Have you ever had to deal with a chasing dog when riding your bike? The experience can be quite terrifying, especially if it’s happening for the first time.
You suddenly start thinking of scary things like losing a shoe, ripped pants or socks, and a wrecked bike with bent frames and damaged wheels.
Well, I have had different kinds of dogs barking and chasing me a couple of times when cycling across the US. And while I love dogs, aggressive canines aren’t always as exciting.
When I was bike touring in Colorado, a black Doberman Pinscher came running after me. My first instinct was to stop, get off the bike, and start staring at the running dog as it came towards me.
But then I thought this may not be the best solution as Doberman Pinschers can sometimes be a bit aggressive.
Lucky for me, the owner was nearby, and when she realized that her dog was already chasing a cyclist, she shouted, and the dog turned immediately.
So, what is the best way to deal with a dog chasing you on a bike tour? It seems there is no single strategy that will work with all kinds of dogs, but there are several ways to be prepared in case a dog runs after you when you least expected it.
After thoroughly researching why dogs chase bikes and how to stop them, I’ve realized that different people have their own way of dealing with dog chases.
Some riders will just choose to stop and have the bike between them and the aggressive dog, while other cyclists will try to ride fast enough to outrun the dog, especially when heading downhill.
Here, I’ll explain some of the best ways to deal with a dog chasing you on a bicycle tour. Keep reading to discover more!
Best Ways to Stop the Chase
Stop and Get Off Your Bike
If you were just riding with a normal bicycle touring speed and a dog starts chasing you, you may be tempted to pedal faster to lose them.
However, it’s not always possible to outrun a dog when riding on the flat ground or cycling up the road.
Dogs can easily sense fear, and they won’t stop running after you when they realize that you are scared. Eventually, they’ll keep up with your pace and end up biting your tire or, worse, your leg, especially if they are highly aggressive.
While I’m not very brave when it comes to dealing with aggressive dogs, I never dare run when a dog comes running after me unless I’m sure I’ll outrun them.
I usually hit the brake hard to get off the bike to see what the dog would do. Most dogs stop coming forward but continue to bark and snarl at a safer distance.
If you meet a dog who won’t stop coming to you after you stop riding, you may want to step off the bike for a few steps. This is to show them that you are not actually going to wait for them to attack you but are somewhat ready for anything.
Then have your bike standing between you and the dog and back away slowly. If the dog’s main intention was just to have fun while chasing you, they might stop at this point.
Use a Repellant Spray for Aggressive Dogs
Pepper sprays come in handy when cycling in rural areas when unleashed dog encounters are rampant.
For a very aggressive dog that won’t stop running after you, you might have to use a repellant like pepper spray or bear spray.
If you can be able to spray the dog and keep riding, that will be more beneficial as you’ll lose them faster.
But to be honest, sometimes it’s not possible to use pepper spray while on the move. There was an incident when cycling in Oregon where I met two aggressive dogs, and I was on speed.
At first, they appeared to be calm buddies until I cycled past them, and they started running after me while barking. This was quite a bad surprise. I was convinced that the two dogs wanted to bite me.
I thought it wise to stop the chase with a pepper spray I had on my handlebar bag. Did it work? Not really, unfortunately.
To some extent, I felt terrified when they were almost keeping up with my speed, and the spray didn’t seem to hit their face successfully.
So, I had to stop anyway and let them come to a spraying distance. Surprisingly, the two dogs lost interest and stopped chasing when I stood, waiting for them to bring it on.
Then I realized that they weren’t actually aggressive. Apparently, they wanted to enjoy the run. I didn’t have to use the spray anymore since they had already lost interest in running after me.
If you are dealing with an aggressive dog and want to use pepper spray to stop them, I think the best way to do it is to stop then unleash the spray. This way, you will be able to control aggressive dogs instantly and avoid hurting an innocent dog that was only running for fun.
Ride Downhill Faster to Outrun an Aggressive Dog
I often hear many cyclists ask whether it’s possible to outrun a dog when bike touring. It seems the simple answer is that it depends on the type of terrain you are riding on.
If you are cycling on a rough road where you can’t really pedal faster, then my advice is that you stop and get off the bike since you can barely out cycle a dog.
When cycling on flat ground, you can outrun a dog depending on your strength and how fast you can ride.
Even when riding a fully loaded bike, you can easily outrun a chasing dog when cycling downhill. The dog will get bored and turn back after chasing you for a few minutes.
