Once I was riding my road bike down a rural road. I heard barking over my shoulder and saw two dobermans running toward me. I can't think of a time in my life that I felt more endangered.

I reacted instinctively and accelerated. Unfortunately I was on a gravel road and going into a bit of an incline. There was no way I could outrun those dogs. I looked back over my shoulder and they were no longer chasing me. The cycling gods must have been smiling on me.

Another time, in a similar situation, a different dog ran along next to me, barking and baring its teeth. I maintained my speed and yelled at it (trying to assert some dominance) until it got tired of chasing me.

These two experiences have done a lot to put me off touring alone.

How do I deal with issues like this?

  • 1
    I've lightly edited your answer to make it more of a request for information and less of a discussion-starter. ("Does anyone have advice...".) Good question, although I suspect the answer will be "it depends". There's no single strategy that works with all dogs, although there are ways to be prepared. Feb 24 '12 at 20:15
  • 5
    Two words: frame pump. Feb 24 '12 at 20:42
  • 7
    I find it amusing that your gravatar has a dog. Good question though - I've had some bad experiences with dogs too, and would be interested to see what people say?
    – nhinkle
    Feb 25 '12 at 7:28
  • 3
    I'd like to hear why someone voted to close, perhaps the question can be improved further. (Yes, there can be no single way to deal with this problem, aside from "stay at home and don't go near dogs", but the question is still an important one.) Feb 29 '12 at 1:48
  • 1
    Hi Sunil, do you have experience with this device? Has it helped you in the past? What type of situation? Sep 14 '13 at 13:55

32 Answers 32


Oh... where do I even start? I love dogs, I am crazy about them, too. I have 3 labs of my own. I am from a place where street dogs are very abundant. If you don't see any dogs in the next 100 yards, consider yourself lost! :D

I am barked at often, chased often, even confronted sometimes. I used to run away before, because it is what a normal guy does.

I learned a very big thing about dogs.

  1. They chase wimps. It's like what a bully does, going after the weakest target. So, don't you dare run when you are bullied. Take a bite instead but stand your ground.

  2. They sense fear. If you are scared while approaching a dog, he is sure to suspect you and bark/chase you.

  3. They love challenges. If they think you are a worthy adversary they will confront you either to be protective or to see who is stronger in the area.

Me, for a guy, who was constantly afraid of dogs, was suddenly in charge, after learning a little of these dog psychology tips.

Therefore, please believe me when I am saying this

  • I have never run away from a dog. (Unless I am very very late)
  • If a dog is chasing me, I hit my brakes hard, and stare right at it. Mostly he will not come forward, and bark from a safer distance, kinda like maintaining a line. So I can finally get moving slowly.
  • If dog is coming towards you even when you are standing ground. Get off your bike, show him You are not going to wait around, when he is coming towards you.

    Show them, you are ready. Call it like "Bring it on"

  • After a stare down, do not make a hasty move. (Got bit once by a shepherd this way.) Take it real slow. Be calm.
  • Suppose that, despite your confrontation, the dog is heading towards you, accepting the challenge. Still, you have a big weapon: Your Cycle. Lift the front wheels high and start swinging it, right and left. That is sure to stop his pace to think a bit.
  • If a dog passes this point, and still heading towards you then you are in a serious point. Where there are only three things to do.

    1. Surrender: Another psychology of dogs, if they pass that point, they are challenging you head on. So, better lower your body, sit down. Let the dog be taller than you. Don't care about him, or look at him. Instead hook a headphone in your ear and listen to the music. Music will calm your nerves down and send positive impulses for the dog to sense. Let him smell you. After few moments, just get up calmly grab your bike, start walking with it (but don't ride off) I have tried this so many times, its freaky but works

    2. Call for help: If the dog has an owner, (s)he may hear you if they are nearby. Or somebody might help you get out of this trouble.

    3. Get ready to fight: When nothing works, better get yourself prepared for the fight. From my own experience, dogs love to tear limbs. If they grab your limb, you just feel helpless. Avoid this

more on fight situation ....

