i’m a big animal lover…especially dogs. juno, our four-year-old, 65-pound fluffy malamute/chow/shepherd rescue regularly accompanies us on our stroller runs (as you’ve probably seen in our pictures!). with my love for dogs, plus my vigilance and super mom-senses, i never even thought about the possibility of being attacked by a dog. no way. not me! olivia benson trained me to be on the lookout for shady characters lurking in parked cars and bushes, but not shady dogs.
last week, i was enjoying a solo run in a nearby neighborhood (these are the more “country” properties, with larger lots, orchards, and other agricultural operations). the perfect spot for a solo run! or so i thought. as i was approaching the eighth mile of my run, i turned down one of the busier streets in our area (a two-lane road with lots of traffic, houses, and parks).
as i was making my way onto the final stretch of dirt sidewalk, approaching a larger paved sidewalk and curb, i was startled by the sound of growling and barking. a fast moving dog suddenly charged me, growling, barking and drooling. it crossed both lanes of traffic and was nearly hit by an suv - but it didn’t slow down one bit. i was terrified. the dog was a notoriously aggressive breed, which only added to my stress and fear (which i hate even having to say, especially since my own pup is considered an “aggressive” breed).
i immediately went into fight-or-flight mode. i didn’t slow down; rather, i sped up and ran to the shoulder of the road and hopped onto a wood-slatted horse fence. phew! safety. a good samaritan witnessed the whole thing. he laid on his horn and the dog finally backed off. the owner was nowhere to be found; the dog had a pink collar, but i’m not sure who it belonged to. i was feeling really safe on top of that fence. the dog wasn’t able to reach me, and i took the chance to catch my breath and make my next move.
the good samaritan offered me a ride and i accepted (though in retrospect, i kind of wished i had stayed on the fence and just called 911. i would feel so terrible if the dog did this to someone else. i did report it to the local police once i made it home, but i don’t think they found the dog). he and his female companion dropped me off at the park down the street.
after this incident, i realized how ill-prepared i was to handle a situation like this. did i act in the “right” way? what will i do differently if this happens again? and what would i do if my dog, juno, had been with me? what if the kids/stroller were with me? yikes. my mind was wandering.
as a new runner, i wanted to know exactly what the experts had to say. here’s what i found from runner’s world and runner’s blueprint (links to articles are below):
if you are chased...stop in your tracks. “be boring.” slow down and walk. during my encounter, i did the exact opposite. i sped up my pace and fortunately found a fence on the side of the road, which allowed me to jump to safety. if the fence hadn’t been there, i’m not sure what would’ve happened.
don't stare at the dog. this can make an aggressive dog even more hostile.
don't cower. don't adopt a combative position either, this may instigate a fight. stay relaxed and use an upright posture. act confidently. yep, i did the opposite on this one, too. i started yelling and “made myself big” like i’ve been told countless times when hiking (to avoid bears, mountain lions, etc.). oops.
use a deep, firm voice to convey a sense of calm, not a high-pitched, shrieking voice. my voice was deep, but i definitely was yelling expletives at the dog in a not-so-calm way. oops. again.
if a scary dog charges you, spray it with water or mace if you have it. noted, though i’m not sure i would’ve been able to reach it and use it in time to make a difference. my incident happened so quickly.
PREVENTION TIP: run with one earbud only. this is the one thing i did right! and it honestly saved me, as i could hear the dog approaching and had time to react.
bonus tip: if your dog is attacked while you are running
until last week, i never gave it much thought. but after my near-miss dog attack, i found myself wondering: what would i do if my dog was attacked by another dog? and what would i do with the kids? women’s running advises letting your dog “fend for itself”, as hard as that may be. they also suggest finding a way to break up the fight using whatever you have available – water, pepper spray, a stick, etc. read more below.
how to prevent and handle a dog attack while running. this was by far the best resource i found. thank you, runner’s blueprint!
here’s another great set of tips, from runner's world
how to combat a dog attack on the run. thank you, women’s running, for the great tips!