Imagine if you will an idyllic trail run. There you are, no one else around, the sounds of nature surrounding you, when suddenly you hear a crashing through the underbrush, and you come face to face with a dog the size of a small car.
This is not an uncommon scenario. Here in Edmonton, we have approximately 40 off-leash sites. Many of these areas run through our river valley trail system which is heavily used by the running community. Human-dog encounters while on the run are inevitable.
There is no simple solution for this issue, and some dog owners become quite indignant when an incident occurs. On more than one occasion after I had been nipped at or bumped or jumped on by a dog in an off-leash area, the dog owner suggested that I should not be running on the trails, and that I was the problem!
I beg to disagree. In our community is a privilege to be able to walk your dog in an off-leash area as stated on the municipal Web site. With that privilege it is presumed that owners have their dogs under control at all times, and that the dogs are appropriately socialized as to prevent inappropriate encounters with other park users. Leashes are to be in possession even in off-leash sites, and fines can be levied if the owner is not in compliance. So ultimately, the owners are responsible for their pet’s behavior.
What can we do as runners?
Dogs chase. Running away from a chasing dog just heightens these instincts. When a dog begins to chase, stop running. Avoid eye contact with the dog since they will perceive this as a threat. Stand sideways to the dog to present a less threatening profile and back away.
If you are bitten by a dog, wash the wound with copious amounts of warm water and soap. If bleeding does not stop after 15 minutes seek medical attention. It is also important to get as much information about the dog as possible along with the owners name and address and report it to the local authorities.
Most often dog and runner encounters are good natured and add to the experience of sharing the outdoors with others. However, be prepared to stop if Fido wants to do more than give you a passing sniff!