  • Don't forget its an animal. Could be your last fight.
  • Pepper spray is handy as well if it comes to a fight - it's also useful for any muggers that might try for your wallet :) @Credit: Nate Koppenhaver
  • Protect your neck, hands and calf muscles at all cost. If they are hurt you have very slim of escaping.

  • Be defensive, rather than offensive: Let him make the first move and on retaliation you can do whatever you want. Effective targets are nose and eyes they will buy you a lot of time and you can make a run for it.

  • If you are lucky try to find a long stick. They are greatest weapons against dogs. Don't hit them. Just point it right at them and show them you will do it. Even a mini pump works, if you find nothing.

  • Don't let him corner you, keep the motion going,

    Normally when this happens, me and dog are generally circling each other

  • Make a little cage out of your bike. When you are cornered, this just might save your life.

  • Grabbing tail, makes him more angry, try to avoid that.

  • Grappling is only safe on the back of its neck. He can reach every other part.

How to avoid all this?

  • Dogs are very friendly creatures, you can be friends with them, no matter what. Treat them with respect.
  • Don't give them any reason to confront you.
    1. If speed is the problem, slow down
    2. If big size is the problem get off your bike
    3. If he suspects you. Let him smell you.
    4. Friendly look, with lovely hello, calms most of domestic dogs.
    5. If you see a dog that is sure to bark on you, change your approach. Get off your bike, start walking with it
  • If the dog has a owner, better complain to them to have better control.
  • Report to the law, if owner is not helping you
  • Pack some treats, they are better as friends than adversaries.


Do not scare a dog and run away. They become enemy for life.

Update: Rabid Dogs

Getting into a fighting situation with a rabid dog, is more harmful than it should be.

One of my little story:

One of my friend got into a similar situation with me, on a village cycle trip. A rabid dog was being chased by locals (its not abnormal here) and the dog out of fright ended up attacking us. My friend was a pretty agile cyclist, he immediately changed to defense position with his bike covering his entire body stopping the first attack. But, at a moment when dog was jumping at us, he used his elbow to hit the dog, but it bit him very badly.

Very torturous and painful moment we were in.

Worst part than the wound was the infection.

So, I suggest full defence no offence as much as possible, but if you are a fighter/ Martial Arts Expert or know how to protect yourself very well, then yes, sick dog are very easy to knock down just aim for the nose.

  • 10
    Pepper spray is handy as well if it comes to a fight - it's also useful for any muggers that might try for your wallet :) Feb 26 '12 at 1:53
  • 8
    Get ready to fight - A fit human with a big metal bike in hand losing to a single dog would be a disgrace LOL... if it really comes down to this you should realize it's the dog or you. Bye-bye dog.
    – Steve
    Feb 27 '12 at 0:18
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    @Steve a bike ain't gonna help stop a pitbull bro, you can whack those dogs with a crow bar and they don't even feel it.
    – dotjoe
    Feb 28 '12 at 22:41
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    Hey Starx. A real comprehensive answer. However I have trouble understanding one part. (Looks like we all like to talk about the "fight" situation. :D) How do the "Surrender" and "Get ready to fight" coexist? I imagine that if the dog is close, sitting/lying on the ground would put the cyclist in the worst fighting situation possible(that's why it's a surrender) and there would be no time to do anything else should the dog be determined to attack. Could you explain and/or give personal examples, please.
    – Vorac
    Jun 28 '12 at 16:13
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    Holding eye contact can be perceived as a challenge from a dog, if you own a dog that is obedient to you, you will notice that if you hold a stare the dog will look away before you do, or should. This is them showing that you are boss. So staring into a dogs eyes that is aggressive toward could be perceived as a challenge and lead to the dog attacking you. In martial arts and other disciplines they tell you to make eye contact, hold it for a second or two and look away, then repeat this several times. This is telling the dog their in charge and you are not challenging them for territory.
    – Nate W
    Oct 28 '16 at 18:36

The Canine Aggression FAQs from the RSPCA has some useful general advice about aggressive dogs. If you encounter an aggressive dog while cycling it recommends the following:

If you are cycling, dismount and place the bike between you and the dog. This allows you to slowly wheel it far enough away to remount. Do not try to outpace the dog as this may encourage it to chase you.


