How to Handle Dogs on a Cycling Tour
How to Handle Dogs on a Cycling TourAugust
Stew and I have now cycled through 15 countries and we’re finally feeling qualified enough to write a blog post on dogs and how you should approach a dog on your cycle tour.
On an international cycling tour you’re likely to encounter a dog on route – especially if, like us, you’re touring Eastern Europe and Georgia. Our experience of dogs are relative to this area.
I deliberately waited before I posted anything on dogs, because for one I wanted to make sure I had experienced different dog encounters before I jumped the gun and wrote an opinion piece and secondly I really didn’t want to add to the scaremongering.
Before I started this trip the one thing I was afraid of was dogs! I even said this to the local paper who laughed down the phone – how can you cycle around the world and be scared of dogs. Well because of scaremongering! What I should’ve said when asked what my biggest fear was, was cars! The only thing you really need to worry about on this trip are cars / careless drivers. That’s our experience so far.
Anyway, back to dogs…on the road when cycle touring you meet loads of dogs, countless numbers of dogs – strays mostly. We’ve encountered more than 50 without any doubts and I’m just referring to the ones you meet on the road. Not the dogs wondering around cities. Do stray dogs on the road chase cycle tourists? Yes they do, but let me tell you that you can be in control of the situation and it’s really not *that* scary…!
Do stray dogs chase cycle tourists?
The sight of stray dogs for us started in roughly Albania and the numbers increased as we went further east. At one point in Turkey we cycled through an industrial estate and no lies, there were easily 30 dogs in one place and guess what happens when one starts barking, they all bark – they get hepped up. Nonetheless we still pacified them all and left that situation unscathed and this is how we do it:
- We slow down on the approach and use this time to establish whether or not we’ve found ourselves a chaser. You’ll be pleased to know that not all dogs chase! In fact Stew and I would guesstimate that the minority chase.
- If the dog is a chaser, we get off the bike. Counter-intuitive, but get off the bike. In almost all cases you will see a growling, chasing menace turn into a scaredy-cat the moment your foot is off that pedal. It’s quite fascinating actually. From here we simply push the bike and walk a few metres away. The most important thing to do here is to put your bike between you and the dog.
- If you have a persistent chaser you will, at worst need to raise your arm, as if you’re going to throw something. In almost ALL cases and I mean, in almost all cases, you will not need to cause any harm to the dog. The threat of a raised arm is enough to stop their chase behaviour. In our experience all dogs protect an area and it’s not usually very big! Honestly maybe 5 metres squared in most cases – he generally won’t leave his area to chase you!
All dogs we encountered until Georgia were stopped by simply getting off the bike. I didn’t raise my arm to pretend to throw a stone until Georgia so almost 4 months & 4500miles/6000kms of blissful dog-encounters. If you head to Greece, which we didn’t, you will experience more aggressive dogs than in the countries we visited, or so I’m told.
So, what type of dogs will you meet on the road?
Now, as you will learn on this road, or as you will already know there are different types of dogs out there and I think they can be categorised unto 3 distinct categories:
- The heartbreakers – these are the strays who wonder wearily up and down the duel carriage ways looking for food. These guys don’t have it in them to chase – they’re tired and malnourished. They’re just a few bad days away from death. Seriously, it’s not a nice sight. These are the poor pups who wag their tails in anticipation if you give them any attention, follow you if you have food and beg you for affection. These dogs are the heartbreakers and it’s these guys who will stick in your mind on your cycle tour.
- Too-big-for-his-boots – the second type of stray is the too-big-for-his-boots type, he’s a bit crazy. He’s going to keep snarling – he’s the persistent chaser, but you can put him in his place with a swift movement of raised arm as I said above. You won’t need to actually throw anything, the threat is enough. He’s a scaredy-cat really.
- Devil Dog – and finally, the devil dog. This is the type of dog that we’ve come across once. Just once in 15 countries. Many cyclists don’t even meet a dog like this in over 12,000 miles (19,200kms). This dog has been taken in by a person or area. This dog is fed – he has energy and his behaviour goes unpunished because he has been accepted into the human pack as a guard dog. However, no one takes responsibility for the dog. No one owns the dog. They simply feed it and the dog becomes territorial. This dog is a threat. A well fed dog is an energetic dog and a territorial dog is aggressive.
Our experience with a Devil Dog
Stew and I met a devil dog, the worst encounter of the trip so far. As normal, we spotted the dogs and carried out all steps listed above. We both got off our bikes, but this dog would not let up! We raised an arm, but he was persistent and aggressive – snarling and barking around Stew then coming to me, going back to Stew etc.
Locals ran out and started trying to chase it off, they threw stones and the dog cowered for a matter of seconds. He would keep coming back equally as savage!
This happened a few times.
Eventually the locals left us to it (see – no one has any responsibility for the dog). We started walking away slowly, he came back – he had me behind my bike and kept trying to get in. He wouldn’t leave and I couldn’t get on the bike because my back was in the direction I needed to move in. He would’ve me bitten, without doubt if I’d made the manoeuvre and escape.
At a loss I threw stones to scare him off, well this backfired, he got even more savage! The dog was barking and snapping at me, racing around my bike. I was pulling the bike around so quick to defend myself I almost dropped it – if that happened I would’ve been defenceless (well after 4500 miles I’ve got some pretty epic kicking legs now.)
The locals came at it again with more gusto and by the skin of our teeth we managed to get away.
Even after the locals managed to control it Stew and I still had to pedal for our lives as he came running back towards us!
Honestly when you meet a dog like that I don’t know what to suggest. We were lucky and I hope you will be too! In all cases we’ve had help from local people and passers by who will do all they can to help you. Cars will beep their horns, locals will call the dog off or throw stones (sadly, but sometimes necessary.)
I would like to reiterate that this type of encounter has happened once and once only in 4 months.
Dogs should not occupy your thoughts pre-touring like they did mine. They’re part of the parcel and the worst thing about dogs is the sadness in watching them starve and be lonely. It’s really not the chases. You get through it and you get over it. The sight of malnourished, breeding dogs will stick with you.
I laughed later anyway because I cycled very well after that dog chase and it just so happens Stew and I had barely eaten for 2 meals so thanks devil dog for a dose of adrenaline.
Pictures are of the heartbreakers.