Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Man's Best Friend?

Last night on dailymile.com I was messaging back and forth with some of my dailymile running buddies who live in a more rural area than I do. They were talking about being chased by various dogs on their regular runs. I'm a city boy and usually the only dogs I encounter are the pampered variety on leashes. I'm not a huge dog lover but I have nothing against them either. JayJay is our family dog. He's a beagle. I could write many a post on the adventures of JayJay such as the time he ate the lawnmower, ate our heating unit, ate one of the kids' bikes, ate the outside door frame...you get the point. In those cases I was the one foaming at the mouth, not the dog. I'm not exactly sure what I'd do if I encountered a mean, loose dog while on my run.

I guess first of all you can't assume that every dog is a killer on the loose. There are friendly dogs who just want to visit and play. Sometimes, however, their friendly exuberance can get in the way of a runner, possibly tripping him/her and causing a fall. Then there are the barkers and the chasers. From what I understand, this in of itself is pretty normal dog behavior. The dog's protecting his territory and telling you who's boss. Usually this dog is all bark and no bite. However, if he's a chaser, this can sometimes be a tripping obstacle for a runner. And then there are just the mean ones who seem to have a vendetta against you. These are the ones to worry about because they're unpredictable.

So what do you do? Most dogs don't like loud, sharp noises. There are special "dog whistles" on the market that produce a loud shrill noise that dogs don't like and will usually turn-tail and run upon blowing. Most of these "whistles" actually aren't whistles any more, instead they are ultrasonic battery-powered contraptions. There are also dog repellents on the market such as Direct Stop and Halt! They're similar to pepper-spray that people use for personal protection. Throwing an object near (not at) will sometimes deter a dog. Sometimes just pretending to bend down to pick up something will be enough of a deterrence. One of my dailymile friends said that just reaching for the pepper-spray can on his hydration belt keeps one persistent dong on his route at bay. Evidently the dog has been previously sprayed and knows what's about to come.

There are some dogs that you should just try to avoid. Stray/wild dogs may be a problem in more rural areas. These dogs can be very unpredictable and could possibly be rabid. Certain breeds of dogs can be more aggressive and unpredictable that other breeds with strangers. If one of these types of dogs is on your running route, the best thing to do may be to find an alternate route. Better safe than sorry. Listed below are some tips from CBS Early Show contributor and veterinarian Debbye Turner , on what to do when you encounter an aggressive dog or if your attacked by a dog.

What To Do If You Encounter a Seemingly Aggressive Dog: Stand still. If you keep approaching, the dog will interpret this as an attack.
Don't make eye contact. This is a challenge to the dog.
Don't smile. The dog thinks you are "baring your teeth" at him. This is an invitation to fight. Wait for the dog's owner to come and restrain the dog.
Respect the dog's wishes! If the dog is barking and growling, he is expressing his definite displeasure with your actions. Don't push the envelope. Most dogs make good on their warnings!

What To Do If You Are Attacked by a Dog:
Don't move! You cannot outrun a dog, no matter how fast you are. Running only provokes an angry dog.
Look away. Staring an aggressive dog in the eyes is a challenge. Use a soft, soothing tone of voice. Loud, angry-sounding words and screaming only spur on the dog.
Keep your arms to your side, with your fingers curled in so the dog can't bite them.
If he bites you, DO NOT PULL AWAY. This only spurs the dog on. Remain calm. Try to ram a stick, broom handle, etc down the dog's throat to make him gag and let you go. Don't hit the dog. Again, that just makes the situation worse.
If you are on the ground, curl into a fetal position. Cover your head and neck. Lay perfectly still. Usually a still target is boring to the dog and they will retreat.

I've mentioned it in previous posts, but it's always best to run with a buddy. Stray aggressive dogs is just another good reason to have a buddy with you. Dogs may be less likely to bother you if you're not alone. If one of you is attacked, there's another person there to help fend off the attacking dog as well as to seek help.

20 comments:

ZeroToBoston said...

Forgotten in the bullet-point expert advice:

Give the dog your wallet. You can replace the credit cards, and no amount of cash is worth serious injury. Keeping your wallet will only enrage the dog.

Lie down on our back and sing your favorite lullabye. This may work. If it does not, you'll be mauled in a much better state of mind.

Promise the dog anything: food, water, attractive female dogs... just don't lie or exaggerate your claims. This will make the dog attack with more ferocity.

Never under any circumstances betray your political views to the dog. In all likelihood, the dog holds views diametrically opposed to your own and will be infuriated by your opinions.

If you have a 'Dog Whisperer" T-shirt on, you're as good as dead. No amount of obsequious begging or submissive behavior will save you.

- Dean

RunnerDude said...

Hey Zeero ToBoston! Hilarious! Love the Dog-whisperer tip. LOL! Maybe you should run with a T-Shirt slogan that reads "Pitbulls Rule."

Otto said...

Two weeks ago, I was running in the streets near my house on my long run with my iPod on. I heard a dog barking me when it was next to me. My only reaction was to run faster and do not stop.
I think that the dog was trying to protect its territory, and stopped chasing me when I left the area.
It was a small dog, but still, I don't think that would have been a good idea to stay still.
What to do in these situations?

