Runners responsibility for lost dogs?
November 7, 2012 12:35 PM   Subscribe

A puppy chased me 5km from it's house while I was running, and I ended up dumping the dog on another home owner's whose dogs tried to come after me.... looking for opinions on what others would have done.

Last week, I was running one of my routes out in a rural area near my house. About 5km, a young dog chased me down, and decided to run with me. I yelled at him try to intimidate it into turning and going home, and he/she would run back 100 m or so, but then would keep catching up to me when I had my back turned. I did this 4 or 5 times, but the dog thought I was playing with it.
Now I didn't know where exactly he came from, and pretty soon i was probably 5k from where I picked him up, and almost back to my vehicle. At this point, I was trying to figure out what my responsibility was..... as I wasn't really that happy with inadvertently leading this young dog so far from home.....
Then I heard aggressive barking, and saw two more dogs coming at me from 50m away from a farm house..... my dog companion ran to the other dogs and all proceeded to bark and yelp while I kept going...then I heard the owner yelling at all the dogs to break up the fighting.
Kinda felt bad for dumping another dog on this guy, but his dogs were coming after me........and it was one of his neighbors dogs.....
What would you have done?
posted by dripped to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (60 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I hate when people let their dogs loose.

In future, run to the nearest house, ring the bell and ask, "Is this your dog? He's following me and I don't want anything to happen to him."

My sister has been known to round up the neighbor's dog and take him home when he breaks through the gate.

Don't worry about dumping the puppy. I'm sure he got home safely.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:39 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would probably have put the pup in my car and driven him back to the farm he came from. Or talked to the second landowner and seen if he knew who's dog it was, then taken it home to them. If it was a stray, dumped in the area (likely!) I'd have taken it to the pound or home.

The second set of dogs were likely coming for the puppy, not you btw.
posted by fshgrl at 12:39 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Personally, I'd lead the dog back to its house and knock on doors until I found somebody to restrain it. I live in the city, so I'd make this call if the dog followed me more than about a block. I believe that's about 200 meters, if you don't have blocks.
posted by vytae at 12:39 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

If the puppy had tags, I would have called the number on them.

If he didn't, I probably would have let him run with me to my car, then get into my car with me once I got there, and then I'd have taken him back to where I found him and let him out and/or knock on a door or two.

Or maybe take him to an animal rescue and see if he was microchipped, though that may not have been an option in a rural area. I know this sounds like a lot of trouble for a dog, but I'm kind of a big softy.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:41 PM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

It definitely sucks when people don't properly secure their dogs, but we don't know for sure that that's what happened here. Personally I'm a little disturbed by the fact that you let a small dog fend for itself against other dogs coming its way but if it had been me, I would have stopped running, checked to see if the dog had tags, led the dog back to the area it originally came from, and then started knocking on doors to see if anyone recognized it. If the dog were a big dog, or one that I felt had the potential of hurting me or a small child, I'd call the local humane society or animal control unit and see what they said.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:47 PM on November 7, 2012 [27 favorites]

It sounds like you know it was wrong to have kept running when the dog first joined you.

I would have stopped running, checked for tags, walked back with the dog to see if he would have lead me to his home.

I don't understand what makes you think the homeowner with 2 dogs would just automatically know where the first dog is from?

Sometimes dogs, especially young dogs, get loose from their enclosures. Unless you were on a hiking trail instead of a road, the loose dog sounds like it was in danger of getting hit by a car, at the very least.

I'm saying that if you assumed the dog was loose on purpose from the get-go... Most people would have thought the dog was escaped or lost and tried to get the dog to it's home, or at least to a secure location safe from cars and such.

You know you were a little thoughtless and cold here, right?

I dunno. Maybe go back on knock inquire at the homeowner's house at the end of your journey about the lost pup?

