Early this morning I forced myself out of bed in order to do a hill training session. This involved a 15 minute warm up jog to the hill, a steep grassland slope about 200 metres long but which feels much longer. My aim was to complete ten of these efforts, each interspersed by a recovery jog that takes a slightly longer but less steep route back to the start point. As I completed the recovery phase following my seventh effort, I was met by a pair of excitable spaniels who ran towards me (or more specifically my legs), and invaded my personal space in what could be generously described as an energetic and friendly manner, but less generously might be seen as an intimidating and aggressive manner. The owner, who seemed (and I’m sure was) a nice enough guy, said something along the lines of “Don’t worry, it’s just their way of saying hello”. I’m sure that this was most likely the case, but when they get so close, with teeth prominent, ears pricked and hair up, there’s just a little part of me that thinks one of them might just take a wee bite. I dealt with this by slowing even further to a walk to ensure that they didn’t think I was running away and see this as a fun game (with me the game).
I knew there was a chance that we would meet again as I looped back and began my next hill sprint, but was hoping that my new friends would have moved on by then. Unfortunately, the reunion came just as I reached the end of the very steep section, and was about to move onto the moderately steep bit, where I would endeavour to stride out as far as the lactate in my legs would allow. Determined not to be hindered, I kept going as the dogs approached, but approach they did, and it was impossible not to alter my stride as otherwise I might well have tripped over one or both dogs. Just after this brief interaction, I felt a twinge in my left hamstring and perhaps wisely decided to abandon this particular training session and walk home before I did any further damage. I had been tempted to turn around and point out to the gentleman that his failure to control his mutts had potentially undermined months of preparation and sabotaged my hopes of completing my first marathon in the foreseeable future. Thankfully, I thought better of this, and the prompt decision to curtail the session, along with a spell on the massage roller, has hopefully ensured that I won’t be out of action for more than a day or two.
Now, I like dogs on the whole and can see their attraction. They often look cute, they are loyal (for example, aggressively scaring off perceived threats such as runners minding their own business) and they provide companionship and someone who appears to listen without answering back. I also agree that it is much more enjoyable and beneficial for both hound and owner if they are able enjoy the countryside without being constantly attached to each other by a leash, even one that could double as a measuring tape for the javelin. But if you are going to do this, then the mutt needs to be properly trained, in order to learn that it is not socially acceptable to get up close and personal with people who are not familiar to them. I could make one or two suggestions as to how you might go about doing this, but I think it’s safest to advise that you seek expert assistance if you own a dog that exhibits elements of antisocial behaviour.