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An unleashed dog could put a damper on your workout

You may be one of many people in Southern California who enjoys jogging or running as a form of exercise. Perhaps you train for marathons, 10K runs or just do it as a way to keep in shape. In any case, you look out for vehicles and other people as you do so.

One other potential danger you need to look out for is dogs that are not on leashes. Even though honest mistakes can happen when someone fails to properly secure a gate or a door, knowing that does not make the bite you suffered any less painful or potentially serious. That said, California's leash laws apply to every dog owner. No matter how well behaved an individual believes his or her animal to be, there are no guarantees that it will not attack under the right conditions.

What can you do to protect yourself from a seemingly playful dog?

It isn't your responsibility to make sure that another person's dog behaves and doesn't bite you. That is the owner's responsibility. Even though it is a dog owner's responsibility to keep his or her dog on a leash to keep it from attacking anyone, it doesn't always happen. As a runner, you are particularly attractive to dogs. Their natural instinct to chase prey could take over when they see you.

Many domesticated dogs simply want to play. Breeders tend to try to breed out aggression, so if a floppy-tongued and wiggly dog runs toward you, stand still. Eventually, it may get bored of you since you aren't indulging its desire to play. You may also give commands to the dog such as "No." Any dog that lives in a home has probably heard the word "No" before. Even though it being off-leash may violate the law, this dog probably will not cause you any harm.

What can you do to protect yourself from a not-so-playful dog?

On the other hand, a dog protecting its territory or puppies may intend to harm you if it believes you will cause harm. While you might be able to stop the dog by making yourself appear as the bigger threat, that doesn't always work. In fact, it may be better to let the other dog know that you respect that it is the alpha. Stand still, turn sideways and do not stoop down and look at the dog in the eyes, which is a challenge.

If the other dog stops moving toward you, but remains on alert, slowly move away from it sideways. The goal is to show the dog you are not a threat. If this doesn't work, you may need to assert yourself as the alpha dog by giving commands in a strong and confident voice, much like a drill sergeant. Screaming only reminds the dog of prey, and an angry command may provoke the animal further. Distracting the dog by throwing something might work, or it might not.

If nothing works and the dog comes after you, all you can really do is curl up in a ball to protect your face and organs. Attempting to fight with the dog could make matters worse and give it a chance to cause serious damage to you. If this worst-case scenario does happen, you could face a long recovery from your physical injuries. The psychological damage could take even longer. Pursuing compensation from the owner could provide you with the financial resources you need to heal.

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