Please do better next time. Assume "stray" dogs that look cared for have escaped on accident, and try to help. Thank you.
posted by jbenben at 12:50 PM on November 7, 2012 [18 favorites]

If the dog isn't yours I don't see what you're worried about. It's not as if you are responsible for all random dogs that happen to be in your neighborhood. It's not like you kidnapped the dog. The only person who has responsibility for that dog is it's owner. As you are not the dogs owner you have no responsibility whatsoever.
posted by dipolemoment at 12:51 PM on November 7, 2012 [21 favorites]

Maybe there's no responsibility to the dog's owner, but as an animal lover I do think there's a responsibility to the dog. It's not his fault he's out running around all over town. At the very least I would have knocked on a couple doors in the area where he first showed up.
posted by something something at 12:58 PM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

just to be clear, this was a 'full grown' lab puppy with a lot of energy, and is out in the country.... in a small population area..the dog would eventually make it home.

and, the two other dogs definitely were coming at me, not the puppy, he was 100m behind me.

at the end of the day, i'm confident the puppy would have been 'safe', and returned. The dilemma for me is really, is it my responsibility to get the dog back, or am i justified in fobbing it off to the guy who also had unrestrained dogs.

(Also note, from my perspective I was cold, tired, and being rained on, 7km from my vehicle, with my kids arriving home shortly on their bus (that I had to meet) . So, it wasn't really an option for me to stop, and turn around and figure out where the dog came from)
posted by dripped at 12:59 PM on November 7, 2012

No, there's no reason that some other random guy has a greater responsibility than you do to deal with this situation.
posted by something something at 1:02 PM on November 7, 2012 [19 favorites]

Yes, the dog should have been locked in its yard or supervised, and it's not really your fault that it decided to chase you. I for one would have stopped as soon as I realised what was happening and made an effort to find its home (either by checking its tags, asking passers-by, or knocking on a door or two). I think it's the decent thing to do, especially with a puppy. Puppies are great at escaping and not so great at finding their way home again (from 5km!) or understanding the rules of the road. I'd be absolutely horrified if my inaction led to someone's pet being lost, or hurt, or killed. Since running is a recreational pursuit, I don't think a few minutes' detour to ensure someone's (hopefully beloved) pet stays safe is unreasonable.
posted by 0127661 at 1:02 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm going to resist the urge to pile on here, but you've asked a question about a situation in which you could have done at least two things differently - walk the dog back to its home (or near it), or drive it back at the end of your run.

Look, you know the right answer to the question, and your characterisation of events tells us that. Nobody jogs 5km with a puppy without knowing the puppy will end up lost. Few people 5km away from us are neighbours, unless we live somewhere very rural.

We've all shrugged our shoulders, told ourselves something wasn't our problem, walked away from it and known it really was our problem. This is one of those times. I might have done what you did. I like to think I wouldn't and would have walked the puppy back to its neighbourhood at the first opportunity. If I'd done what you did I'd feel pretty shitty about it. As I suspect you do.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:04 PM on November 7, 2012 [18 favorites]

It would have been the nice/ neighborly thing to do to try and get the dog home safe, yes. I think the answers here are going to real down into the "not my problem" camp and, uh, my camp so if you're looking for consensus you're probably not going to get it.

As a dog owner I would not be super happy if someone led my dog so far from home and left it there. But farm people are generally socially conditioned to take care of livestock/pets when the need arises no matter who owns them. City people aren't.
posted by fshgrl at 1:05 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

You have no responsibility whatsoever for an animal that you do not own. You did nothing wrong and should feel no guilt regardless of how far the dog followed you, its age or where it decided to stop following you. Stray dogs are not the responsibility of the public, and you have no obligation, moral or otherwise, to assume responsibility for a dog whose owner chooses to let it run uncontrolled. The idea that a random jogger should take ownership of the problem of a stray dog is ridiculous.

The dilemma for me is really, is it my responsibility to get the dog back
It is emphatically NOT your responsibility to get the dog back to its home. Instead it is the responsibility of the dog owner to keep track of their dog. Their failure to do so doesn't affect you.

or am i justified in fobbing it off to the guy who also had unrestrained dogs.
Did you explicitly fob the dog off on him? As in, did you walk up and say, "here's this dog, it's your problem now" or something similar? If not, you didn't fob the dog off on anyone; it just decided to stop chasing you and start chasing something else. Regardless, the dog's decision to stop chasing you doesn't make it your responsibility any more than its decision to start chasing you made it your responsibility.
posted by Sternmeyer at 1:08 PM on November 7, 2012 [21 favorites]

and it was one of his neighbors dogs.

