Coping with Dogs
As someone who has
ridden 100,000 miles, mostly on country roads in the South, I have seen
a great number of dogs. On one 28-mile ride that I made fairly often,
I originally had 15 dogs who would attack me every time. With each
dog, the behavior was different, and in each case, I was successful in solving
the problem until I had no more dogs bothering me. In each case,
I had to react differently.
The reason why
a dog chases a bike varies from dog to dog (and has nothing to do with
the fact that they once chased deer). And the way that they chase
varies from dog to dog. And how they react once you stop also varies.
There is no method
that works with every dog although some methods are surprising effective
with most dogs. The most effective method for stopping attacks doesn't
involve the dog at all.
First, as to reasons:
1) Some dogs are defending their territory, and they treat you the same
on the road as they would if you walked up to the front door. That
is, some will just bark, some will threaten but not bite, and some will
attack, especially if you do anything provocative. 2) Some dogs are
curious: who is this strange person in these strange clothes; once they
have met you, they never bother you again. 3) Some are wanting to
chase and run. These dogs may bark and run after you, but they're
just having fun. 4) Some are pretending that they are hunting.
These dogs will try to stop the bike, but they will do no harm. 5)
Some dogs really are hunting; I had a dog bite my rear tire that was perfectly
friendly when I was visiting the house. This dog was not attacking
me, just the bike. When I stopped the bike due to the flat tire,
he ignored me (I wonder what his mouth felt like). 6) Some dogs have
been trained by the owner to chase and even attack. I have seen owners
giving their dogs a signal to chase on some occasions. 7) Some dogs
are following another dog's orders; often I have seen a little yippy dog
send a larger dog out onto the road. 8) Some dogs just happen to
be traveling along the road; they are as surprised by the encounter as
you are. 9) Some dogs remember the last cyclist and are out for revenge.
And I'm sure I didn't cover every reason.
Second, as to how
they chase: 1) Some dogs will bark, but will not make any move. 2)
Some will run along their property line but never get into the street.
3) Some will run along behind you barking at a safe distance. 4)
Some will run all around you. 5) Some will run into your bike and
try to knock you down. 6) Some will run in front of your bike to
stop you. 7) Some will lie in hiding and jump out in front of your
front wheel. 8) Some will be very unpredictable and likely to do
Third, as to how
they attack. 1) Some dogs will never do anything. 2) Some will
bark and bark, but that's all. 3) Some will bite but only if you
approach them. 4) Some, especially little dogs, like to sneak up
and bite without much or any warning. 5) Some dogs will bite only
if they get excited. 6) Some dogs will bite at your legs and the
bike. 7) Some dogs are really vicious and will try to hurt you as
quickly as possible.
Fourth, there are
many effective methods of repelling an attack, and I haven't used all of
them. I have never
used a spray, but I have ridden with people who routinely sprayed all dogs,
innocent and guilty alike, which bothered me. My defenses are as
varied as the dogs' behavior: 1) First, I ignore them. This method
works with most dogs, and I use it on all dogs that are far enough from
the bike. 2) Second, if the dog is close when I encounter it, I talk
to the animal. Sometimes, I am friendly, and sometimes I am barking
commands; it depends on the dog. This method is also usually successful.
3) I speed up. This worked better when I was younger. Now that
I'm an old dog myself, most dogs can catch me. 4) While riding, I
kick a biting dog in the mouth. Warning! This can be dangerous to
the bike rider a) if your bike handling skills are not good or b) if your
shoes are soft. However, I taught at least one dog to never bother
me again that way. 5) I stop. Doing so stops many dogs. However,
it is what I least want to do. When I stop, I always keep the bike
between me and the dog(s) to avoid attacks, even though that behavior tends
to keep the dogs riled up. Unfortunately, some dogs will pair and
circle. 6) I pick up, or pretend to pick up, a stone or stick.
Once they think I have a weapon, most dogs will back off. Some people
prefer to use their pump as a pretend weapon. 7) I scream at the
dog; many times if I can make more noise than the dog, he will back off.
8) I chase the dog back onto his property. Dogs will eventually ignore
me, if they learn that I am bad news.
The most effective
method does not involve the dog: 9) I have a talk with the owner.
In these talks, I explain exactly what the dog is doing and why his behavior
is dangerous to me, the dog, and to other people using the road. I avoid
getting angry or offensive, even if the owner does so. Losing temper in
an argument usually loses the argument. I also avoid apologizing:
I firmly state that it is my right to ride on the road and that it is the owner's
duty to train or restrain his dog. I make no threats and imply no
follow-up (otherwise he might wait to see what I do). Most owners
deny that their dog was causing any problems, that they have any control
over the animal, or that they need to control the animal. But very
few dogs ever bother me again after such a discussion. Basically, if the
owner punishes the dog for getting onto the road or for chasing cyclists,
the dog will quickly give up such behavior.
If all other methods
fail, there is still one last remedy -- contact your local Animal Control.
My most touching
moment involving a chasing dog happened as follows: I was following
my usual ride, and when I rode by one house, a chihuahua ran out barking
at me, with a young German shepherd puppy following behind him. The
owner was in the yard with his little girl, so I stopped, and I asked him
to stop his dog from running out into the road. The man laughed at
me. He said, "You're not afraid of that little dog, are you?"
I replied, "The dog could hurt me by getting tangled in my spokes, but
more important, he is very likely to get hit by a car. And, he is
training your German shepherd to chase into the street as well. For
the sake of your dogs, you should scold them for running into the street."
I didn't pass that way again for some time, and when I did, the chihuahua
started to run out after me. The little girl ran and caught him and
held him back, the tears streaming down her face. I didn't need to
ask what had happened to the German shepherd.