If you are on an unfamiliar route or completely surprised by an encounter with a chasing dog, you basically have two tried and true options:

  1. Sprint Hard: You will likely exit the dogs territorial boundary in just a few seconds (though it will feel a lot longer). Once outside their perceived territory they will give up the chase.
  2. Dismount: If the animal is particularly aggressive and is right upon you, dismount, get your bike between you and the animal and back away slowly. While doing this you can reach down and pick up rocks or gravel to throw. Even if there aren't any rocks, just the action of bending over to pick something up and then the throwing motion is usually enough to startle a dog away.

If this is a known problem area, or an animal you encounter frequently you can pack a small water bottle with a fairly strong ammonia mix in it, and 'spray' the animal as it gets close. It's unpleasant enough that after a few experiences with you the dog will normally leave you alone. It's also a lot cheaper than mace, pepper spray, and won't disable you if you get hit by back spray.

  • I've used both these methods successfully. It depends on the situation which is best. If you are already moving fast in top gear most dogs either can't get up to speed or can't maintain the speed to keep up with you. If you are moving too slowly, have heavy packs, or the dog comes from the front getting off with the bike between you and the dog allows you to slowly walk away.
    – pdw
    Feb 26 '12 at 15:35
  • However, there is this thing that if you get bitten while riding you WILL fall. And if you are riding as fast as you can ...
    – Vorac
    Jun 28 '12 at 15:45
  • Yup. I rode around Ecuador for a few weeks where every other house has a loose dog. These were the two options. (2) is surprisingly effective -- many dogs just lose interest after dismounting. I think people must look more like an antelope or some other kind of dog dinner while mounted on a bike. Oct 16 '12 at 20:54
  • This is a very bad idea, the dog can easily outrun and catch you. When you sprint, you are a prey and the dog will instinctively chase you. Nov 16 '15 at 14:28

I have been chased by dogs countless times while riding solo or with a group. In all cases I have never been bitten. I may be wrong but in most cases the dogs just want to frighten you away. What works for me is not to panic, try and maintain a steady speed, and most importantly, make sure not to hit/run over the dog if it is coming towards you. Here is a pic of me and a buddy of an incident with 2 dogs 2 summers ago taken from a GoPro camera: enter image description here

  • 9
    There is the occasional dog who quite definitely wants you for lunch. Feb 25 '12 at 3:11

I used to have a bike with a good pump peg, so that my frame pump would stay put without a strap. When a dog got threatening I could reach down, grab the pump, and wave it at the dog. From the dog's point of view it was black and menacing (even though the thing was actually all lightweight plastic and aluminum and couldn't hurt a flea) -- a mean dog knows what a stick is and will stay a respectable distance away.

Unfortunately, my current bike has no peg, and I must use a strap to hold the pump in place. Fortunately, I haven't had many run-ins with dogs of late.


I have been barked at by dogs and they looked like they were about to attack. So i barked and growled louder, I have never seen such a surprized look on a dogs face before. I kind of wonder what I said in dog language. That kinda surprized my neighbor too (not the dogs owner)!!!!! One other time I was chased by a dog so I stopped to growl and he came up to me just to be friendly. I guess ya just play it out as the dog reacts to you. Remember you are bigger and potentiality the alpha in the encounter. I am not wild about chemicals, either against animals or people, BUT I did see a small air horn at Autozone. it was about 5 inches long and maybe 3/4 inch diameter. A big loud noise should scare off any attacker. Human or animal. Or at least it will atract attention to your location.


We always had a big dog in the house when I was growing up and I wrestled with them enough over the years that I'm not afraid of any dog.

As Starx said, they are more likely to go after you if they think you're afraid. Whenever I encounter an aggressive dog, I'm immediately much more aggressive in return: glaring, threatening ("you lookin' at me?"), getting into a fighting position, picking up something to hit the dog with if necessary...

