Dogs and running

I’ll just preface this with one statement.

I love dogs!

I’ve always loved dogs even though we didn’t get one until I was in 7th grade (our precious Sheltie, Nick). If I could have one now, I would in a heartbeat, but because I teach AND work part-time at the Disney Store, it wouldn’t be fair to the dog for me to have one.

I don’t blame the dogs at all for the events I am about to describe (and really by dog and runner stories these are mild). I’m more concerned with the owners and their behavior as it endangers not only runners but also the dogs.

Let’s start in Central Park. Now, I fully understand that before 9am on weekends, leashes are optional. I have no problem with that. By and large everyone I’ve encountered with dogs in Central (or Prospect – same time frame I believe) Park has been fantastic. Even off-leash the dog is under control and stops and/or returns to the owner when called. Sunday…well, it was different.

I was on my second lap of the park and was up in the Harlem Hills/North Woods section of the park. I was on the main loop road – where most runners stay. It was still before mandatory leash hours, but every dog I’d seen so far was in grassy areas and occupied with chasing a ball or stick. I ran past an entry to the off-road path into the North Woods and didn’t see anything unusual. Seconds later, my left foot (the one closest to the side of the road) hit something. I hadn’t seen anything at all, so I was confused and began looking around as I tried to keep my balance and not fall. What I saw was a little dog that came up to about my knee running at/after me. He didn’t seem to be trying to bite, just trying to run with me. But he was underfoot and I was having difficulty regaining my balance without stepping on him. Once I felt like I wasn’t going to fall (and probably land ON him) I looked back and saw his owner at the path entrance calling him back. She shrugged and said “He likes to run and go with runners.”

Ok. I get that you want your dog to have his freedom. But if you KNOW that he likes to run, especially with runners, it would be a good idea for his and the runners’ safety to leash him when you are approaching the main loop. At least until you get him trained to stop when commanded or come back when called. It’s as much for the dog’s safety as anything. Because if I’d fallen, where he was in relation to me, I would have landed on him, likely pinning him between the curb and myself. Even if I’d tried to avoid him, it would have been difficult. It’s not cruel to leash a dog, especially in cases like this. It’s keeping him safe!

BUT…

Just because a dog IS on a leash, there is no guarantee that you as a runner still might not be endangered. And no, I’m not talking about being bitten. Knock on wood I’ve only been bitten once in my life – and that was by a classmate in three-year-old pre-school. In this case I’m talking about the distracted human.

I got bored doing the laps of Central Park (dear lord how did they do a marathon in there? and people want to do one in there again??), so I went down to run along the Hudson. Pretty much every dog there was leashed. The problem came when I was getting down towards the Meat Packing District. There were two beautiful dogs – one was an Afghan, but I don’t know what the other was – both of the large variety. They were on leashes, but their owner (or walker as it could be either) was apparently deeply engrossed in a conversation on her phone. I’d seen one runner have a near miss as the dogs pulled their human along, and initially thought I was going to be ok as they were further in on the path than I was.

But the dogs made a last-second decision to move over towards the water, and she just let them go and drag her along as she continued her phone conversation. Right into my path. Luckily my reflexes were working and I avoided any collision. I did get a “Watch!!” out of my mouth and she looked around and absentmindedly said “Sorry” before getting right back into the phone conversation. Again, the situation could have been a LOT worse than it was, and again the fact that it wasn’t worse was due to me paying attention more than it was to the dogs’ human doing anything.

Having pets is a big responsibility. And having dogs in particular gives the added responsibility in that most of them DO go outside at some point. When you take them outside, you need to know your dog (if you’re a dog walker, know your clients and how many dogs you can handle) and you need to take care to ensure that they are properly trained and/or leashed and under control. It’s not being cruel to them to have a bit of control over them and to leash them when necessary. It’s loving them enough to ensure their safety!

And caring enough about your fellow humans to help ensure theirs as well.

What are your experiences with and thoughts on dogs and running? What have you done in similar situations?

Happy running!

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