I really enjoy riding. However, today I had a truly terrifying experience. I was chased by three feral dogs. I was able to outpace them, but it really left me rattled. I understand that if one acts like prey, one gets treated like prey, but I am conviced these dogs would have have ripped me to shreds. Acting dominant and standing one's ground when dealing with a domesticated dog makes sense. Standing up to three feral dogs sounds like a death sentence. My question then, is what should I do if I'm confronted with this situation again?

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    There is no single way to handle dogs. Many people carry pepper spray, which is perhaps the most "secure" option, but which is likely "overkill" in many cases. I used to have a black frame pump that wedged under my top tube, and I could take that off and wave it at a dog to intimidate him. Conveniently, the meaner the dog the more he tends to fear an ugly black stick (even though the lightweight aluminum pump wouldn't hurt a butterfly). In other cases the dog just wants to chase you, and will not even attempt to snap at your feet. Mar 6, 2017 at 3:41
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    Dogs are unpredictable. If they're truly feral (ie living off the land) then stay away from that area. Were you near houses or remote somewhere? Consider doing a report of dangerous animals to your local council or animal control office.
    – Criggie
    Mar 6, 2017 at 7:13
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    Possible duplicate of How do I deal with a dog chasing me when I'm touring?
    – andy256
    Mar 6, 2017 at 8:32
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    With one dog you can stand your ground if you feel up to it. More than one and it's time to bug out. They are a pack hunting animal, and they egg each other on to catch the prey ... you. Report them to the local authority so that they can be eradicated.
    – andy256
    Mar 6, 2017 at 8:35
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    Not a dupe - this is specifically about feral or wild dogs, not domesticated dogs
    – Criggie
    Mar 6, 2017 at 19:27

3 Answers 3


You did exactly the right thing by getting out of there.

When a dog commits to an attack, they make a beeline in the last part of their approach straight at the target. One technique is to coast or ride-easy till the animal commits and accelerates, then pour on the power and accelerate forwards. Animal will pass behind your rear wheel. One or Two pedal strokes is all you'll have time for.

Risks are that you suffer a mechanical problem induced by the extra power. If there's ever a moment you don't want your chain to break, it's right then.

Three working as a pack would be extra terrifying. Smart dogs will herd you, and these sound smart because they're still alive.

The dogs will most of the time go for feet and ankles, shins/thighs, because they're moving and are at the lowest height. The might aim for a forearm or hand because of the wide stance of a MTB. Adding barends might act as a shield/barrier for the hands. Wearing stout leather boots with steel or composite toe caps will help if the dog gets that close. Leather chaps would make riding hard and hot and uncomfortable.

As for defense, some suggestions with their downsides

  • Kicking - we mostly all have feet and they're already on the bike with you. But by kicking you're not powering the bike, which takes away from getting away.

  • Water balloons in a front basket for easy access - throwing at a small moving target is hard enough when still, from a rolling bike would be much harder.

  • Water balloons filled with fake skunk - same as above, but you don't want to break one on yourself. However you might be able to smash these into the ground in front of the dog.

  • Water bottle squirt - surprisingly effective, if you have enough for a blast. Again, one had off the bars, and aiming from a moving bike makes it hard.

  • Stick or baton - a few sticklike things might help, but if you're waving a stick then you have one hand off the bars already, decreasing your overall power. Plus swinging is likely to change your center of mass and make you wobblier and unstable. If the dog gets a mouthful of the stick/pump then they can pull you over, and more so if its a nightstick or a baton with a wrist lanyard.

  • Long lightweight stick - I'm not sure what plants are in your region, but here we have toitoi and flax bushes that produce 1.5-2 metre long lightweight poles. I imagine bamboo is available worldwide that will fit the ticket. Downside is carrying it on your bike. Possibly as a flag pole, or as a load fastened to your top tube with light masking tape for quick removal. Waving this in the general direction of the dog should help, they are moving fast and sound "whippy", and any contact is going to sting.

  • Pepper spray / mace - its not legal in my country but may be for you. This may be enough to deter a dog but you'd have to get it into the dog's eyes and mouth. Again needs a hand off the bars to apply, so best left till a dog's got its mouth on you before falling back to this defense.

