This is a cautionary tale.
A couple weeks ago I was running along a new route on Long Run Sunday. I was at a great pace, I felt good, and I was just a mile from shedding one of my long sleeve shirts at my friend’s house. I came around the corner and saw this:
Just kidding… a little.
It was really a dog that looked part mastiff and he crossed the road and sat on my side of it about 30 feet in front of me. It was pretty clear that he had no intention of letting me continue down that road. After assessing the situation, I decided to cut my losses and go back the way I had come. First I backed away from him, then I turned and started walking, and when I did that, he started chasing me… snarling and growling. So I started running, which was not my brightest moment. When he started running faster to keep up with me I turned and yelled at him. Loudly. “NO! GO HOME!”, a couple times until he turned around. And luckily that was all it took. While I was yelling I was frantically looking around for someone outside doing yardwork, a kid playing in a driveway, someone who this dog belonged to who would call him off. And there was nobody. I waited until he was far enough away and backed away again until he was out of my line of sight.
While I love dogs and this story had a happy ending, I know this is a big fear for some people, and I have to say in the moment, it was very scary. Scary for me, and also scary because my first thought immediately after was what could have happened if I was out jogging with Priscilla and I ran into a dog like that. I’m not an expert, but I’ve read a few posts on dog encounters while running and looked back at the situation.
What I did wrong:
- Everything I’ve read says you should not turn your back on an aggressive dog, and I got a little too confident that he was calmed down and turned away.
- When he started chasing me I should NOT have started running. I wasn’t sprinting, I went back to my pokey pace, because I think I felt like if I went back to what I was doing when I first saw the dog, he/she would go back to just sitting on the side of the road? It sounds stupid but it made sense at the time. But whether playing or chasing, a dog will usually chase you if you are running from it.
What I did right:
- Backing away… while looking directly into a dog’s eyes can be seen as aggression from you and rile them up, backing away in a non-threatening way usually tells them that you’ve gotten the message and are leaving them alone. This was working for me until I decided to turn around, and I should have just backed all the way down the street.
- Turning and yelling, which is hard to do when all you want to do is run. But I had read about these encounters before, and most of the time the dog is actually trying to play with you, or is not as aggressive as you think, and you scare it when you turn and yell. At that point I figured it was better than being chased down and bit and luckily it worked.
Other things you can do:
- Look for sticks. BIG sticks. I didn’t even think to do this, but putting a stick in between you and a dog is not a bad idea.
- If you’re really scared of this happening, you can carry a small can of pepper spray or mace. That’s not my style, but I’ve been told that you can get those things. I would be more inclined to carry one of those small air horns, if anything.
- As always, be aware of your surroundings. I’m paranoid about a lot of things while I’m running (dog attacks, uneven sidewalks, stranger danger) so I’m constantly looking around, but I also know how easy it is to zone out and just cruise. I’m glad I saw the dog as early as I did and not when I was in petting distance.
As mad as I was that this ruined a great run I was having and now I don’t feel that I can run down that road again, I’m also happy that I was by myself and didn’t get hurt. You can never be too careful or too prepared!
Have you ever been chased by a dog? Other animal? How about those vicious Canada Geese?