“Keep running after a dog and he will never bite you.”
The other day my friend called me to tell this story about a dog following her on her morning run. She was running down an asphalt path behind her house and after a while she heard something behind her. Click, click, click, she turned around and there was a beautiful, well-kept Golden Retriever. The dog was keeping an even pace about two feet behind her. She stopped, startled, and looked around. There was no one around, except for her and the dog. When she stopped, the dog stopped. For a moment, they stood there looking at each other.
“Shoo,” she said, “go home doggy.”
The dog didn’t move. In fact, the dog sat down and stared at her.
She turned and started running again and soon she heard the familiar click, click of the dogs nails hitting the pavement behind her.
She was worried that the dog would not be able to find its way home. For she was sure by his shiny coat and well-fed body, that he did indeed have a home. She turned and began running back the way she had come, hoping the dog would find where it belonged. And hopefully the dog did just that, for at one point he disappeared.
But how should you deal with finding a dog along your run? Whether the dog is friendly or not, there are some basic rules to follow when running into a pup on your path. The first thing you need to know is that dogs are, by nature, territorial. Seeing anything zip by them can trigger even the most pleasant pooch’s instinct to hunt.
If you see a dog without its owner, no matter how friendly it appears, ignore it.
• No matter what, do not make eye contact. Any animal, dogs included, may see direct eye contact as a threat.
• As soon as you see the dog, stop running and start walking. Move in the opposite direction and try to avoid entering its territory.
• If the dog still comes toward you stop moving. Stand still, without making sudden movements or noise. Allow the dog to sniff you. Then, in a strong voice, simply say: “No,” “Sit,” or “Home.”
• If the dog keeps coming and tries to jump on you push it off with your forearm.
• Whatever you do, don’t run.
• You may have to change your route if you continually encounter a dog that causes you problems.
• If a friendly dog does follow you, look for its owner. If you can’t find one, stay in the area. While an owner which lets his or her dog run free is at fault, you can be the bigger person by making sure the dog does not become lost following you.
But what if the owner is present but still can’t, or even worse, won’t control his dog? I had a different friend who encountered a dog walking off leash with his owner and the dog chased after her, nipping at her feet. “He has a thing for shoes,” the owner said, laughing.
She had just bought a new pair of Saucony running shoes and the dog took out a big chunk out of the heel.
The owner laughed, but she found out who he was and sent him the bill for her sneakers.
She did the right thing. You do not want to confront an irresponsible dog owner with a dog, especially if you are alone on a path or trail. You don’t know how he will respond and you don’t want to be hurt. However, you can find out who the owner is and try to speak with him in a safer setting. If the owner will not control his or her dog, you can call animal control and report him or her. Yet, you should really try and work it out first.
However, if you encounter a dog owner who is walking his pup off leash yet apologizes upon seeing you and tells you the dog is friendly, you have some choices: you can either try to “meet” the dog or you can ask the owner to please leash him. If the owner agrees help him by remaining still while he does so.
Hopefully dog owners will be courteous enough to respect other people when walking their dogs. If not, you can always give him a swift kick—the owner, of course, not the dog.