The stoker weighs in about dogs:

I am afraid of dogs, even though we have one. I am not exactly sure where this fear comes from. My mother occasionally recalls an experience I can’t remember when I was two and she rescued me from a German shepherd dragging me down the street by my hair. Or, maybe my fear comes from all the stories my grandfather told about his dog encounters. As a child he was bitten a couple of times and from then on went on all walks with a long wood staff. Maybe my fear of dogs has to do with an interview I heard on NPR about a guy getting eaten alive by a bear—it just seems like something that could also happen with a dog.

Getting a road bike provided me with a lot of new reasons to fear dogs. Over the years, some of the more memorable dogs I have encountered on my bike include a chow-cheetah mix that outran our tandem at 26 miles an hour, two chihuahua-pit bull mixes that almost got squashed and wrecked us, the pit bull monster that broke away from his owner and nearly ate us all up, the house of the seven black labs, five snarling curs on a road named “Lamb,” and a great dane whose teeth were as high as my handlebars. Then there have been all the puppies that have chased us along busy roads. I particularly hate going past houses that have life-sized plaster dogs as yard ornaments, because from a distance they look like real dogs poised to get me.

The following video illustrates how we felt today during the one encounter riding home today.

Wolf hunting caribou in BBC's Planet Earth.

See the baby deer – that was us today on our ride.

Cycling on rural roads has taught me some truths about dogs and bikes:
1) Dog owners do not always leash their dogs.
2) Dog owners who live on busy roads do not always leash their dogs.
3) To a dog, there is something irresistible about a human whizzing past a house at about the same speed as a running deer.
4) The best, loveliest rides have the meanest dogs.
5) The worst dogs appear when you are going uphill.
6) Before a bike ride through the country, it is better not to watch that episode of Planet Earth where the wild dogs attack the gazelle.
7) Dogs are less likely to go after groups of riders.

One of my favorite conversations with other cyclists is how to deal with dog encounters. Some of the strategies I have heard include using pepper spray, throwing handfuls of rocks, squirting with the water bottle, shouting “no,” kicking in the face, clubbing with a tire pump, activating dog sonar to hurt their ears, yelling “go faster!” and carrying a gun. While I wouldn’t try all of these, I clearly need a strategy besides yelling “no,” and “go faster!” which didn’t really work today on our ride home from work (I am writing this from the hospital. Just kidding, y’all). On the next ride, I’m going to stuff my jersey pockets with pebbles.

What I really want to know is, does that dog sonar really work? Here’s one of the brands of “sonic” dog repellent:

That’s like Prairie Home Companion’s riff “Duct tape: it’s almost the only thing you need sometimes.”

I have to say that being on a tandem is much better for dog encounters, for a number of reasons. You can go faster and outrun a dog. The stoker, i.e. me, is free to inflict all kinds of self-defense tactics (see above) on canine offenders. You are quieter and sneakier, especially if your tandem is as well-maintained as mine. You can take a picture of the mean dog to display on your tandem blog (one day, folks!) and finally, your hands are free to call the sheriff on the beast’s owners.


24 Responses to “Dogs.”

  1. 1 dottie November 29, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Yikes, trying to outrun dogs sounds nerve-wracking. In my Chicago neighborhood most of the dogs I encounter are small and dressed in sweaters, but I know in NC there are a lot of big and poorly trained dogs (dawgs?). I’ve heard of people using the water bottle method successfully, but I have no real advice to give, sorry.

    P.S. Mago!

  2. 2 Steven Vance November 29, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Regardless of where your fear of dogs comes from, it’s clear that dogs can be fatally dangerous to humans (and vice versa), as evidenced by the handful of dog mauling articles I read in the newspaper each year.

    If you can identify a harassing dog, you’ve got your perp. Now you just need to find the owner. But let the police do that.

  3. 3 Green Fleet Messengers November 29, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Definitely favor hitting them in between the eyes with a shot from your water bottle. Hit one with orange gatorade once – that worked well. That one must have been a “dawg” …

  4. 4 andrew December 2, 2009 at 4:05 am

    I dont know about keeping dogs away, but if ones attacking you shove your hand in its mouth and hold down its tongue with your thumb. As long as your holding its tongue it will be afraid of biting its own tongue and wont bite down.

  5. 5 2whls3spds December 25, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    We used to ride in a fair sized group, one of the riders was a veterinarian, he usually rode a cross bike or MTB. We had one area where the dog would always run out and be pretty aggressive about it, on one ride the vet turned around and started chasing the dog with his bike all the way back to his porch. Never saw that dog chase a bike again. 😀


  6. 6 Anonymous December 26, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Dogs are provoked when they feel threatened or their territrory is threatened. idk everytime I’ve had any encounter, it always tried to jump on me but if u knee them and step after them it usually helps. but that’s odd, ive not known many dogs to be aggressive, only playing

  7. 7 Chris January 7, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Dogs pick on what they find to be weaker prey. Like the above posting states, they are also extremely territorial and often act hostile to ward off threats.

    Turn the table on them. Even noticed when they chase and you stop, the are like, “now what?” Some of them bark once you’ve stopped, and some do that thing when they just stare somewhere, until you get going again, and they just pick right back up where they left off.

    Go one step further and chase the dog for a moment. Chase it good. Bark like a madman, spray a little water on them. Tell them to come, they will disobey out of spite. That should do it.

  8. 8 Jim January 29, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I have been chased by dogs a few times on my bike, and more than a few times as a kid on foot during rural cross-country training runs. Although it’s certainly scary when a dog starts to chase, in my experience they rarely intend to actually attack – many dogs will just run along side you once they catch up. The one time I did feel genuinely threatened by an intercepting dog, I mustered the guts to bark “BAD BOY! GO HOME!” back at him a few times – and thankfully he obeyed. (I felt weak-kneed and wobbly as I pedaled on, though!)

  9. 9 Amy January 29, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Thankfully the only dog I have on my commute is a tiny little something or other that barks a lot. I usually just stop and let it bark at me until it gets bored (usually just long enough to have some water). I don’t want it to follow me, for fear that it might get hit by a car. I do however carry a collapsable riot baton, just in case there were to ever be a dog attack (a rogue pit-bull or something) and I actually had to defend myself. I hope to never have to use it.

    • 10 pomocomo January 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm

      The riot baton is a cool idea. I know many cyclists use longer frame pumps if they carry them, though they’re less common these days it seems. After a ride last weekend riddled by frantic dog chases, my stoker, who wrote the blog entry about dogs, is convinced that she wants a little sack of stones, maybe stuck in the back pockets of my jersey in front, so she can throw them at the dogs. If we resort to this, we’ll be sure to post about it.

  10. 11 T R Ever March 26, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    How about a dog treat?
    like a small baby
    Or ninja throwing stars…
    In all honesty.
    pepper spray or if you are cheap wasp killer in a can.
    it shoots farther and is less $$$.
    that or your water bottle.
    or a dog whistle.
    This reminds me of when I visited a friend in Chicago.
    he left me outside holding his dog while he went into a post office.
    Some guy came up to me and starts yelling at me for holding on to a leashed dog near a school.
    ” Big dog near a school! Man what are you thinking!”
    I was quite taken back. my friends dog was just sitting beside me. my main concern had been that I did not have a plastic bag on me if it had decided to have a BM.

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