Dogs Only Chase Us When We Run

“Hey, why are you letting your dog hurt this poor child?”

At least, that’s what I think the rather large Turkish man was yelling at me.  I’m not really sure because I don’t speak much Turkish. 

This happened a few days ago in the local park in Antalya, Turkey. 

For a little background, you should understand something about Turkish culture and view of dogs: by and large, they are scared of them.  Most people, when they realize a dog is friendly, like them well enough, but the general view is “mean until proven sweet.”

Thus, I have no end to the amount of people running away in terror from my 15 lb Jack Russell Terrier.  It’s really quite funny when you get over how sad it is.  Why be afraid of something you could easily punt 30 yards with one good kick?

Anyway, while at the park, my fiancée and I let Link (said Jack Russell) run around without a leash.  He usually stays within 100 feet of the two of us, sniffs around, and then lies down under whatever bench we’re sitting on. 

He’s very friendly and is good with children, so we don’t really have any issues doing this.

On this particular day, it was Cigdem (fiancée), Sude (fiancee’s five year old niece) and I sitting on a bench petting Link.  The weather was beautiful and we had been enjoying the peaceful setting for about an hour. 

Two young boys, roughly ten years old, walked by and noticed Link.  They stopped and reached out their hands to pet the dog.  He let them pet his head and even licked their fingers. 

After a few seconds of petting, the smaller of the two boys thinks it will be fun to race the dog.  I assume this is what he was thinking; I’ll never really know.  Anyway, he begins to run in circles around the dog. 

Link, thinking this is a fun game, begins to chase the boy.  The boy takes off running toward the playground laughing.  As Link gets close to the boy’s legs, he barks, letting the boy know he’s back there. 

This is where things get a little ugly.  The boy mistakes the bark for a threat and screams, pumping his little legs faster in terror.  Fear and speed don’t always equate to coordination, and this is one of those times.  The boy trips over his own two feet and falls to the paved walkway. 

Link, thinking he won, playfully jumps on the back of the boy’s legs and barks.  This is quite possibly the scariest event in the boy’s life.  He begins wailing in terror while I call for my dog to return.  He’s well-trained and comes back immediately. 

About this time, a Turkish man walks around the corner and sees the crying boy.  He asks what happened and the boy tearfully recites his harrowing experience.  The man gets angry and begins yelling at me in Turkish.  Since I had no idea what he was saying, I smiled and waved. 

Fortunately, an old man sitting on a bench saw the events unfold and told the man what happened.

As I sat there petting my very proud pooch, I began to think about how life really works, and how much we can learn from working with dogs.

Dogs, as intelligent and emotional as they are, are really very simple creatures. 

If you feed a dog, he will probably like you.

If you pet a dog, he will start to trust you.

If you give a dog a bath, he will more than likely shake water off. On you.

Finally, if you run from a dog, he WILL CHASE YOU!

This isn’t news for anyone who’s ever owned or worked with dogs.  They are bred to chase things running away from them.  The best thing to do when confronted with an angry dog is to stand your ground or even approach the beast.  Running is always the worst.

The same mentality can be used to overcome fear.  Fear is like a dog in that it only chases us when we start running. 

Whenever we are afraid of something, we can move in two directions: toward our fear or away from it.  When we move away from fear, it hounds us.  We can’t outrun it and every second our hearts pound in anticipation of the pain.  We become reckless, and often clumsy, tripping over ourselves and making mistakes in our reckless abandon to get away from the fear.  Usually, we end up flat on our face crying when the fear catches up to us.

The other approach, facing your fears head on, has a very different outcome.  The fear may still growl at us and even snap its jaws, but when we show we aren’t afraid, the fear backs down. 

This approach gets easier over time and with practice.  The first time I stared down a dog, my heart was pounding like a Metallica concert.  The second time, it was more of a Norah Jones’ tempo.  Now, my heart doesn’t beat at all.  I know the dog will back away eventually. 

The same thing happens with financial fears now.  I used to become very frightened and run from my money problems.  Now, I confront them head on and come up with a game plan.  The moment I stand my ground and start to take action, the fear begins to subside. 

So, whenever you come across anything you are afraid of, stand your ground or even advance on what causes you to be afraid.  I guarantee the fear’s bark is worse than its bite.

Now, the YOU part: What fears have you running right now?  Please, leave your answer in the comment section below.

Bio: Hey — my name is Trent Hand. I help people just like you turn their talent into amazing careers. Do you know in your heart you deserve a better job than your current one? If yes — you and I need to connect right here!  Let’s get you on the road to success starting today… (You can also find me on magic life networkTwitter or LinkedIn.)

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  • KenWert@MeantToBeHappy March 4, 2013, 3:29 pm

    Loved this metaphor for fear, Trent.

    I was jogging recently in my neighborhood when an escaped pooch from somewhere came running at me growling and barking. Instinctively, I turned toward it and actually charged it, running toward it as fast as could and the thing turned on a dime and ran away. I was surprised I had charged it, but was happy with the results. After that, it stayed far away and barked from the safety of the distance it kept.

    When we face and run at our fears, they often evaporate in the heat of the challenge because most of our fears don;t have much to stand on. All bark, and little-to-no bite.

    Great read, Trent.

    • Trent March 5, 2013, 11:51 am


      Good idea, running at the dog. It’s counter to our instincts, but really the best way to handle the situation.

      Now, you know the best way to deal with fear (and dogs).

