.
4. If the other dog's owner is within hearing distance, don't be shy about calling out, "Leash your dog!" This may help you avoid an encounter with an unknown loose dog altogether.
5. Know your dog's limits, and learn to read the body language of dogs. (A wagging tail does NOT always mean the dog is friendly!) While you can't predict your own dog's behavior 100% of the time, you can come close. If the encounter can't be avoided, and neither dog is displaying threatening behavior, you can sometimes let the dogs meet nose-to-nose. Meeting the other dog often diffuses a potentially unpleasant situation, and makes any future meeting with that dog far less challenging. It helps if you can remain relaxed and communicate that to the dogs, and keep the leash slack. If you have any doubts that the meeting will go well, don't try it. Proceed with the distraction methods above.
6. If you walk a Kerry, it goes without saying you have to stay alert. Walking with someone else improves your chances of spotting loose dogs before your Kerry does. Keeping your dog on a short lead helps you react better to surprises--especially when rounding corners. And walking one Kerry per person gives you better control and keeps one hand free.
A walk in the park with our Kerries is not always a relaxing experience. But it's always a stimulating one for them. That's why we keep doing it.