My brother-in-law is developmentally delayed, and he’s also afraid of dogs. Because he doesn’t drive, he walks all over our hometown of Bonners Ferry. When he walks by a house where a dog growls or rushes to the boundaries of the property, his first instinct is to stare them down or run as fast as he can.
Unfortunately, both those responses are only going to make things worse, or create danger where none really existed. You should never bolt from a dog, because even Olympian Usain Bolt’s highest speed is only a match for a dog’s average 22 MPH. And chasing can sometimes trigger a dog’s prey drive, which can make you seem like a human chew toy and send you to the ER.
The best piece of advice I can give is to fight down the instinct to run, and instead stand perfectly still. Cross your arms to your chest to make yourself appear smaller and less threatening and avoid eye contact at all costs. If you have to move away, do so slowly while backing up – don’t turn around while retreating.
What if you’re not running from a dog, but just out jogging? Many dogs are drawn to fast-moving people
If you’re jogging, biking, or skateboarding and see a dog you’re uncertain of, slow down to a walking pace, or stop. If you’re on a bike, dismount without making eye contact with the dog and keep the bike between you.
Recently, my daughter, Mikkel, was out with a Beagle who got loose from his family. The dog was fixated and chasing after a skateboarder. The person on the skateboard was incredibly dog savvy. Instead of continuing to skateboard and having the dog chase after him (the dog would have been right on his heels, and it would have been a scenario of high excitement and chase where a nip could have happened) he instead stopped, picked up his skateboard and stood completely still. It stopped the dog who was suddenly far less interested and could be picked up and secured and taken away. Then, once the dog was secured he continued on his way. Smart kid!
It can be extremely difficult to overcome the urge to flee danger, but when faced with a possibly threatening dog, the advice to “be a tree” is your best bet for safety.