This morning the air was cool (which is a first), the sun was coming up and I was feeling good that I had made it past the .66 miles of gravel to the road. I was switching gears to get to a comfortable gear for the road (have I mentioned that I pretty much still suck at riding on the gravel??). I’m feeling good when suddenly out of nowhere bounding over the hill and out of the ditch is a big white german shepherd.
I immediately slowed down ~ I guess thinking I didn’t want to get ripped off my bike by this dog. Not sure what I thought I was gonna do about it once my bike stopped and I was faced with this dog, but that’s what I did instinctively. Turns out I know this dog ~ but this dog doesn’t know me on a bike. The owner yelled for the dog to get back in the yard and he turned around and went back into his yard. I then went back on my merry way, with my heart rate slightly elevated.
This situation turned out fine but there are tons of riders whose stories end much differently. From being attacked and bitten to a friendly dog turning unexpectedly and knocking them off their bikes and causing serious injury. At some point, no matter where you ride ~ whether it’s in the middle of nowhere like me, or in the suburbs or the city you will run into dogs, and it is a good idea to have a mental strategy mapped out before it happens to you.
What Do You Do When You Run into a Dog?
Seems there are about as many strategies for dealing with dogs as there are riders. But there seem to be a couple of different strategies that abound when it comes to dealing with a crazy dog. These strategies seem to have almost as much to do with YOU as they do with the dog in question so let’s answer a few questions first.
- Are you comfortable with dogs?
- Are you willing to cause bodily harm to a dog if it comes to that?
- Are you phobic of dogs?
Let’s break down each strategy now.
Remember that every single interaction with a dog is different and one plan will probably NOT work for all of them, but being prepared mentally, I think, is half the battle.
If you are comfortable with dogs:
1. Stop your bike, and get off.
2. Position your bike between you and the dog
3. Yell LOUDLY at the dog to stop, sit, go home, or whatever else comes out of your mouth ~ just watch for little kids if it turns ugly.
This strategy works pretty well for a few reasons.
When you stop your bike you are no longer something to chase ~ you have to be moving to be chaseable. That takes half the game out of it right there.
Positioning your bike between you and the dog gives you something like the lion tamers chair ~ you can use your bike as a weapon if it comes to that, but it probably won’t
By yelling you become the “big dog” if you seem tough the dog will usually listen to you.
The next strategies may involve some injury (minor) to the dog but can help you get away from a dog that is attacking or chasing you.
1. Keep some pebbles on you, throw them at the dog in a spray when it comes near you. (Golf balls have also been recommended for this purpose if you can get them for free)
2. Spray the dog in the face with your water bottle ~ if it has Gatorade it in ~ all the better.
3. Pepper spray. There are different kinds of pepper spray designed specifically for bike riders ~ they have clips to be easily accessible. Just be aware that not all dogs will respond to pepper spray, so don’t let it make you feel invincible.
Phobic of Dogs?
If you are seriously afraid of dogs the chances of you slowing down and getting off your bike are probably slim to none, so I would suggest you employ some of the techniques from the physical deterrent section as well as standing up and pedaling fast. It’s pretty hard to outrun a dog ~ they can run really fast ~ but if you throw something at them it may give you a few seconds to get your move on.
I will say if you decide to bike away as fast as possible make sure anyone riding in front of you is using the same strategy to deal with the dog. I recently read a story of a dog phobic biker running into the back of her biking partner because he employed the stop and yell method. She ended up hurt pretty badly, so it’s a good idea to talk with your riding partners about what they would do and plan accordingly.
These are the things it seems most bikers are using depending on how they feel about dogs. I recently read a suggestion to throw biscuits at the dog, but this really isn’t a great idea. You will teach the dog to hang out in the road, where he could get hit. This will also teach the dog to look for treats from riders/runners and not everyone may be as generous or friendly as you.
I’d love to hear your strategy for what to do when you’re chased by a dog while riding your bike, so please ~ leave your stories, both good and horror in the comment section below.