I live in an area with a healthy population of black-tailed deer. These beautiful animals are not much larger than my Great Danes. While certainly elegant to observe, they are fierce defenders of their fawns in spring to late summer, and some of the antlered boys are a hazard during the fall rut. Most of them are well-aware that dogs are predators, and some will attack by charging during these times of the year. I myself have been attacked several times while walking my big guys and we are fortunate that nothing serious has ever happened. But occasionally we hear reports of people being injured by these petite but mighty beasts.
The scene I saw was a doe, frozen, staring at the human and dog that were clearly too close for her. If I had seen a dog with such a stiff, forward position and locked, unblinking gaze, I know it would have meant an imminent attack. I am not an expert on deer body language, but I have to believe her position was threatening. The woman was standing calmly with her hand outstretched, as if to greet what she thought was a benevolent deer.
Her dog had the right idea though. The dog was standing at the end of its leash, not tightly, but as far from the situation as it could get. The dog also had his body 90 degrees to the doe and head turned away, trying to say "I am not a threat, and uhh, mom, let's get outa here!"
I wanted to yell at the lady to back away but I honestly thought yelling might have caused the attack to ensue. I drove on, watching my rear view mirror, hoping for detente. It made me think about the cues I take from dogs though.
I walk many dogs of many different personalities and skill levels. Dogs that are leash reactive will usually react to many stimuli. It takes practice and experience for a dog to learn to be calm on leash (or off). My girl will always alert to wildlife, and I can tell from her stance just how serious it is. If her nose is in the air scenting, and she's on her tip toes, I start looking around...what is it girl? She's always right, and she trusts that I will steer us away from it. We just don't take chances with wildlife.
Taking cues from your dog is built on experiences and trust. Do you take cues from your dog on walks? Start watching your dog...you just might realize how much teamwork is happening in a safe walk. If you need help with your walk, find a positive reinforcement trainer or class so you can both improve your walking skills. I do hope that young woman noticed her dog, followed his lead, and moved away from that deer.