March 18, 2016
Dogs have a bad reputation in the bike-touring world. Being chased and/or bitten by a dog ranks right up there with the top fears of many a bike traveler. And for a good reason: dogs like to chase things — balls, squirrels, their own tails, and bicycles.
People say that dogs can smell fear, or at least read the body language of a fearful cyclist. There is no scientific evidence for this, but my experience as a bike tour guide many years ago led me to believe it’s true. If one of my guests admitted to an intense fear of dogs, out of several riders on the road, that is the cyclist the dog would chase … every time.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with aggressive dogs. Some folks recommend carrying pepper spray. I never have.
I’ve been chased by dogs in dozens of countries and what works best for me is to stop and cheerfully call the dog. It confuses them. Many come over, tails wagging for a pet. Others walk away. Occasionally, when they don’t, I position myself with my bike between us and stay calm — so far, so good.
I’d like to be on record as a bike traveler who has had many more positive experiences with dogs than negative. Am I crazy? Is it just me? Or are there other touring cyclists who look forward to dog encounters in their travels?
Photos by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at yellowtentadventures.com.