Gary Ray mentioned putting the bike between you and the dog, I've done that and then picked up the bike and waved it threateningly in the dog's direction. Right hand on the seat tube just under the seat, left hand on the bars and held close to my body, and ready to hit the dog's head with the freewheel/rack/rear wheel if it charges.

Based on my experience "fighting" with dogs (more than play, but not a real kill-or-be-killed situation), if a dog really did attack me and I had anything at all to protect my arm a bit, I'd make a fist and try to shove it down the dogs throat. I've seen the gag reflex in a dog make it back off.

  • I just wanted to share you one thing. About two year ago, I rode with a Irish Guy big guy. He used to think exactly like you. He got barked once when touring towards Nagarkot (a place here). He got so mad, got of the bike, picked up the rock and start hitting the dog. His target was so good, he got the dog almost everytime. As the dog was wailing in pain, other dogs from the community 5-6 of them came barking at us. We made a run after this. ha ha
    – Starx
    Dec 29 '13 at 3:16

Don't forget to call the police or animal control after the encounter. In many (most?) places it is illegal to let a dog run loose.

On one of my regular cycling routes there are two aggressive dogs that I sometimes meet together on an uphill grade. Worse, it's a loop, and if they see me when I first go by, they will be waiting in the road as I come around. So I usually dismount and use the bike as a shield. They have never figured out how to get around it.

Having had a heart to heart with the owner - he blamed his small kids for letting the dogs loose - pointing out the prevalence of coyotes around here has had some effect.


I've had some success with confidently and loudly giving the dog commands, such as "Stay!" or "Sit!". I've had friendly dogs chase me in the park, probably just because they wanted to play. Shouting a command usually confuses the dog enough so that it abandons the chase.


If the hard sprint doenst work, Pepper spray is small, compact and quickly deployed. Some say a simple water bottle squirt to the dogs face will do it, but i have had a few persistant strays. A half spray in the general direction is more than enough.

  • 1
    Pepper spray also isn't legal in all jurisdictions (it's not in the UK for example)
    – GordonM
    Sep 23 '12 at 7:13
  • 3
    If you have pepper spray in a water bottle - remember which one it is !
    – mgb
    Sep 23 '12 at 18:56
  • Pet Corrector is a can of air that makes a loud noise when it sprays, which would probably be enough to break the dog's concentration. More humane than pepper spray, and legal, and portable enough. Feb 26 '14 at 19:11

Squirt some water on it from your water bottle. Tried and tested.

  • This works! It momentarily interrupts their chase response as a foreign variable that they don't know how to deal with. Your aim has GOT TO BE TRUE though! Right to the eyes! It's usually just water, sugar water, etc... and will wash off or get licked off when they retreat.
    – jc allen
    Apr 23 '19 at 19:18

Carry easily accessible dog snacks in your carry pouch. Dogs prioritize by food > sex > aggression. You only need to take care of #3 by implementing #1

  • 10
    so...if your out of food you should bend over? lol
    – dotjoe
    Sep 24 '12 at 13:50
  • @dotjoe Very true factual comment. So what is the answer op? Feb 19 '20 at 12:30

I've always had good luck using "Halt" pepper spray. It's made for cyclists and postal carriers. It seems to work adequately and all dogs. The last ocasion I had to use the Halt, my wife and I were riding in unfamiliar territory when a large dog came after us. A loud shout to "git" didn't work, so when he got within 5 feet of my bike, I gave him a taste of pepper spray, which sent him into the grass with his muzzle on the ground like he was mowing the grass! A couple of weeks later we found ourselves in the same area, and the same dog barked at us and started out of the yard towards us on a dead run until he saw me come up with my can of Halt, and halt he did! He just sat there quietly and watched us ride by. Guess he didn't like the taste of hot pepper!


I don't know if it is really the correct answer to carry some biscuits for nasty dogs running at you, from the point of view of the betterment of human civilization.

Roads are public commodities and should be safe for cyclists and pedestrians. There are enough other dangers, let's not allow this easily avoidable one.

I would suggest to forbid un-attached dangerous dogs on the roads, and one should report to the police any issue. Actually, I think it is the case in France: you may be barked at, but from the inside of gardens, and there is no danger.

