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Canine confrontations.

It's a pretty safe bet that dogs present a smaller threat to runners today than just a few decades ago due to effective leash laws in most areas. Despite that, there are probably few runners who don't encounter a loose dog now and then. Unfortunately, runners often seem to inspire aggression. What to do with a charging dog depends on the nature of the dog. Steve Diller, animal behaviorist, of the Center for Animal Behavior and Canine Instruction in Elmsford, NY, says "no one answer works for all dogs." But rather than scream, panic, or run, Diller says freeze. Then face the dog. It's less likely to pounce at you when the dog can see how big you are. And (here is the challenging part), smile. According to Diller, smiling and flattery like "good dog" might diffuse a dog's aggression. Next, tell the dog to "sit and stay." Most dogs associate the "sit" command with getting a treat, he explains.

If a dog knocks you over from the back, quickly cover your head and curl into a ball to protect anything you can. Becoming a rock makes you a killjoy from the dog's point of view. As you are no longer a fun wiggling running prey, the dog may lose interest in you. Some dogs would trot away bored; some dogs would no doubt lick you. Children should hit the ground and cover up since a child's size makes him so vulnerable and his face is just a snap away. Shrill, high-pitched screams from a child can also drive a dog crazy and provoke aggressive behavior. If you're pushing an infant or a toddler in a jogging stroller and encounter a territorial hound, Diller advises that you turn the stroller and face the baby away from the dog. Next, get your body between the carriage and the dog. Try not to turn your back on the dog during the process. Diller suggests that if you've got kids with you, run with a large water gun. "Soak the dog from about 30 feet away before he gets to you."

If all these tactics fail and you are bitten, try to keep cool. Don't pull away. That's what the dog is counting on you to do. Pulling tears flesh. The dog's initial bite only punctures. If you've got the presence of mind, push your bitten arm/ hand toward the dog. This frightens the canine. Diller warns that it is never a good idea to fight an attacking dog. "Punching and kicking the dog puts you right in the dog's mouth," he says. "It is likely to make him even angrier."

If you've managed to calm the dog down, what next? Relax; wait for the dog to walk away. Then, you can back away slowly. Don't turn your back or run; just keep walking until you are well out of sight. Then you can resume your run, probably fueled with an extra dose of adrenaline.

Prepare mentally for the possibility and rehearse the three F's and an S--Freeze, Face the dog, Smile, Flatter with "nice doggy" in your best honey voice. This will sweeten most any cur.

And if a loose dog harasses you, call the Animal Control in your area and report it. The next runner might not be so lucky.

(Shelly-lynn Florence Glover, MS., is an exercise physiologist and co-author of The Runner's Handbook and The Runner's Training Diary with her husband and training partner Bob Glover. She tutors first-time marathoners through her coaching firm, Great Strides, and the New York Road Runners Club running classes. Order her books at a discount by calling 1-800-776-2732 or visiting
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Title Annotation:runners and dogs
Publication:Running & FitNews
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2002
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