My greatest fear while running is getting chased by a dog or some other animal. Seriously. Dogs, wild turkeys, deer, coyotes, and even Canadian geese. I’ve encountered them all on runs and they terrify me. But dogs seem to be the most common threat.
Although I have never owned a dog, I have nothing against them, In fact, I like plenty of dogs. Just ask Kimberly – her dog is so sweet. My daughters ask for a dog every day and I would love to make their dreams come true, but I just don’t need any extra responsibility in my life right now. But never having a dog means that I’m just not that comfortable around them – and I certainly don’t want an unfamiliar dog chasing me on my run.
In Apex, I’m generally fairly well protected from this clear and present danger, but there have been a few times I’ve been chased while out running or cycling. There was one time on my bike when a scary pit bull like dog appeared out of nowhere and threatened take a chunk of flesh out of my calf or end up in my spokes. And one time while running to Thomas Brooks Park via the ATT, I was chased by a tiny (yet somehow just as terrifying) dachshund. While his owner watched, the dog darted out into traffic to chase me.
Our friend Lindsay was recently chased twice by the same dog on an out-and back long run. She is much kinder than I and walked the dog back to its house – not once, but twice. I, however, am anything but kind when I’m being chased by a dog, so I’ve done some research about how to best handle these uncomfortable situations. I’ve learned most dogs are fine and will react based on the runner’s behavior. So, here are some tips to help:
- Send a dog loving friend ahead. Kidding. Not kidding. I’m pretty sure I’ve done this a time or two when I’ve spotted a dog ahead on the American Tobacco Trail.
- Stay calm. If you’re freaking out, the dog will too which will make the whole situation worse. (**Also good advice for dealing with difficult people. In fact, maybe I’ll substitute “customer” for “dog” here, and include it in my next submission for ICMI’s blog). The dog is likely chasing you to scare you away. I’ve read that if you stay calm and stand still, like a tree, the dog will lose interest in you.
- Stop running. This goes well with tip #2. Dogs like to chase things, including runners. Apparently, they think you’re playing, so just stop running.
- Create distance. This is my favorite tip because I want to get as far away from the dog as possible. It also works really well when you send a friend ahead 🙂 Don’t turn your back to the dog though. I’ve read that you should keep your body at a 45 degree angle because fearful dogs may rush and bite if you’re turned away. When I’m running in an area where there might be loose dogs (less a challenge in Apex, more so at my parents’ house in rural Lancaster County, PA), I also look for physical barriers, or even something I could climb to create space between the dog and me. Fortunately, I’ve never had to do that!
- Speak softly. Tell it to sit or to go home. I’ve heard (and tried) making an aggressive, mean sound back to the dog will scare it off. This has not worked for me in the past, so perhaps I should take a page out of Lindsay’s book and be kind to the dog.
- Take off the Goodrs. But don’t make eye contact (I have read that making eye contact can trigger them). Some dogs (like my sister’s dog, Cain, pictured) completely freak out when they see someone wearing sunglasses.
If (god forbid) a dog bites you, you should report it to local police and, get medical attention if the bite breaks your skin. I recently learned (thanks to the Team CBC group on Facebook) here in NC, there is a 1-bite advantage law. After a first bite, a dog owner can claim their dog is not dangerous (or they didn’t know) and therefore are not liable for damages. So get that dog bite on record! When you report a bite to the authorities, you help fellow runners and cyclists avoid future incidents.
What are your tips for fending off wayward dogs?