However, I wouldn’t recommend cycling faster when dealing with big fast dogs like German Shepherds as they’ll definitely catch up with your pace, and you might end up being bitten.
If you are scared of a big dog chasing you on a bike tour and don’t think you can cycle faster than it can run, it may be wise to call for help. The owner may hear you if they are nearby.
It will also be more challenging to lose a dog if they start chasing you when cycling up the hill. In such instances, you may want to apply other tactics.
Maintain Eye Contact with the Chasing Dog
If you think that trying to outrun a dog will not work, the best thing to do is stop and maintain eye contact with them.
I rarely use this tactic when dealing with attacking dogs, but I’ve heard other cyclists say it works out.
In my take, maintaining eye contact with a dog can make them feel overpowered and eventually attack me. So, I tend to ignore them instead if they don’t seem aggressive.
Maintaining eye contact with the dog has worked for many people, though. When doing it, you need to ensure that you don’t actually stare in their eyes, as this would signify dominance to a dog.
If looking at the dogs’ eyes doesn’t cause them to start walking away, you may consider looking at their ears and feet.
I’ve also found that surrendering and playing to the dog’s instincts can help cyclists stay out of danger when a dog runs after them.
If you suspect that the attacking dog is trying to challenge you head-on, try to lower your body or sit down, allowing it to be taller than you.
Then you may try to ignore them and see whether they come to smell you. They are unlikely to do anything harmful other than smelling you and walking away. Do let them smell you while you act like you are ignoring them.
Sometimes the opposite of this can also work, especially for a small dog. You can try to look as big as possible. If they see that you are way much bigger than them, they might opt to back off.
Don’t get me wrong here. This isn’t for aggressive dogs that come with sharp teeth drawn ready for biting.
These are the kind of dogs my friend and I found when cycling in Greece. We had to use pepper spray as maintaining eye contact or ignoring the street dogs would definitely have never worked.
We also used sticks to scare away some wild dogs we met when cycling in various rural areas of Greece.
While they were aggressive at first sight, most wild dogs would slowly walk away when they saw us holding a stick.
Yell at the Dog
This is a strategy I often find myself using when bicycle touring across the US, as there are many crazy dogs here.
A few years ago, I had two snarling Labrador Retrievers chasing me while bike touring in Sacramento.
Their growling and persistent barking could tell how aggressive they were, and so I knew I had to do something before they knocked my bicycle down. Fortunately, they retreated instantly when I yelled wildly at them.
You can yell words like “GO HOME” or “STAY AWAY” to the running dog to make them nervous enough and walk away. But you’ve got to do it loudly with confidence for them to retreat.
If a loose dog runs full steam to you while riding, it may be hard to say that yelling will work out, but it’s worth a try. You could yell with a firm voice while buying time to take out your pepper spray.
Defend Yourself with Your Bike Pump or Sticks
When cycling in rural areas where loose barking dogs are everywhere, I carry a dog deterrent stick. I just pick any stick from the side of the road rather than making one when leaving home.
A dog stick doesn’t have to be complicated. Anything lightweight and a bit long is enough. Remember, you don’t want your intentions to be hitting any dog running after you. The owner might get all the state’s animal rights on you when they see you hitting their pet.
Long sticks are excellent weapons against dogs. You don’t even have to hit them. Swinging the stick when you see a dog coming to you is enough to make them retaliate.
If you have a mini bike pump, you may also use it defensively if an angry dog runs after you on your bike tour.
While your intention is just to scare the dog away with the stick or bike pump, sometimes it can be inevitable to hit them.
Think of a situation when a rabid dog chases you, and it won’t stop at the sight of a stick. I’d swing the stick or hit them every time for a cover.
Call for Help
When you are unsure of what to do, and there is a dog chasing you, calling for help makes sense. The dog owner may be nearby and hear you calling out for help.
There may be somebody walking down the road who could also help you get out of the terrible trouble.
Calling for help works mainly when riding near neighborhoods or areas with many people as there are chances of getting it.
Otherwise, screaming in remote areas where no one may hear you will be a bad idea, and you might end up being bitten.
Scare the Dog with an Air Horn
Another effective way cyclists can deal with dog chases on bike tours is an air horn.
Using an air horn might cause enough distraction for the dog to lose focus and terminate the chase. It will also help in attracting people’s attention who can assist you in dealing with aggressive dogs.
The best thing about using an air horn to put off a running dog is that you can just point it in a dog’s general direction without having to overthink about aiming.