Ummm, I know you're in the country, but I grew up in the country, and 5km away does not make someone a "neighbour".

I think you did a selfish thing, knowing it was selfish, and you're feeling a little guilty about it now. Were you entitled to do a selfish thing? Certainly. Was it morally the right thing to do, or a thoughtful thing? No.

Leaving a puppy with someone else is not moral. Letting it trail after you for 5kms and then abandoning when there are other dogs that could hurt it is not moral. Doing it because you're cold and it's rainy and your run is more important than an animal's welfare is also - to me - not moral.

Askme can be a very fraught place to seek moral absolution, as you are discovering.
posted by smoke at 1:12 PM on November 7, 2012 [23 favorites]

I disagree that a runner is responsible for unsecured animals who chase them. Runners should run - owners should secure their pets. You didn't do anything wrong. Are we to hold drivers responsible if a dog chases their car?
posted by machinecraig at 1:17 PM on November 7, 2012 [24 favorites]

I love me some dogs, but feel... anti-responsibility for them when in the country and dogs chase me. I've had it happen on my bike and it was scary enough. As a runner I'd have been Especially a-ok with letting the dog fend for itself.

Also, when I did live in the country my friends with unrestrained dogs knew the dogs would take themselves for ~5k "walks", so I agree that the dog would probably find its way home. You had responsibilities to children to uphold, and those trump responsibilities to irresponsible dog owners any day.
posted by ldthomps at 1:18 PM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

It's the owner's responsibility to tie up their dumb dog. It was their moral responsibility to prevent situations like this, and not put it on total strangers to take care of their dog. If you're going to leave the animal loose, at least put a tag with a phone number on it. Come on. That is just asking for it. The owners are the ones who should feel bad - and you should not.
posted by victory_laser at 1:19 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you did the best you could in a difficult situation.

If the dog approaches you again, slow to a walk (runners engage a dog's prey instincts), do not make eye contact, and do not engage at all. That should bore the dog enough to get him to return home. If that doesn't work, call the local dog officer and report the incident. Sounds like some owners need a wake-up call and you've done your part to get responsible people involved on behalf of the dog.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:21 PM on November 7, 2012

Personally, I don't think you had any responsibility to do anything for a stray animal that doesn't belong to you. Anything you could do is a nice gesture for the owner and the community.

If I see a stray dog, and it has tags, and I have time, and it is not acting aggressively towards me or my dogs, I try to contact the owner and wait with the dog. That is an act of kindness on my part.
posted by muddgirl at 1:22 PM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

Personally, as a competitive runner (at one time anyway), even if it would break my training pace, I would have tried to figure out where the dog belonged at the point it started chasing me, assuming I wasn't afraid of the dog. If I couldn't figure out where the dog belonged, I'd continue my run and probably have done much what you did if the dog kept following me - what can you do? But I would have tried to touch base with the owner of the other barking/yelping dogs, if I felt safe doing so.

You seem confident the dog got home. I hope he did and that if his owners didn't secure him before, they're considering doing so now.

I'm a dog/animal lover FWIW.
posted by xiaolongbao at 1:28 PM on November 7, 2012

Please do better next time.

That's such BS.

I've been chased by dogs before while biking, and it was one of the worst experiences I've ever had on the road. There is no way I'm ever stopping to check a tag on a dog that's chasing me; I'm too busy trying to get it away from me and keep it running into me and a creating horrible tangled mess, and I have no indication that it's not going to bite me as soon as I stop. Maybe you can distinguish between dog playfulness and dog aggression, but I sure can't when I have two of them chasing and barking at me.

My point is not that this situation is exactly like that situation. My point is that there are many situations where I cannot care for your dog, and that a lot of dog owners presume that everyone else understands and is capable of dealing with dog-related problems just as well as they are, and that is just not true. Maybe to a dog owner it's obvious that the dog is safe to handle, or it's obvious where it belongs, or it's obvious it can't get back, or it's obvious that this sort of run is not ok with the owner, etc., but frankly in a lot of situations I wouldn't have a clue. You can try and judge the moral case for this specific instance on the basis of just how idyllically you would have solved the problem, but you got to give others a break for not having the same mastery of handling this sort of situation.
posted by kiltedtaco at 1:29 PM on November 7, 2012 [34 favorites]

difference between "Being responsible for" and "Doing the right thing."

