When a Dog Attacks a Runner
Southern Californians love the great outdoors! Our beautiful weather means that we often see people running outside for exercise. Unfortunately, if you ask any runner, they likely have a story of a close encounter with an unfriendly dog. Dog attacks on runners are fairly common. Our office receives numerous calls each month related to dog bite injuries, many of which could have been prevented by exercising a few safety tips.
Here are some to follow the next time you don your running shoes and take to the trails.
Be Acutely Aware of Your Environment
Be on the lookout for dangers. Know the route you plan to run and consider only using one earbud if you require entertainment. The sound of music in your ears can drown out auditory warnings, such as an oncoming car or the growling of an angry dog nearby.
Avoid Unsafe and Unknown Areas
Choose areas where dogs are less likely to be on the loose or where neglectful owners don’t provide their dogs with enough care and attention, allowing them to roam freely. Avoid the bad parts of town, areas near dog parks, or rural areas close to farms.
Keep Distance Between Yourself and a Loose Dog
If you have the space to do so, consider changing direction or crossing the street \to put distance between you and any loose dog you encounter. Even if the dog does not appear to be hostile, its temperament can change very suddenly if it sees you as a threat once you come closer.
Read the Dog’s Body Language
Typically, a hostile dog will provide you with obvious signs that it is on the offensive. Look for a tense body with hackles up, erect ears, a stiff tail held high and even loud or low growling. Keep in mind that dogs communicate via eye contact, so if the dog is staring intensely at you, avoid staring back as this can be perceived as a threat or challenge. Instead, keep your head turned slightly away and keep track of the dog in your close peripheral vision.
Here are some of the telltale signs you need to keep an eye on:
- Tense body with the hackles—the area between the tail and shoulders—up and ears erect
- Loud growling
- Stiff tail, or held high and wagging faster than normal
- Furrowed brows
- Drooling from the mouth
- Flicking tongue
- Backing away while growling
- Intense stare with eyes wide with rage
In Case You are Chased…
If and only if things escalate and you couldn’t avoid the attack, do the following:
Stop in Your Tracks
While this is most definitely easier said than done, the first thing you need to do is to calm down, stop running and stand still with your arms folded across your chest. This signals to the dog that you are not prey. According to most dogs’ experts, this is the best approach.
Even if your every instinct tells you to run in the other direction, you need to fight that and stand your ground. Running will only make things worse. Only run or move if you know for sure you can get to safety before the dog reaches you. Otherwise, stand still and control your nerves.
Avoid Eye Contact
Dogs view direct eye contact as a threatening gesture and is how dogs show dominance. This will only make them more aggressive and territorial, so be sure to avert your eyes but keep the dog in your peripheral vision the entire time. Never turn your back to the dog as it can be interpreted as a sign of weakness.
Use the Right Commands
If the dog persists, face him and while using a deep and firm voice, command him to “back away” using a strong and confident voice. If the owner is close by, call them. Hopefully, he’ll intervene and call off the dog.
Call an Attorney Today
Remember, if you are bitten by a dog while out running, the dog’s owner may have a duty to cover the costs of your injury as well as other costs, including pain and suffering or time you have to take off from work to deal with your injury. If you were bitten, then the first thing you need to do when you get home is to wash the wound carefully with warm water and soap to gently cleanse it and examine it.
While most bites can be treated at home, a visit to the doctor is recommended as the doctor will be able to assess the injury better. In most cases, he might suggest you take antibiotics to prevent infection and receive a tetanus shot, or a series of preventative shots called rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. Also, be sure to report the incident to your local police department, animal control as well to the owners, if you can find them, immediately after the attack.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite or dog attack, call us at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your legal options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.