Problems with dogs when cycling

There is nothing more guaranteed to spoil your day out cycling than a dog jumping out at you unexpectedly or, perhaps worse, standing snarling in the middle of the road ahead of you. Followed by the heart-stopping ten seconds when you have passed the dog, and don't know if you can outsprint it. This is when your maximum speed of the day will be recorded!

So what can be done to help reduce the problem? Every cyclist has their own method for dealing with a dog, and there are some basic guidelines that will help you stay safe on the road.

Unfortunately a small dog between your wheels can be as disastrous as a big dog, so great care is needed with any potential dog situation when cycling. Not very useful perhaps but be aware that most dogs are not essentially vicious, and are just jumping around barking because they have nothing better to do. Most dogs aren't actually going to bite you!

The following might help:

- Very often, simply shouting loudly at a dog will be sufficient. Use a firm, assertive, loud voice. This will often at least distract or confuse the dog long enough for you to get past. Second advantage of bellowing at the dog is that the owner might appear from somewhere and call in the dog. Not often, and usually not very effectively, but sometimes.

- Unfortunately dogs like chasing bikes, so slow down when approaching the dog but be in a gear that you can sprint away quickly in. It is easier to outsprint a small dog than a large one, but most dogs won't actually chase your bike very far.

- Unclip the shoe on the dog side of your bike as you approach, and be ready to kick the dog on the nose. If you need to come to a halt, or worse get pushed off, you will also benefit from having a foot unclipped.

- Sprint away as fast as possible - you can't beat the motivation of a dog trying to bite your leg if you want to go faster...

- Sprinting is not always practical if the dog is large or you are riding uphill.

Other options include attacking back. Possibilities include kicking the dog on the nose with an unclipped foot or squirting some water at the dog. Some people wave a bicycle pump around threateningly (I think I'd probably fall off if I tried this with enthusiasm but your cycling might be more stable than mine!)

Other sprays and liquids might work e.g. lemon juice and pepper spray, but it is not easy to hit your target when you are cycling.

Occasionally it is necessary to actually dismount and walk on foot until you are beyond the dog's territory. Keep the bike between you and the dog if possible.