  • Knives - too short to do anything useful, but again may be good after the dog has bitten down. Go for the eyes, throat, testicles/butt etc.

  • Swords - pretty much all the bad stuff from above wrapped up, plus they're just as likely to cut you, and swords are expensive, kinda fragile, and heavy.

  • Firearms - this seems like a really bad idea IMO. Again mostly illegal in my country.

    • As per water balloons, you will struggle to hit a small moving target
    • The location may not be safe to fire
    • Having the weapon may make you take on a fight that you should run away from.
    • A shotgun loaded with rock-salt would be a better weapon, but even then not something to carry on a bike loaded.

If you do wound an animal to the point it can't get away but is still in pain, then "putting it out of its misery" may be a bad idea. Smart animals can fake it to draw you close, and then lash out. The dog's companions may use this as a distraction to attack you from the other side. Your top priority is you.

Feral dogs are not good - long term you need to report this and hand the problem off to those who can legally do something about it. There's a chance they're domesticated but reverted, and there may be a microchip or a collar ID to identify the proper owner.

And having submitted a report, you have prior proof that something has happened and therefore an excuse/rational for carrying an offensive weapon.

The location is important too. If you're in a national park there may be restrictions about where you can be and whether you can carry any offensive weapons.

Action camera footage can be beneficial to corroborate your story, and can assist in identifying the animals. I always ride with a handlebar camera, but you might prefer a shoulder or helmet or wrist-mounted one so you can aim the lens. If nothing else, it can be good for youtube upvotes later.

Carry a basic first aid kit and consider adding enough medical supplies to clean and bandage a bite or two. Better to carry and not need, than to need and not have.

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    And be sure to get a rabies shot if there is the slightest chance you were bitten. Rabies is preventable if you get the shot soon after the bite, but once the disease gets into your nervous system, it's a death sentence. There are experimental treatments that involve freezing the brain, but I'd underscore experimental and freezing the brain.
    – RoboKaren
    Mar 6, 2017 at 19:45
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    Not condoning this, but I know locals in Central and South America typically throw rocks at aggressive feral dogs.
    – Rider_X
    Mar 6, 2017 at 21:27
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    What?! Of course, I always dismount and throw rocks at any aggressive dog. I rarely hit them, but it stopped them. Feral, stray dogs are just big rats, a pest. They kill calfs, sheep's and chickens. Yes, I live in Chile. Mar 7, 2017 at 22:53
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    When in dodgy dog terrain I carry my multitool in a pocket. I have about a 40cm piece of cord tied on it so I can swing it at the dog if it really is that close. Never had to actually hit the dog yet but have got it out ready a few times.
    – Ifor
    Mar 8, 2017 at 22:08
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    If you go the firearms route you stop to shoot. Firing on the move would be utterly reckless. Sep 13 at 22:16

An air horn is a great deterent if you don't think you can always out ride them. Yelling at them can be effective if you've got a loud voice. If you end up off your bike for any reason use it as a shield between you and the dogs.

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    Great points all - dunno how I missed them.
    – Criggie
    Mar 6, 2017 at 19:31
  • And why did nobody mention dog repellents based on ultrasound? I have no experience with those devices but it would be worthwhile to clarify this issue ...
    – StefG
    Mar 11, 2018 at 13:32

The best thing to do if approached by dog/s is to stay perfectly still. It takes a lot of nerve, do not look at the dog/s teeth, the dog/s will sniff around probably take a leak then with luck, wonder off.

The reason for this behavior is, I'm informed, that a dogs vision is relative to movement. What isn't moving does not impact its fight / flee senses.

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    OK but if you meet a dog while you're riding, then you're already not still, by quite a long way. Mar 5, 2018 at 16:58
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    This whole vision only sensitive to movement stuff is utter nonsense. My dog can find its food bowl just fine even though it does not move around. Mar 5, 2018 at 18:48
  • Vote to keep, but downvote because its wrong. The problem with deleting answers like this is noone sees that it is wrong.
    – Criggie
    Mar 6, 2018 at 2:20
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    @Criggie I see your point but I don't think this has any educational wrongness. It just misses the point. Mar 6, 2018 at 2:35
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    I think this answer is mixing up dogs with T-Rex's.
    – SSilk
    Sep 16 at 1:37

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