I f you make a habit of running along mountain paths then you may be well aware of how to act if you meet a bear or even a mountain lion but for the majority of runners the reality is that the fiercest animal you will encounter plodding through your local park is man’s best friend.

Problem is, as cuddly and cute and curious as most doggies are, some are snarling hell beasts that can chill our bones and make us run a personal best over any given, chased, distance.

Instinct normally tells us that when a dog looks a little iffy we should look at them with striking fear and speed up, if they show teeth we should run for our lives. Sadly this probably isn’t the best way to deal with them and is likely to encourage them to carry on their macho show. The eye contact and fast movement is thought by many experts to be a challenge or it just scares the dog giving it the need to protect itself!

So what should you do when you see a dog off the leash whilst running? Here are my tips:


  • Find a way to give it more space, I move as far away from it as possible onto the other side of the path, over the road or even another path.
  • Slow down slightly so that I don’t shock it (yes this has ruined many a fast mile for me)
  • If the dog starts looking over, don’t make eye contact and slow down a little more, look around for the owner too and try and get their attention if you see them.
  • If the dog looks like it’s going to start coming towards you and is looking hostile then you should take the advise from the Kennel Club and “Be A Tree” which involves staying calm, crossing your arms, tucking your chin in, looking down and softly speaking to the dog if it’s close. They also advise you drop everything but as a runner it’s unlikely you’ll be carrying much.
  • If the dog continues to look hostile and starts coming closer towards you then start backing up and talk firm telling them to sit, lay, down or any other commands they may know.
  • Back away until you feel like you are out of the dogs territory or if possible get yourself behind a wall or a door so you can make a quicker get away without the dog seeing you run for your life and blubbering like an idiot!
be a tree

The route I am running right now along the river front is nightmare when it comes to seeing dogs. Many are on leashes so I still give space for respect of the dog and owner but often they seem to be roaming free with the owner 100m or so away. I have had many showing interest in me! The steps outlined above have been working just fine but of course I am seeing slowed times on my miles when I have to encounter many dogs per mile.

I’m going to try and find some routes that are less likely to be littered with dog walkers, avoiding dogs has to be the best option, and am also going to try and start getting laced up and out the door at an earlier time in the morning, before most dog walkers and people are out on the promenade.

What tips do you have for dealing with dogs whilst running?

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When I can be I am a regular runner but I am also nothing special and certainly no elite, so in that respect I am regular too. However I do love talking about running and related things and I do have a lot of experience, over 15 years now.

11 Responses to “What To Do When You See A Dog Whilst Running” Subscribe

  1. Grady Pruitt October 11, 2011 at 18:18 #

    I haven’t encountered many dogs when i go running, but these are great tips to follow if you do see one. Show the dog respect, and it will usually back down. Thanks for sharing!

    • Forest October 12, 2011 at 00:35 #

      Thanks Grady, glad you enjoyed it.

  2. L. Koehn October 11, 2011 at 19:23 #

    Great advice! Dogs have been a problem for me, but I always do as you suggest and stand still.

    I have actually found that I see fewer unleashed dogs if I run after people have left for work. They let the dog out early, and many times he’s unleashed and the owner doesn’t watch him. That’s when the dogs chase, in my experience.

    Obviously, the timing won’t work for everyone, but I can manage it because I don’t work outside the home.

    • Forest October 12, 2011 at 00:36 #

      Thanks for the tip L.Koehn, I must admit I don’t like the eves around here as loads of teenagers are hanging around and they can be quite the downer shouting and staring, sometimes worse than dogs!

  3. Janice October 15, 2011 at 02:25 #

    I stare at them with a “I’m bigger than you” look and Bark if need be. They ALWAYS run away, including pit bulls and rotwillers. Stand your ground!

    • Forest October 15, 2011 at 09:34 #

      Hey Janice, that is bold! I wouldn’t consider it ever, ha ha!

  4. Dan November 9, 2011 at 08:40 #

    My biggest problem with dogs is they tend to be enthusiastic and friendly, wanting to run round my feet! I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some responsible owners who have controlled or distracted their dogs until I pass.

    • Forest November 9, 2011 at 08:41 #

      Thanks can be a real annoyance Dan, I love dogs but I would rather not trip over one! I appreciate responsible owners too.

  5. ninjaTRIATHLETEmonkey November 24, 2011 at 11:13 #

    Good advice. I too try and slow when passing dogs and keep my arms closer to my body and don’t move them as much. Interestingly I’ve found that when club running in groups the four-legged one is less interested in us than when I’m running by myself. Maybe they are intimidated by the number of people.

    • Forest November 25, 2011 at 17:20 #

      Interesting that they stay away from groups. Often it does seem like they are just playing a dominance game!


  1. When you see a big, mean dog « Repetition Is Key - October 11, 2011

    […] Regular Runner had some good advice yesterday. […]

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