Dogs and Humans have been friends from many centuries. Unlike any other animal, humans are more comfortable to share love, space, food and even toys with dogs. In urban cities, people adopt dogs and offer free shelter despite high real estate cost. Some dogs are fortunate to enjoy facilities like open spaces and gardens in the backyard of farm houses in the country sides. There are affluent owners who invest hundreds of dollars for grooming their pets. They get to live in luxurious villas and travel in Limousines and SUV’s. Many famous celebs and businessmen keep pets for status symbol. So their pets have to match their lifestyle and stay high on grooming standards to remain photogenic. This modern culture of pet care has resulted in opening up of new business avenues as we see many pet clinics and hospitals, cafes, parlors, pet sitting, training and adoption centers flourishing around us. Its commercialization has also resulted in professions like instagram influencers who are seen in photos and videos with their pets and earn millions for sponsored posts. Sensitive to the needs of dogs some designers have introduced clothing, footwear and fashion accessories. And there are events and recreation companies who organize dog parties, fashion shows and talent competitions where they receive all the pampering and crowd attention. Prizes are awarded to winning performances in such events and owners take pride on their pet achievements. If the event catches media attention some dogs get lucky and make it to news headlines on television, news papers, magazines and social platforms. Movie production houses and casting directors have made films with dogs as protagonist in the past. Characters like 101 Dalmatians, Scrappy – Doo and Pluto to name a few went onto become household names.
It is evident that our society has given enough importance to dogs and every opportunity has been passed on to them to make a mark. However, not all dogs have a similar lifestyle as some are neglected leading to behavioral issues. The ones who get trained by their masters remain calm and cordial. Others with limited exposure to systematic training or social surroundings display aggressive behavior. Reasons could be loneliness, depression, survival instinct or something else. The restlessness and anger is more visible in stray dogs. So probability of conflict with humans increases. But these are my assumptions and I may be wrong. Not everyone thinks likewise. To understand views of other cyclists and their encounters with dogs I reached out to the cycling community on social media and here is what they had to say.
I posted a question Why Dogs Chase Cyclist? on Bicycle World – a facebook group for cycling community and the responses were quirky, real and kept rolling.
“My dog chases people on bikes. Had to take my dog’s bike away” – Daneil Grunberg.
“I rode past a sheep farm once and had a Great Pyrenees hit the side of my velomobile at a full run. (Alleweder A3) I was going about 15 mph at the time. It moved the velomobile sideways a couple of feet. The hit was shoulder high. Luckily my shoulder was inside and pressed against the aluminum body. It would have cracked fiberglass or carbon fiber. I hate to think what it would have done on my recumbent trike or bike. The dog was doing a good job of protecting his territory and flock. He was unhurt except for a headache” – Milton Cocke.
“They look tasty” – Scott Hoppe.
“Dogs are territorial. In my teens I rode my bike to deliver newspapers after school. One day a small dog ran up to me and barked furiously. The owner stepped onto the back porch, whistled, yelled, “Get back here!” The dog ran back to the porch. The next day the dog confronted me again. I whistled and yelled, “Get back here.” and the dog ran back to the porch. It did not bother me again” – Grant Connor.
“Love the dogs Just stop and talk to them and they roll over. No more chase. All good” – Paul Ardill.
“In the Netherlands cyclist do not often get chased by dogs because dogs are used to bicycles” – Auke Van Andel.
“Because their humans train them not to chase cyclists. Both dogs and people are polite in the Netherlands” – Ruth Miller.
“Their owners need training! Whoever released them into the wild requires training/correcting. Depends on the dog I suppose. If it presented a real threat I might kill it. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t. Most dogs are quite shy if you get them good the first time” – Mat Flint.
“During my initial cycling days, I can recall an instance of a dog coming behind me. I was so frightened and made a loud call to my friend and immediately stopped on his advice. I didn’t knew how to react until others joined and the dog went away. In another instance a dog came running from left side of the road compelling me to move on the centre and I failed to realize that a car was approaching from behind. I was anxious with shivering hands and luckily escaped a crash. Talking about this situation with my friends helped me gain insights on how to tackle the situation. Now I am more relaxed on seeing them as I smile and slowdown. I feel just giving them a look calms them a little. A gentle hand on their forehead also works” – Firoza Suresh.
“I think a dog when chasing a vehicle that’s in front of me and in that same mood the dog comes after the very next vehicle i.e. the cycle. That’s what happened to me, same dog chases me some days other days doesn’t” – Tarun Mishra.
“The only thing which puts me off cycling in Crete is that in remote places farm/house/villa owners have vicious sounding dogs – mostly tied up but with blood curdling barks – occasionally a small Jack Russell will be out on the road and they jump up and bite at your ankles and tyres – scary!!” – Ruth Mayorcas.
“This is Thailand – home to the nastiest dogs i ever saw.
(follow up comment) After posting this we were chased by three lap dogs when we rode home from dinner” – Gary Jackson.
“Once I was riding a tandem with my daughter (she was 8 then) and the husky dog joined us. I looked at his face – he was smiling. He joined us for pure joy of run. But some canines are vicious” – Marek Utkin.
“Predator vs Prey – dogs tend to fear my velomobile…it is a land shark” – Jason Dubin.
“They never chase me, I stop to say hello to them” – Samuel Vande Casteele.
The above testimonials coming from cyclists themselves makes a strong case against dogs. They certainly like to confront humans. However, there are no statistics to prove them guilty. A contrary view reveals that in places like Netherlands, dogs are disciplined and live in harmony with humans. Hence, I am being a little more neutral and shall make further attempt to understand this case to give them a fair trial. More investigation and insights continues in Chapter 3.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai