Dog versus Man

After conquering Caesar’s Head Mountain on Saturday, I stayed up in the mountains and did some climbing in Saluda on Sunday. We are going back to Saluda this weekend so I’ll write more on that later (Garmin link). Instead I’m going to share a story of something interesting that happened on the ride. In hindsight it is quite a funny story, even if it wasn’t very funny at the time.

After riding about 35 miles, most of which were heavy climbing, I headed back to Saluda to resupply my liquids and get a quick bite to eat. At this time I was pretty tired and both of my bottles were empty. I took a leisurely pace back to town.

Maybe a mile outside of Saluda, I took a downhill pretty fast and was getting ready to spin up one of the last remaining hills before town. Right as gravity started to slow me down, where I would usually shift into the lower chain, I heard some loud barking. I looked to my left and immediately saw a mean, frothing dog barreling toward me. He didn’t hesitate. Once he saw me, he decided cyclist was on the lunch menu and he went into attack mode.

I could see he was coming, and coming fast. I knew that if I continued up the hill, I would be going too slow and he would catch me quickly. Instead, I instinctively spun my wheel around and went back down the hill. I pedaled like my life depended on it, constantly looking back to see whether he was still chasing. He was, and to my surprise he was keeping pace. As I hit the hill, I was worried that he might catch me, but he finally tired out.

I stopped at the top of the hill. He stopped at the bottom of the hill. We looked at each other for awhile, a man versus dog staring contest. He finally backed down, gave up and slowly went back to the house he was guarding.

At the time I didn’t think of what type of breed, but after doing some Googling later, I discovered that he was a pit bull. I have encountered dogs a number of times during my travels, and most will respond to loud vocal commands. If I yell “NO!” or “DOWN” they will usually either stop completely or hesitate, allowing me enough time to get out of their reach. I knew that would not be the case with this guy. If anything, that might just agitate him further.

I was perplexed. I absolutely needed to get back to town, but this was the only easy route back. I could have taken an alternate that would loop around for 10 miles. The first 6 of those miles would be easy downhills, but the last four of those would be tough climbing up the Saluda grade. Doing that without water would be impossible. I inched forward down the hill, making sure I had energy to make another getaway in case he gave chase again. As he heard me encroaching, he let out another bark. I scurried away again, and waited, weighing my options.

Meanwhile another dog walked past me. This guy was the polar opposite of my opponent. He was a mutt and seemed friendly, or at least disinterested. He was walking around with a worn out shoe in his mouth. He hardly even acknowledged my presence and I didn’t feel threatened by him in the slightest. He settled on the side of the road, between me and the other dog, who was at this point out of sight at the house.

Around this time two other riders showed up. I flagged them down, told them about the dog, and asked if we could ride through together. Hopefully the three of us could have better luck than just one.

We rode down the hill slowly, conserving energy in case we had to bolt. We kept a watchful eye on the house, nothing happened. The nice dog wandered into the road, still with the shoe in his mouth. The other riders looked and laughed. ‘Is that him?’ ‘No, that’s another dog.’ We kept going and passed the house. The dog wasn’t there. We go on our merry way, leaving the drama behind us. My guess is the owners heard the dog barking and came out to put him up. The road has a lot of bike traffic and they probably do this often on a weekend day.

I talked with the guys on the way back and they gave me a few playful jabs for being afraid of the dog. I think they really thought it was the tame dog that had me so startled, not knowing the bloodthirsty monstrosity that was first after my wheel.

So how do you deal with aggressive dogs on the road?

11 responses to “Dog versus Man

  • Joseph Grant

    I’ve come across my fair share of mutts on the road. I’ve had big ones as well as little ones. Usually a stern “NO” will suffice. I’ve had a couple of times when I have sprayed them with one of my water bottles – that helps but would have not been an option in your situation.

    I remember one particular mutt, he was very small but feisty. This little critter came out in full force, barking and growling. By the time he got to the edge of the road he hit the brakes and slid into my back wheel. Serves him well.

    As far as what to do? Well, I have seriously considered on a number of occasions carrying a small bottle of mace or pepper spray. In a situation like the one you described in today’s entry, I would have probably had no problem dispensing the spray on the dog. Of course the problem with this approach would be the possible fallout from the dong’s owner. It would be interesting to see if others chime in and give their opinion…

    • aaronwest

      Good pojnts. I have thought about bringing some sort of spray with me on solo rides. The last thing I want to do is hurt a dog, but I also need to protect myself. If this dog would have come closer, I probably would have used the water bottle as a weapon or I would have kicked at him. To be frank, I could care less about fallout from the owners. If they are choosing to let their wild dog roam free and become a threat to others, then they should be willing to face the consequences. On a bike we at least have some defense options. What if someone were walking by that house with a baby stroller?

