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What to do in the event of a bicycle dog attack
A bicycle dog attack is an unfortunate inevitability for many cyclists. It’s happened to us all at one time or another: you’re cycling down the road when you hear barking growing louder and see a dog bounding towards you. Although many dogs are more bark than bite, it is impossible to know whether the dog pursuing you is more Benji or more Cujo.
Consider the breed and size of the dog. Is it a small, yapping dog like a Chihuahua or a large, potentially aggressive dog like a German Shepherd? Although I have heard of “friendly” breeds like Golden Retrievers biting bikers, more frequently the biters are the more aggressive breeds. I’m a dog lover and believe that even the most aggressive breeds can be calm, friendly dogs, but when you are being pursued by an unfamiliar dog, consider if the breed is likely to be more aggressive.
When a dog is hot on your tail, your natural instinct is to bike away to avoid the encounter. Keep in mind, however, the most dogs are VERY fast hunters by nature. Dogs are historically predators, and have evolved to chase down fast moving objects. If the dog is gaining on you, it’s best to avoid this technique and instead slow down and prepare for an encounter.
Although most dogs can be trusted and are more interested in catching you to cover you with kisses, dog encounters are unpredictable. There is no way to tell which are aggressive dogs and which are not. For that reason, if a dog chases you, your best bet is to get as far away as possible as quickly as possible.
Some bikers carry dog bones in their packs. If you have a bone or treat with you, move it about to get the dog’s attention and then throw it far away from you. Some dogs will go after the easy-to-catch treat, giving you enough time to get away. I do not, however, recommend routinely feeding dogs you encounter. If you do, they will begin to associate you with a snack and be more inclined to come after you (even in a friendly manner). While this may be no big deal when you have a supply of treats with you, if you run out, you may find yourself with a dog chasing after you, barking for their snack.
Another option is to carry pepper spray. I have heard this can be effective, however I have also heard stories of people using it to no avail. I think I might prefer a loud noisemaker to pepper spray.
Many dogs can be scared off by a loud, aggressive shout. Shouting “Go home!,” and “Bad dog!” may be enough to convince the dog that you are a threat and it should back off. Another alternative is to squirt it with your water bottle. Air horns and dog horns are on the market to serve as a deterrent to dog attacks. These horns serve multiple purposes: they often frighten dogs, who are sensitive to loud noises, and they alert passersby and potentially the dog’s owner that you may need help.
If the dog continues to approach, stop biking completely and keep your bike between you and the dog as much as possible. If the dog lunges and tries to bite you, steer into its mouth to try and get it to bike the bike rather than your body.
In a worst-case-scenario, where the dog is actively attacking you, the Humane Society recommends curling up in a ball on the ground, with your hands covering your ears. Remain still and silent as much as possible.
What To Do After a Bicycle Dog Attack
If you have been attacked by a dog, report the attack to 911 and your local animal control. Immediately rinse the wound with soap and water, and seek medical attention right away, as dog bites are prone to infection and you may need stitches. Deep bites may require additional treatment and can extend into the nerves, muscles, and bones. Potential infections like rabies and tetanus must also be considered. Never assume that any bite the breaks the skin is minor. It’s always appropriate to seek medical treatment, even for minor bites.
Puncture wounds, like those caused by a dog’s teeth, can be particularly painful. You may need to take pain relievers for a day or so, at least until the immediate ache of the injury lets up.
In many cases, injuries caused by dog attacks are covered under the owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy. If you have been injured in a dog attack while bicycling, contact an experienced bicycle accident attorney for more information about your potential case. You may be able to recover for any injuries you have incurred, pain and suffering, any damage to your bike, and loss of income.
For the future, invest in a dog horn to deter dogs from attacking. A bicycle dog attack can be very frightening and dangerous.