It is rarely a good surprise to encounter an off-leash dog while you are out for a run. Getting chased by a dog can disrupt your workout and may lead to injuries that could affect you long-term.

Dogs get loose all the time, but that doesn’t mean that you should forgo your run. Instead, be sure you know what to do if you encounter an off-leash dog while running.

Stay calm

The first thing to do is to stay calm if you encounter an off-leash dog when running. The dog may want to chase you, but the dog will not necessarily try to bite you. Showing stress or fear could make the situation worse. You should also never scream or try to kick the dog as it comes near you because these behaviors may make the dog behave more aggressively.

Stop running

If the dog starts to chase you, nip at your heels, or show signs of aggression, you may consider slowing down or stopping altogether. As you do so, be mindful of your body language. Try to stand with your body slightly to the side of the dog, and avoid making eye contact. As you run, the dog’s instinct may be to chase you or to herd you, and the dog may perceive direct eye contact as a threat. If you remain still and avoid eye contact, the dog may get bored and move on.

Distract the dog

If the dog continues to act aggressively, you may need to put something between you and the dog, preferably something the dog can chew. You could use a bag, a jacket, a water bottle, or anything else you may have on you. Sometimes the distraction will entertain the dog long enough for you to back away slowly to safety.

Protect yourself

When a dog is behaving aggressively and you cannot distract it, it is important that you do what you can to protect yourself. Try to prevent the dog from biting sensitive areas like your face, throat, fingers, chest, or thighs. If the dog knocks you to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands in fists over your ears.

If you are severely injured by someone else’s dog, make sure to seek appropriate medical care. Even wounds that appear small can become easily infected. Depending on your situation, you might also consider taking legal action. You may be able to receive compensation for medical expenses and other related costs. You may also help prevent a similar attack from happening to someone else.