  • Bike Noob

    Like you, I have always been able to get them to back down, or at least hesitate if I sternly yell ” Stay!” I’ve been lucky to never have a really ferocious dog try to take a chunk out of my leg.

    • aaronwest

      Usually that works for me too. I’ll also stand up on the bike and point at them when I say it. Sometimes that will work so well that they’ll run away.

  • Kathrin

    That was a pretty good reaction to the dog. I don’t think I would have thought about turning around.

    I sometimes carry pepper spray, but I wonder if I would react on time. Also, if you are kind of cornered, I heard to get off the bike and put the bike between you and the dog.

    Knock on wood, so far I didn’t have run-ins with dog that scary, but I did see my share of pitbulls, just not as agressive as the one you describe. One time, I was chased by a small breed and a larger breed and the smaller one ended up snapping at my leg, but fortunately only got the shoe cover that opened up in the back… It’s always the little ones. 😉

    • aaronwest

      I have encountered my share of little dogs, but usually they are not quick enough to keep up with the bike.

      I really had no choice than to turn the bike around. If you know Saluda, this was one of the last hills before town and it was about a 8-10% grade. I would have been a sitting duck going up hill, even if I pushed the pace.

  • Two Sundays in Saluda «

    […] to Saluda, but it was also steep. To make matters worse, there was another dog (not the same one discussed here) who gave chase while I was on a 15% incline. Fortunately there was enough distance for me to gun […]

  • trey powell

    This is not an easy answer. I am a dog lover myself but I also believe that there are people that don’t deserve to own a dog. My typical defense for a loose dog is to drop the hammer and ride directly at him (if he is already in the road) and scream NOOOOOOO in the loudest and deepest voice I can muster. This will cause the dog to pause and or take a step or two back while I fly by at 30mph. Then they usually chase me till they realize that they’re not going to catch me and give up. While this has worked many times I have always worried about having this happen on an incline. These encounters make me angry and I typically spend the next few miles cursing and longing to go back and shoot the dog and the owner. I recently had so many close encounters that I started carrying HALT dog repelant. It would appear that somehow the dogs know that I have it?????? So far, everytime I have carried it… No dog incidents have occured… Everytime I forget it… I have several… Go figure. A friend of mine, John Quinn was nearly killed last year when he hit a dog going 40 mph on a downhill section of Blood Sweat and Gears. I have those pictures of him and all of his woons burned into my memory. Yuck! Lastly, I don’t feel ANY remorse at all for the stupid owners who let these dogs run free. I have envisioned many senerios where I have maced a dog and then got off the bike and knocked on the door and maced the idiot who owns it. Then I drag him into his own front yard and beat the crap out of him… 🙂 Sorry, I guess that comes from too much alone time on the bike… 🙂 There’s my 2 cents. I am going to enroll in anger management class now… LOL

    • aaronwest

      Heh, don’t hold back now, Trey! Pretty much preaching to the choir. I also know of someone who wrecked into a dog, broke some bones and his bike. Some crappy dog owners out there.

      I noticed on this last trip that the pit bull was still there. He was pacing back and forth angrily. Fortunately I caught him on the downhill at 30+ mph and he didn’t have time to react. Still, that beast should not be loose.

  • Rick Finnin

    A good friend of mine, whom we all call “The Dog Whisperer” because he can get along with any dog ha encounters. Except one. He was recently attacked on an incline, was bitten and dismounted. Keeping the bike between him and the dog he got to the door of a nearby trailer. A guy came out, grabbed the dog and went back in. Never said a word to my friend despite his repeated attempts to talk to him.

    After getting treated he called Animal Control. He had to find out about rabies shots. The AC guy immediately got hold of the man and got the info (fortunately the dog had its shots).

    The point of the story is that the AC guy said if any dog goes off it’s property you can go after the owner. The dog can be removed and owner even fined or sued depending on circumstances.

    I don’t know if this is true everywhere but sounds logical. In your case I think I might have contacted either the police or animal control to complain. I think a pit bull is a lethal weapon.

    • aaronwest

      Thanks for the comment. Very interesting story. I have heard a number like it and agree that aggressive dogs should be reported.

      I may not have mentioned this in my post, but I was trying to call the police when the other riders came along. In hindsight, I probably should have called animal control.

      I have been by the same house now three times since this incident. The first time I was coming the other way and going fast downhill. I saw the dog close to the house and he looked to be pacing, but he may have been chained up. He didn’t chase. The other two times he was not there. As popular as this route is for cyclists, I have a feeling there have been other incidents and hopefully the owners are more responsible now.

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