When I saw the big dark brown ball of fur heading our way at full speed I kicked into high gear. This growling dog with teeth showing and hackles raised meant business. No time for discussion – time to get on down the road. All of a sudden I was running by myself across the plains of Eastern Kansas. Glancing back over my shoulder I saw that my training partner, Jim (from Salina, Kansas) had been much braver than I. “Come on you stupid dog! I’ll take you on!” he was yelling at the top of his lungs all the while bending down grabbing as much gravel as his right hand could hold. He began launching rocks in rapid fire succession towards the dog sending big boy directly back where he came from. I stopped – and just stood in amazement at this display of heroics. It was a lesson in confronting bad dogs I have never forgotten and have used quite effectively over the years.
A recent article in a national running magazine referenced what I would refer to as “politically correct bad dog confrontation”. Sorry but when my space is about to be invaded by a canine bent on establishing dominance by destruction my fight or flight skills kick in and political correctness is gone. Thankfully for Jim’s lesson that day I have learned to stand my ground – displaying a bigger than you – meaner than you – tear you apart if you come any closer posture with yells similar to his that day that can be heard from afar. So far, so good. After honing this skill over the years I have yet to have a dog inflict any type of a wound. A few well placed rocks that would make a major league pitcher proud doesn’t hurt either.
Here are some BDM (bad dog management) tips …
1. Don’t try to out run the dog. You won’t. Learn to stand your ground. It is no fun being the hunted.
2. Read the dog’s body language. Some dogs show initial aggressiveness but when they see you aren’t prey to run down they might let their toughness subside.
3. If they continue to display an attack posture (snarling, teeth showing, hair on their neck/back standing on end) it is time to act. Face the dog and begin the counter assault by; yelling at the top of your lungs (get serious with your yell – no time for church whispers), bend down picking up anything you can throw at the dog (even when there aren’t rocks to pick up – just the act of you reaching down and pretending to grab rocks can work), take a step towards the dog, establishing a throwing position – if need be. Defend yourself at all costs.
4. By this time you will have alerted the owner (assuming they are close) who will (and I quote) “he/she won’t hurt you”. Yea right. Do not divert your attention away from the dog until the dog shows submission either to you or the owner. Continue to trash talk the dog – only relenting when you see the posture change. Assuming this happens – it is now time to address the owner. Be polite – be respectful, but with no uncertain terms let the owner know the seriousness of the situation.
5. Then move on.
6. If you pass a dog on leash – thank the owner. Not all dogs encountered while running are bad dogs. But thanks to my friend Jim (and later coach for a few years) for giving me the confidence to take on these bad boys. I just grin every time I have to grab rocks and …No bite marks so far – thanks to a lesson learned in the hills of Kansas. Bad dog experiences are no fun.
Learning to surge should be saved for a planned workout. Not a sprint past the junk yard dog type of workout. Come to think of it …maybe that is just where I learned to surge in my races – coming in the middle of a hard run on a route with a few bad dogs.
Dedicated to the memory of Dandy – one of the best and a very good dog.
Until next time – enjoy the run.