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A Runner's Guide To Off-Leash Dogs

If getting into shape is one of your New Year’s resolutions, you may be one of the many Americans who decide to take up running. And it won’t take you long to realize there are many dog owners who seem to think leash laws do not apply to them! While I am in no way giving these inconsiderate folks a pass, forewarned is forearmed. And knowing what triggers a dog’s chasing behavior can prevent a bite or attack. While we may love our dogs like family, it is important to remember that first and foremost, they are animals. Perhaps more importantly, they are predators. Predators chase prey. And prey runs.

Simply put, running, along with skateboarding, biking, or any activity involving rapid movement, can ignite a dog’s prey drive. If you are approached by a dog while out on a run, the first thing to do is stop running. When we teach young children how to react to an approaching dog, we tell them to “be a tree.” Relax, but hold still. Do not touch the dog, speak to it, or make eye contact. If the dog does not retreat, or it’s behavior worsens, give it a familiar command such as sit, stay, off, or go home. Remember, this is a command - use a strong, authoritative tone, but continue to avoid eye contact as some dogs see it as a challenge. Do not move erratically or scream. These are the behaviors of prey animals. Behaving like prey can cause the dog to continue to perceive you as prey. To help avoid such a close encounter, try running with a marine air horn. If you feel threatened by a dog, give it a blast. Few dogs have ever encountered this sound, and while it’s likely to terrify them, it is harmless. This should give you enough time to get out of the area. And do have a word with the dog’s owner. Off-leash dogs are dangerous and illegal, and leash laws apply to everyone.


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