Author Topic: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist  (Read 1560 times)

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Offline Westinghouse

Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« on: August 28, 2018, 11:25:26 pm »
Here is a detailed answer about dogs. I wrote it on another thread for a person planning a transcon on a recumbent.
As for dogs on tour, I have had many experiences with them. Some cyclists might carry pepper spray, which I have done but never used. I saw another advise carrying a water pistol containing a mixture of water and ammonia; this I have never done. The fact is that dogs can be an occasional annoyance or hassle or whatever, but by and large they are not a real danger unless one comes charging at you from out of nowhere, startling you, and causing you to involuntarily swerve out into traffic. It happens.

There is something about the movement of cycling that sets dogs off into a headstrong frenzy of barking and chasing. I mean, you come along, and there is some dog in a yard. It has been lolling around all day perhaps. It catches sight of you going by on your bike, and it immediately goes nuts. It starts barking, snarling, yelping, and growling, and chasing you at high speed and going for your heels with all its might. I have seen dogs go absolutely bananas at the sight of me cycling, even if I was two hundred feet away from them. I have seen them come charging out at me, stopped only by a fence around the property. They would follow all along the fence line to the end, and then go ape trying to jump over the fence or tunnel under it.  This kind of reaction comes from dogs of all sizes from the largest dogs to even those little Mexican Chihuahuas. That is no kidding. I was cycling through some town. Somebody was carrying one of those little Mexican dogs. It saw me. It went crazy trying to jump from its owners arms and chase along.

I have worked out a manner of dealing with dogs. In spite of all the noise and chases not one dog has ever actually bitten me.  However, they do seem to be fond of going for the feet, and some have come close to biting. First, slow down a bit, look at the dog and yell out a loud, sharp report, and when I say loud and sharp that is what is meant; something like you might expect to hear from a marine corps drill sargeant. You might have to yell a number of times. The yelling will bring some dogs to a halt. Some will stop temporarily and continue, and slow down or halt every time you yell. Just yell out hut or ha loud, sharp, and clear. If that does not dissuade the cur from pursuing his pleasure or whatever it is he gets out of the chase, come to a dead stop and give him the yell. He will stop. He may turn around and take off. He may tarry a while and snip and growl. He may come close, but my experience is the actual attack will not happen. I have cycled 34,000 miles through 19 countries, and six or more times across the USA, so I know of what I speak.

I have always ridden an upright touring bike, therefore, having a dog running along and chasing at my heels is a different matter from riding a recumbent with the animal more nearly at the vital parts such as torso, head, and throat. My general advice is this. If you are concerned, do what I have told you, and carry a water pistol with water and ammonia in it, if legal to do so, or a very good pepper spray, not one of those little key chain things, but a canister with a real fog or large volume spray that comes out, but do not use it as a first response. If you yell and stop and yell, the dog will stop his pursuit. In other words, do not run and it will not chase. Often, as you are stopped at the roadside waiting for the animal to lose interest, its owner will come out and call it back, and it trots on home. If you stop and it stops and loses interest, it might head back to its territory on its own, but if you take off it will turn around and continue chasing. Dogs, for the most part, are a temporary nuisance, but not a real serious danger. However, I am sure cyclists have been actually attacked, and perhaps even injured.

When stopped, the hound may come close, but will not actually sink its teeth into your hide. If it is particularly vicious or mean, give him a whiff of the pepper spray or whatever, but I have never found that to be necessary. If you get off the bike and walk a ways, which you would not or might not be able to do, it could lose interest; get back on and cycle away, and it will pick up where it left off, or just go home.

Try not to let a dog catch you by surprise in close quarters. That happened to me once, and I tipped over injuring my ankle. It was at night on a quiet, placid road. A very large dog came charging aggressively from out of the bushes near the side of the road. All of a sudden I heard this very loud barking and snarling, and saw a blur out of the corner of my eye. In an attempt to stop, dismount immediately, and get the bike between myself and the attacking dog, I forgot my feet were strapped into the pedals, and tried to get off on the right of the bike, I fell over and twisted my ankle. Well, at least I fell over away from the dog and not toward it. After all that the dog just stood there looking at me, and turned around and left. It was one of the larger breeds of dog, and I am sure it would not have harmed me, but it caught me completely unexpected, and I reacted unthinking with a start. There was no time to think through what to do. The subconscious mind told me I was under attack and needed to respond, and I did.

