May 18, 2017 - Patrick Tuttle kindly submitted this guest blog. Thank you!
Many cyclists have had to deal with charging dogs while riding bicycles. They speak of wrecks, losing a shoe, ripped pant legs, and even socks with teeth marks. There have been damaged wheels, bent frames, and other instances of unthinkable canine carnage. So, how can this be prevented?
Biologist and animal lover, Adriana Heguy explains it this way: “Dogs chase cars because they have prey drive. Prey drive is an instinctive behavior in carnivores that must seek, pursue, capture, and eat prey. Different dogs have different components of the prey drive. What a dog chases, balls, squirrels, cars, or cyclists, is dependent on the dog, but the component is always the same: the instinctual drive to chase something that is getting away from them. And that chase instinct is triggered by fast movements.”
Channel all your cycling skills to stay upright. Your main intent is always to stay on the bike without wiping out or even taking out other riders.
Pepper spray. The thought of trying to hit a charging dog in the face with pepper spray scares me. At any speed, the best bookie would give you bad odds of this being successful. Personally, it would be my guess that a very small percentage of us are coordinated enough to pull this off, not to mention, you would have to let the dog get close enough to be a good target. This is just too much time away from bicycle management and most definitely too much time allowing the dog to approach.
Dog bones. Okay then, let’s carry a couple of canine treats and drop them in the dog’s path to stop their pursuit. Seriously? A) the dog must make eye contact with whatever you are dropping to even consider going after it, and B) in the dog’s mind, the morsel you are offering must be a convincing, more delectable treat than what your tasty ankle represents. You may have better luck squirting an energy gel in their face, although dog bones are tastier.
Use your water bottle and spray water in their face. I have tried this as a reaction once, but my thought quickly switched to, “That was dumb. I am already low on water and I have 10 miles to go.” Like the pepper spray, the subject needs to be close enough for the fluid to make contact, thus making the animal think twice about continuing the chase. However, for most of us it would be refreshing to have water sprayed in our faces, especially on a hot July ride. For Fido it may be the same, “Please master, may I have another.” All the while, you’re running out of water. What are you going to do next, throw the plastic bottle at them? Yeah, like that will work. “Here boy, after your bath, here is a new chew toy.”
Air horn. The best practical advice I've heard is from my riding buddy, Kenny Ginn, who simply says, “Use an air horn.” Duh! The economy-size air horn fits well in an accessory bag, or it can be easily Velcroed to your bike.
The best part of using an air horn to deter a chasing dog is just pointing it in their general direction without careful aiming. You just push the button and BLAST. It works. One or two short bursts will end the pursuit, break the dog’s stride, and give the rider enough time to put distance between themselves and the animal. If you are on a group ride, an air horn will pretty much end a dog’s chase, whereas the other methods mentioned are less impactful and the dog may resume its chase as the next rider passes. Air horns “change behavior.”
Whatever action you choose to take needs the greatest result in the easiest manner with the least distraction — it needs to change behavior. Ride safe and carry a loud horn!
Comment below with your pointers and opinions on how to deal with dogs.
Top photo by Jenn Milyko | Social media photos by Stewart Black
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