Friday, December 1, 2023


What to do about an unleashed dog at a campground

Most dog owners carefully secure their furry friends when camping. But what if they don’t? What happens if a highly-spirited canine jumps his portable fence enclosure and heads toward you? What should you do if a large, powerful dog breaks free from its tether? Or jerks the leash out of the hands of its owner? Your quick and proper response may mean the difference between safety and injury.

(Note: Every situation is different. The following strategies cannot be guaranteed but may help you feel more confident when approached by an unleashed dog. Always use caution.)

Some strategies to consider:

  • If you see an unleashed dog a distance away from you, calmly walk away. Return to your RV or find another safe place nearby (e.g., pool enclosure, park restroom, behind a vehicle).
  • If an off-leash dog suddenly appears in close proximity to you, turn to stand with the side of your body facing the dog.
  • Stand as still as possible. (Running at or away from the dog, or “shoo-ing” the dog may trigger a chase response.)
  • Do not make direct eye contact with the dog, who may interpret that as aggression.
  • Keep the dog in your peripheral vision.
  • If you see the dog’s owner, ask him to call his dog. Do not approach even if the dog’s owner says, “She’s friendly.” She may not act friendly to you, or your own dog may act aggressively toward the unleashed pet.
  • Other dog owner not around? If you have your own leashed dog with you, attempt to calmly walk away. (A treat or toy may help distract your pup and keep her moving away.)
  • If the unleashed pet continues toward you, you may have to confront it. Command your dog to sit/stay and reinforce his quiet, still behavior with a treat. Stand between your dog and the approaching one. Use a loud, commanding voice to shout, “Go home!”

Additional tips

  • Some people like to take an umbrella with them when they walk. If approached by an unleashed pet, quickly open the umbrella. It may frighten the dog away. (Be sure your own dog is used to the umbrella trick so as not to scare it, too!)
  • Other folks like to take dog treats with them when they walk (even if they are not walking a dog). If approached by an unleashed pet, you can toss the treats away from the dog (and yourself). This may distract the pet from approaching, allowing you time to walk away.
  • Carry a dog repellent spray like this one or a dog horn like this.
  • Always inform the camp manager about any unleashed pet. Provide a description and the time/place you saw the animal. Managers do not want the inherent risk of unleashed pets or strays roaming the campground.


RV dog park etiquette: The woofin’ do’s and the woofin’ don’ts


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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Wolfe (@guest_143794)
2 years ago

Here’s what I’d do when encountering an unleashed dog, most of the time: Kneel down, and thump my hands on the ground in a classic “play bow.” If completely necessary, I may engage scratching behind their ears, rolling them over for a belly rub, and a lot of humiliating “WhozzaGoodPuppy?” commentary. In extreme cases, I may have to resort to frisbees.

>> MOST dogs are not aggressive, just under-trained. <<

A dog that actually attacks other dogs and people has usually been trained to do so by poor owners not enforcing what it should do.

My dogs are generally on leashes, although sometimes they are carrying the handles themselves. With a command, I have about 95% confidence they will plant on the ground and not move, including letting strange dogs sniff them. If a dog does show aggression when approaching us, ***I*** am the “lead dog” to handle that outsider — possibly by stealing my leash off my stationary dog to grip-leash (a lasso effect) the wanderer.

Wolfe (@guest_143796)
2 years ago
Reply to  Wolfe

Just for clarity: I know there are some dogs SO badly trained or abused that they will attack. In those ACTUAL cases of tail-down, ears back, teeth-bared attack self-defense, then do what must.

…but for anyone whacking *wandering* dogs with walking sticks or thinking it’s wise shooting at them when your LIFE is not in danger, I will GLADLY arrest you for animal cruelty. I would be legally justified defending the dog with equal force to yours, and you would lose the prosecution in court. Animals shouldn’t be allowed to wander free, but they DO have legal rights if not CLEARLY attacking you.

Last edited 2 years ago by Wolfe
Steve Mangrum (@guest_143749)
2 years ago

This is the main reason I carry a sturdy walking stick when walking anywhere. Several years ago a growling dog lunged at my wife and me. I caught him in the throat with the first swing and across the top of his neck with the second disabling him. We went on our way and he crawled off. Thought about finishing him but my wife restrained me.

Betty Danet (@guest_143562)
2 years ago

Ever since our puppy was attacked, we carry a Vipertek zapper. Fortunately never had to zap a dog but would if necessary. Just the sound makes dogs run away. Startles our dogs too but they’re on leash. It’s better than getting attacked.

rich (@guest_143556)
2 years ago

walking stick with a sharp spike makes an effective deterrent. i wish i’d had that when my pup and i were jumped by two unleashed dogs at the Casijo Queen RV Park in E. St. Louis a few years ago. i was knocked off my feet but not bitten. the owners came over and pulled their dogs off me but never apologized or said a word. i reported the incident to the park. the family was allowed to stay.

Thomas D (@guest_143528)
2 years ago

Reach slowly into pocket and withdraw knife. 4inch blade,very sharp. If I get hurt, doggie gets hurt, bad
Owner gets hurt later in court.

Sharon Cassidy (@guest_143560)
2 years ago
Reply to  Thomas D

Rather than a toxic dog repellant spray, I use the behavior control sprays with pheromones. It was recommended by a mountain rescue dog trainer. The dogs just chill. It has worked several times for me over the past 5 years.

Ace (@guest_143607)
2 years ago
Reply to  Thomas D

If you even suspect a little that a dog is aggressive, have your knife in your hand, blade open and ready to use; a good chance you will not have time if he is intent on biting you.

I’ve was attacked and bitten bad some years ago. It happens so very fast that unless you have time to prepare; they will be on you. The one that attacked me came through trees about 10′ away, growling and showing big teeth. In a split second, those teeth were deep in my arm, I hit him hard and he let go and ran. I went to the owner’s residence and he came to the door with a shotgun (for me, not his dog).

Donald N Wright (@guest_143483)
2 years ago

Dog Repellant spray, what a good idea. Will bear spray work also ?

Dan (@guest_143486)
2 years ago

Spray the dog owner too.

Tom (@guest_143544)
2 years ago

This dog repellant works. Being a retired US letter carrier, I can attest to it’s usefulness. The spray leaves the dog’s snout colored, easy for the dog catcher to identify the dog. The spray does not hurt the dog, it’s an irritant.

Mark (@guest_143690)
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Can you say which dog repellant brand you used?

Wolfe (@guest_143800)
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom

I believe my spray is the strongest available (only legal in some states, but I won’t really care if I’m using it). It will deter most bears or dogs or humans, and if not slow them down enough to draw from the next holster. I believe it’s something like 2% pepper plus ID dye. Brand doesn’t matter; larger size, spray pattern and strength does.

Last edited 2 years ago by Wolfe

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