RunnerDude said...

Hey Otto! Probably in that situation, speeding up was the best thing to do. Now if you saw the dog ahead of you, may have wanted to react differently by making a detour or slowing down, turning around. Like you said, he was probably protecting his territory, so speeding up and getting out of there removed you from the situation and his diggs.

Jeff said...

If threatened by a dog, please, as soon as you are in a safe place, report it to your local Animal Control department and follow up to make sure they do something about it. Even if you change your route to avoid the problem, I might be the next runner coming down the road. It is illegal for dog owners to allow their dog to threaten you if you are on a public road or trail. Animal Control can also take care of feral dogs.

isela said...

This is excellent advice. Thanks you. Although dogs are rare on my short runs, on my longer runs I have been chased by a couple of dogs. On one occasion, it was a pair of little dogs (dachshunds) and they were just looking to run next to me--quite cute. On another occasion though, it was a doberman and boy was I scared. The thing was bigger than me.

One time while we were cycling, we passed this house our in the boonies and a huge polar-bear-like-dog chased us...let's just say that we were cycling at 23mph easily on that section.

It is quite scary and these tips surely help. Thanks again.

Amanda said...

I am a huge dog lover (I have 2 labs and a boxer) but it is just wrong for people to have their dogs outside unrestrained like that. It's dangerous for the dogs, and dangerous for runners.

untpawgal02 said...

Luckily the only dogs I have encountered are those that are with their owners and on leashes... but I always stand prepared just incase!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jeff! Excellent suggestion!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Isela! The dachshunds I might be able to handle, but not that polar-bear dog. YIKES! Be careful!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Amanda! I know what you mean. I had a man get mad at me when I had to shake is poodle off my leg. It charged me and latched onto my sock, yet, I was just supposed to let him? I did't hurt the doggie, but did have to shake him loose.

RunnerDude said...

Hey untpawgal02! Like the pic. Finally have a face to put with the name.

Mark said...

I've been dealing with this issue ever since moving out into the boonies. Recently I was confronted by two pitbulls. Fortunately I had my little bottle of pepper spray and it did the trick! The vet gave me this tip and it is very effective.

The Biz Runner said...

I have had a couple of REALLY scary experiences with dogs on my runs-though I have always managed to escape unharmed. I love dogs and have even adopted an abandoned senior golden retriever but if I ever find myself running regularly in the country, I'll get the dog pepper spray and won't hesitate to use it. I'd feel horrible but its the owners fault.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Mark and the Biz Runner! You guys be safe out there and make sure you packing that pepper spray! You're right though, it really does some down to the owner. Even out in the country, I think dogs should be contained on your own property. Read too many stories of little kids getting harmed by stray dogs.

Regina said...

I also live in the city, so most of the dog attacks I see are dog on dog. Personally, I would go for the eyes if I was attacked instead of trying to find a stick to shove down his throat while he's hanging off my arm.

I've seen this work with dog on dog attacks, not sure about people. If you are running with someone else, the person not being attacked should grab the dogs back legs and pull them. The dog usually lets go. It's how we have disengaged other dogs that have attacked our dog or others.

you have a beagle? I lived next door to a beagle owner...yappy, howly dog. Are you still friends with your neighbors? lol.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Regina! Great tips! fortunately our beagle isn't a yapper. When he does bark he as that trademark houndog howl, but luckily that's not too often.

B.o.B. said...

I always smile at dogs. Hmmm. Must work on that.

Seriously though, when I first joined the bloggytown I saw a post by someone who got bitten while running. That is a scary thought. Thanks for the tips.

onelittletrigirl said...

So basically this lady wants me to run with a broom stick??? I think I will stick to your idea of running with a whistle. :) I actually do carry one of those whistles for when I run around my town. I haven't ever used it, but I will say I feel better having it.

Teechur said...

Most dogs know a few commands. No, Leave it, Sit, and Down or Drop are pretty common. I always run with my dogs, but when I don't and come across a loose dog, usually a firm and commanding voice and a clear "No!" stops them in their track. It should be loud enough to bring an owner out too.

If the dog is friendly, just talk to them and don't run. Tell him he's a good dog and talk as you walk by.

If tail is up, head is down he's in protective mode. Do not continue in the direction you were going because you may be entering what he considers his territory. Change direction but don't run. Talk quietly as long as he stays put. If he doesn't stay put, that's when you pull out the "No! Leave it! Stay!"

Forget Halt or Stop. You can't get close enough to use it effectively without putting yourself in danger.

If you do get bit let the police know, go see a (I almost wrote vet) doctor to treat the bite. Take pictures, and if you can go back and get the address that would be very helpful. I was bitten twice. Once by a Bull Mastiff I startled while I was running up behind the owner and the dog (note: don't do that--he bit out of surprise--mastiffs generally do not bite), and one a loose dog at a dumpy house with four unfenced dogs. I reported the second to the police and made sure to be on the other side of the road when I ran past there. His territory ended at the sidewalk and didn't come for me on the other side.