Cycling Hazards: Dealing With Dogs

The worst dog encounter I had on our bike tour was in Iran.

Cycling alone on a mission to chase 6 Germans in lederhosen (that’s another story), I was shocked to see a group of dogs lunging towards me. Within seconds, they had the bike surrounded and two were sinking their teeth into my panniers. Salvation came in in the form of an 80 year old woman, who beat off the dogs with a large broom.

So I had some sympathy with Steve Fabes, as I read his latest journal from eastern Europe.

“As I cycled I caught sight of a small dog racing out of the scrub. No worries. I had a couple of stones ready to launch in its direction. Suddenly another larger animal appeared and then more barks from the scrub. Another two. Two more. Larger, barking relentlessly and bearing down on me fast. I sounded my mega-horn but there was nobody around to hear it. Now three more grizzly creatures, tufts of fur missing… The dogs were coming in to bite me and I jumped around wildly to avoid them. Finally I reached the incline and gravity came to the rescue. I freewheeled down the slope taking me away from the attack.” – Steve Fabes, Cycling The Six

At the end of his journal entry, Steve asks for tips on how to to deal with dogs. Happily, most of our dog encounters were nowhere near as extreme as in Iran. Here’s the sequence we went through when approached by an annoying dog. We didn’t normally have to go through all of the steps. Most of the time, just stopping did the trick.

1. Stop – This works with almost all dogs. They love the chase and when you stop you break the chase sequence. They don’t expect you to stop so this also turns the tables and surprises them.

2. Become the Top Dog – Dogs can sense fear and will act on that emotion so don’t show them you are scared. Instead, become the ‘top dog’ in the pack. Turn to face the dogs, shout loudly and stand with your shoulders and legs in a broad stance, to make yourself look bigger. Many dogs will back off if they see you taking this dominating position.

This idea seemed to work for Frank Tatchell, a traveller and English clergyman who offered this advice from his travels in the 1920s: “Abuse them in the hoarsest voice at your command and with the worst language you can think of. They may slink off utterly ashamed of themselves.”

3. Throw small rocks or squirt some water – Once you have a weapon, most dogs will retreat, even if the ‘weapon’ is not truly dangerous. You might also want to wave your pump around or ring your bell.

4. Stand behind the bike – If the dogs are still closing in, get off your bike and stand behind it. This creates a barrier and protects you from being bitten.

5. Walk slowly past – Start to walk slowly away. Don’t turn your back on the dogs. Keep turning around to face them, screaming like a mad man and throwing rocks as you go. After a couple hundred meters, you are usually out of ‘their territory’ and can get on your bike to ride again.

We also had some pepper spray on hand in case things got truly serious, but we never had to use it.

What about you? Have you had some terrible dog encounters? How did you deal with the pesky mutts?