You might have dog problems in some areas at times, and no dog problems whatsoever in other places. In 1984 in winter along highway 90 in Florida free ranging dogs were all over the place, and I might add, were often seen dead along the roadside after having been slammed by motor vehicles. In 2007 I cycled 90, and there was not the first problem with the first dog; very different from 1984. In countrified areas dog owners may be more disposed to letting their dogs roam free. Some may be fenced in, but have some little tunnel dug out under the fence in some bush-covered corner. They actually seem to be smart enough to try and cover or hide their tunnels. Anyway, that is about all I can tell you. If you go into Eastern Europe, you may find canines of a very different stripe; very different from the friendly domesticated kind we are used to in the USA.

As for some of those dogs I encountered in eastern Europe, nothing short of a firearm would save you.  Some of those would run you to earth and kill you and eat you. I had never seen anything even remotely as vicious as those, and have not seen anything like it since. If there is any such thing as a homicidal, insane, psychotic, murderous, savage dog, those dogs were it. Thank God for chain link fences. They must have been raised to be that way.
 

Offline John Nettles

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2018, 08:43:58 am »
Overall I totally agree with your experiences and advise EXCEPT for the ammonia.  Since that can cause blindness or severe respiratory issues to the dog (and to you or your cycling partners if it blows back onto you), I do not recommend using ammonia.
For almost 40 years, I have used a squirt from my water bottle and/or Halt (pepper spray approved by the US Postal Service in case any owner complains) depending on the situation.  Some people swear by a really loud whistle or an air horn but it is not worth the effort to me.

Must say, I now have second thoughts about touring in Eastern Europe  ;) .
Safe riding, John

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2018, 10:52:08 am »
As the saying goes, "Your Mileage May Vary." 

Westinghouse's suggestions work about 95% of the time, IME.  It's when they don't work you need a backup plan.

My view is no doubt colored by having been bitten by a dog.  I've also been jumped by a couple other dogs where I could not come to a stop before the dog crashed into my bike (fortunately they missed me!), knocking me off the bike in one instance.

HALT! is my go-to backup defense.  The key is to keep it where you can grab it and squirt -- mounted on the handlebar so it's pointed away from you when you grab it is ideal.  See dog, grab can, if dog is within range squirt, and the dog stops.  Every time IME.

I don't always carry the HALT!, although I probably should.  It's always the rides where I don't expect the aggressive loose dog where one pops up.

Offline PNWRider92

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2018, 11:49:36 am »
I haven't had too many issues with dogs in all of the miles I've ridden. There's a set outside Big Hole Battlefield in Montana that chased me two years ago and also chased my friend last year. He let his bear spray out on them. There was also a stretch on Route 66 for about 40 miles in Missouri where I was chased aggressively by at least 20 different dogs. That section of the route isn't on 66/40 but well off the beaten path into rural farmland. I believe the ACA routes cyclist that way due to a lack of a shoulder on 66/40. It's by far the worse day I've ever had. The number of dogs that day was more than the rest of the days on the route combined.

Otherwise only the occasional dog has ever come after me. In certain areas I expect to be chased and then it's a relief when they don't chase me. I've discovered if I'm expecting it then it doesn't bother me as much when it happens. Usually a quick "STOP GO HOME" works and they retreat.

People seem to worry more about a little 100lb dog than they do about the 2,000lb chunk of steel constantly passing them.

I'll focus on the later.
Instagram: Portland_2_Portland

Offline John Nettles

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2018, 11:54:58 am »
Usually a quick "STOP GO HOME" works and they retreat.
A friend of mine thinks a loud angry "GET OFF THE DAMN COUCH" works pretty well since that is what the master may yell at the dog.  Funny thing is that it seems to work fairly often.

Offline PNWRider92

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2018, 12:02:42 pm »
Usually a quick "STOP GO HOME" works and they retreat.
A friend of mine thinks a loud angry "GET OFF THE DAMN COUCH" works pretty well since that is what the master may yell at the dog.  Funny thing is that it seems to work fairly often.

haha Maybe I'll have to give that one a shot.

The one that baffles me is the people who live on known ACA routes and still let their aggressive dogs run wild. They see thousands (or at least hundreds) of cyclist a year and you'd think they'd be more concerned for their dogs safety. On that section of Route 66 noted above I saw more dead dogs than I'd seen on any other section. I couldn't help but think how many of them were hit after chasing after a cyclist. On one occasion I was sure I was going to get caught but an oncoming car laid on their horn and the dogs retreated.

