>General Running>Dog safety while running
ok, so it finally happened. After years of running in sketchy situations, I got attacked while running by a German Shepherd.
Here’s the crazy thing. It was a lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon. I was running in the street and a man, his son and dog were in their driveway shooting hoops. When I see people, I always raise my hand and say, “good day!” “Hi” or the like.
I’m really not sure what exactly happened—if I got the words out or not—but the next thing I know the dog has run up beside me. It appears he got two good chomps on my thigh/rump (puncture wounds there) and then jumped up and got two more in my breast area. The dog was not responsive to the verbal commands, but the owner’s were able to quickly pull him off of me.
I was blessed as the damage is not what it could be—nothing some antibiotics, wound care and time will heal.
However, this is a wake up call. Several friends have suggested I carry a taser, others pepper spray and others suggest options for which I am not comfortable. (I do have a CC license, but that’s just to humor the Mr. I refuse to actually carry.)
As seasoned runners, what do you do? Thanks for your input—and perhaps links to your favorite time tested options.
I'm sort of kidding, I guess. I think the deterrents mentioned can train a dog, but only if you are prepared in advance. It's when you're not expecting an attack that you are kind of defenseless, even if carrying pepper spray or the like.
Sorry this happened to you. Reading about such incidents makes me angry at the dog owners.
Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.- Mark Twain
First a visit to the doctor, then the police...the dog is aggressive and if he bit you he may well bit again. As predators if something is running they chase, catch and kill. All dogs will do this, German Shepards have a strong prey drive. Was the yard fenced? A police report should make sure the dog is current on vaccinations and if he does it again then they may have to have him put down. Also the owner should pay any medical expenses you have, if not take them to small claims court. My dad had to do this when a shepard attack him and his little schnauzer. Walking in the road, dog came out of the garage and bit him and his dog. The owner came and got the shepard and my dad had bites on his hands and his dog had a bite on her leg.
I never run past a loose dog, I will drop to a walk, make sure the dog sees and hears me. I carry one of those batons that is small until you snap it open but to date have had no problems with dogs.
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I think it really depends on how often you're running by loose dogs, or more importantly dangerous situations. Carrying a baton, pepper spray, etc. seems like overkill if you're not normally running in dangerous situations, but some people live by the "rather safe than sorry" mantra. I think the key for any runner is to know what to do in situations you may face: for example, if you live in bear country and run in trails, knowing what to do when faced with a bear may be the difference between life and death. If you run in the suburbs, know how to handle a loose dog (Dhuff had a good tip about walking). Even in this example, dogs and bears require two very different behaviors from you.
For this specific situation, you definitely should get the medical bills paid for by the owner. Whether you want to do something about the dog is up to you.
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You also want to verify that the dog has been vaccinated for rabies. One of our local runners was recently bitten by a dog on the trail. He just wanted to get out of there quickly, so didn't ask for information from the dog's owner. Result was he had to get the rabies shots, since he couldn't know if the dog had been vaccinated.
I carry mace, after being bitten, but since it is usually deep in my fanny pack, it wouldn't do much good for a situation like yours. I haven't needed it in the three years since the bite. I will usually stop when I see a dog who is loose. I know how most dogs will go after anything moving fast. I'll tell the dog to Stay! and that usually will stop them.
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I used to run with my German Shepherd and I carried pepper spray in order to protect HIM from other dogs. You cannot predict when or where you will encounter a loose dog. I had to retire my running partner due to age, but I continue to carry the spray and have used it multiple times effectively against loose, aggressive dogs.
I have also been bitten. In that situation the first thing you need is contact information. Owner’s address at the very least so that you can report the location to the local animal control office, which should be programmed into your phone. Once you’ve contacted the authorities, they can begin the process of confirming vaccinations. Document the injuries with photos, seek medical attention if the skin is broken by deep puncture.
The rest depends on local code. In my experience, I had the option of making a dangerous dog report. That required my testimony to the events and a panel to decide on the fate of the dog. As this happened with a neighbor who was truly sorry and who had acted swiftly and in good faith immediately after the bite, I chose to trust him to keep the dog contained in the future and did not make the report. Regardless of that however, I did report the dog bite to animal control and he spent ten days in quarantine, after which he was returned to the owner and I did not have any problems afterwards. The owner also happened to use the same vet I did so I was able to confirm vaccinations directly.