      Thanks for your feedback,

      P.S. Don’t try this on bears or mountain lions. It doesn’t work…

  • Chris Akins March 4, 2013, 8:26 pm


    I love the article. Very cool story about your dog in the park, and one that beautifully highlights the points you make about fear.

    A long time ago I was training at the US Marine Corps officer candidate school, where we were running what is known as the Jungle Course. This is an obstacle course suspended in the trees – you basically slide, crawl, climb on ropes suspended 10-20ft in the air. During my day there were no safety nets, and no safety lines, so if you fell… you fell…

    It was a bit scary. I remember the DI (drill instructor) shouting up at us: “FEAR WILL GET YOU HURT!” The guy was a jerk… but there was wisdom in his words. And the cool thing is, when you face fear, and prevail over it, the next scary thing isn’t quite so scary.

    Thanks again,

    • Trent March 5, 2013, 11:55 am

      Hi Chris,

      Maybe it’s just my strange sense of entertainment, but Jungle Course sounds like a blast. The closest thing we had to that in the Army was Bayonet training. You might get your face sliced up if your careless, but there was no Tarzan action going on there.

      The DI was right: fear will always hurt you. It’s, for the most part, a defense mechanism which hasn’t evolved with our situation.

      Are you a career coach as well? I’d like to connect with you. Please, hit me up.

    • Keith March 15, 2013, 9:36 am

      Funny how I had forgotten my similar fear in military training. All those drill instructors must have gone to the same school of technology.
      Anyway. I was terrified of the gas chamber training. It didn’t matter that thousands had done this before me – I was scared. Sadly there are no great insights – it was a case of get over it or get out. So get over it it was. But over the next 20 years of exercises and refresher training I never lost my fear – just learned to live with it.

  • Sandra Pawula March 4, 2013, 8:56 pm

    This kind of generalization about dogs doesn’t sit well with me. Some dogs actually do bite. Not all dogs back down. I remember the woman who was mauled to death in the corridor of a SF apartment building. Follow your intuition, I would say, and don’t mess with the wrong dogs.

  • Trent March 5, 2013, 12:01 pm

    Hi Sandra,

    Thanks for the reminder.

    I would say, after working with dogs for nearly 25 years, the mass majority of dogs will back down if faced. They also will attack if you run.

    Despite all our domestication, they are at heart hunters, and hunters chase things that run. When you run, you switch from a potential threat to prey in a dogs mind. Much better to be a much larger threat than running prey.

    As far as the woman mauled to death in an apartment, those were English Mastiff’s trained for fighting, not your average dog on the street. I would also imagine the victim did run, and was not actively facing down two 140 pound beasts. It was a tragic event and fortunately an uncommon one.

    I stand by my original statement and I’m grateful for your candidness.

    God Bless,

  • Cathy Taughinbaugh March 11, 2013, 7:29 pm

    Hey Trent,

    Loved your post. I have a Boston Terrier and it has the same terrier characteristics as the Jack Russell – a little bit friendly and a little bit – you are lucky to have me be in your space.

    I was walking my dog yesterday and walked right by a family of four – two parents and two elementary school age kids. Nellie, my BT, walked by them and I thought all was well and then suddenly she turned and lunged at the little boy who of course started running. He was running in fear that she would bite him of course, which she never has, but I don’t really like that behavior in my dog. The parents, as in your case were not happy.

    We do need to face our fears, but I will give the kids a break. It is never fun when a dog comes running up behind you. I would be scared too! Of course when we become adults – face our fears head on! 🙂

  • Bob March 13, 2013, 3:13 am

    And this demonstrates why you always keep a dog on a leash… for the dog’s protection, for human protection, and for controlling it when others are unaware about how to properly interact with it… While some dogs, like yours, may be well behaved and obedient to their master’s call, I’m always wary of off-leash dogs that become over zealous. A dog in that state is not aware of proper boundaries, and even though it meant no harm, it didn’t know when to stop, which is why it needed a leash so that you could restrain him when his hunter instincts kick in.
    A leash isn’t for the bad dogs, it isn’t for the disobedient dogs, it’s for all dogs. While you may choose to own a dog for your pleasure, it shouldn’t result in the displeasure of others. Especially now that the 10 year old probably has now developed a more cemented fear of dogs. And the fact that you stated, “I have no end to the amount of people running away in terror from my 15 lb Jack Russell Terrier”, clearly states that you are already aware that this small dog has a habit of chasing people, which screams a disregard for the public just so your pup can have some off-leash time to interact with humans on his own terms and not theirs, or because you feel like it’s unfair for the dog to be constrained. Come on, man, irresponsible pet ownership affects all pet owners.

    That being said, there are rational fears, and irrational fears. For those who have never had experience with dogs, being chased by one triggers a fear that is quite rational from an evolutionary standpoint. While I would certainly agree with you that facing and assessing your fears can make you stronger, I just couldn’t get past the analogy.

  • stephen kirwin March 15, 2013, 3:57 pm

    as a former dog owner i concur about facing the dog. however they can be big creatures. ive had a little yappy dog chasing me for years now. its my artist self saying dont forget me as you pay the bills.
    one point, i do rather agree with bob on his dog policy. i use to let my dogs run wild and thought nothing of it in suburbia however now i know the fear as i am a cat owner now HA . ah well it is a fine companion.
    it is about assessing the enemy
    who is the one who is in control who is the one who will determine control

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