Stray dog

Staying Safe Around Street Dogs

What to be aware of and how to behave

22.7.2022

Depending on your location, perhaps it’s rare for you to see stray dogs living on the street. However, some of the most popular vacation spots in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe have large numbers of stray animals, and sadly little is done to address the issue or manage the population. Also, the local population is normally very used to encountering strays but visitors who are not accustomed to stray animals need to be aware of the dos and don’ts for how to interact with them.  

Many stray dogs are very friendly, especially in tourist areas, as they are used to human contact and often receive food and attention from people in the community. However, you may still encounter some that are less welcoming. These are usually dogs that have had little contact with humans or have had negative experiences with them, making them wary. If dogs are scared, they might try to defend themselves, their litter, their food, or their territory. You should consider this and avoid confrontation with dogs where you risk being bitten. 

If a dog barks at you from a distance, they are warning you to stay away from their territory. If you remain calm, keep a safe distance, and walk past slowly, you are unlikely to encounter any problems. If in doubt, it’s best to avoid any kind of confrontation. If a dog starts to chase you while you’re jogging or riding a bicycle/motorbike, it’s best not to speed up, as that could encourage the dog to chase you, putting both you and the animal at more risk of an accident or injury. The best response is either to stop and wait for the dog to move away or to continue moving very slowly. A dog is much less likely to chase you if you move slowly and stay calm. 

6 Tips for Your Safety

FOUR PAWS has prepared the following guidelines on how to stay safe around stray dogs: 

Never run away.

The most important point to remember is that you should never run away from a stray dog (or any dog). Running away can trigger a dog’s hunting instinct, which tells them to chase you. It’s better to walk away slowly to avoid triggering that instinct. If you’re on a bicycle or motorbike, slow to a halt and wait for the dog to leave.

Avoid confronting a pack.

Dogs are pack animals and tend to stay in groups, where they can protect each other. If you are out walking and spot a group of dogs, it’s advisable not to go near. Dogs are territorial animals, and if they feel threatened, they could confront you. Be especially careful at night: in the dark you may not be able to see all the dogs around you.

If you do happen to wander into a pack, stay calm and move away slowly. Don’t make any sudden movements, shout or run. Keep your arms close to your body.

Avoid sending dominance signals to dogs.

Dogs are very good at reading our body language. There are some types of human behaviour that dogs find threatening. These include staring at them, yelling, waving arms about and walking directly towards them. These are behaviours that will identify you as a threat. Instead of trying to communicate your dominance, it’s better to send calming signals.

Send calming signals.

If you meet a dog that you are unsure about, don’t try to be dominant or show anger. Instead, send calming signals such as yawning, avoiding eye contact and standing sideways to the dog. You can also try crouching down and letting them sniff you (if you feel comfortable doing this).

Ask locals for help.

If you feel threatened by dogs in the street, you could try calling to a local for assistance. Many of the dogs will be regulars in the area and are likely to respond better to someone they know.

As a last resort…

While we strongly recommend keeping calm and behaving in a non-confrontational way, if you feel very threatened, you could crouch down and pretend to pick up a rock. But do not actually throw anything at the dog! Sometimes, just pretending to pick something up can make a dog run away (unfortunately a sad reflection of the regular abuse that many stray dogs suffer at human hands).

Worst case scenario

If the worst-case scenario occurs and you are attacked by dogs, try to fend them off with a backpack or stick. If you end up on the ground, protect your head and vital organs. Lie down and curl up in a ball, using your arms to cover your head. Then try to keep still, even though this may be difficult. The dogs are more likely to lose interest in you quickly if you stay calm. Once the dogs have moved away, slowly get up and leave. Get yourself to a safe place and visit a hospital as soon as possible.

What you can do to help stray animals

Feeding stray animals is very common in tourist areas, but it comes with several risks that you need to consider:

  • Once fed, stray animals could then potentially follow tourists, causing them to leave their area and perhaps run the risk of being involved in territory fights or (car) accidents.
  • They can gain a dependence on humans through the feeding from tourists who are only available for a short period of time and mostly it´s not appreciated by the local people. After the tourists leave, it's maybe harder for the animals to find food.
  • Stray animals will become more used to begging for food and this may cause upset, stress, fear among other tourists and locals.
  • The quality of food could vary and perhaps cause illness (for example, cooked chicken bones, meat on sticks e.g.).

It is more helpful to contact local animal welfare organisations that already support stray animals in the community and, if possible, support them with volunteering or donations. These organisations can also help sterilise stray animals, set up feeding stations and generally support animals more effectively in the long term. If you see an animal in need of medical care, you should contact a veterinarian or local animal welfare organisation (e.g. FOUR PAWS if we operate in the country).

Caution!

Be aware that stray dogs are prone to health problems. Due to a lack of preventive medical care, many dogs will have fleas, ticks or other parasites. Sadly, some carry very serious diseases such as rabies and rabies can be passed on to humans, mainly through bites. 

If you are bitten by a dog, it is vital that you seek medical attention immediately. There are vaccines that can prevent you from becoming infected, but these need to be administered very soon after being bitten. Don’t take any chances. Rabies is a deadly virus.

Stray dog

Support for Stray Animals


Where and how we help stray dogs and cats in need

Learn more

Share now!

Search