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Why Dogs Bite Cyclists (and How To Avoid It Happening To You)
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Why Dogs Bite Cyclists (and How To Avoid It Happening To You)

Whether you enjoy casual biking or you’re a hardcore cyclist on a road trip, aggressive canines are a known problem. Read this guide to find out why dogs chase and sometimes bite cyclists, and how you take preventions against it.

Recently, a wolf chased a Sandpoint cyclist in the Yukon with dogged determination before the man was finally rescued by an RV. Although chasing wolves are isolated incidents rare enough to make the news, chances are you’ve encountered their more domesticated distant relative: a dog that just won’t let you ride in peace.

Most of the time, these pooches simply enjoy the thrill of the chase – but here are a few reasons why dogs bite cyclists, and how you can take precautions to prevent this from happening to you.

The Dog Is Possessive Or Feels Threatened

It depends on what country you are in, but unless your area is known for wild dogs, it’s safe to presume that most dogs have an owner. Thus, they may act out at any unassuming stranger “trespassing” on their land.

If the dog simply barks at you while chasing and does not exhibit dangerously aggressive behaviour, it may be a good idea to keep cycling steadily to see if the dog desists following once you are out of its territory. If the dog continues to chase you, another suggestion is to try to deter it by shouting loudly.

The Dog Smells Food

Sometimes the dog may smell something delicious in your saddlebags. If you know you have meat badly wrapped in your bags, it may be a good idea to get rid of it.

Provide the dog with an alternative or a distraction so it doesn’t bite you instead. As a precaution for all road trips, food should be packaged in plastic wrap and placed securely in plastic lunch boxes.

The Dog Is Badly Trained

This occurs more frequently in rural areas, where dog owners are either careless about their dogs or actively sic them on cyclists because they themselves are overly protective of their territory. In such cases, shouting commands or brandishing a “weapon” (an aluminum club with a taped grip, for example) may not deter the dog because he has never been trained to recognise bad behaviour.

You may, therefore, need to employ more aggressive behaviour yourself. Some cyclists keep a water bottle on hand just for squirting offending dogs in the eyes. Others go further and use vinegar-and-water or ammonia-and-water mixes. Even if the dog persists, it remains a bad idea to physically attack the dog: if you kick it while you are still on the bicycle, the chances of losing control and swerving into traffic or ditches are heightened. Protective owners can also open harrowing legal cases if you act any further than self-defense and injure the dog.

The most proactive and effective deterrent is to use pepper spray. It does not cause long lasting damage and can actually stop the dog from chasing and attempting to bite cyclists in the future. Keep a can on your handlebars or hanging on the outside of your bags for easy access, and have a spare can at hand. Due to the wind factor, you should be very careful to only spray the dog when it is directly behind you, and aim towards the eyes, mouth and nose.

The Dog Has Strong Predatory Instincts

Most of the time, the basic truth of why dogs chase cyclists simply boils down to predatory instincts. All dogs want to chase fleeing or fast moving objects because they look like prey. Most canines do this playfully, chasing after you but going no further.

Some dogs, however, have such strong instincts that they won’t stop – and if they catch you, they will bite you because you are “caught prey”. Either way, having dogs near your bicycle is dangerous because they can get caught under your wheels and cause serious injury to both the rider and the dog.

The simplest solution is to simply demount your bike. This may seem counterintuitive, but as long as you remain calm and refrain from displaying fearful body language, this will most likely stop the dog from chasing you as its motive has disappeared.

Get off the bike and face the dog, but don’t stare into its eyes as dogs can also bite when they feel challenged. It will probably sniff you several times before losing interest and moving off, at which point you can wheel your bicycle until it’s out of sight and go on your way.

What Action You Should Take

Which solution you choose to use largely depends on the situation at hand. If a small, excitable puppy is chasing at your heels, it probably isn’t going to pose much danger except for trapping itself under your wheels, so you should demount. If a large dog is barreling down the road, baring its teeth at you with ears pinned back and hackles raised, pepper spray is a reasonable action of self-defense.

At all times, you should remain calm and composed. Showing fear can provoke the dog into biting you even if it wasn’t initially aggressive. If, despite everything, an unprovoked dog bites you, report it immediately to the police and attempt to get the owner’s contact details, as you may be entitled to claim dog bite compensation. You should also read up about immediate and long-term bite treatment and preventative action against rabies before a road trip.

Do you have any related stories or advice to share? Post in the comments below.

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