Running: When Dogs Bite

I experienced a running first yesterday: a dog bit me. 

I was running on a semi-major road near my house, and I saw the dog and its owners (or more likely owner + friend) up ahead on the same sidewalk.  As we approached one another, I could see that the dog–a mutt, maybe 40-50lb–was very excited, so I slowed to a walk and tried to give it as much space as possible.  The dog was barking, and the owner pulled the leash a little tighter, and just as we passed each other, the dog lunged and grabbed hold of my thigh with its teeth.

“Oh my gosh!  Did he bite you??  Did he bite you??”

“Yeah, yeah, he bit me!”

“Are you okay??  I’m so sorry!  He’s had all his shots!  I can give you my contact information and am happy to pay any medical bills!  He’s a puppy, and he just doesn’t do very well!”

“It’s okay; I’m okay.  Thank you.  I’m sure a band-aid will cover it.  It’s okay!  It happens!”

It happened so fast, and I was wearing running tights (now ripped), so I couldn’t see the extent of the damage.  It definitely hurt, but it was also cold, so I knew my skin was more sensitive.  It was just a very surprising situation, and I didn’t think through my reaction.

I tried to resume running, crossing the street into a neighborhood, and immediately was met with a lot of pain in my leg.  I investigated as best I could without pulling down my pants in public, and the one gash I could see was not pretty.  I can’t promise that I didn’t utter a few four-letter words.  From there I hobbled home, not quite crying, but definitely whimpering.


24 hours later–Tilt your computer screen as needed to get the full color-effect of that bruise 😉

After inspecting the wound, I sent a picture to Andrew, my mom, and a couple of friends in the medical field, and they all urged me to go to the doctor just to get it checked out.  Friends, that was a funny telephone call:

“Hi, I’m a patient of Dr. So-and-So.  Um, I just got bitten by a dog.  Is that something she could take a look at today?

They were able to to see me right away, and said it looked all right, and it was time for me to get a tetanus shot anyway.  They gave me the shot and some heavy-duty antibiotic cream, and sent me home.  The left side of my body–my leg where I was bitten, and my arm where I got the shot–is super sore today, so I am going to take it easy for a few days, but otherwise, I think I will be all right.

After the incident, I did some research to learn what one is supposed to do if bitten by a dog.  If you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what to do:

To avoid the bite:
-Slow your run to a walk so you are less threatening.
-Don’t stare, but keep the dog in site.
-Walk in the opposite direction of the dog.

After being bitten:
-If the owner is present, take the contact info!  (I am kicking myself for not doing this!)
-Apply basic first-aid: wash the area with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment and sterile bandage.
-Go to the doctor.  Just in case.  I know it’s a pain, but why risk it?
-If you took contact information, ask for proof of up-to-date vaccinations for dog.
-Report the incident to animal control.

Stay safe out there, friends!

-Have you ever been bitten by a dog while a running?  How bad was it, and what did you do?


18 thoughts on “Running: When Dogs Bite

  1. Um WHAT!? that is awful! I’m so glad you are okay, what a nasty thing to have happened. Geeze, that is a huge bruise/bite! Absolutely horrifying. I am afraid of dogs as it is so this would freak me out even more. You are such a trooper for being so nice and calm about it.. hope you heal up very very quick!

  2. I know you must have felt terrible but this is a great example of someone coping with challenges while staying fit. This lifestyle certainly has more than its share of painful risks.

    You got your “blood, sweat and tears” all on the same day.

  3. Wow. Your attitude was pretty good about it. Great job! Even though it was an accident, the owners need to pay more attention and be more aware of everyone around them. Very frustrating.

    • Thanks! I wish I could claim that it was a great attitude, but I think it was more shock than anything else. As the dog was lunging at me the woman said, “He’s very friendly!” Like you said, even though it was an accident, the owners need to be more aware.

  4. So sorry!! Hope you are feeling better. I was bit by a dog about a year ago on my forehead/face, but not while running. The whole rabies risk is so scary, even if you know the dog is up to date on everything. I’m still pretty uptight when I encounter dogs I don’t know… not sure if it’s something I’ll ever get over. So glad you are okay!

    • Thanks, Emily! I can’t imagine being bitten on the face! That would be so scary. Was it a dog you knew? My doctor wasnt concerned about rabies (I guess the chance is basically zero if the dog is someone’s pet, and the owner is responsible enough to walk it), but I’m still a little freaked out about it. I looked up the symptoms, and after the list it said, “By the time you experience these symptoms, your chance if survival is extremely rare…” Ahh!

      • It was my friends roommates dog, the first (and only) time I met him. Virginia techs health center would not stop with worst case scenario talk. I was already freaked out enough, I didn’t need to hear how likely It was that I would die and how expensive treatment would be! Hope you are feeling better!

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  6. WOW!!! This is crazy!! I’m so glad you’re doing okay, but wow. So sad this happened! Honestly, I’m terrified of dogs when I run… I didn’t really think this was a viable threat, especially with the owner so close! Hope you’re healing up!!

    • Crazy, right?? It’s healing fine, thankfully, but my skin is definitely still blue. Hah. I was not irrationally afraid of dogs prior to this (I always try to use caution), but yesterday I was running in a neighborhood, and a couple was walking their dog across the street, and I felt myself start to panic a little bit even though the dog was far away and totally uninterested in me. Oy.

      • Nooo!! Fight the fear! It is truly SO annoying to be irrationally afraid of dogs (speaking from experience) – they are truly everywhere. I hope you keep healing up and hopefully that panic will ease up. I’ve been chased by dogs before and usually around that time my panic would increase… but as time went on it slowly decreased. Hopefully you’ll start feeling more comfortable soon!

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