As a dog trainer, I am constantly bombarded with yapping, snarling, or just very playful dogs.
In the beginning, I paid much more attention to the dog that was approaching us (my dog and I), than I did to my dog. Now, if the dog is aggressive (I encounter extremely aggressive dogs sometimes), then I definitely pay more attention to him or her than I do to my dog. I focus on blocking or repelling the dog, because my dog’s safety, and mine, is naturally more important to me. Keep in mind: it is the quiet, staring, “stalking” dogs that are usually much more dangerous. The leaping, yappy, “loud” (in body language and voice) dogs can usually be fended off with a quick, perhaps loud, dominant move on your part.
With all of the other dogs (not aggressive), I’ve learned to focus on my dog when they approach. Depending on the situation, I don’t even talk to or look at the owner anymore. Someone who has a dog like that is usually not open for change. They will get defensive if you say something – no matter how it is worded. I used to block (with my leg or body) the dog and tell the owner to get his dog, or inform them that my dog is a service dog and can’t be distracted like that by their dog. If it is a bad case I add on, “A dog that can’t be called back (or attacks) should be kept on a leash for safety reasons. Even if you think they are safe, it is your responsibility.” I might still say this if the case is bad.
But I get the feeling that it is enough “punishment” (definitely not the right word…) for a dog owner if they have to come get their disobedient, yapping dog from my dog with whom I am working with. It is very embarrassing to be the owner of a dog like that. My silence and walking away from the situation without “wasting my energy on them” does make an impression – if not, nothing will. I try not to be rude. I see it as a training opportunity for me and my dogs, because, hey, I train guide dogs for the blind. There will always be dogs charging and barking at them. So it is my responsibility to train dogs that can “handle” that and not freak out.
It’s been a simple, effective, and enlightening mindset switch for me. 🙂