Keeping Runners, Cyclists, Pedestrians and Children Safe in a Doggy-World…

Now that the weather is beginning to liven up outside here in New England, it is the time of year that many of us runners leave the indoor treadmill behind and venture outdoors, once again. The warmer weather, sunshine, and fresh Spring breeze are invigorating and energizing.  But in the past few weeks, however, I have been reminded of what I like so much about my indoor treadmill; safety from aggressive dogs.

I live in a small town in Western Massachusetts.  And you can say that I am surrounded by many dogs on a daily basis.  Most of my neighbors and friends have dogs and it seems to be a rite of passage for many New Englanders.  But let me say that not all dogs, or dog owners, are created equal.  While running outdoors, recently, I have been barked at, charged at or approached by unleased dogs on a daily basis.

While some dogs are cute, friendly and make great companions, other dogs have an internal instinct to attack.  Some are naturally aggressive, protective and just looking for a good fight.  This is their nature, and maybe not something we can hold against them.  However, it is when their owners do not understand that their "family pet" may be a threat to runners, cyclists, pedestrians and children that there is a problem.

It is not only while running on the road that this is a problem; bike paths offer an even worse problem. When a bike is riding around 10 miles an hour and an unleashed dog approaches, the dog can "take you out".  

I have gotten to the point where I am afraid to run outside because I don't know when or where the next dog will be that decides to bark and charge at me.  Believe it or not, there are MILLIONS of dog attacks every year due to a variety of things, some that cause irreversible damage to children and adults. The most victimized are children.  In the USA, alone, there is an estimated 4.7 million attacks each year, 800,000 requiring surgery.  For more information, please visit, You will also find a list of things you can do to keep all of us safe. 

So to my thoughful dog owners out there, a big "thank you" for being smart, thoughtful and considerate.  And to those not really paying attention, learn how to keep both your pet and people safe; please obey leash laws.

About Kimberly Dawson, M.S.

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