Dealing with dogs: How To Handle Stray Dogs While Cycling

Last Updated on 3 June 2024 by Cycloscope

How to deal with dogs while cycling. Learn how to stay safe, avoid conflicts, and enjoy your ride with confidence.

If you don’t have time to read our beautiful article we give you the straight answer: stop, get off the bicycle, and walk for a bit, the dogs will most luckily lose interest and walk away. There are also other techniques we have seen on the road and talking to other cyclists. We can safely say that running is the worst choice, you can do that only if you are really in danger and you are cycling downhill or with a very fast electric bike and you are pretty sure you can overcome the dog.

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Let’s start by saying that you’ll encounter different categories of dogs while cycling. From best to worst encounters we can classify them like this:

  1. Stray Dogs
  2. Dogs owned by someone with an open garden
  3. Shepherd dogs

We have dealt with every type of dog, luckily not so much with shepherd dogs. The stray ones are the best, they don’t defend a small territory and are used to people coming and going. But at the same time, they are more likely to gather in packs and when they are 3 and up they can be dangerous.

We also noticed that their character changes radically from country to country. We don’t know why, but the dog is said to look like its owner…

In Africa, where we lived and cycled for 4 years, we have never had dangerous encounters with dogs even though they are everywhere. During the day, when it is hot, they sleep and are too lazy or hungry to chase cyclists. In countries where the bicycle is a primary means of transport, it seems that dogs do not see it as prey to attack but simply as part of the reality in which they live. In Europe, on the other hand, it seems they don’t really like cyclists and there are a lot of people buying expensive guard dogs. You just have to hope there is no hole in the fence or the owner did not forget the gate open.

5 puppies we found on the street in Malawi

A serious problem in some countries is rabies. India for example, reports the highest number of human rabies deaths in the world, with dogs being the primary source of infections. Other countries with high numbers of rabies are China, the Philippines, Nigeria, Tanzania, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Ethiopia. Where we lived, in Malawi, around 1,000 people die every year of rabies. These numbers are probably underreported, sometimes it is too late when they get to the hospital.

You can get pre-exposure prophylaxis, I am not sure how efficient it is, if you get bitten by any dog go immediately to the hospital or clinic and you will get an administration of rabies immune globulin (RIG) followed by a series of four doses of rabies vaccine given over 14 days (on days 0, 3, 7, and 14). In most countries where there is this problem, they have it available.

Actually, the country where we have faced the biggest issues with dogs is Romania, those who appear at first sight to be stray dogs are actually fed by the people of the village, thus developing the tendency to create large groups and to consider the entire village street their property to be protected.

The only solution was to stop and get off the bike. If the dog continues to chase, stop and place the bike between you and the dog. This can act as a barrier and may cause the dog to lose interest. Walk for a while, they will follow you at a distance, and after a few hundred meters you can get back on your bike and leave.

Some cyclists carry dog deterrent sprays, that are designed to safely discourage dogs from approaching. We have no experience with that, we cannot say if it works or not. It might be the dog will be even more upset…

We met cyclists carrying sticks and stones to throw toward the dogs (not at the dog). The most creative and efficient method we have seen is dog food, you give them some and when they are busy eating you cycle away. And, who knows, maybe they will be more friendly toward the next cyclists. But they might also decide to follow you forever.

Shepherd dogs are more rare, and you do not want to encounter them. We have heard many stories from other cyclists, especially in Eastern Europe and some parts of Asia. These dogs are highly trained and protective of their flocks, and their behavior is very different from typical domestic dogs.

Their human are not there, they are alone and see everything as a threat to their sheep. They are trained to fight wolves…You can only protect yourself with your bike, stand your ground, and hope a car will pass by to scare the dog away. In any case, and for every kind of dog, do not panic and start frantically cycling, you have no chance to go faster than a dog, or any mammal for what matter.

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