You just push the button once or twice to burst into the dogs’ direction and end the chase.
Air horns are also compact and can easily fit on any accessory bag. You can also secure it with a Velcro strap to your bike.
Don’t Be Fearful as Dogs Can Sense Fear
Did you know that dogs have about 10,000 to 100,000 times better-smelling abilities than human beings?
Well, this is the reason why you should not be fearful when dealing with them on a bicycle tour. They can easily sense when you are terrified.
If your tactic is stopping and talking to them, try to calm them down in a happy, high-pitched tone.
If you are confident enough to make them believe that you are not a threat to them, they easily walk away with no objection.
However, they might sense it if you are fearful, and things won’t end up so well, especially if you are within their territory. So, try to show some confidence no matter how scary the situation is.
Don’t Throw Stones
While some people claim to have used stones to keep aggressive barking dogs away, I don’t think this is always a good idea, especially if there are several dogs.
I had a crazy encounter with three loose dogs when cycling in Malibu, where I tried to throw stones at them.
This was a real problem, as they didn’t stop coming. My target was pretty good as I got a dog every time I threw a stone, only that they kept coming while wailing.
I was tempted to leave the bike and start running while calling for help before resolving to use my pepper spray.
But I had to use it anyway. Repellant sprays are always my last resort as the last thing I want is to hurt a playful, innocent dog.
In some countries, though, you may find that every dog runs away when someone makes a downward motion to pick something. Sometimes the hand movement alone is enough for such dogs.
Don’t Be Offensive
When dealing with aggressive dogs, your primary intention should be defending yourself rather than attacking them.
Being offensive can worsen the situation, as the dog may feel challenged, especially if you are on their territory.
So, let the dog make the first move. If you meet a calm dog as you cycle down the road and don’t seem aggressive, don’t provoke them.
However, if the dog is actually offensive and chases you suddenly, you need to apply some defensive tactics and stop the run.
You may want to use a big stick or shout at them in a deep voice to make them walk away. Making a little cage out of your loaded bike could also save your life when things get tough.
Distract the Dog with a Treat
If you have some easily accessible snacks on your bike, you may want to use them as a distraction.
Distracting a dog with a treat will give you time to ride off and sneak away. Treats work for both aggressive and friendly dogs as it deters the desire to chase you.
Dogs barking and chasing you for fun and excitement will halt the run immediately in the sight of a snack.
If you don’t have any snacks to throw to the running dog, you can find a small stick and use it as a distraction.
Grabbing your water bottle to spray water on the dog may also catch them by surprise and make them lose interest. A water pistol may also work for some dogs.
Finally, Always Slow Down When Cycling Near Dogs
When you spot dogs ahead of you, you may want to slow down to avoid arousing their aggressive behaviors.
Even the most friendly dogs can start chasing you, depending on how you ride around them. When a dog sees you coming at high speed, its prey drive is triggered.
Slowing down will reduce the chances of getting injured if a dog attacks you while riding.
It also makes it easy for you to study the dogs’ behaviors before approaching them to see which defensive idea would work when they start running after you.
If you slow down when cycling near dogs and seem not to have any problems, you can just ignore them and keep riding. But when you are already past them, watch your back to ensure that they don’t follow you.
How to Avoid Dog Chase When Bicycle Touring
Dogs are generally friendly animals, and you can easily get along with them no matter what. Here are some useful tips on how to avoid being chased by dogs when bicycle touring:
Reduce the Speed
Many dogs tend to feel threatened when they see a cyclist approaching at high speed. And when they feel threatened, the chances are that they will become aggressive and chase you.
So, as mentioned earlier, it’s crucial to reduce speed when cycling in areas with many off-leash dogs to avoid antagonizing them.
Be a Dog Lover
If you are cycling down the road and find a dog that doesn’t seem hostile, don’t give them a reason to confront and chase you.
Alternatively, you can give the dog attacking a friendly look or treat them with love and respect. Saying hello with a friendly voice will also not inflame a calm dog.
Get Off Your Bike
Sometimes the problem with aggressive dogs is that they feel endangered when they see someone on the bike since they appear to be huge.
So, if the big size seems to be the main issue, get off the bike and walk with your bike for some distance.
Pack Some Treats
Dogs are more interested in food than aggression. When you feed street dogs with some dog treats, they might become your friend within no time and allow you to pass peacefully.
Sure, giving them treats won’t make them go away, but it will prevent aggression and at least make them stop chasing you.
