Sooner or later you will encounter a bad doggie on your bicycle ride because the owner cannot control his animal, does not know how to discipline his animal, does not know how to read his animal’s body language, and does not know how to deal with aggressive encounters caused by their dogs.
The best way is to learn from those who know. Shows like the Dog Whisperer taught me a lot about how to discipline my own dogs when they behave badly. Properly done, a dog will end up more relaxed after the encounter which should be done in the presence of the person or animal they were aggressive to. Don’t be afraid to ask a passerby for help if your dog shows aggression towards them. People are far more willing to help when an owner takes responsibility for their pet’s aggression.
I was cycling slowly along a dirt pathway when this golden lab sized dog trotted towards me. The dog started growling, nervous about the bicycle and started circling. I slowed down and when the dog started looking at my leg for a place to bite, I stopped pedaling now and then while cycling towards the owner. As I passed the owner carrying a small tan Chihuahua, the dog nipped at me, missing my hand and nipping my pant pocket. The dog then ran back to the owner, happy that he had protected his owner from a scary bicycle. The owner, having no clue, grabbed his dog’s collar when it finally trotted back after failing to respond to his owner’s call.
Dogs are likely to bite when there is something to chase. Slow down. Stop pedaling if the dog moves towards your leg or stares at you. The most exciting thing for a dog is to chase, bite and growl. Not necessarily in that order.
There are several things you can do, depending on how aggressive the dog is.
1) Place the bicycle between you and the dog while walking slowly towards it. Use the bicycle like a fence to push the dog back. If the dog is afraid of the bicycle, this often works. Dogs are often afraid of inanimate objects because they can’t sense the intention of something that isn’t alive.
2) If you are the owner, get between the person or animal it is aggressive towards and walk towards your animal. This is a body language that says you own the person or animal your dog wants to attack. You need to determine the aggression level. If your dog has no respect for you and is aggressive towards you, this may be dangerous. Do this before the aggression escalates.
3) Make your dog submissive. Do what dogs do to each other when they won’t tolerate aggressive behaviour, pin them down.
Reach under your dog and grab a leg on the far side of your dog and push the dog away so it falls on the ground. Grab the dog by the neck and pin the neck down so it cannot bite while straddling the dog with both legs. Use your hand like a bite and press into the dog’s neck as if your hand is biting the the dog. Make sure your hand extends up under the dog’s jaw so he cannot bite. Hold the dog down in this position until the dog stops struggling. As the dog calms down, release the pressure on the dog’s neck. When the dog becomes more aggressive, increase the bite pressure and keep the dog pinned down.
The whole point here is to force the dog to relax. Take as long as needed. The dog cannot keep up this conflict forever and will tire if you are relentless.
When the dog will stay lying down without you having to pin it down. Start with a slow massage and pet. Repeat until the dog remains calm. This is how you leave the dog in a better state than before the aggressive encounter. Use at your own risk. Only you know how aggressive your dog is and how it will react. The point of all these actions is to stop aggression before it gets out of control and when it is easier to regain control of the dog.
Bring the person or animal the dog was aggressive towards and put that person/animal behind the dog so it cannot see them. Keep the dog’s attention on you. This is to build trust between you and the dog so the dog will learn to rely on protection from you instead of feeling it has to protect you.
4) The best way to deal with aggressive dogs is to give them exercise and tire them out. When a dog’s energy is not used constructively it becomes destructive towards everyone and everything. Like people, dogs do not like being penned up all day without a way to release their energy.
Some people use dog treats to distract dogs. Others make their dogs sit when they are near triggers that start bad behaviour. Dogs are like people in a way. Some react better to one action than another.
The big mistake the owners make with their dogs is doing things in the wrong order. First exercise. Then allow the dog to calm down and only reward the dog with attention and petting when in a calm state. Rewarding a dog with excitement before it calms down is rewarding them for the excitement.
All too often we get pets to fill our needs, forgetting their needs. Its a two way street though. Pets have their needs too. A balanced dog is one that has its needs fulfilled so that they can fulfill our needs. Not the other way around.
Lastly, all aggressive actions by dogs, charging, nipping, etc should be reported to animal bylaws. You may be lucky and get away without a bite but what about the next person or animal?