Dogs and bikes are the subjects of a few good jokes.
Did you hear about when a police officer arrived at a home to tell the resident that his dog was chasing riders?
The policeman said, “Sir, your dog has been chasing a rider on a bike.”
The dog owner replied, “Officer, that can’t be right. My dog does not have a bike.”
Dogs and bikes do not mix well, at least not on the road. Sure, I have seen a couple of cyclists riding with their dogs. And there are dog trailers for bikes on the market. Even those are problematic.
Many bike riders own dogs. We don’t dislike dogs. Yet, in my opinion, dogs are a hazard. Canines are just as dangerous as an oncoming car. So much so that when I spot a dog coming toward the road, I can feel my adrenalin pumping. For me, dogs and bikes do not mix well.
They are more of a problem on rural roads than in the city. Urbanites are more likely to follow and rigorously endorse leash laws. Dogs would not survive long in densely populated areas if they chased bikes and cars.
Most cyclists, whether urbanites or rural dwellers, seek out rural roads. We do this to avoid vehicles. However, this is where dogs can be problematic.
In the countryside of Texas, where I live, almost everyone has a dog. Most of them are behind fences or have been trained not to leave their yards. They have caring owners.
Cyclists meet dogs regularly. We keep alert. When dogs and bikes meet, there is cause for caution and concern.
I know where the meaner dogs live on the routes that we take on our club rides. So as we approach their yards, I warn the other riders. “There are dogs just up the road.”
We prepare by bunching up the group a bit. We try to protect the newer riders primarily.
When one of us spots a dog in the road, the rider shouts, “Dog up.”
The most dangerous dogs are those that we do not spot until they have already started to run toward us from deep in their yard. “Dog. Watch out, here he comes.”
I often shout angrily to the owners, “come get these bleep, bleep dogs.” I understand that the dogs do not cause the problem. It is their masters who have not trained them well.
Not all dogs are hazards. However, I assume that a dog is a problem until it proves me otherwise.
Some run to the end of their yard and stop. I assume there is a hidden, electric fence keeping them from escaping for their turf. Maybe their master taught them not to leave the yard. I never assume they will stop until they do.
Some dogs run alongside us as we roll by. They don’t bark. They are just getting some fun exercise. Yet, I am aware that they can abruptly swerve out into the road. So, I do not take my eyes off them.
Others bark and snarl as they approach. I always assume they are aggressive.
What the dogs can do
When aggressive dogs and bikes meet, the result is often not good.
We all have our stories of dogs and bikes. Last winter, a pit bull dog came running across a busy highway at me. He ran about thirty yards alongside me, then he jumped up and latched onto my forearm. I had to bash my fist on the top of his head to get him to turn loose. Luckily, he did not break the skin. The only damage was a ripped windbreaker.
The owner yelled at him, and he returned home.
Some dogs bite. But, others cause much worse damage.
A dog jumped out from behind a hedge line at a fellow cycling club member. It was not a large dog, but he slammed into the bike and knocked the rider down. He was in severe pain and was unable to get up. So, we called an ambulance. Upon arrival at the hospital, doctors informed him he had a severely broken hip. He could not get on a bike for more than three months. His bike needed some significant repairs as well.
I used to assume that chained dogs were not a problem. Then, a couple of years ago, we were riding in a group when we spotted a boxer on a heavy chain in the front yard of a house. He was barking and jumping. All of a sudden, he slipped his head out of the chain and ran right into our group. One of the riders fell. We had to call an ambulance for him.
Preventing dogs from biting cyclists
Dogs and bikes often meet on the road. So how do we prevent serious incidents like the ones above?
Whatever you do, do not use treats to keep dogs away. That will encourage them to come out every time they spot you and your bike on the road.
Some cyclists use pepper spray and other toxic compounds. Others here in Texas carry pistols to ward off dogs and human pursuers. I find those to be harsh solutions.
A fellow cycling club member has had several severe encounters with dogs. That is why he now carries a horsewhip. A good smack on the head usually sends the dog back home.
Some riders use high-pitched horns to scare off dogs. I find these bulky to carry. However, they are a great deterrent.
Getting a dog owner’s attention is effective if they are near the dog. Some owners tell me not to ride in their neighborhood if I do not want the dog to chase me. That gets me very upset.
When dogs and bikes meet, yelling, “go home,” “stay,” or “no” sometimes helps.
I find that a good deterrent is to ride in a group. Dogs do not like being outnumbered.
In my opinion, the best deterrent to ward of dogs is to use your water bottle. When I know there is a dog ahead, I reach for my bottle. More than a score of times, I have sprayed squeeze the bottle spraying the hound with water. Most of the time, that sends them in retreat.
Suppose you know that there is an aggressive dog further up the road. It is sometimes helpful to increase your speed. I have outrun many dogs. If you are riding with a group, make sure others are going to speed up as well. Leaving them behind to fend for themselves with the dog will not be appreciated.
If at all possible, guard your front wheel. If a dog rams into it, you are going down, most likely going down hard.
When a dog is highly aggressive, and you are forced to dismount from your bike. A good tactic that can prevent a bit is to place your bike between you and the dog.
Sometimes dogs will approach you when you are regrouping or assisting a fellow rider with a mechanical. They are generally not a threat. Make friends with them by talking to them and extending your palm to them. Talk to them and extend a palm.
When dogs and bikes meet, there can be severe problems. My advice is, if a dog is aggressive, try to ride elsewhere next time. The potential for serious injury is too great.
Laws about dogs and bikes
Many cities and counties have leach laws. Not all citizens obey them. Those who do not keep follow the law should be reported before their dogs bite someone or cause an accident.
Leach law or no leach law, if a dog causes injury to a cyclist who is on the road or a path, the owner is liable.
What recommendations do you have about dogs and bikes meeting?