The "Right thing" is finding the dogs owner, or really just getting it not to follow you would be fine.

So did you do something morally repugnant? no not really. Are you sort of a little bit of a jerk? Yeah.
posted by JPD at 1:31 PM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think much of the difference in responses you're getting stems from what question people think you're asking.

One question is "Did I do something wrong?", which in this case is about whether you owed either the dog or the owner a basic duty that you failed to perform. I would say you do not.

Another question is "Did I choose not to do something generous that would not have been tremendously inconvenient?" I would say you did. You don't say here that you made the decision out of fear of being bitten; you imply that you made it out of convenience, which is why you ask whether it was the wrong thing to do. If you said, "I am deathly afraid of dogs and was afraid of stopping," then you would have been answering a different impulse, and I'd feel different.

"What am I obligated to do?" is a different question from "What should I do?" It's where my favorite college professor would sometimes break into highly abstract philosophical questions like this by asking, "What kind of world do you want to live in?"

It was not your obligation to help the dog. But I would prefer to live in a world where, when someone realizes a dog is following them, they'd take a moment to go to the nearest house, or the nearest couple of houses, and inquire whether the dog lives there.

I think you did neither the right thing nor the right thing. You did no less than you should have, but perhaps a little less than you fairly easily could have.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:32 PM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

Loose dogs can have a territory of several miles. There's no reason to expect that knocking on a few doors would locate a stray dog's home.
posted by muddgirl at 1:38 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Is there something else you could have done? Sure.

Is it wrong to fob off on the guy with the other unsecured dogs? Maybe. Maybe not.

Should you have done something else? Hard to say.

I've been followed by dogs in my well-populated urban neighborhood. And have had a dog approach my property. If my cats are secured and the dog feels friendly, I may try to look at its tags and call if able. However, in none of these situations did the dog allow me to get that close. I'm not strong enough to lift a large, unwilling dog into my car to drive it around. I'm not going to go knocking on stranger's doors while I try to hold a dog by its collar and find the owner. I will call animal control if I think the animal is aggressive or in danger. I have called animal control regarding one or two dogs I encountered on a run/walk in my neighborhood.

So, there. I don't think there's a cut and dry way to make an ethical or moral judgement here.
posted by amanda at 1:39 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I guess you've got to construct that continuum in your head.

Mine would like something like: | adult person-horse-cow-slug-toad-snake-turtle-robin-swan-hamster-cat-10 year old person-dog-5 year old person-toddler person-baby person (prioritized from left to right as Least in need to Most in need.

Draw a line where the cutoff is in terms of where you assist one of these creatures and where you keep running. My line (as indicated above) would be right BEFORE "adult person", everything to the right of the line gets the help he/she/it needs (which is, of course, everything on the line).

In your situation, I would have made a reasonable effort to locate the home, and then pack the pup into the car and drop it at a shelter.
posted by HuronBob at 1:42 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think you are any more obligated to help a loose dog than you are to hold a door open for a stranger holding groceries - try not to make it worse, but if you go out of your way to help it's because you are doing a nice thing. In the future, I would recommend calling animal control, because they should have to tools to deal with a stray dog appropriately. I also think it is interesting that in this thread, the dog owners seem to think you have a moral imperative to make contact with and move a strange dog, where in the "yellow ribbon" dog thread, the consensus was that you are a huge idiot for getting close to a strange dog, much less touching one.
posted by fermezporte at 1:43 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

You are not a jerk. You did not do the wrong thing.

The owners of the dog are the people responsible for the dog. If they don't understand that a lab puppy is going to run off, then they did not do their homework properly. The second fellow should also have maintained control of his animals, as people passing 50m should not have to worry about being attacked by aggressive dogs.