And, oh, I love dogs, I love well-educated dogs that listen to their owners and don't bark randomly to strangers (but will bark violently to thieves).

Cyclists, pedestrians, humans, don't surrender: don't let the Dark Ages come over again.

  • This doesn't answer the question, which is asking what do you do when a dog is chasing you. Feb 28 '12 at 22:32
  • Well, my answer is to not bring any sweets for dogs, nor do any of the tricks mentioned in other answers: my answer is to run to the first police station and have the dangerous dog chained.
    – gb.
    Feb 29 '12 at 1:34
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    Yes, but how do you get away from the dog in the first place? The last time I was chased by a dog, I was pedaling a loaded bike up a hill, with a broken rear derailer so I really couldn't outrun the dog. I'm not defending any of the other answers here, but telling me to report the dog to the police really doesn't help. (A firm "stay" to the dog took care of the problem, but that won't work for all dogs.) Feb 29 '12 at 1:39
  • dark ages lol :) Feb 19 '20 at 12:31

In the worst case, there's the advice from Richard Ballantine's "Richard's Bicycle Book". Note that Richard was a dog-lover himself, and this was a last resort if an attacking dog is seriously endangering you.

"If the dog attacks: one defense is aerosol pepper sprays made for this purpose. They have a range of about ten feet and are light enough to clip to your handlebars. A water pistol loaded with a water-amonia solution will also work but is a good deal less convenient. If you have neither of these and can't or won't climb a tree get a stick or a large rock. No? The bicycle pump. Try to ram it down his throat. In any event, don't cower or cover up, because the dog will only chew you to ribbons. Attack. Any small dog can simply be hoisted up by the legs and his brains dashed out. With a big dog you are fighting for your life. If you are weaponless try to tangle him up in your bike and then strangle him. Kicks to the genitals and which break ribs are effective. If you have got a pump or a stick hold it at both ends and offer it up to the dog horizontally. Often the dog will bit the stick/pump and hang on. Immediately lift the dog up and deliver a very solid kick to the genitals. Follow up with breaking the dogs ribs or crushing its head with a rock. If worst comes to worst ram your entire arm down its throat. He will choke and die. Better your arm than your throat."

  • Unfortunately, unless you have a good pump peg (which my current bike, like most newer ones, does not), you can't simply grab the pump while riding. Sep 17 '13 at 11:51
  • I do have a frame pump peg on my (fairly old) road bike, but I also have a locking clip so I can leave the pump on the frame when the bike is parked, so I still can't grab the pump when riding. And my current pump has a plastic body which wouldn't take the weight of a large dog anyway.
    – armb
    Sep 17 '13 at 12:20
  • 2
    My aluminum-body pump couldn't actually hurt a dog, but to a mean dog it looks like a big stick or pipe, and the meaner the dog the more they fear that. Sep 17 '13 at 15:43

If you know you might encounter dogs, carry a small packet or two of plain biscuits ( as in Commonwealth English or called cookie/cracker in the United States. )

enter image description here

(Image Attribution: English Wikipedia user Leevclarke)

If the dog does not let up in few seconds, continue cycling/walking and keep throwing a biscuit at a time in front of the dog. This will usually distract the dog till you are out of its territory. Usually 2 or 3 biscuits will do the trick.

  • In my experience, most dogs don't go for flavored biscuits like jam/chocolate/cream/salt or surprisingly, even milk biscuits. Basic plain or sweet biscuits are best.

  • Don't break up the biscuit into pieces, the bigger the piece, more
    time it will take for a dog to break and chew it!

Next time, even if the same dog chases you, it won't be to bite. It will probably be wagging its tail on seeing you.

btw, at the end of your cycling, if you have any biscuits left in an open packet, you get to have them for yourself ;-)

Wikipedia : Biscuit: In Commonwealth English, it is a small and hard, often sweet, baked product that would be called either a cookie or a cracker in the United States

  • 3
    By "biscuit" I assume you mean what we in the US would call a "cookie"? Feb 26 '12 at 13:34

I love dogs and would never hurt an animal. I currently own a rescue dog who has some health problems but I took him in as if he was my own.

