Dangerous dogs - CycleBlaze

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Dangerous dogs

Mike Ayling

After Amber's recent experience I thought we should share suggested solutions when a dog starts to attack.

A long time ago I was told that the best thing to do if on the bike was to ride away as quickly as possible. The theory being that you remove yourself from the dog's territory.

If not on the bike there may be some merit in using the bike as a shield between you and the canine.

YMMV

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4 weeks ago
Brent IrvineTo Mike Ayling

I was chased and bitten by a dog when I was a young boy. My guess is that this is the reason I fear dogs. A few years ago I was on my local ride and a dog got off of its rope and came at me full tilt from across the owners' field as the woman yelled for the dog to come back. I tried to speed up but there was no way I was going to get away. My fear went to terror, then to  anger. I jammed on my brakes and as my anger boiled over I jumped off my bike and with a few choice words I swung the bike around and ready to defend against the dog. It was at that moment that the dog seemed to sense my intentions and immediately stopped and returned home. All this to say... going on the offense seemed to halt the dog in its tracks. Not a fan of dogs.

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4 weeks ago
George HallTo Mike Ayling

Unfortunately, dog attacks seem to be on the rise - I suspect it has to do with the general hostility and lack of civility found amongst certain members of our society today, all heightened by our extreme political divisions.  What I mean is, dogs don't control their fate; it's the fault of their human owners that they are allowed to roam free and chase cyclists.  Kentucky has to be the absolute worst, and it has become increasingly hard for one to travel the Transam through Kentucky without serious dog issues.  Here's a recent journal that discusses the problem; Kentucky Dog Problems.   Cycleblazer David Henderson was taken down by a dog in Kentucky and it took a full year for him to recover and be able to continue;  Ocean to Ocean.   When I rode the Transam in 2015 I felt like I got lucky as I had only a couple of serious dog chases in Kentucky, but I met a lady who had been wrecked by a dog and then had to fight it off.  It's a very serious problem. What's the solution?  If I ever travel the Transam route again I will carry bear spray and have it ready to deploy.  "Halt" pepper spray is just too difficult to use as a defensive weapon - I have tried - it's too hard to hit an attacking dog with the thin stream while you are trying to escape.  Bear spray emits a cloud of spray that is designed to stop a bear, so it should do the trick - I have been told by others who have used it that bear spray will stop a pack of attacking dogs and make them regret their decision to chase you. 

To be clear here - I only had dog problems in eastern Kentucky - once I reached Berea things improved and I had no problems in central or western Kentucky.  I should also add that I have had dog problems in Missouri on the Great Rivers South route, but I had none on the Transam route through Missouri.  Maybe what is needed is a "hit team" of brave cyclists to ride the Kentucky Transam route early each season and deploy bear spray at all chasing/attacking dogs - perhaps that would clear the path for others to ride through without fear of attack. 

My own worst experience with dogs is documented here --> Dog Nightmare.  From that experience I determined that Halt-type pepper spray is only effective for discouraging dogs that weren't really going to hurt you anyway.  One either needs a gun (I'm not going to carry a gun, but I know of others that do), or some serious pepper spray like bear spray.  I've also used a loud air horn, and that seems to startle most attacking dogs - at least temporarily - but I wouldn't want to rely on it as my only defense against dogs. 

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4 weeks ago
John PickettTo George Hall

An alternative to bear spray that was mentioned to me by the hostel host in Booneville, KY is wasp spray. It don't think it shoots a cloud like bear spray, but it does shoot a much longer distance than Halt. It's also available at hardware stores, dollar stores and the like that are abundant in rural areas.  

I have spent a few nights reading accounts of bike tourists and dogs. It sounds like Louisiana and eastern Texas are trouble spots as well. 

As far as carrying a fire arm, I think this is unwise. It is more than likely that the dog owner owns at least one long gun for hunting. You are in range.

I have done 13 bike tours of well over 10,00o miles, all but 20 miles in the US. Aside from a fluffy dog in eastern Iowa, I can't think of another dog attack. This year on the TransAm I was attacked multiple times. As I headed west through the Appalachians of Virginia and Kentucky, the attacks became more frequent and the dogs more aggressive. 

What a shame. It's an area of great natural beauty and historical significance. 

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3 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo John Pickett

Wasp spray is  neurotoxin and will potentially kill if inhaled, the dog or even the person wielding it. Great care is needed.

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3 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauTo Mike Ayling

I've been chased a few times, but never been bitten.  That's pure luck, because I've never carried any chemical repellents, firearms, or preventative strategy other than coming to a full stop and trying to negotiate with the dog from behind my bike.

Since I didn't have a dangerous dog story to share, I didn't join this discussion earlier.  Yesterday, however, I received a graduation announcement in the mail and noticed the U.S. Postal Service is using a Dog Bite Awareness cancellation stamp.

I looked into it on Google and learned the USPS is spearheading this campaign for the month of June.  Like bike tourists, letter carriers have a vested interest in dog bite prevention.  About 5,000 U.S. mailmen per year get attacked by dogs.  I wonder how that number compares to cyclists.

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3 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauTo Gregory Garceau

I forgot to post the link related to what I wrote above.  I only skimmed over the article, but it looks like the USPS gives helpful tips to letter carriers and dog owners alike.  I saw they even recommended getting behind such things as, you guessed it, a bike.  

Postal Bulletin 22651 (May 30, 2024). USPS Dog Bite Awareness Campaign: June 2-9, 2024

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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory Garceau

Much larger I’m sure.  I’ve never heard of a bicyclist bites mailman story.

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3 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Gregory Garceau

Ggiven that there are waaay more mailmen than cyclists so the chances are better that a mailman will get bitten than a cyclist. On the other hand, cyclists do tend to often cycle in the more risky Southern states so.....???

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3 weeks ago
John PickettTo Steve Miller/Grampies

Thanks for the info. 

The wasp spray idea was given to me by the hostel host in Boonville, KY. This is the worst area for dog attacks on the TransAm. She suggested it because it is inexpensive, available at many dollar stores, and shoots a long distance. 

I found Halt-style pepper spray too hard to aim at a distance. Dogs move quickly. Mailmen are usually at close range and it works well for them.

I agree that the best strategy is to stop and block the dog with your bike. Whenever I did this the dogs pulled up. One looked bewildered. I tried to outrun a couple of boxers last month. I nearly crashed. 

If a dog doesn't immediately back down, knowing what I know now, I'd use bear spray on it without hesitation or guilt. I've ridden over 170,000 miles and I can count on one hand the number dog attacks I had until this summer. In just four days in Virginia and Kentucky last month I was attacked by about ten dogs. 

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2 weeks ago