Here's to the Dogs!

March 18, 2016

Dogs have a bad reputation in the bike-touring world. Being chased and/or bitten by a dog ranks right up there with the top fears of many a bike traveler. And for a good reason: dogs like to chase things — balls, squirrels, their own tails, and bicycles.

People say that dogs can smell fear, or at least read the body language of a fearful cyclist. There is no scientific evidence for this, but my experience as a bike tour guide many years ago led me to believe it’s true. If one of my guests admitted to an intense fear of dogs, out of several riders on the road, that is the cyclist the dog would chase ... every time.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with aggressive dogs. Some folks recommend carrying pepper spray. I never have.

I’ve been chased by dogs in dozens of countries and what works best for me is to stop and cheerfully call the dog. It confuses them. Many come over, tails wagging for a pet. Others walk away. Occasionally, when they don’t, I position myself with my bike between us and stay calm — so far, so good.

I’d like to be on record as a bike traveler who has had many more positive experiences with dogs than negative. Am I crazy? Is it just me? Or are there other touring cyclists who look forward to dog encounters in their travels?

Photos by Willie Weir

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday.

Willie Weir is a contributor for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can also find him at, Facebook, and Instagram.  


Peter de Visser March 24, 2016, 1:49 AM

As we notice the dogs intentions by his body language a dog reacts on ours.Experience with East-European ones, learned me to stop and pull out my thin fiberglass, 1 yard stick that is attached along the frontwheel.If the dog continues, I hit him on the nose and/or run my loaded bike right in his direction while screeming aloud.

No dog expects a fierce counterattack. I never had a problem.

James Webster March 23, 2016, 4:59 PM

I have had a few encounters with dogs. been bitten through my Crocs by a Chiwawa. It is the ones that attack from the side. The ones that are silent and just attack from the side that cause the most concern. On two occasions a car past between me and the dog as the dog was attacking. The car passing within inches both times. another time I was being chased and the 18 wheeler passed me on a narrow two lane road without a berm. I have posted some videos of me being chased on Youtube

Cindy March 20, 2016, 2:11 PM

I have found that yelling "GO HOME" works, they usually put their tail between their legs and retreat in the direction of home.

Allan March 20, 2016, 9:27 AM

My wife and I carry Sound Defense devices (, which seem to work pretty well. They're nice because they turn the dog around without having to get off the bike and lose momentum. They're also useful for getting attention from your riding partner when you're too far away to shout.

Unfortunately, they're a bit bulky and awkward to carry on the bike -- hopefully these folks will come out with a more cycle-friendly model some day (hint-hint).

Joe March 19, 2016, 5:25 PM

Whenever a dog barks at me I respond with "good job" and conversationally praise their protection of their territory. 75% of the time I get a waggy tail. I always feel bad when after my praise I hear the owner screaming at the dog. Most dogs have a defined territory, and the road and shoulder are not part of it. They are just trying to warn you that you are approaching their territory. In 10,000 miles I have only had one dog who didn't think the road was beyond his territory, fortunately he did consider the edge of the property as his border and I got there before he got to me.

TODD COPLEY March 18, 2016, 8:32 PM

Wow.... Doesn't sound like Willy has done much riding in Appalachia... I carry a pepper mace combo that is velcroed to the top tube and a 25 million volt tazer in my back pocket of the jersey... Be prepared every ride for an attack.... Great place to ride but you got to be ready to put the dogs down... T

andy March 18, 2016, 2:53 PM

I usually issue a friendly invite for them to run with me keeping my tone relaxed and inviting. I feel better and I am unbitten with that approach. Dogs just want to protect their turf is my guess.

Shirley White March 18, 2016, 12:55 PM

I was never scared of dogs until I got bit riding my bike. I have used the "getting off the bike" when the dogs are far enough away, and it works just great, but when the dog is only a few feet away from me when I see it or hear it, I am afraid to try to stop and get off. What do you do when the dog suddenly runs out of nowhere and is only a few feet from you and you are still riding?

Peter de Visser March 24, 2016, 2:25 PM

See my text below. My partner is, just like you, scared of dogs. I added, as at my bike, a thin, glassfiber, flexible stick. Ready to grip while riding, left and right handed. Any dog recognizes a sweeping, raised arm with a stick. That alone is enough, usually, to keep them at distance.Stopping is a must, whatever you feel! Your choice is: your damaged calves, or his bleeding nose...

Reid Barnes March 18, 2016, 9:42 AM

I tape a small bag of dog treats on my frame. I always stop when I dog comes out, say hello in a high voice and I toss a little treat their way. The only time a dog ever tried to bite was before I started doing this. I don't get back on until I am well past them.

Kees Kuijper March 18, 2016, 9:22 AM

Every time a dog starts chasing me I just stop and turn around. As long as you keep riding you are prey and you keep the dog in a hunting/ attacking state of mind. As soon as you stop the dog snaps out of it and will immediately stop chasing. Since it is not used to this reaction it will be confused and the situation is neutralized. I cycled through country's with very bad dog reputations as Turkey, Bulgaria etc. and my aproach never failed.

Log in to post a comment

Forgot Password?

Enter your email address and we'll send you an email that will allow you to reset it. If you no longer have access to the email address call our memberships department at (800) 755-2453 or email us at

Not Registered? Create Account Now.