A blog by runners. For runners.

Protect yourself from an aggressive dog on the run

As a dog lover, I don’t like to think about our furry friends in a negative way. (And we here at WalkJogRun are also huge fans of dogs.)

But the truth is dogs are animals, and animals protect themselves when they feel threatened.

Most runners can recall a scary moment when a dog chased or charged at them. Some even have stories of getting bitten and, while rare, other runners have lost their lives from being attacked by a dog.

Why dogs attack        
According to dog training expert Cesar Millan, dogs attack runners because the fast motion of someone running sets off a dog’s “prey drive“.

All runners have had a dog bark at them when they run by the dog’s house. A dog barks to scare a runner away. Over time, certain dogs may get more aggressive as runners come by – first they may chase a runner away and in some circumstances they may eventually bite and attack the runner.

Thankfully, most dogs won’t attack a runner because they’re trained not to see runners as threats. Plus, most are securely fenced or tethered in their yard or on a leash. However, not every dog is trained – and some are strays.

Steps to stop a dog from attacking
If you’re approached by an aggressive dog when you’re running, follow these tips to stay safe:

  • Stop running. Slow down and walk away from the dog, while keeping the dog in your peripheral vision. Slowing down will cause many dogs to lose interest in you.
  • Avoid eye contact. Some dogs interpret direct eye contact as a threat.
  • Stand sideways. If the dog approaches you, stand sideways and appear boring. By standing sideways you become a narrower and less interesting target.
  • Stay calm. Even though you’re afraid, it’s important to appear calm to the dog. Screaming and acting fearful can make the dog see you as prey. Do not act aggressively by kicking or yelling at the dog – this will make the dog think you want to fight. Instead, stay calm, stand tall, and speak in a firm voice to convey authority.

If the dog attacks:

  • Spray the dog with a water bottle or pepper spray. It won’t hurt the dog. Always practice using pepper spray properly before you run with it so you’re prepared in case you need to use it. Note that pepper spray isn’t legal in all states (learn more about your area’s rules and regulations).
  • Let the dog get a hold of something else. If you’re wearing a jacket, quickly get out of it and let the dog have it. Once the dog has something that’s yours, he may be distracted enough so you can get away. A shoe may also work if you have enough time.
  • Drop to the ground and curl into a ball. Cover your head with your hands and protect your face, throat, chest, torso, and thighs. The safest place to get bit is the shin or the forearm.
  • Scream loudly to get someone’s attention.

Keep in mind most dogs aren’t vicious by nature, and they’ll only attack when they feel threatened. If you are approached or attacked by an aggressive dog, report it to authorities.

In addition, a note to dog owners. You are responsible for your dog. Do not put him or her in a situation where they may feel threatened and/or attack. Knowing your dog is the key to keeping everyone safe and happy.

Written by Jen Matz.

RELATED  more running safety tips