Perhaps next time you go for a run, don't go running in the neighbourhood of "we don't know how to keep dogs so we just let them do anything" people. Those people are the jerks in this equation, and there's no need to feel bad because they don't know how to keep a pet.
posted by The River Ivel at 1:54 PM on November 7, 2012

If the dog were sick or hurt, maybe you would have needed to do more but you did fine for a healthy dog and limited time.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:56 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the one thing you could have done better was to wait to speak with the owner of the two dogs. You had to meet your kids, so you had an excuse for passing on responsibility for finding the dog's owner. You could also have gotten their contact information, which would have allowed you to follow up with assistance when you had time.

People are coming down pretty hard on the OP for continuing to run. The combination of having to meet your kids on time + being tired from previous 4KM of running + cold + wet + being chased by a big strange dog don't really make for great judgement. I think you did fine in the moment.
posted by rhythm and booze at 2:04 PM on November 7, 2012

I think you are getting different answers here than if you had phrased your question differently.

You basically said that a puppy followed you 5km down the road and you left it to fend for itself against other dogs. This puts a certain image of helplessness and callousness into people's minds.

Later you clarified that it was a "full grown" large dog (so I don't really understand why you called it a puppy in the first place).

If you had asked the following question, I think you would have got different answers:

"I was chased by a large dog while out running. It chased me for 5km. Another dog owner started to come towards me and the first dog went to it instead. Is it okay that I kept running, or should I have stopped to deal with those dogs?"

I suspect that in that case, people would have told you to look after your own safety; that the dog owner probably knows how to deal with an off-leash dog better than you do, and that stopping and letting a large dog that has been chasing you catch you is not a great plan.

(For what it's worth, I still also have the "awww poor lost puppy" reaction anyway, and I wish you had stopped and helped him get home.)
posted by lollusc at 2:13 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

If it were someone’s child would you feel different? I wouldn’t think you’d have any responsibility to figure out where they live and if they were supposed to be out in that case either, but I probably would in both cases. That’s just my feelings though. Everybody’s got to decide what they think is right. It’s usually when what we think is right clashes with what is convenient that we have a problem.
posted by bongo_x at 2:22 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love dogs. There's no way in hell I would try to physically manage a large dog I know nothing about that is chasing me. I'm not going to try to get a look at its tags, and I'm definitely not going to try to get it into my car! In all likelihood I would be fine, but it could still be a potentially dangerous situation.

While it's pretty clear you have no responsibility, the considerate thing to do would be to look for the owners if you think you are likely to be able to find them, or call animal control or a rescue group if you can't. Maybe take a photo of the dog and post it on an internet message board.

It's crazy to make an analogy between this and a child. Children are far more vulnerable, far less likely to have been left "off-leash" on purpose, and far less likely to physically harm you.
posted by grouse at 2:29 PM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

I think what you did was fine.
I would have kept running and ignored the dog.
(but i'm.also afraid of dogs)
posted by KogeLiz at 2:30 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

The CDC on dog bites:
In 1994, the most recent year for which published data are available, an estimated 4.7 million dog bites occurred in the United States, and approximately 799,700 persons required medical care (1). Of an estimated 333,700 patients treated for dog bites in emergency departments (EDs) in 1994 (2), approximately 6,000 (1.8%) were hospitalized (3).
They also offer this important tip: "Never approach an unfamiliar dog."
posted by grouse at 2:38 PM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

Ultimately the owner is responsible for the dog but you knew it was following you and continued to let it do so for 5 km, basically then abandoning it in a place where it would almost certainly be lost and threated by a pack of dogs. I don't think it was your fault that it started following you but I certainly think you have responsibility for letting it continue to do so when you realised it wasn't going to let up. Why didn't you just double back to where it started? I don't think you were scared by it, you say it was following you as part of a game and you were the one intimidating him, so...

I mean, sure, it's not your responsibility but don't think you have no blame here either. I know it's a harsher response than one you were hoping for and I know you had children to attend to but if you cut your run a little short you may have had time to attempt to do the right thing, even if it's just to tie it to a post near where you found it, or call animal control and still get back to your own obligations.
posted by Jubey at 3:07 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unless you actually saw the dog leave its yard, how do you know it wasn't following you back to its home? I think there's a big difference between seeing a puppy hop a fence, or bust out the front door when someone is getting the mail, and then leading it along for 5 km and having a dog show up seemingly out of nowhere and feel like you have to hunt down its owners. If you knew for certain where the dog came from, it would have been kind to lead it home. Barring that, I don't think you bear any responsibility towards the dog at all.
posted by looli at 3:10 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

As you can see, there are a lot of different opinions. I tend to stick with stray dogs, check their tags, and call animal control if all else fails.

