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Getting attacked by a dog while on the bike: What to do?

This animal known as man’s best friend can sometimes turn into an enemy. This is precisely what dogs are to most cyclists, even cyclists who have dogs themselves or live comfortably around them. The reason behind this is that most dogs are friendly when we’re on our feet, but this changes the moment we hop on the bike and start riding.

Even if, as a cyclist, you haven’t had any bad experiences with one or several dogs, you most likely know someone who does, especially if your cycling discipline is MTB or gravel, though it can happen in urban areas as well. The truth is that, for any cyclist, dogs can be what they fear the most even over any kind of motor vehicle. And yes, we have to face many types of vehicles in every single outing, while being exposed to getting attacked by a dog happens quite rarely. But still, it never hurts to know how to act and what to do when dealing with a situation like this.

At Siroko, we’re not dog experts though, so the best we can do is recommend this video where an actual expert, who’s also a cyclist and travels around the world with his dog, explains the reasons why a dog can react that way and what you should do in each situation. He uses real life situations that he himself and his dog have experienced. Note: Make sure to activate the subtitles if you don’t understand Spanish.

Taking this video as reference, and approaching this topic from a personal experience, the writer of this blog post has been involved in several situations like this, that fortunately had no major consequences. These attacks have been mostly from shepherd dogs in rural areas or small types of dogs but, especially, bigger ones like mastiffs. Dogs see you on the bike, and start running behind you and barking. If I’m riding fast enough I just keep going, but always keeping an eye on them, beware of my surroundings. I have been attacked in the middle of a climb more than once. In this situation, you could stop right away, as the video suggests, or keep going but at a slower pace, signaling with your hands and raising your voice for them to move away. This has always worked for me so far.

The only unfortunate encounter I had was with a domesticated German shepherd. Their owners were just out for a walk and the dog was unleashed. I completely missed the dog, and the moment I was riding my bike near the owners, I was attacked. As explained in the video, the dog didn’t even bark but just went after me, pushing me off the bike and trying to bite me while I was struggling on the floor. The owners screamed and tried to get a hold of the dog, and when they finally did, they put him back on the leash and apologized. I was relieved, but at the same time still scared. As dog owners, they should be well aware of how important it is to educate your dog and help him understand its surroundings, as well as making sure it’s not running around unleashed if you know it can get aggressive around people. A situation like this can have even worse consequences if the one at the other end of the attack is more vulnerable, as it is the case with a kid or an old person. In addition to this, owners should keep in mind that not only people walk around these areas, but also other types of animals. Moreover, even if there are exceptions of course, in some countries it is illegal to walk around with an unleashed dog in public spaces, including the countryside.

Having said this, I hope this experience doesn’t put you off and stop you from enjoying cycling. In my entire life as a cyclist, I can count these attacks from dogs on my fingers, but it never hurts to get informed on how to react in this situation. If you have a dog, please make sure you educate it and never let it walk around people when unleashed, just to prevent any accidents. And, if you live in a house, make sure your doors are closed to prevent the dog from running after passing cyclists, so that the only thing that scares us is a sudden barking.

6 thoughts on “Getting attacked by a dog while on the bike: What to do?”

  1. Avatar

    I think the video above gives a wrong idea of how to deal with dogs when riding a bike for a simple reason: the rider have a dog on the back of his bike! So, a lot of the dog(s)’ reaction, int the video, have to do with their curiosity and/or “territorial defensive” behaviour against the “four paws intruder”. In my experience, I would say that a way to avoid a dog attack is to, during rides, when repeating a route where you pass by a dog (in a house, firld, etc.) is to whistle repeatedly (the same sound) as you pass, every time. This will associate you as no “treat” to the dog and in the future the dog will memorise that is you and he will “give” you a “green pass”. In case of really aggressive dogs, you have to dismount the bike and put the bike between you and the dog as a (metallic) shield; also, here I agree with what the rider did on his video by “screaming” at the dog with confidence. In the end it’s an animal encounter and you have to send a message that they understand. In extreme cases, catching something from the ground could help. Hope this helps.

    1. Siroko

      Hello Nuno,

      Thank you for your recommendation. It is true that the author of the video rides with his dog and that perhaps incites other dogs to “investigate” or protect their territory. But, in my case, I ride my bike alone and I have had encounters and “attacks” similar to those in the video.

      On one of my routes, I pass near a house with dogs that are on the other side of a metal fence. They always bark and run at me as I ride past them. Being enclosed they do not pose a risk to me, so, I will try to follow your advice and make a sound when I pass so they know I am not a threat.

      Dani – Siroko

      1. Avatar

        Hi Dani. I understand what you mean about dogs attacks, specially in the countryside in countries like Spain (where I believe you ride mostly) and Portugal (where I ride mostly).
        Remember, dogs are animals but they need to be “educated”. So, the sound need to be repeated several times and it is a process that also need to be repeated, since you don’t belong to the dog “household”. It will be interesting/funny to see how it goes. It’s one of those things that one could do during a bike ride to entertain, as well as , other things like introspection, gaze at the landscape, etc. Well, at least that’s what I do. Regards, Nuno

        1. Siroko

          Hi Nuno,

          Yes, I ride in Spain. Thanks for your advice. I will keep you updated about my progress with the dogs.

          Dani – Siroko

  2. Avatar

    I was attacked by a dog in April 2023, I knew the dog was there. A pit bull no less. I never heard or saw him come thru the gate that someone left open. At 20 mph he took the bike out from under me. I was air lifted to las vegas, nv. I suffered a con, my helmet was broken, but it worked. Also 3 broken ribs, collarbone, spinal fractor. Was in hospital 4 days, rehab 2 weeks. Off the bike for 5 months. I did my first century ride in 1981, I am 78 years old. Will never be the same, but still riding, now I carry pepper spray and dog horn. Hope I never need them. Rich

    1. Siroko

      Hi Rich,

      Thank you for sharing your story. We love cycling so much that even something so terrible doesn’t stop us from riding again.

      Dani – Siroko

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