28-Day Personal Challenge
Today I’m sharing my utmost hated line: “He doesn’t bite.”
I used to run (full disclosure I am the world’s slowest runner, pretty sure I walk faster than I run). So yeah, I used to run.
One day I wasn’t far from home, but as I rounded a corner I noticed an older lady standing near her mailbox, her car idling behind her. The lady’s posture was stiff, uncomfortable. Her eyes were glued to something across the street. I glanced over and immediately spotted her concern. A dog running up a driveway toward her, growling, barking, snarling, the hairs on the scruff of its neck ruffled high. He was on the larger size of a medium-sized dog. A smaller dog came yapping up behind him.
I slowed to a walk and came to the lady’s side. Her shoulders inched down from her ears. I told the dogs to go home. The bigger one slowed his approach, yet continued to cross the road. I stepped in front of the lady and firmly told the dog, again, to go home.
The dog stopped but continued snarling. I held my position, the dog held his. It was probably under a minute but felt more like ten minutes before the owner came up the driveway and uttered the line that instantly pisses me off,
“He doesn’t bite.”
She called the dogs back, they turned and headed her way. The owner smiled, she seemed nice, she told us, “they always sneak out.” Then she reiterated, “he doesn’t bite.”
I’m a fairly amicable person. I like others to feel comfortable, but when I hear wimpy excuses I can be unforgiving. So, I informed the owner, “We don’t know that.”
The owner seemed slightly taken aback, then went back home with dogs in tow.
Here’s the Problem
The problem with dog owners like the one in this story is that they don’t take into consideration what their dogs are like AWAY from them.
I’m not an animal behaviorist. But here’s what I think. Dogs protect their territory. If they escape their yard often and roam to the road, they claim that as their territory. Dogs will take on anything that threatens their perceived territory. Without their Alpha owner to tell them no, they take matters into their own hands…paws…teeth.
You don’t know for certain how your dog will react when you aren’t around. Granted there are the very rare exceptions for HIGHLY trained dogs (not your average dogs – if the dog is escaping and chasing people, it’s clear he is not highly trained).
You also need to account for factors beyond your control. Younger kids get scared, they scream or run. Dogs take that fear and pounce or chase. A dog not used to children may assume it’s being attacked when a child runs up to it and grabs at it. People who’ve had a bad experience with dogs in the past may not react in the best manner. Heck even people who react as well as possible may still get bitten.
I’ve been bitten by dogs that “don’t bite.” It ticks me off. One bite was intentional, vicious. One bite, I’m not sure how to label. The dog bit me, he was barking, but he wasn’t snarling, nor was his neck hair ruffled. That attack was when I was younger and the dog scared the bejeezus out of me. I took off running, he followed and chomped the back of my lower leg. A third dog bite was in play, completely unintentional on the dog’s part. That unintentional bite was, oddly, the worst of the three bites.
No one should have to shield another from your untended dog. A runner shouldn’t have to break pace, to keep from being bitten.
And, if you don’t care enough to have respect for others, have some respect for your dog, or at the very least, your pocketbook. When a dog attacks someone, you have to prove that your animal is up-to-date with vaccinations. You have to pay the medical of the person your dog bit, your dog gets labeled as “dangerous” and if your homeowner’s insurance gets wind that you have a dog that has bitten, guess what happens to your premiums?
And, as I mentioned before, the worst bite came from a dog who was just playing with us all and got a bit too excited. So do your dog a favor and keep it leashed in public areas and in the yard when at home.
Tips for Runners or Walkers
First, let me make this very clear, I’M NOT AN EXPERT, no guarantees these tips will work for you. I’m sharing these because they have been working for me.
If the dog is advancing AND barking, I immediately, slow down and cross the street to give myself a little distance. I look for a different direction, best to avoid the dog if at all possible.
If the dog continues toward me, I stop and tell it to go home. I use a firm tone and keep it short, and I don’t point. I also don’t always look the dog in the eye, I look over its head so he doesn’t feel challenged. Pretty sure the dog is thinking, “you’re a poor excuse for an opponent.”
I’m all “Damn, straight. I’m boring. Go home.”
If the dog is in a yard, but I don’t see a fence (it might be an electric fence), I slow my pace, cross the road, and pretend that it’s not there. I don’t look at the dog, I don’t talk to the dog, I just keep moving. Now, I have really good peripheral vision, so I keep my head forward, but I know where that dog is. If I have music going I pull out my earpiece so I can hear what the dog is doing after I pass. I’m listening for trotting, toenails on the pavement, huffing, dog tag jingles, etc…. Usually, the dog does nothing. I think he believes I don’t see him, maybe I’m ruining his self-confidence. I don’t know, but he doesn’t usually follow when you don’t give him acknowledgment.
If the dog isn’t barking, snarling, or has its hackles raised, I use a nice tone to tell it to go home. Then I ignore and follow the same sequence as the above paragraph.
I’m a Sucker
If the dog is wagging its tail and doing the slobbery happy trot, I’m totally going to give him love. I will then tell him to go home because I don’t want him to get hit by a car, but yeah, I’m going to love on that.
We All Need A Bit of Understanding
When an unleashed dog runs up to me, I need to remember that this may have been an accident. Dog owners need to remember that people don’t always have the best experience with dogs and need to be considerate of that.
If you take your dog to a park, keep it on the leash. Yes, the pooch may be fine with kids, but even when they are happy they can get too excitable and chomp more than intended.
I’ve included a couple of links below, one for dog owners and one for people who want to avoid bites. Let’s all remember, dog owners may not have let the dog go intentionally. Dog owners, the person who over-reacted may have previously been bitten by a dog.
For Dog Owners
A link to an article by the American Veterinary Medical Association on why dogs bite.
For People Who Want To Avoid Bites
Here’s a link to an article from the CDC on preventing dog bites.
A Link for Everyone
Here’s a link for 100 Dog Behaviors we should all know (yes, I think it’s helpful for non-dog owners as well): 100 Dog Behaviors
Do you have recommendations for dealing with a dog approaching aggressively?
Dog Owners, what would you like non-dog owners to know?