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What Should You Do If A Dog Attacks?

After her recent experience, Hoppe Feet advises on the best way for runners to deal with a dog attack.

Bitten On The Run

Last month, one of my worst running nightmares came true: I was attacked by a dog while running.

My weekly long run on the local running path was off to a normal start. However, a mile into my run, things changed. I came up behind a middle-aged couple walking their two large dogs. As I ran past, one of the dogs jumped up and bit my upper thigh. The bite didn’t break the skin, but it immediately resulted in a significant bruise and left behind an imprint of the dog’s teeth.

I was shocked that the couple continued walking their dogs, without pausing to address my attack. So I turned to confront them, saying, “Excuse me, your dog just bit me.” They seemed confused and requested that I come over to show them the bite. Not wanting to go anywhere near the dog that had just bitten me, I said I was fine. I was resolved to finish my run.

I stopped multiple times afterwards to assess my injury, continuing to tell myself that since it didn’t break the skin, no harm was done. A few miles later, I ran past my husband Matt, who was also out completing his long run. As we passed each other, I yelled out to him, “I just got bitten by a dog!”

When I got home, Matt was anxiously waiting for me. “Did you say you got bitten by a dog? Are you okay!?” I told him the whole story, and he explained that someone stopped him during his run, warning Matt to be careful because a runner had just been attacked by a dog on the path. He had no clue that the runner who was bitten was me! Matt was more concerned and worried than I was. Despite his desperate pleas that I go to Urgent Care, I ultimately opted to self-medicate, since my skin was not broken during the attack. Through this startling encounter, I learned some important lessons:

  1. Prevent the Attack – It’s vital to give pedestrians who are walking dogs ample warning if you are passing from behind. Make sure to give yourself plenty of room while passing, as well. It’s also important to note that just because a dog looks friendly, doesn’t mean that it won’t attack. In my case, I do not think that the dog was ferocious or malicious. Instead, I suspect that the dog was startled, which prompted it to jump up and nip me.
  2. Get the Details – If you are bitten, make sure to get the owner’s name, phone number and the name of the dog. After my attack, every single person asked if I had gotten those important details from the dog owner (I had not). It is important to collect those details (especially if your skin is broken!) so that your doctor can determine if you need a rabies shot. This information also ensures that others are not harmed by the dog.
  3. Medical Attention – If your skin is broken and/or if you are bleeding after an attack, clean the wound and then seek medical attention immediately. After my encounter, I consulted my mom, who was a walking mail lady for more than 30 years. During her tenure at the post office, she was bitten by numerous dogs, so I trusted her advice on this topic. She explained that the post office only required employees to seek medical attention if skin was broken. Based on this, I decided to skip Urgent Care and instead made a general doctor’s appointment for the following week. The doctor confirmed that I was fine, but gave me a tetanus shot (since I hadn’t gotten one in over 10 years). So, even in my case, medical attention was required.

Related:

What Should I Do About The Scary Neighborhood Dog?

How To Politely Pass Dogs And Their Owners On Your Run

How To Combat A Dog Attack On The Run

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