But I do this knowing that it is very dangerous. I've been known to load stray dogs up in my car and bring them to my house (a few blocks away) to call animal control. This is even more dangerous.

As I've gotten older, I've become more aware of just how dangerous it is.

I can understand where you're coming from -- especially with kids waiting at home. The only thing I might've done differently (if I were you, because we already know that if I were me, I would've done something dangerous) is to call Animal Control or the non-emergency number (or 911 because you're in a rural area and probably don't have the first two options) and tell them where you saw a loose dog. (if you call 911 be because you don't have another option, when they pick up you say "this isn't an emergency" and then they can put you on hold if they have to.) you could do that from inside your car before leaving, or wait until you get home.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:10 PM on November 7, 2012

I don't know why so many people here are so certain that some bad owner lets their young dog roam the country unattended. Dogs sometimes escape their collars or yards in spite of their owners' efforts to keep them at home. (We had a 10 month old dog run away when the new assistant to the vet failed to close one of the gates on our property. He later hobbled back home with two broken hips.) It seems like the phantom irresponsible owner is the key part of why many people rationalize this as an okay thing to do. However, my feeling is that, regardless of the human equation, a young, friendly domestic dog is not equipped to be left alone on a country road to fend for themselves. Fobbing it off on another random person just because their dogs started fighting with it is not neighborly behavior either. I would have at least called Animal Control if nothing else. When I lived in the country my family would regularly pick up strays and take them to the vet, who pretty much knew everyone's animals.

I always have appreciated the kindness of strangers in relation to animals. We have gotten back lost cats and dogs when other people have helped, even if they just called the sheriff.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:27 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a dog person so my gut reaction is to think you weren't very kind. So I'll go the pro-human route instead...

I would not have left the other guy alone with three potentially fighting dogs, one of which was probably a stranger to him. I don't know every dog that's in a 5km radius of where I live, either.
posted by kimberussell at 3:31 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: I am a dog owner.

I don't see how the method by which the dog gets loose matters. Whether or not the dog escape accidentally, the only person responsible for a loose dog is the owner. Anyone else who aids a dog is doing a good deed. We don't have to posit that some owners are irresponsible to absolve ourselves of a duty we don't have.
posted by muddgirl at 3:36 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

just to tie it to a post near where you found it

This is terrible advice.
posted by victory_laser at 3:39 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

I think people are being deliberately obtuse talking about the dog "chasing" the OP and pretending it was somehow dangerous for the OP to encounter this dog. The OP clearly didn't feel threatened so let's not project our own fear/ hyperbole into the situation.

Again though, I think this is going to come down to city/ country people. I would never in a million million years drive past livestock in the road or an obviously lost pet. I simply wasn't raised that way.
posted by fshgrl at 3:50 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

hey, some great answers, and points, both sides.

Certainly the dilemma I faced in the moment was trying to balance my ethics & responsibility to a stray dog and my responsibility to community, given my personal constraints at the time.

I do wonder if the answers would be vastly different if I had said I was being chased by an aggressive dog for 5km? (I called it a puppy because it had a clumsy oafish run).

In retrospect, I could have gone and talked with the owner of the other 2 aggressive dogs, and figured out a solution, etc.

In the decision moment, heart rate at 180 , after 10k marathon speed training run uphill, I was pissed at that guy for having aggressive dogs loose to come after me on the road, so I thought - serves him right, now the stray is his problem. I'm not sure how evil this makes me, but your answers give me something to think about for next time.

Will highlight a couple of best answers, reflecting both sides in a bit.
posted by dripped at 4:14 PM on November 7, 2012

Probably late to the game, but I've had the same thing happen (running in the country, suddenly new dog friends following me... for a long time). In both cases the dogs followed me all the way home. The first time, the dog was so awesome, I left him on the porch for a bit to see if he would go home. When he didn't I let him in (it was cold out) and we hung out, had water and watched TV until his owners came a few hours later (he had tags, owners were out running errands). The second time there were two dogs, super friendly, came to my house. Found their owner on the internet (had name but no number) and called his cell.

