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Yesterday 5 large pit bull/lab mix dogs came after me, had to get off the bike and use the bike as a physical barrier between me and them, the owner eventually came out, but I have no idea what would have happened if he hadn't showed up. I can guess though. Two or three of them had teeth bared and were working on moving around and encircling me. The owner insists they didn't intend to bite. My leg has had many surgeries so couldn't take a bite wound. Here's a picture after the dogs calmed down a bit. Later they chased me again anyway. enter image description here

So I'm trying to determine if:

  1. Bear or pepper spray is a good defense. Don't want to hurt the animals.
  2. Should I alert animal control that this owner has aggressive dogs right by the main road to a national park? I don't want to see other riders hurt, or animals killed by cars.
  3. It was uphill, so I wouldn't have been able to outrun them, was getting off the bike and using it as a barrier the best idea in this circumstance?

Edit: I took some of your advice and called Animal Control - mostly since I couldn't otherwise see the owner suddenly becoming responsible on his own. I requested authorities "encourage" him to finish his fencing, since 2-300 feet of road frontage aren't fenced still. I haven't heard back from officials yet. I also found a water bottle adapter for bear spray, since I don't want my leg to become a dog snack in the future. This area is very close to the Redwoods on the Pacific Coast. Pretty rides when not pedaling for your life. Another poster asked about feral dogs, which are wild and uncontrolled. This dog pack "should have been" under the control of an owner.

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    Maybe you don't want to hurt them - in Pack mode (which they were) they want to hurt you. Many countries have strong dog control laws, consider complaining to the authorities (for other people if not you, maybe a child will be the next).
    – mattnz
    Sep 12 at 20:11
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    Should I alert animal control that this owner has aggressive dogs right by the main road to a national park? Five dogs, acting in concert, to encircle you? That's not really a hard question to answer... Sep 12 at 20:28
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    Does this answer your question? How to fend off a pack of feral dogs - Domestic dogs in pack hunt mode are no different to feral dogs.
    – mattnz
    Sep 12 at 21:33
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    The only piece of advise I've got for you, don't kick out at them unless you are 100% confident you going to connect. A leg is a perfect target for dogs to latch onto and with some force, probable enough to to drag you of your bike, then you on the ground prone and primed for the rest of the pack
    – Hursey
    Sep 12 at 21:58
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    It may help to say where in the world this happened - different countries have different laws, but in any case, log it with authorities locally, who should be duty bound to speak to (at least) the owner, whose dogs, loose, can cause a vehicle accident, or what you went through. Probably no good asking the owner for details, seems he doesn't care much.
    – Tim
    Sep 13 at 14:24

3 Answers 3

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To prevent this from happening again, this should be reported to the relevant authorities. You were on a public road and in all countries I am familiar with, the dog owner is responsible for preventing their pets from interacting with public road users.

If you are not sure which is the correct authority, report to all you think are relevant (eg. animal service, provincial/state authority if it's a provincial/state road, municipal police, etc).

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    Concur - animals are not people and the law generally considers them as "items" for which the owner is responsible.
    – Criggie
    Sep 13 at 10:24
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    Reporting is the only way to deal with the problem with irresponsible dog owners that put other people's life in danger. I've just heard in radio, a woman was sentenced to 20 months prison for heavily damaging other women with Rottweiler, which she had not under control, and was previously aggresive against human. It might sound as a very mild punishment, but it makes dog owners not feeling inpunishable. Sep 13 at 21:07
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    I would report the animals to animal control. I was bitten by a Chihuahua while riding and he bit thru my jeans.
    – fixit7
    Sep 13 at 21:12
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    I would add that the owner saying "don't worry it is not going to bite you" is a further sign of an irresponsible owner. The owner saying that after the cyclist was forced to stop is even worse.
    – FluidCode
    Sep 15 at 12:05
  • I'm a longtime dog owner, and can really sympathize with an owner who loves their dogs, and wants more than one so they can keep each other company. And perhaps this was a one time thing where they busted through a fence and he was hot on their trail. That being said, yes this should go straight to the authorities, since its a serious public safety issue. If he's got good excuses, he can give them to Animal Control.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 15 at 14:59
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Using the bike as a barrier is a perfectly good idea, but its a fair way down the escalation process. You'd hold it in front of you, with one hand around the saddle clamp area and the other hand on the head tube, or downtube+front rim to stop it waving about.

