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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When Animals Attack: exercising outdoors

A friend of mine recently told me that she had a run in with one of those little yappy dogs that almost discouraged her from running. 

I was horrified!

Not only do I love running but I love running outdoors! So I had to come up with a solution, and do some investigating, to get her back out the door.

When I run, I come in contact with all kinds of animals: horses, cows, sheep, iguanas, lizards...because I run in the wilderness as they say.

Here I am with some friendly horses!

Most times they are just grazing and minding their own business. So they don't worry me. I don't come in contact with many dogs out there.

However, sometimes I do run in parks and there dogs abound!

I have been charged, barked at, nipped at, and almost tripped because owners do not know how to handle their animals. This has never deterred me from running but I can understand how it can make people worry about their safety.

My first thought is to quote Cesar Millan: "no touch, no talk, no eye contact." (He's the authentic dog whisperer for those that don't know).

Disclaimer: I have never taken a course offered by Cesar Millan.  I don't recommend you using any of his techniques on unknown dogs without the supervision of an expert. 

In any case, the first three tips are very doable and common sense anyway. Whenever I see an animal I just ignore it, stay confident and keep running. If a dog does come up to you barking. Just pause, don't make eye contact, and I'm sure it will soon lose interest. This website also gives some useful tips.

General Outdoor Safety Tips
  • Avoid unsafe routes -- I talked about scoping out your route in Beginner Runners Part 1
  •  If you run at night bring lights so cars can see you or go with a friend.  
  • Pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Dress for the weather and terrain -- Detailed in Summer Running Gear Part 1 and 2; Beginner Runners Part 1
  • Keep your eyes and ears open! Sometimes that means turning down your music and looking both ways before crossing the street.
  • If you feel unsafe, turn around. Again, make sure to scope out your routes before you run.
  • Be aware of others -- This may mean people on bikes, other runners, kids, and pets.
  • Above all: use common sense
Follow this advice and, hopefully, the next time you encounter an unknown animal it won't even cause you to pause. Remember, we all go through these things.

Just stay confident and stay safe.

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