One of the nightmares that many cyclists have revolves around aggressive dogs barking, snarling, and chasing you as you ride. Unfortunately, this is a serious concern; it happens to many riders (especially in rural areas) and can be a heart-stopping moment. There a few different strategies to avoid trouble in this situation, and this article will go over these. So read on and learn the best ways to stay safe in the face of dogs, large and small!
1. The verbal warning
When a dog sprints out of a nearby yard and begins to approach, a verbal warning can sometimes be the most effective. Use your voice to try to stop it. Be very firm, forceful, and loud; use your most authoritative and dominating voice. A deep, powerful and loud shout of “STOP RIGHT NOW” or “STAY BACK” is a warning that often crosses species barriers and has been used effectively by many cyclists. However, sometimes this method won’t work if the dog is too angry to be reasoned with. Read on for more tactics that might work if that is the case.
2. Duck, dive and dodge
Dogs that chase cyclists and cars are often used to their quarry approaching and passing at a single, constant speed. One way to shake a persistent dog that is coming after you fast and furious is to use evasive maneuvers. Try varying your speed. For example, ride up slowly, then accelerate quickly. This may throw off the dog. Another option is to try some evasive turns to make the dog uncertain of your path. It will have a harder time keeping up. Be careful though; getting overzealous with these turns can lead to a crash, which is the last thing you want if a big nasty dog is on your tail.
3. Test your speed
The most widely used technique for evading dogs is the simplest: the sprint. Simply accelerate beyond the capacity of the dog to catch up, and you will likely be able to get away scot-free. However, make sure to use this technique with intelligence. Some breeds of dogs can easily top 30 miles per hour, which is faster than a recreational rider can sprint in most circumstances. Professional cyclists sometimes top 40mph in sprints, and the fastest dog breeds have been clocked around 45mph. Do that math, then make your choice in a given situation. Because of the amazing speeds dogs can reach, the sprint is often best when combined with other options. Also note that the sprint is best to use in the center of the road, because a dog will have more difficulty gaining traction on the concrete than the gravel or grass alongside the edge of the road.
4. Kung Fu fighting
If an aggressive dog is trying to bite you, you may need to pull out your Bruce Lee moves and do some kicking. Dogs will often back off if you give them a smart boot in the nose, and if you are a skilled rider, it can be a good idea to unclip your pedal and be prepared to deliver a blow. Beware, though: sometimes this can just make a dog madder, and such a maneuver can throw you off balance and lead to a potential crash. This is an advanced move, so save it for an emergency and practice a few times before you need to use it!
5. Water fight
Another option for discouraging persistent dogs that are dogging (ahem) your heels is the water spray. Simply grab a water bottle and give it a decisive squeeze aimed in the general direction of the dog. Sometimes this will be enough to make a courageous canine rethink its aggressive behavior and back up. In another variation of this method, you can first take the water in your mouth before spurting in the dog’s direction, but the direct bottle squirt seems to be more effective.
6. The Dog Whisperer
If the above aggressive approaches won’t work, you need to try something else. This technique, which goes by the name of “the dog whisperer,” takes a non-confrontational approach. To try it out, simply begin talking to the aggressive dog in a calm, friendly, but firm voice. Try saying something like “That’s a good dog. You’re not going to attack me now are you?” Or, “Don’t mind me little puppy, I’m just passing through.” This method can be very effective for the right dog, but it’s more of a last resort or a technique appropriate for situations when running or fighting just won’t work.
7. Face your fears
Believe it or not, getting off your bike can sometimes work to stop aggressive dogs. Some dogs are simply looking for something to chase, so slowing to a walking pace can really help. While it may make you feel vulnerable to dismount, keeping your bike between you and the dogs can help keep you safe.
Set the scene
The tactic you decide to use will decide in large part on the particular situation you find yourself in. For example, the more aggressive tactics might be more appropriate for a flat or downhill slope where you can actually outrun the dog, while being much less effective on an uphill slope or otherwise slow section of road or path. Make sure to keep an eye on the terrain around you while you ride to be prepared to make the right decision to stay safe!
Report dangerous dogs
Many states have a registry of dangerous dogs, with owners being required to maintain insurance coverage and facing steep fines for not keeping their dogs behind strong fences or on leashes. If you know of dangerous dogs, it may be worth looking into these laws in your area. You may be able to compel the owners to protect passers-by.