Q: Why Does My Dog Go Crazy at Bikes?
A: There are many reasons why dogs run after bikes, ranging from excitement to aggression.
Most dogs run after bikes to defend their territory because they probably see cyclists as a threat. Other dogs are simply curious and are interested in chasing things to find out what happens.
Dogs that chase bikes in an attempt to guard their territory can be somewhat aggressive, and they might even want to bite you.
Dealing with aggressive dogs while cycling can be tricky as they can cause a bad accident when you least expect it.
In general, dogs are playful and predatory in nature, which is also another reason why they run after cyclists.
The prey drive in dogs gives them the urge to seek, capture and eat prey. But different dogs have different prey drive mechanisms, depending on the surroundings and how they have been raised.
In most cases, the dogs’ prey drive behavior or chasing is usually triggered when they notice fast movements. That’s why most dogs will chase a cyclist riding at high speed.
While most dogs will go crazy at bikes with no intention of hurting anyone, this behavior is considered aggressive, and owners should discourage it.
Q: What Should I Do When a Dog Bark and Chase Me When I’m Biking?
A: What to do when you encounter a dog chasing you will depend on the circumstances at hand and why you think the dog is chasing you.
Most dogs chase cyclists out of the need to safeguard their territory, while some of them will simply run after riders out of curiosity.
The best way to handle a dog running after you while your ride is to stop riding and get off the bike to see how the dog behaves.
If the dog continues to chase seems like its main intention is to bite, you can use bear spray or pepper spray on their face.
However, this method should be the last resort as it leaves the dog struggling for a few minutes.
It also requires you to stop riding to ensure that a good percentage of the pepper spray gets to the dog. Otherwise, it won’t be easy to pull out much spray when spraying while on the move.
If a curious dog is just chasing you for fun, the chances are that they will halt the run and turn back the moment you stop riding and stare at them.
Sometimes you may want to appear authoritative and shout bold words like “STAY BACK” to make them hesitant and eventually walk away.
Whether a small or big dog, you should be careful when dealing with them on your bicycle tour since any of them can cause a terrible crash.
One thing I would never advise you to do is to try to kick the dog while riding as you may end up falling. You could also become entangled with the dog, causing a terrible accident.
You should also not think about riding over a dog that tries to block passage. This is an encounter that usually ends with injuries that call for immediate medical attention.
Q: Can You Outrun a Dog on Your Bike?
A: Whether you can outrun a dog on your bike depends on how fast you can pedal. In most cases, it’s not always easy to outrun a dog as they run about 24km to 32km per hour for short distances.
And as a cyclist riding a loaded bike, it may be difficult to ride more than 20km per hour. But if you are riding downhill, it’s possible to outrun most average dog pets.
While most dogs are likely to keep up with cyclists’ pace, they tend to give up on the way, especially when they get too far away from home. They lose interest and turn back when they can’t catch your bike’s tires.
Q: How Do I Stop My Dog From Attacking My Bike?
A: The best way to stop your dog from attacking your bike is by training them. You can train the dog yourself or contact a behavioral specialist to help with the training.
To train the dog, you can have a cyclist friend come by on their bike and let the dog chase them. Then ask the cyclist to stop when the dog starts running and face the dog directly.
Do this several times and see whether the dogs get bored when they realize that the bike is not trying to flee from the chase.
If the dog doesn’t get disinterested, have the biker use verbal commands to stop the chase. Then reward your canine when they halt the run after a command.
Do this several times a week to build up your dog’s reactions to cyclists’ commands. This way, they won’t run after riders when they see them cycling in the same area.
You can also bike with your dog regularly to make them feel more comfortable and secure around bikes. Ideally, invest in a dog bike attachment and take your dog along on bike rides.
If your dog doesn’t seem to stop the chase, you may want to keep them leashed or fenced whenever cycling around to ensure that they don’t hurt anyone.
Dealing with aggressive dogs on a bicycle tour may be quite a daunting experience, especially if the dog is determined to protect its territory.
Every cyclist has their own way of handling dogs that chase them when riding. From my personal experience, I think it all comes down to the situation at hand, as one tactic may work for a particular circumstance and fail for another.
Sometimes it’s possible to outrun the dog, while other times, you may have to stop and let them bring it on.
The good news is that you’ve now learned some effective strategies to apply when a dog runs after you on a bicycle tour.
Be sure to play to the dogs’ instincts and avoid provoking them. And if you’ll have to fight them, be defensive rather than offensive.