I did have the pepper spray the day I was bitten, but I hesitated to use it with the owner right there. In hindsight, I should have sprayed first and not let the dog circle around behind me (I was bitten on the back of the thigh).
Leah, mother of dogs
I carry pepper spray that clips on my waistband so it's easily accessible. With dogs that are approaching me in more of a curious manner I will spray it in front of them on the road, they sniff it and turn around. The few more aggressive ones that I have actually sprayed in the face have never bothered me again. I never go out without my spray and don't think it's "overkill" at all. You never know when a dog will get out of its fence or be let out to pee while owner watches from the porch. I agree the first thing to do if a dog comes near is to stop running and try to cross the street or move away slowly. So sorry for your experience.
I live in a very rural area and loose dogs are the norm, so the baton at least is not overkill for me and I do subscribe to the better safe than sorry. I call if "Just in Case" drives my daughter crazy.
These are all great responses. Thank you!
You know, it's funny. When things like this happen, your brain doesn't always work as it should. The owner said the dog was current on all his shots. I didn't think to verify. There were two witnesses who wanted me to immediately call the police. I didn't realize the extent of my injuries. I honestly didn't even know that the dog had bit me four times. All my brain could think to ask was, "how old is the dog?" The owner responded, "18 months" and I thought, "Oh, he's still a pup. He's still learning how to make good choices." I felt like I was about to fall apart right there, so I started running again. It wasn't until I had gone another two miles that I realized that my leg really hurt. I happened to look down and saw that my leg was covered in blood. I then saw that my jacket was bloody as well. Shock does crazy things to a person.
I have two friends who truly are experts. One is the former head trainer of police dogs from a larger metro area and now testifies across the country in aggression trials. The second is actually our trainer who specializes in civil service dogs. Their takes were the same--because of the pattern of the bites (2 low to disable and then two that would have been in the head/neck area had I not been able to jump back), they both believed the dog had been trained to attack at some point in time and was in need of aggression rehab. training. The law enforcement friend informed me that I should not approach the owners. However, I live in a friendly part of the country. We believe the best in people. The Mr. went to the owner's house to get their information, took pictures of the tags and gave them the number of our trainer who was waiting for a call from them. It appears the dog was a newer addition to their family. He seemed so well behaved that they assumed that all was good and let him be off leash when they were with him. They had purchased him, with papers, from an enlisted man. Now, who actually did the attack training is an unanswered question. Because I had to seek medical attention, I was forced to report the incident. In our city, there is a mandatory 10 day quarantine as well as an aggression assessment. As this is the dog's first report, the quarantine is being done in the owner's home. As luck would have it, the agent in charge of this process is the younger sister of one of our former employees and she has been so kind and encouraging, but she did tell me I was a little too optimistic regarding the dog. I grew up in a family that loved German Shepherds. We had one that was a show dog so my experience with them was a 180 degree difference from the one that I encountered. That's probably why I have had so much grace.
I haven't really been able to run, but I have made myself walk past the owner's house. I need to find a similarly colored German Shepherd to play with so I can make sure to banish all fears.
I had to laugh at the comment regarding bears. We travel a lot and I regularly run in Yellowstone by myself. I've had some interesting run ins there (no bears, but a lot of other animals on some single tracks). I've had more snake encounters than a person can count. I ran right over a rattler that was sunning himself in some rocks a few months ago. It's funny that is was a "docile" pet that finally brought me down.
The best suggestions I've gotten so far include a water gun with ammonia, a taser--you don't have to actually use it. Supposedly, the clicking sound it makes deters the dogs, pepper spray--I do love the idea of creating a general cloud as a deterrent, and the col. baton--far superior to the little lady who I sometimes see who carries a golf club on her walks.
Anyway, thanks for your input. I'm pretty blessed that everything is healing well and I should be back to normal--with a few new scars--in no time flat. There is nothing like running to make a person feel alive.
It’s great that you have so much knowledge and support! I hope you can recover emotionally.
Just a word about pepper spray, it doesn’t produce a cloud. It’s a very narrow stream and should be directed into the face/eyes/mouth of your attacker. If you haven’t used it before, test it out so you know the range of effectiveness.