Categories: Dog Attack, Fuel Belt, Pepper Spray
For the first four of the five years I’ve been running outside, I had just one unfriendly encounter with the canine species. In the past month, I’ve had 6 more. Seriously what are the odds? Is the universe trying to tell me something?
While I still have all my limbs and digits intact, I felt it very much in my best interest to review proper dog avoidance techniques.
First, let the record show: I adore dogs. Like true love. Never saw a dog I didn’t at least like. Well, now maybe I have. But as the saying goes: there are no bad dogs, just bad owners, and all that jazz.
My first recent encounters were with strays while vacationing: a Jack Russell-ish terrier that took it upon himself to charge up to me, growling and snarling and a large mutt for lack of a better term, that followed me, giving me the stink eye. Thankfully all bark…and growl…and snarl…but no bite.
Fast forward to the past couple of weeks. There’s a new ankle biter on one of my routes who has chased after me twice (does not scare me in the least). There’s also an Irish Setter who barks crazily from his front yard while his/her dogmate (a Dalmation) looks on quietly) as I pass and only recently decided to charge across the street and chase me.
Here, according to the experts, is what you should do when threatened by a dog:
1. Avoid smiling at the dog. An aggressive dog may construe it as baring your teeth for a fight. Check.
2. Look for warning signs. If a dog approaches with his head held high or low, it’s probably not going to attack. A dog whose head is level means business. Honestly I never noticed any of this.
3. Have a block. Use your leg or a stick to block the dog’s teeth from reaching you. In Key West, when a pesky stray approached for the second time in as many days, I picked up a large rock. I felt ridiculous doing it but whatever.
4. Remain calm. There’s truth to the adage that dogs can sense fear. A commanding “No” or “Go Home” may stop the attack. Like I said at the top, I love dogs and I think I do a decent job of ignoring them. I do firmly command them to go home.
5. Never run. This may awaken the dog’s prey instinct to chase and catch animals and the dog may persue you vigorously. Um big fail. I cross the street to get away from the dog but I always just keep running and try to ignore the dog’s advances. Oops.
6. Assume a non-threatening position. No eye contact. Don’t face the dog head-on, keep it in your peripheral vision. Check.
7. Hello pepper spray or mace! I’ve carried this for years. But I haven’t had the presence of mind to use it. Most recently while that Irish Setter charged out a second and third time, barking, circling then running back to his property I finally dug the canister out of my Fuel Belt. I need to keep it in a more accessible pocket. Plus it was super windy. Another solution I read about is squirting water at the dog’s face. Never thought about using my water bottle either.
8. Contact owner and animal control authorities. I did not do this on vacation but I did with the dog in the neighborhood I frequent. If my dogs were doing this to passersby I’d be horrified.