As much as we love our canine companions, most of them do have a few bothersome habits that can cause trouble now and then. However, urges to attack joggers or other moving objects is not something to be taken lightly by any owner. While most people attribute the dangerous behavior to the canine prey drive, human negligence plays a huge part in the occurrence of these types of incidents. Needless to say, runners and bicyclists are not always the biggest fans of our four-legged pals even if they are chased by dogs who want to initiate playtime and not to bite. So why do dogs attack those that race and what can owners do to prevent any unwanted interactions?
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The Root of the Behavior
Since dogs descended from wolves, they inherited a few of their dominant traits and instincts that have evolved over generations of living in the wild. The prey drive is one such example, which in other words is simply a strong, natural inclination to find, chase, and capture prey. This instinctual urge was essential for the wolves' survival and was fulfilled by the four-legged creatures through hunting other animals for food. With the domestication of dogs, the impulse is no longer needed as their food is served in ceramic bowls roughly three times a day on a regular basis. However, the instinct for self-preservation still exists within our furry pals and manifests in a variety of ways. Some are healthy and harmless, such as chasing a tennis ball, capturing it, and bringing it to the owner, while others are troubling and dangerous such as dogs that chase and attack runners.
In addition, some dogs have specifically been bred for the purpose of chasing down, capturing, carrying and/or killing other animals. The selective breeding has enabled certain breeds such as retrievers to be great at pursuing leads, gently grabbing or biting them, and carrying them back to their owners. These dogs make ideal hunting companions as they provide support but keep the prey intact. Terrier breeds, such as the Yorkshire Terriers were bred for the purpose of chasing and killing rodents and other smaller animals. Thus it is safe to safe that a major reason dogs have the urge to attack those that run is instinct.
Other than chasing fast-moving objects and people for the purpose of satisfying the prey drive, some dogs attack people when they run because they are afraid of them. These dogs usually have lots of anxiety, insecurity, and either negative experiences with runners or lack of familiarity with them. That combination causes many fearful dogs to respond by attacking those that move fast and come too close as a way to defend themselves, even if there is no real threat.
Lastly, some dog attack to protect their territory. This is often the case with mailmen who often get barked at when they come to the front door because the four-legged family member deems that an intrusion into his personal space. If the dog has the ability to chase the stranger out of the backyard, it will take it without a second thought and even possibly try to nip the ankles of the sprinting victim.
Encouraging the Behavior
Though some of the dogs’ natural instincts are hard to beat, most of them can be diminished or directed into something healthy and safe. While you might run out of patience and give up on getting your dog to pick its doggy bed over the couch, no owner should ever allow their canine to attack other people or dogs.
Most dogs love to chase their owner when they run around and play in the backyard together. This type of controlled environment is relatively safe as long as the dog is playful and gentle, tail wagging and barking playfully. However, the safest way to satisfy your pal's prey drive is by enabling a chase and catch of a tennis ball or any other dog toy. Making sure your dog gets enough exercise on a daily basis is essential for his physical and mental health. A tired dog is much less likely to chase after or have the urge to prey on joggers or squirrels.
If your dog takes playtime way too seriously and shows any signs of aggression at all, he should not be let off his leash during his daily walks or let loose in dog parks. This behavior should be strongly discouraged and more importantly prohibited. Contact a professional dog trainer and work together to curb the dangerous behavior.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Even if your barking buddy is friendly and wants nothing more than to play with the joggers or runners he spots on the street, don’t let your dog breach other people’s personal space without their permission. Though dog owners truly love their dog pals they have to remember that many people either don’t share the same feelings or are afraid of them. Any running person would get frightened if he or she was being chased by a dog without knowing its intentions, especially since jogger-dog attacks are relatively common. If you can’t get your dog to stop lunging at strangers that move faster than walking speed, consult a dog trainer to avoid any potential accidents or liabilities.
Though the responsibility lies entirely on the dog owners, runners can take certain precautions to avoid getting attacked. If you are a runner, always stay aware of your surroundings and if you spot a loose dog, regardless of its breed, slow down or adjust your trajectory to avoid crossing paths. The best way to prevent getting bitten is to avoid the interaction altogether, no matter how adorable and innocent a dog might seem. Even if the dog is on its leash, keep a safe distance.
Owners take full responsibility for their dogs’ actions and thus it is incredibly important to provide puppies with proper socialization and training from an early age, battle bad behavior with the support of professionals and never allow your four-legged friend to roam free without supervision, particularly if he exhibits any signs of aggressive behavior. As fond as you are of your furry friend, remember that some people aren’t fans and can be frightened by him - especially if they are running for their lives from the four-legged furball.