Let me now tell you what they both said:

First owner: "Oh you can put him out if he's bothering you, we're only a few miles away.". But I insisted he stay inside, it was getting dark and cold, so they came to pick him up.

The second owner: "Err thanks, but put them back outside, they're always out running around.". I tried to explain that I lived quite far from where they joined me, but he thought that was nothing compared to how far they sometimes go.

So yeah, I stopped worrying about it. Dogs have big noses and know the way home. Of course, if this was a city/suburb, then different rules.
posted by Smegoid at 4:26 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

@Smegold - So true about country/farm dogs.
posted by dripped at 4:30 PM on November 7, 2012

The only thing I might've done differently (if I were you, because we already know that if I were me, I would've done something dangerous) is to call Animal Control or the non-emergency number (or 911 because you're in a rural area and probably don't have the first two options) and tell them where you saw a loose dog.

If I were primarily worried about the dog, I probably would do nothing rather than call law enforcement on a dog. I've read too many news reports of police shooting dogs dead for no good reason. If there's no trained animal control, call a rescue group or humane society.
posted by grouse at 4:43 PM on November 7, 2012

It isn't your responsibility to return the dog, but it would've been nice.

My dog ran off one time when she was staying with friends while I was away. I gave them strict instructions on how to secure her knowing that she would probably run off to try to locate us, but my friends disregarded my advice and my dog ran off after slipping out of her leash.

She ended up quite far and she didn't have tags, but she did have a tattoo. Someone took the effort to take her to a local vet who ran her tattoo and found us. I was super appreciative - words can't describe how glad I felt. It would suck if someone encountered my dog on the loose, thought I was a bad owner and left her to fend for herself. I would have been incredibly sad.
posted by cyml at 4:53 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

My view is that you have to put your own safety and the logistics surrounding the dog (size, weight, temperament - your own size, strength, situation) before the dog's welfare.

And that in rural areas dogs do tend to roam free, which means they tend to wind up back home and their owners tend to not care that they're out (but this is a generalisation, of course).
posted by heyjude at 5:15 PM on November 7, 2012

I think this is one of those questions where you'll get very different answers based on whether the answerer is a dog person or not. I'm not a dog person (I don't hate them, but I don't go out of my way to find them either) and while I don't mind petting a friendly dog on a leash or playing with a dog in a house, being chased by a dog while jogging is a completely different scenario. This would have freaked me out thoroughly and I certainly wouldn't have felt obligated to try to find the owner and return the dog to them -- I think I would have been annoyed that they've left their dog loose to chase people like me. Of course, things are different in the country and the city so that might be the done thing over there. So no, I don't think you had any responsibility towards the dog.
posted by peacheater at 5:29 PM on November 7, 2012

The people who are saying you had no obligation to help someone else's dog are correct.

The same is true of someone else's baby.
posted by grog at 5:40 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I still have three scars on my hand from trying to read the tags on a "friendly" dog that followed me on a run. I love dogs. But I am very cautious approaching strange dogs now.

You did the right thing.
posted by tigerjade at 5:46 PM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

grog: "The people who are saying you had no obligation to help someone else's dog are correct.

The same is true of someone else's baby.

Can we please stop with this ridiculous hypothetical already? Grog, babies don't go chasing after runners. If a baby is coming down the street, I know something's wrong.

On the other hand, there are lots of irresponsible dog owners our there. Loose dogs often chase people, and some of those dogs are dangerous. What's more, ALL of them should be leased. If I saw a big dog chasing someone, my thought is just as likely to be, "Gosh, I hope that dog doesn't attack that person!" as it is, "Hmm, I wonder if that dog is lost?"

The OP did nothing but continue with a normal 5K run. jbenben's , "Do better next time," should be directed to the dog owners who either let their dog roam free or did not secure him properly, not the OP.