That being said I live in a rural area and a few years ago I had a regular route I liked to take and I would always pass this big farmhouse and I could hear dogs barking. I never thought much of it and one day I read in the paper that farmhouse was home to a pack of pitbulls. An elderly couple went for a walk and the dogs got out of the barn and mauled the couple.

Ever since then I bought bear spray from REI. It's more expensive than pepper spray and a heck of a lot more effective in that situation. In most cases a dog will eventually leave you alone I find but against a pack of pitbulls pepper spray is useless. It's a good idea to know the area you are touring in and if you aren't aware just make sure you have a good defense. If you're being chased by a large enough dog hit him with the spray and keep moving.


I had a Doberman and I certainly wouldn't get the idea that you could "stare them down". If it's one, get off and position the bike between you and the dog. DON'T turn your back, it WILL bite you. If it's two Dobermans, be prepared to be bitten by one of them; there's no fancy way around this. Just hope that their owner calls them off. And whatever happens, don't think that you yu can fight your way out it. You can't, and it will just make the dog madder. Sorry...but I wish you luck...


The water-bottle squirt works well.

Also, dogs are easily distracted. Throw something down. Dogs will often stop to investigate. So if you have a snack in your back pockets, throw it out there.

Please don't whack a dog with a frame pump.


I was walking my mum's dog off-leash on a road, and another dog ran to attack her.

I was surprised by the attack, because the dogs there are normally trained to stay (and bark) on their own property, and never go onto the road.

Anyway, as it was running towards my dog to attack, it ignored me entirely: until I voiced a great big growl: at which it suddenly noticed me for the first time, and stopped. You're bigger than them. You have a right to be on the road. They'd have to be crazy to attack you.

There's a saying (I think they say it about sportsmen):

"It's not the size of the dog in the fight: it's the size of the fight in the dog."

Until I growled the other dog didn't realize that I was anything at all, didn't know I was even a player.

It's not that dogs are cowards necessarily, but consider this: wolves hunt animals larger than themselves: sheep, deer, caribou. But I don't think you'll find them hunting bear (or man).

Someone advised me once, if you ever find yourself alone with wolves in the wild, don't run away in fear: because whether or not you run from them is how they decide whether you are prey. Instead just continue to go about your business, and let them go about theirs.

As for the amount of fight you have in you:

  • Usually irrelevant. In my personal experience no dog (except puppies) has ever attacked any human, of any size, anywhere (dogs which are likely or able to, are instead restrained by their owners). Any dog which does attack a human is presumably executed, and their owner sanctioned.

  • However when my dog was under attack, I had a moment to discover how big the fight was in me: and I found it was big enough to say so. In an emergency I'm extremely heavy, and strong enough to lift a dog. We're not that fast, cannot run: but an attack is suicide (unless you're running away, in which case you're no threat).

In the city (in parks and on cycle trails) when off-leash dogs approach me, I slow down to avoid any risk of hitting them (as with children).

Dogs run and bark. That's what they do. Enjoy them.

Replies to comments:

Certainly dogs HAVE attacked (and sometimes killed) humans.

That's in answer to my, "In my personal experience no dog has ever attacked any human".

Conversely, I've heard anecdotes from people who are afraid of dogs.

In fact there was one lady who I met for the first time, and among the first things she and her husband said was that she was afraid of dogs. The next morning all four of us were walking (on a wide footpath in a nature reserve around a lake), more of less line abreast. An unleashed dog showed up on the path ahead, coming towards us, and she ducked behind her husband: at which the damn dog made a bee-line straight for her, frightening her (and so us) more.

I've been attacked by strange dogs on two occasions

I can't tell you what you did wrong or anything. Unleashed K9s, trained attack dogs, might be off-topic.

My main suggestions were only a) don't run b) communicate in a dog-appropriate way: things like, "Oh hello", "Actually I'm just going", "You think I have a problem?", etc.

