Whether you run in the park or around town, chances are you've come across a dog or two during your miles. And while some are friendly, leashed, and only want to play with you, others can cause panic as you wonder if you're going to be attacked.
For one 63-year-old female, that nightmare came true last week. The unidentified woman was found dead, mauled during her morning run in Littlerock, CA. Police quickly seized eight dogs that were identified by an eyewitness as the attackers, though DNA tests need to be run to verify if the dogs were the killers.
Unfortunately stories of runners being confronted by dogs are becoming more common as irresponsible owners dump their unwanted pets or improperly restrain them. But you don't need to stop your workout to stay safe. Roo Yori, a dog trainer who specializes in pit bull rehabilitation and the proud owner of the famous and beloved therapy pit bulls Wallace and Hector, offers advice on how to deal with an unknown or aggressive dog.
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1. Don't run. Tough advice for a runner, but Roo explains that while your natural instinct may be to flee, you need to fight that. "Unless you know for sure you can get behind a barrier of some sort that will separate you from the dog, running away or screaming is most likely going to make the situation worse. Chances are, you're not going to out-run a dog, and the act of running will probably activate the chase instinct present in all dogs."
2. Freeze. Most of the time, the best thing is become motionless, Roo says. So think of making your body like a post and fold your arms across your chest. "If you're boring and don't engage the dog, it will most likely sniff your leg and move on," Roo says. "Wait until the dog is a good distance from you, and move quietly to a safe area."
3. Be a rock. If the dog still attacks you and manages to knock you over, Roo says to curl up and cover your head, like the tornado drills you did in school, pulling your face down into your chest and covering your neck with your hands. He reiterates that if you're boring, the dog is much more likely to simply leave you alone.
4. Take precautions. If you're particularly concerned, you can carry a canister of pepper spray or mace with you, and Roo adds that there are citronella versions that also work well. But the best prevention is to know your route. Avoid any areas where owners allow their dogs to roam, and if you're trying a new path, drive it a few times first to see if you notice anything unsafe, canine-related or otherwise. Then simply stay aware while running. "If you notice an unknown dog ahead of you that you're not comfortable with, the sooner you stop and keep your distance—without running away—the better chance you'll have at avoiding an encounter," Roo says.
Have you ever been attacked by a dog? Tell us about your experience in the comments below or @Shape_Magazine.