Last fall, two young women were brutally attacked by four stray dogs that crossed their path while they were out running on a country road. The women suffered numerous injuries, but they escaped with their lives. While their case was extreme, it's not unheard of. And it's stories like this one that keep some exercisers — runners, walkers and bicyclists alike — from enjoying outdoor workouts.
So what should you do if you come across a loose dog while you're out exercising? Here are some tips to keep you safe:
Stop moving. Your gut instinct may be to turn and run, but most dogs love to chase, so you will be making yourself a more attractive target. According to dog behavior expert Cesar Millan, instead of running away, you should stand your ground and remain motionless. Do not turn your back on the animal. If the dog approaches, stand perfectly still and try to look as boring as possible. In many cases, the dog will just give you a good bark and then lose interest and walk away. Look to the dog's body for other signs of the dog's intent, like a stiff tale or eyes that have rolled back , suggests the Humane Society of the United States.
Look away. Eye contact is a sign of aggression among dogs, says Millan, so try to keep an eye on the animal without looking at him directly.
Give a firm warning. Do not yell or shriek at the dog. Stay calm and use a strong voice to tell the dog to back down.
Have a treat handy. A treat or handful of kibble can provide a potential distraction, so carry some with you in case you come across a stray or loose dog, suggests BarkBusters.
Give the dog something else to bite. If possible, give the dog something to bite that is not you, like your purse, running belt, fanny pack or water bottle. Pull your arm out of your shirt or sweatshirt and let the dog bite it and even pull it off of you. It may distract the dog long enough to let you slowly back away.
If you can't get away. Hit the ground and cover your head with your hands. Your objective is to cover up your face, neck and stomach to minimize injury. Yell for help for all your worth.