  • 2
    Certainly dogs HAVE attacked (and sometimes killed) humans. Given the number of dogs in the US, this can be considered a "rare" event, but it's far from impossible/unusual. (And, unfortunately, irresponsible owners whose dogs attack often receive no more than a slap on the wrist, if that.) Feb 25 '12 at 17:53
  • 1
    I've been attacked by strange dogs on two occasions. Once was a quite serious "I'mma gonna kill you, filthy human" fight. The dog assumed the fight was to the death, and acted accordingly--it took five people to pull it away, and sent two of us to the hospital before it was subdued. Dogs are more formidable than they look. Ask a K9 officer what their dog is capable of sometime. Yes, humans are bigger and stronger than dogs, but don't just discount them: a dangerous dog is exactly that. Feb 25 '12 at 18:21
  • @ChrisNielsen - Today's example of a dangerous dog attack in the news: Do or die dog fight recalled. Note, enclosed space, dog-on-dog to start, human-on-dog second, home territory, negelected/abused dogs, etc.
    – ChrisW
    Feb 25 '12 at 22:11

Large dogs don't seem to be much of a problem, they usually don't seem to care about me when I'm cycling. It's the little yippy dogs that like to chase. They're pretty easy to outrun, so I just go ahead and do that. They tend to give up real quick. Large dogs I've always just slowed down to a walking pace and they've always lost interest at that point. The plan has been to dismount and keep the bike between myself and them to fend them off while hopefully waiting for an owner to appear. The plan of last resort is my handgun. Unfortunately due to the laws in the area that I cycle, spray strong enough to affect animals (such as bear spray) and tasers are not legal (considered "weapons" of a type that there is no license available to carry them). If you choose to carry anything, be sure to check your local laws, you may be surprised at what's prohibited!


An air horn could catch them by surprise long enough to make a get away.

  • 1
    Air horns are illegal in some areas. Sep 22 '12 at 19:24
  • 1
    @Luke: What, and pepper spray isn't? I'm surprised so many of the answers mention pepper spray as if it's something people carry around like a cell phone. Sep 24 '12 at 14:42
  • 1
    @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun In the US, most states allow adults to carry pepper spray with minimal restrictions. Many countries also have permissive laws regarding pepper spray. And if a rider is concerned about self defense or safety, Pepper Spray could be something that person carries around like a cell phone. Sep 25 '12 at 17:35

Dogs can be a pain, normally they’re not going to bite you as long as you just maintain speed and carry on. Although sometimes it’s just easiest for the owner as well to just stop then the dog will just sit there and look at you or jump up or down (from my personal experiences dependant on dog nature of course).

My recent encounter was a staffie looking type dog that I had no option but to stop on a canal otherwise I’d have run it over then it just evilly barked and ran around my bike and the owner managed to get hold of it, but the worry is that is the dog going to bite you and is it worth using a tool like a hand pump for defence in situations like that.


Well after a while of 2 dogs contiguously trying to bit my ass. I just shot the closest one and the other 1 now leaves me alone. Give it a try. (i used a CO2 gun)

  • 2
    While illegal in many places this is the only answer that gives more than a band-aid solution.
    – jva
    Oct 12 '12 at 10:22

First, don't panic. Try to act normally and stay calm. Give an order to the dog in a firm voice such as "go home" or give the dog something like a water bottle to chew and play.


Some advice that I read on how to deal with dogs from a textbook for a motorcycle class I took says to slow way down and then accelerate. This works because apparently dogs are bad at math and it throws off their pursuit angle. Not sure if this advice will work on a bicycle since it depends a bit on how the dog is coming for you and how fast you can pedal.

I have never personally had enough time in this situation to employ that technique.


This is not a "one size fits all" solution. It will depend on the number of dogs (pack mentality) and breed (some are more agressive than others). My unsuccessful attempts have been to try to use my frame pump or pepper spray -- try doing this while pedaling for your life and you will wreck, which the dogs will love. I never try to outrun a dog unless I have a gigantic head start. The one solution that has always kept me alive is to get off my bike, use my bike as a shield, maintain eye contact with the dog/s, and walk out of its territory. That's what this is all about -- you are in the dog's territory. The dog/s don't hate you for who you are, but for where you are. How dare you trespass in his territory!

