As both a runner and a dog lover, I can understand the pleasure derived from running or walking with your dog. Not only is running good for you, as it turns out, it’s also good for your pooch. World-renowned dog behavior specialist Cesar Millan says that you can channel your dog’s energy much faster by running. According to Millan, “Thirty minutes of running can benefit a dog more than one hour of walking. That’s because it’s faster, everything moves quicker, and they burn more energy.” Millan believes that if we all ran with our dogs, it would be a different world. I would agree, if all dog owners were conscientious of those around them.
Twice this week while out running with my two kids in a doublewide stroller, I encountered dogs being walked recklessly, without regard for others on the path. Luckily, no injuries were sustained during those encounters, but I have been bit before. In my nine years of working at the Michigan Humane Society in Detroit, I helped remove vicious dogs from drug raids, captured feral cats from dilapidated houses, and even helped confiscate exotic cats, snakes, and caimans from inappropriate dwellings. Surprisingly, the worst animal bite I ever experienced did not happen at work but while out on a run.
A few years ago, I was out for a run, and I spotted a woman in front of me, walking her dog on her left. Her dog appeared uncooperative, but not vicious by any means. In retrospect, I should have moved way over to my left or passed on the right, but instead I followed the rules of running and passed on the left. As I passed, the dog leapt over, knocked me down to the ground, and bit a chunk out of my thigh. The woman quickly ran off with her dog, most likely fearing a lawsuit after hearing all the expletives spewing from my mouth.
Thankfully, in my 20-plus years of running, an encounter such as this one only happened once. My hope would be that a dog bite wouldn’t happen to anyone else; however, statistics show that an American has a one in 60 chance of being bitten by a dog each year. According to the Center for Disease Control, 4.7 million people in the U.S. population are bit annually. One out of every six of these bites is serious enough to require medical attention. Obviously, runners aren’t going to stop running and dog owners aren’t going to stop walking their dogs. However, there are steps you can take to minimize getting bit if you are a runner, and there are precautions dog owners can take to prevent their dog from biting.
How to prevent a dog bite if you are a runner.
Runners are particularly at risk to dog attacks because this activity provokes a dog’s chase instinct. Randy Lockwood, PhD, of the Humane Society of the United States claims: “In their brains, dogs see themselves as wolves and the runner as a caribou or deer. There have been several cases in which two children have been chased by a dog, and one child fell while the other kept running. The dog attacked the one who kept running.” So if a dog does charge you, instead of continuing to run, stop immediately. I know it’s easy to say and tough to do, but try to stand still and let the dog sniff you. Don’t strike the dog or put your hand out. If the dog does attack, feed him whatever you can — your iPod, your jacket, your shirt, basically you want the dog to take something in his mouth other than your arm. If you get knocked to the ground, curl up and cover your head and neck.
One thing to keep in mind is that as a runner, you are approaching a dog’s territory faster than they’re used to. If you are coming up from behind, make sure you don’t catch the dog unaware. The American Running Association recommends that you announce yourself when you are 50 feet away. Simply saying “Coming up on your left” should suffice. This may have prevented a dog bite in my case.
How to prevent your dog from biting a runner.
I’m all for letting your dog run free in off-leash parks and beaches; yet, when you’re out for a walk with your dog where there are other people running, biking, rollerblading, etc., your dog should be on a leash both for his protection and for the protection of others. The busier the area, the less slack you should have on the leash in order to prevent any altercations between your dog and others.
Walking on the left.
Most dog trainers will teach you to walk your dog on your left. Dog trainer Bonnie Braund told me, “When I teach my class I tell people they can chose which side they want to walk their dogs on. But if they are going on to formal obedience training, showing their dogs, etc., then the dogs have to be on the left because it is required.”
As a runner, I disagree with the requirement of heeling your dog on the left. Wouldn’t you want your dog on your right and as far away from other people, bikers and dogs who are also walking on the sidewalk? If you walk your dog to your right and you both stay to the right side of the sidewalk, you will be between your dog and any pedestrians who can then pass safely on the left. And since most people are right-handed, I would think they would want their dominant arm controlling the leash. Walking your dog to your right is also safer for the dog. Many times I’ve seen dogs being walked on the left and speedy bicyclists coming up behind and passing on the left, which can result in the bicyclist or the dog becoming injured.
I’d love to hear opinions from dog walkers, runners, and others in regards to walking your dog on your left versus right. Post your comments following this column.
ASAP Event at The Pet House in Goleta
This Sunday, August 4, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., ASAP will be promoting kitten adoptions for only $40. The Pet House is located at 5781 Calle Real in Goleta.
Two for the Price of One Kitten Adoptions
Santa Barbara County Animal Services has hundreds of kittens waiting to be adopted at its three county shelters. The shelter is no place for kittens to grow up, and in an effort to help them find their forever homes Animal Services is offering a special adoption rate of two for the price of one for all kittens up to six months old.
Adopters have until August 31 to get two feline companions and a lifetime of love for only $75. Most of the kittens have been hand-raised in loving foster homes and are well socialized. All of the kittens are spayed or neutered and up to date on their vaccinations.
There are many health benefits for owners of cats and kittens such as lower blood pressure and heart rates, better mood, and reduced stress. All of these health perks, that are a result of owning a cat, can reduce your risk of heart attack.
Kittens are very curious and playful so there are many benefits to adopting them in pairs. A single kitten will get bored and may find entertainment in climbing the drapes or chewing on plants. Two kittens will play together until they tire out, resulting in less mischief. Visit one of the following shelters:
Santa Maria Animal Center, 548 W. Foster Rd. in Santa Maria
LaPAWS, 1501 W. Central Ave. in Lompoc
ASAP Cats, Santa Barbara Shelter at 5473 Overpass Rd., Goleta.
Adoptable Pet of the Week
Jenna is a 2-year-old Australian shepherd mix who is looking for a loving home. She weighs about 45 pounds and is a very friendly dog. Jenna will make a sweet, loyal pet for some lucky family.
To visit our adoptable dogs, stop by the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road, Goleta, and complete a no-obligation adoption application.
Do you love dogs, but can’t have a pet? To donate or volunteer with K-9 PALS, the all-volunteer, non-profit organization that pays for all the non-routine medical expenses and prescription foods for the S.B. County shelter dogs, call (805) 570-0415 or link to www.K-9PALS.org