This allows you to keep the tyres close to the ground, stopping animals from getting underneath.

If you see fit to take an offensive move, then don't swing the whole bike. Instead pull the front close and push out the arm holding the rear. This will push out the rear wheel while you keep control of the bike.

If the dog bites the rear wheel, then push and pull don't just yank on it.


Your absolute best defence is distance. Get back and stay back.

If the dogs are chasing you (and this is quite likely given instincts) then you can use your water bottle to blast them. That alone can be enough to distract them. Last resort is throwing the bottle, you might retrieve it later.

Speed doesn't necessarily help - I've raced with dogs at 40 km/h (for fun). Instead of going uphill, you might choose to go downhill where possible.

Feel free to warn other riders if you come across them, something like

Hey! You might want to avoid Blah hill because Crazy Bill was there with his dogs 10 minutes ago.


The social solutions are definitely worth persuing. They don't help at the time, but you have photo/s and possibly video, and eyewitness testimony to offer. Do please follow up, or this might continue to happen.

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    +1 for "push and pull". Pushing something into a dogs mouth will often cause them to back off without serious harm.
    – Clumsy cat
    Sep 13 at 10:33
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More than likely you would have been okay, but obviously we’re talking about the “what if” scenario here. If they weren't just defending their home and trying to scare you off or look tough and were primed to fight, you could have gone down the hill instead of up. If that wasn't an option then using the bike as a weapon or shield was a great idea.

I live in a heavy homeless populated area and have caught people robbing homes (I ride early in the morning when its still dark). I always carry small arms, pepper spray, or a knife. Depending where I'm going. If you're against arms, then definitely carry spray. But remember, don't be afraid and only use weapons as an absolute last resort. Sometimes to us a growling or barking dog is scary but it may just be overly excited. If its just excited a bop on the nose should be enough to scare it off.

Dogs do sense fear so stay calm, always keep something between you, don't run away as that will cause an instinctual chase. Be as still as possible they may just sniff you and move on. If you do get attacked guard your groin and neck, keep your hands and arms to your side and make a fist so they cant bite fingers, don't make eye contact keep the dog at your side, if you want to ride by often, carry some treats and drop them every time they come out, they will see you as a friend. Give them something to chew on like a stick.

Lethal force on a dog is usually unnecessary but if they do attack kick or punch their nose or throat. This will usually stun them enough to run away. If you can access it and deploy safely for yourself, hit em with pepper spray, theres even pet-safe ones. When that fails its weapon time, knife, stick, small arms, whatever you have access to.

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    Far from convince the OP was not in danger, people get killed by dogs every year (49 in 2019 in the US). Carrying weapons of any kind, not just guns, is illegal in many countries. A knife against a multiple-dog attack for someone not trained in the art of knife fighting is unlikely to be of practical help.
    – mattnz
    Sep 13 at 0:04
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    Welcome to the site - please don't be put off by the votes, this is one of those polarising questions. You might like to browse through the tour to learn some more on the overall design of the Q&A.
    – Criggie
    Sep 13 at 6:34
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    @mattz And that's just deaths. If you were to count non-lethal-but-still-serious injuries from dog attacks, there's a lot more. I love dogs, but some people don't treat them well, and train them in ways that are frankly dangerous to the public. Sep 13 at 20:14
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    Risk is a combination of severity and likelihood. With the severity being a particularly nasty death or a nasty way to be injured (I would rather break my bone falling of a bike than having my arm crunched by a dog) , "more than likely not happening" still rates significant risk. This comes from me living a country that does not have Rabies.
    – mattnz
    Sep 13 at 21:16
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    @CarlWitthoft That is definitely not true. Loads of dogs like to leave their owners' land just for fun. I'd go so far as to estimate that most dogs would, when presented with something exciting going past, leave the yard - that's why they are frequently kept fenced in. If you're using "territory" to mean the wider area the dog is familiar with (not just the land their owner legally resides on) then the road by their property is almost certain part of their "territory".
    – Ben
    Sep 15 at 3:04

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