Anyone who has ever walked a dog has experienced that terrifying moment when a vicious, unleashed dog is intent on doing harm to yours. It's a dangerous situation even for owners of big dogs; for small dogs, it could be a fatal encounter.
I know of many people who walk with their dog's leash in one hand and a heavy stick in the other to protect them in just such circumstances. But one dog trainer offers another strategy.
Speaking recently at a seminar in Chico, Calif., Job Michael Evans, a New York City dog trainer and the author of several training books, suggested making your dog a less appealing target while forcing the canine terrorist to think twice about approaching you.
Mr. Evans advises grabbing your dog by the collar and placing him quickly in a sit position directly in front of you. Then tuck his muzzle between your legs and move your foot alongside his rear flank. Then shout your deepest, most threatening "no!" at the oncoming dog and, if you're exceptionally coordinated, whirl your leash in a circle between you and your dog and the threat.
Why such a position? Mr. Evans explains that it neutralizes your dog as far as the other animal is concerned. Before starting a fight, a dog will sniff -- however briefly -- at another dog's muzzle and groin area. When your dog's sitting, head hidden and access to the groin area blocked, he doesn't offer any provocation to the aggressive animal. And the leash-whirling has a mesmerizing effect on many dogs, he said.
What if your dog is eager to fight? If you're strong, you can muscle him into position anyway, but the better alternative would be to have a dog that knows the meaning of "sit" and "stay" and does both. It's another example of how obedience training could save your dog's life.
Q: I know I once clipped your recipe for homemade dog biscuits, but I can't find it anywhere. Will you please run it again?
A: This recipe is from "Dr. Pitcairn's Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats" (a fabulous book from the Rodale Press, 33 E. Minor St., Emmaus, Pa. 18049).
Dog biscuits deluxe
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup soy flour
1 teaspoon bone meal
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, shelled
2 tablespoons oil, melted butter or fat
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
2 eggs mixed with 1/4 cup milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients and seeds together. Add oil, molasses and all but 1 tablespoon of the egg and milk mixture. Add more milk if needed to make a firm dough. Knead a few minutes, then let dough rest 30 minutes or more. Roll out to 1/2 -inch thickness, cut into shapes and brush with egg and milk mixture.
Bake on cookie sheets at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Turn off the heat and leave the biscuits in the cooling oven for an hour or more to get really crunchy treats.
Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.