Sunday, 17 October 2021
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Runners should be mindful of dogs

Several Thanksgivings ago, a relative complained about a chronic issue her walking group was having with an aggressive, loose dog along their route.  

I asked her a few questions: “Why knowingly put yourself at risk when you know the chances are good the dog will be loose? Do you have to walk that way every day?”  

You would have thought I was asking her to understand quantum physics.

Many dog-related incidents are avoidable if you have a plan and remain alert. When I was learning to ride a motorcycle, the instructors taught S.E.E.: Scan, Evaluate and Execute.  Scan your environment for possible risks. Evaluate potential situations. Execute your escape before something happens.

Never assume you can outrun, out-bike or out-skate a dog.  Look for all potential risks. Dogs on extending leads are under less control as these leads cannot reel a dog in. It is not uncommon for dogs to escape electric fences in order to give chase.

I have consulted on numerous bite cases where a runner was nipped while passing a dog. I teach my clients to be alert for pedestrians and move to the side. Not all owners will give pedestrians space.

As you are out:

  • Stay alert: unplug, stop texting and scan.
  • Carry a cell phone.
  • Alert animal control to dogs posing chronic issues.
  • If you see a loose dog, you need to evaluate your situation and options quickly.
  • Look for side streets, cross the street, turn back the way you came, etc.
  • Immediately execute a plan.
  • Quick motion and sound can attract a dog’s attention and trigger a chase. Become less of a target by slowing down and becoming quiet when you see a dog.
  • Get off your bike, skateboard or scooter. Again, slow actions are less enticing.
  • If the dog approaches you, turn sideways to the dog, freeze with arms held close (play tree), avert your gaze and relax your shoulders.
  • Keep the dog in your field of vision, but be as low-threat as possible.
  • Do not scream and run as you may become a target.
  • If you have food, drop it and back away.  
  • If the dog attacks, curl up like a turtle and keep your hands clasped behind your neck. Call for help, though screaming may escalate the dog’s reaction.

Your actions while out affect dogs. I have observed people behaving appallingly toward dogs and they act shocked when the dog reacts.

Children must learn additional dog and stranger safety:

  • Do not tease dogs that are behind fences, tied out or being walked.  
  • Even if you know a dog, stay out of his yard without owner permission, and the owner and your parent/guardian present.
  • Report loose dogs to a parent or guardian. Never try to catch the dog.
  • Never touch a dog without asking,  and “No” means “No!”
  • Never go with someone to find a lost dog or see a new puppy.

Parents, review “stranger danger” lessons and create a plan if someone approaches your child.  Practice what to do if someone tells your child he/she needs help finding a lost dog.

And parents, it is great to allow our kids to walk dogs, but be reasonable. I have seen too many kids pulled around by dogs they cannot manage. I watched one child dragged off the curb as her large dog decided to chase something across busy Minnieville Road.

If everyone from dog owner to child behaves responsibly and knows how to react, we can reduce dog related incidents.


The Bark Box

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