OP, it's admirable that you're worrying about the dog. You could always go back tomorrow and see what happens; in fact, that might be a good idea. If the dog is still roaming around, you'll have a second chance to do something about it. If not, your conscience will be eased. But please don't beat yourself up about this. You didn't choose to get a dog and he is ultimately not your responsibility.
posted by misha at 6:20 PM on November 7, 2012 [14 favorites]

I've lived in my neighborhood for three years. In that time I've apprehended five dogs that have gotten out. I returned four of them to their homes; with one of them, I was walking my own dog and was unable to hold both my dog and the strange dog, and I didn't have my phone to call the number on its tags, so I had to let it go and hope it would be okay. I still feel bad about it today. There was a guy walking near me who refused to grab the strange dog because he was afraid it might bite him, and I have to admit I massively disrespected him for not helping out a neighbor. I was holding the dog by the collar at the time; it was clearly not a threat.

I felt like I had accumulated a lot of dog karma - in one case grabbing the dog took close to half an hour of running up and down streets trying to corner her - and definitely got it paid back when my dogs got out while we were vacationing in a strange neighborhood this past summer. We were renting a house and the dogs figured out how to open the front door from the inside. Someone picked them up walking in the middle of the road and called my husband, a good deed for which we will always be grateful.

I don't think it's anyone's duty to do this, but I am glad some people do, and the intense relief I felt when I heard the dogs were fine will stick with me forever. You don't know that dog's story - it may well have been a city dog in town for a week to visit.
posted by town of cats at 7:47 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

What I would have done would have been extremely forceful in persuading the dog that I wasn't playing a game when I was telling it to stop following me. This would be a valuable life lesson for the dog.

Oh and people who let their dogs roam in the countryside are legally liable for any stock damage or the like. A farmer is entirely within his or her rights to destroy a dog on their property, at least in my jurisdiction, and yes it certainly does happen, so I am astounded that dog owners would be so nonchalant about that prospect.
posted by wilful at 7:58 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the only right answer is that you have to go with your gut. If you see this dog again in that area, might be worth trying to figure out who he belongs to so you'll know whether this dog is just roaming and whether it's far from home or not.

And if a baby chases you for five km, you might consider serious defensive maneuvers because that is one freaky baby.
posted by amanda at 9:14 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

I have owned (or "owned") dogs, I have also been chased by unfamiliar dogs.

If you're jogging, the dog had every opportunity to bite. Probably after a hundred meters, it was clear it wasn't taking the opportunity to do so, yes?

Then, the right thing is to make sure the animal is OK. The owner is responsible, but you've got to be kind, yes? Kind here would be: stop at second following attempt and backtrack or, if dog is obvs friendly and goofy, check for tags and call the owner.

If you want to do the kind thing now, go back along your route and look for "have you seen me" signs. If there are any, call them and tell them where you saw their dog while running.
posted by zippy at 10:59 PM on November 7, 2012

There is a middle ground here: if you have a phone on you, you could call your local lost animal number and/or shelter (hopefully no-kill) to report the animal. This covers pretty much every base imaginable, including taking into account any other runners or cyclists who might be chased by the same dog. If enough reports come in about the animal, and it turns out it does in fact belong to someone who's being irresponsible, well then the (hopefully humane) animal control will have the information they need in order to act in the best interests of everyone and the animal.

I do this regularly when I see dogs not with an owner on my cycling rides. Every single time, it's actually been a lost dog whose owners had been desperately looking for it. When you say "the dog would eventually make it home" because it lives in the countryside... well, no, often they don't. My family lost two Cocker Spaniels, both died a couple of miles from home, they were super-hyper animals that actually managed to climb out of their 8-foot-tall enclosure. We also lost a Golden Retriever during a big thunderstorm that scared her so much she broke through the same enclosure (sturdy, posts deep in the ground and anchored with concrete!!). She had been so scared that in spite of being just a mile from home, she was completely lost, bedraggled and terrified when a neighbor recognized her three days later and called my parents to come get her.

Long story short, it's not always easy to assume what's going on with dogs running around. You can keep safe and also be thoughtful towards everyone else who might be involved simply by phoning a number for lost animals. Save it on your phone, only takes a couple minutes.
posted by fraula at 1:28 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It kinda sounds like the first dog enjoyed his run with you and had your back when two other dogs approached you aggressively. Just sayin'.
posted by rocketpup at 6:45 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

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