How to deal with dogs while riding (and not be an asshole)

Use these tips at your own risk.  This is how I approach these situations and a way that I believe is the correct way to do so, but that is all it is.

Do not use any of these methods if you are not comfortable.

Dogs are nice.  They all have human owners, some of whom aren't always that nice.  It's not the dogs fault.  Being aggressive to a dog is stupid-  the dog will follow suit.  You will have controlled the situation and basically assured yourself of a confrontation.   You will walk away thinking-  wow that dog was super aggressive!  Good thing I acted first and scared it!  You will be wrong, you will be going down the route that results in you or someone else eventually getting bit.  Dogs are aggressive, erratic and dangerous when scared.

On back roads approach the dog with the idea that it wants to be friends.   Dogs like humans!  If you show the dog that you are a human and not a bicycle/antelope/predator/threat/prey/beast it will be happy.  Saying common "dog" words such as "puppy, sit, back, down, home" in an even tone, getting off your bike and offering the back of your hand (some dogs take a raised palm to mean aggression), keeping a neutral/calm state of mind and avoiding sudden movements are all good ideas.  Do not make direct eye contact or move directly toward the dog.  If you are uncertain get off your bike with your bike between you and the dog, but do not swing your bike at the dog (unless you are trying to cause a confrontation).  These dogs don't often see bikes-  it is on each of us to "train" them that bikes are a good, and friendly, thing.  I'd rather have you littering gu packages and pissing in lawns than acting aggressively toward a dog and turning it forever against people on bikes.

Caveat-  some dogs have had enough bad experiences or bad enough owners that they will not fully respond to kindness.  Observe the dogs behavior and do not over do things.  If the dog continues to act very aggressively after you have shown it that you are a kind human you should keep your bike between you and the dog and slowly walk it out of the dogs territory.  Aggressive action on your part even in this situation is counter-productive.  You may want to detour to the front door of the dogs owner's home and discuss it with them in as friendly a manner as possible.  If you must hit, squirt,  yell, strike, punish or threaten anyone or anything in the situation save it for them.

On paved roads approach dogs and assume that they will stay in their yard.  Most often dogs that live along major roads have been trained or have invisible fencing.  If they chase you out onto the road you must quickly assess the situation.  I know it is not often logical to come to a full stop on a road group ride.  I think it is ok to quickly outrun the dog and move on about your day.  If the dog is out in front of you and has already entered the road it is best to stop, show it that your a human and hope for the best.  You do not want to swerve and risk being hit by a car.  The worst (and seemingly very common) thing you can do in this situation is to slow, swerve, try to hit/kick/squirt etc. the dog and wind up in a battle royale with the dog as you go down the road.  You are endangering yourself and the dog.  Don't think for a minute that some texting motorist won't see the dog first and swerve right into you!  If you know there is a dog that will chase you onto pavement contact the owner or authorities.  Do it again and again. I realize that is rarely effective, but you will have done the right thing.  In the meantime I recommend crossing to the same side of the road as the dog lives on and walking your bike or riding slowly depending on what the dog will allow.  Again-  just because you can avoid the dog doesn't mean that a car won't swerve into you!   Crossing to the same side as the dog and employing the "I'm a kind human" tricks as above can also train the dog to feel less threatened, aggressive etc. toward bikes and possibly eventually solve the problem for everyone involved.


  1. I really dislike other people's dogs. I want a website that I can pin locations that I've had a run in with a dog that tries to eat me. Seems like that would be a good way to show where the problem dog owners are.

  2. The RASC (Rochester Active Sports Club) did try that and has attempted to keep it updated. The problem is that I don't think any significant action ever took place because of it to solve the problems. I wish there was more that could be done to deal with the owners of such dogs.

    I know that my attempts to train those dogs and have positive interactions with them are a drop in the bucket, but until some other solution comes up it is the best we can do. I wish I could just take all their dogs away for the safety of the animals, but the reality is that there are already too many dogs being put down by animal control due to over-crowding.

  3. If a dog wants to throw down with me...I'm all over it! But at my age I gotta get the first punch in...