  • It's not trespassing if you are riding down a public road. Please re-read the question. Nov 26 '13 at 20:57

Dogs are territorial. Get out of its territory. I have tried spraying and missed, swinging my pump and missed, and each time almost wrecked. If I'm not fast enough, I just get off my bike and walk out its/their territory while using my bike as a shield.


I know this has a lot of answers but I had had a route around a beautiful lake with a pack of (I think domestic) dogs.

Based on fear I carried dog spray but as a dog lover it was a last resort. Is the dog just chasing you for fun or does it really want to bite you?

A pack of dogs has a different mentality just like a pack of people.

I would always circle the lake in a direction that I was on a downhill in their domain.

On the uphill coming in I would never stop pedaling so they did not hear the click click. If they crested the hill I would just turn around. On an uphill you are at a severe disadvantage as speed and you need both hand on the bars - you don't have a hand for dog spray.

On the downhill I would point at the pack so they would have to scatter and then just outrun them.

One day they got me clean from the side when I had just crested the hill without much speed. Lead dog was turning his head to bite my calf and I got him clean in both eyes. The whole pack stopped chasing me. After that all I had to do was hold up the can of spray and they let me pass.


I am a rural cyclist and have already met hundreads of dogs in my way. Here is some advice collected from experince.

Dogs are defending something

For thousands of years dogs have been artifically selected by humans to be domestic. There is hardly any remaining wild dog around. Food is provided by their owners, so they won't attack you for meal. They are defending their territory and owner. To have you out of their territory, the dog could try to kill you, but fighting for life is risky for the dog too. Barking and trying to scare you away poses much less risk and that is its wager.


If you keep on riding, the more intrepid dogs will bark at a dangerously short distance from your heels. I have been bitten for doing this on a descent (since I was coasting slowly, it was all too easy for the dog to aim my leg, but again, it was a warding off bite and not the first move of a battle for life). If riding on sandy terrain, you may lose traction and fall.

Dismounted, dogs will keep a more respectful distance. As you keep walking and heading out of his territory's boundaries, the dog will start lagging behind until you are no longer a threat. Don't run though; Preys run and you don't want to be taken for one.

I have never had a dog engage on me while dismounted. They will bark and keep their distance. But if you don't want to put all your stakes on it,

Grab an object, the larger and more maneuverable, the better

If you have nothing, grab whatever you can find, a broken branch lying on the ground is a good candidate. Don't make a gratuitous attack, as that could earn you a real confrontation, but only use it for keeping the dog at a distance. Dogs usually fear even the frailest of sticks.

Even better is to plan for it and bring something. I have exchanged my mini-pump for this 70 cm (width) x 3 cm (diameter) stick.

Stick on the pump strap

No dog has ever failed to pathetically wince back whenever I brandished it. Fortunately, never had to use it for real. A dog would need a very good reason to take the risk of having his skull smashed.

The stick is also useful if you are in a hurry and have no time to dismount. And I doubt any law considers bearing a stick illegal.

Extra notes

  • Consult the local biking community about the routes that have more or less dogs.

  • A group of dogs is more annoying and wage more than a single dog. Likewise, a dog is less powerful if you are cycling in a group.

  • Most dogs are pets, but some are specially educated to be guard dogs and to attack intruders. It is the owner's obligation to guarantee that such dogs are physically restrained to the property they are guarding. If you encounter a roaming guard dog, report the event to authorities.

If you like dogs (do this at your own risk)

Sometimes, if the dog is not very large and menacing and keeps a good distance, I lower my body and call it friendly. On my experience, the dog may

  • lower its ears, wag its tail and approach mistrustfully, but placated. You have likely earned a friend and can play a bit with it, but don't make brisk movements at the start of the interaction. Dogs are sincere creatures, they won't pretend to be appeased just to get closer to attack you.

  • actually wince back from your mere movement, thus betraying much fear and that it was all a bluff. You can keep going on more relieved, for although that is no friend, it is not a foe either.

  • keep barking. Withdraw your invitation and keep heading out.

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