Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dog attacks, can happen to anyone

This report is a couple of weeks old, but I thought it was still worth pointing out for a public safety reminder. While I have been lucky enough to not be attacked by dogs at any point when I am out running, it really can happen to anyone, anytime. On Jan 8 of this year, Paula Radcliffe, the current women's world record holder for the marathon at 2:15:25, was reported to have been bitten by a dog while out on a training run. Reportedly the dog was being walked by an older man who lost control of the leash, permitting the dog to chase and attack Radcliffe.

Thankfully, the injury was described as being minor and Radcliffe said she has no need or desire to change her training plan, which includes targeting a fall marathon to qualify for the British Olympic team and the 2012 London Games.

Dog bites are all too common. The CDC reports 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs annually. Their website unfortunately does not really provide any significant advice on prevention or what to do if you are attacked other than to "remain still". The American Veterinary Medical Association sells a pamphlet on the subject, but it is not freely available. The AVMA does, however, offer an extensive paper on community based programs for dealing with dog attacks. One of the more extensive resources I found on the subject is over at The source material that they reference is pretty thin, so I am not sure if it is effective or recommended, but it seems like reasonable advice.

Some tips:

  • While I have never been bitten, I have been chased. Just slowing to a walk and quietly moving on is usually very effective until owners can gain the dog's attention.
  • Wikihow suggests a variety of methods to assert dominance without being threatening. Such as, forcefully say "no" or "go home" but do not look the dog in the eye.
  • Use whatever is nearby to help shield you, sticks, your bike if you are cycling, or even just a thick sweatshirt over your arm if you are lucky enough to have one. 
  • If you must strike the dog, Wikihow suggests that hitting the skull is usually not effective since they are often very thick bones, but the base of the skull (ie: the back of the neck) is most likely to get their attention and scare the dog off.

If you are bitten, definitely seek medical attention! Dog bites can be very dangerous if they become infected so make sure to see a doctor right away.

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