The Beaver Lodge Forest signs explicitly say to keep pets on a leash or otherwise in control.

SHARING THE ROAD: Dogs and bikes: a tangle of metal and paws waiting to happen

I thought I would throw my bit in this week about dogs, their owners and their relationship with cyclists, runners and walkers

By Steve Nagle


Lately there has been more discussion in the papers on one subject than anything else.

More than the homeless, more than battered women and hungry children and other serious social issues, more than bullying, more than fish farms and fish diseases, more than oil pipelines and other environmental concerns, more than mental illness and suicide, more than the size and number of beds in the new hospital, more than the local economy, more even than Neil Cameron rambling on ad nauseam in the other paper about fishing.

The subject is, of course, dogs!

So I thought I would throw my bit in this week about dogs, their owners and their relationship with cyclists, runners and walkers.

The Canada Safety Council estimates that dogs bite 460,000 Canadians annually. Extrapolating this number, that works out to be over 1,200 dog bites a day.

As a cyclist and a runner, having a strange dog or, even worse, two dogs running up to you bearing teeth and barking can be very intimidating and downright scary.

If owners are present, they may shout, “Don’t worry he won’t bite.” But how do we know? Having been on the receiving end of canine teeth on three occasions I know better.


So what can cyclists runners and walkers do when this happens?


If you spot a dog off leash, shout to the owner to call their dog.

Most dog owners are very responsible and should be thanked for being so courteous but often the owners are NOT in control of the dog and this is where things can get out of control.


Shout at the Dog


Many riders and runners have found that shouting an authoritative “NO!” or “BAD DOG” will make a dog give up.

Many times dogs have no intention to bite, and are just acting fierce, trying to get you to move out of their territory.


Stop and Walk


Though this may seem counterintuitive, sometimes all you need to do to get a dog to stop chasing you is to dismount from the bike and keep the bike between yourself and the dog.

Then, while speaking to the dog, just walk on by. You are then neither threatening to the dog, nor fun to chase, and the dog will frequently lose interest.


Squirt the Dog


If you see a potential problem ahead, get ready with your water bottle.

If the dog starts to close in, give it a good squirt of water in the face. It can confuse them and put them off their attack enough for you to get by. Frequently they’ll just stop, and the problem is solved.


Attack Back


In a situation where you really feel threatened, you can feel justified in

giving an attacking dog a good whack on the snout with a foot but be warned, kicking at a dog or swinging something at it can increase the chances of you wiping out. All in all, this option should be a choice of last resort. Most dogs won’t bite, but you don’t want to find out the hard way which kind you’re dealing with.


Dog Spray


Commercial dog spray is available and it can work well but unless you are expecting a regular ambush and can be prepared for a dog that you know is coming, it’s not likely that you’ll have the spray ready at hand and the surprise nature of the attack will not allow you time to fumble around and get it.

Also, you have to be very careful that you don’t end up with the pepper spray in your own face and if you don’t watch it, you could end up riding right into the cloud of noxious stuff you’ve just put out there.


What Can Dog Owners Do?


Dog owners first have to realize that having a barking dog running up to you can be really scary.

Not everyone in the world is a dog lover.

Cyclists and runners don’t know the dog’s intentions, nor can you guarantee that your dog won’t bite or nip them, jump on them, or cause them to fall off their bike or trip.

It’s important to also recognize that your dog’s bad behavior can pose a major liability to you.

Unless your dog can come when called 100 per cent of the time immediately the first time you call, the dog should not be off leash in areas with others.

Even if your dog is on leash you should pay attention to your surroundings if bikes or people are approaching. Even walkers don’t like to be lunged at or sniffed by unfamiliar dogs.

In both situations you should, move to the side of the path and have your dog sit and look at you while the runner, cyclist or walker goes by.

If your dog is off leash you must be able to get him to your side and focused on you well before the runner is near and reward the dog for focusing on you. If you can’t do this, at least keep the leash short until after people have passed.

Even if your dog is a barking, struggling mess, the cyclist or runner will appreciate the fact that you are trying to control your dog.

If you find that this is difficult to do, then seek help from a trainer.


What to do After Your Dog Causes a Problem?


If your dog does run after someone and causes an injury, apologize and exchange names and phone numbers in case of insurance or medical issues.

As the dog owner, you are at fault – fix the problem.

The right dog, well cared for, is a safe, reliable companion.

However, dogs must be properly socialized and trained. They become a threat if they are abused and ignored.

Any dog may bite if it is threatened, angry, afraid or in pain. Dogs have an instinct to defend their territory, whether that is space, food or a toy.

Owning a dog demands a major time commitment, as they need a lot of attention. Any owner who must keep a dog locked or chained up for hours a day should probably not own one.


Steve can be found at Outdoor Addictions.