Otherwise.... I've also had dogs run up to me on tour and follow me for a distance. On one stretch this year a big dog followed me from one town nearly 5 miles to the next town despite me stopping several times and trying to make it go home. At the next town the cashier at the Family Dollar said "Oh I see (dogs name) followed you here!" I guess it often follows ACA cyclist on the route. Those friendly dogs make me happy :)
Instagram: Portland_2_Portland

Offline John Nettles

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2018, 12:06:11 pm »
To me the worst dog is the one who is quiet, doesn't breathe heavy, and all you here is the clicking of the toe nails as you look down and see a big dog only a few feet behind you.  Usually scares the bejeebees out of me.

Offline PNWRider92

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2018, 12:10:21 pm »
To me the worst dog is the one who is quiet, doesn't breathe heavy, and all you here is the clicking of the toe nails as you look down and see a big dog only a few feet behind you.  Usually scares the bejeebees out of me.

Agreed! Getting caught off guard is no fun. Those non-barkers give me a quick moment of panic almost every time. 
Instagram: Portland_2_Portland

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2018, 01:58:18 pm »
A friend of mine thinks a loud angry "GET OFF THE DAMN COUCH" works pretty well since that is what the master may yell at the dog.  Funny thing is that it seems to work fairly often.

It's also funny because half the time when the dog stops, he'll have a look on his face that lets you know he's thinking, "Wait a second, I wasn't ON the sofa!"  ;)

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2018, 08:00:48 am »

A friend of mine thinks a loud angry "GET OFF THE DAMN COUCH" works pretty well since that is what the master may yell at the dog.  Funny thing is that it seems to work fairly often.
:) I have got to work that one into my yelling routine.

Offline neil

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2018, 12:03:09 am »
You might not want to do this, but turn and chase the dog shouting at it and run it home, preferably into the yard that it came from. Many cases it's a game for the dog that it wins every time as you cycle hard away from it, so it's a game. A case of think about the next cyclist coming it's way, if you make it an unpleasant experience.
Dogs have a different auditory frequency to us and the theory is that they can here the spinning of the wheels that you can't (uncollaberated)
   Neil (a vet)

Offline fahrrad

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2018, 02:41:48 pm »
   I agree- it's just a game for them. I've always just managed to outrun them myself. I don't know how one manages to pull out all this gear to use on them while hammering down for a getaway. I was exploring the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota for 4 days a few years ago during a tour and their dogs were literally hunters, all wild, bounding across the grasslands at a distance, pacing me and closing in to intercept me at some point ahead. It became a fun challenge to keep an eye on the horizon, ready to sprint at the first sign of those dusty animals. I think if speed isn't an option yelling is the best way to cope.

Offline Theflyingkiwi

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2018, 01:42:50 pm »
I have just completed a ride thru Serbia, up Romania, across Hungary, across Slovakia and across the Czech Republic. I did not get chased by any savage dogs. Just the standard bark and chase then give up types. And sod all of these.
Do not let Westinghouse comment about Eastern European dogs put you off. It is an amazing place to cycle tour.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2018, 10:43:25 pm »
Overall I totally agree with your experiences and advise EXCEPT for the ammonia.  Since that can cause blindness or severe respiratory issues to the dog (and to you or your cycling partners if it blows back onto you), I do not recommend using ammonia.
For almost 40 years, I have used a squirt from my water bottle and/or Halt (pepper spray approved by the US Postal Service in case any owner complains) depending on the situation.  Some people swear by a really loud whistle or an air horn but it is not worth the effort to me.

Must say, I now have second thoughts about touring in Eastern Europe  ;) .
Safe riding, John


Totally agree with you about ammonia and water. I never even used pepper spray or anything like that at all. As for those insane beasts in eastern Europe, I would recommend spraying with a gallon of 93 octane gasoline, and throwing in a lit match. Better yet, a flame thrower. I kid you not.

Offline ke3z

Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2018, 05:15:08 am »
I haven't done this myself, so YMMV, but my brother recently completed a transcon carrying a small bunch of "poppers" in the side of his bar bag. Those are the little firecracker type things (also known as bang snaps) that go off when you throw them on the ground. According to him, one of those going off a few feet in front of a dog scares the hell out of the dog and it will make tracks in the opposite direction. Can't say how well they would work on those Eastern European mongrels.