Tips On Avoiding Those "Dog-Gone" Accidents
One of the most unpredictable and dangerous things cyclists deal with other than traffic is a dog. Here we are, just enjoying a leisurely ride in the countryside and all of a sudden...WHAM! We're laying on our backs with massive road rash and with a tangled mess that used to be a sleek, shiny, $3000 bicycle. Every cyclist has had a run in with pooches and some of us were luckier than others and lived (unscathed) to tell about it. I have a story about a Black Angus Bull you might find interesting in another issue, but today I'm going to focus on the K-9 issue.
The greatest danger when approaching a K-9 is it getting tangled up in your machine. Ninety-nine and forty-four one hundredths percent of the time the dog isn't going to bite unless you do something to provoke him...like kick at his face. This will get his attention and help you lose a valuable part of your anatomy...namely everything below the knee on the offending leg. Generally, they are just getting their kicks chasing these strange creatures that roll by occasionally. You would be bored too if all you had to do was lay around the yard all day and eat Alpo. So how is the best way to handle "Killer?" One of the most popular ways is to take out your water bottle and splash power drink into his face. That will usually make them turn and run away. Or better yet, carry a can of that "mace for dogs" and use that to thwart his advances. Another great deterrent is to reach down and take your tire pump and swing it to make him think twice about chasing you. Or, you could just kick him in the face, ignoring the possibility that he may want to strike back because now you have really given him something to bite at!
As you're reading this, I hope you don't think I'm serious about the validity of any of these techniques. These techniques may cause other problems and simply add more danger to an already hazardous situation. As I said before, these animals are usually just playing and get too close, which causes accidents. If you are spraying, kicking, and being overly distracted by their barking and chasing, then you aren't concentrating on the most important thing...bike control and your surrounding environment. It is very important to keep control at all costs...not using one hand off the handlebars to spray at the animal. Especially, if you're riding in a group! Now you are a greater hazard than the dog! Also, if you are focusing all your attention on the dog while swinging and spraying and such, you're not aware of the surrounding traffic which can make road kill out of both you and the dog.
Well then, what is the best way to handle this situation you might ask. I was hoping you would finally ask that! First, if the animal doesn't have a good angle on you, that is, it is behind your path, simple keep riding. You may enjoy the sprint practice. The dog is not really a threat if he is behind you or in the grass behind you. But, some of those little guys can really run and if they get in front of you you'd better back off because he could turn into your path at any time. If you are in a pack of riders, be sure all the riders can stay in front of the animal. I've found that usually the pooch will chase and fall in behind the first rider, which puts him right in the middle of the rest of the bikers, so beware! One technique is for all riders behind the lead to echelon away from the dog. If you are on the dog side, he may just run in front of you to get to the lead bike...then CRUNCH! It's epidermis scrape offofus time!
If the dog has any chance of getting in your path, slow down and proceed with caution. Alert any other riders in your group that there's a dog ahead and you're slowing. Remember, we're not going to squirt or kick. We simply are going to slow and use a firm tone of voice to confront the dog. You don't have to yell at the top of your voice, but you should use a firm tone. I've found this to be the most effective way to keep the animal in the yard. For the most part, dogs won't be aggressive unless they are in "their" territory. Strays out in the country usually run from someone who uses an aggressive tone of voice. If you do feel that the animal is going to be belligerent, then my advice is to stop the bike, and get off...keeping the bike between you and the dog. This is an extreme measure, but it beats crashing and then him chewing on the bloody parts. I've only had to get off my bike once to confront a dog, and then I was petting him before I got back on.
I guess the bottom line is to use good sense and caution when around dogs and other animals. Sometimes a crash is unavoidable if the dog darts out from behind a bush and gets tangled up in your spokes...well it just ain't your day. But don't make an avoidable situation into an emergency one. Remember, it's always easier and quicker to regroup after slowing down to get around Fido than to fix a broken bike, bones, or wait for an ambulance!
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