I was over in Woodstock last week working with a new Home Dog Training client and her Catahoula named Jasper. Her biggest issue was Jasper’s constant jumping on anything and habit of running out the front door the moment it was even cracked open. We addressed those issues pretty quickly. She was really excited with what she learned that day and how Jasper responded.
As we were finishing up, she mentioned that she had another “dog problem”, but it wasn’t with Jasper. She explained that she loved to ride her bike through the neighborhood, but many of the “loose neighborhood dogs” would always run after her when she rode by. She wondered if I had any ideas on how she could have a calm and enjoyable bike ride when all the neighborhood dogs seem to be “on the lookout for her”.
I explained that this was one of my favorite “doggie issues”. The reason for this is because I had the exact same problem when I was a kid riding my bike through the neighborhood to visit my friends. I went on to explain that all dogs naturally like to play “tag, you are it”. This is one of the natural submissive/dominance games that they constantly play as puppies to learn appropriate canine socialization.
When we ride our bike past them when they are sitting in their yard or on the front porch, we are unknowingly initializing a game of “doggie tag”. Since we are riding off, our role in the game becomes “get me” and their role in the game is “I will get you”. With that said, “here they come”. We speed up to get away and are, unknowingly, encouraging the dogs to run faster to catch and tag us.
Once I became a dog trainer many, many years ago, I decided to find a way to address my “childhood issue”. After several bike rides in neighborhoods with lots of “energetic dogs”, I came up with a plan. Here is what I did:
- As you are on your bike and come up to some neighborhood dogs, decrease your speed. Try to go as slow as you can without falling over. If possible, coast and not peddle. Look straight ahead and proceed past them very slowly while paying no attention to them. The dogs will see that you are not adrenalized and are not trying to engage them. The body language that you are now giving off is telling them that you are simply passing through. Since you are not engaging them, they will probably not engage you.
- As with people, some dogs just don’t take “No” for an answer. If the dog starts to run towards you, do the one thing that you probably have never thought of. Slow your bike down and come to a stop. Now that you are no longer moving, you have removed the “I want to play” language from your actions. Most dogs will accept this signal but continue to approach. Since you have removed any adrenaline from the interaction, that will cause them to stay calm too. You will normally see their tails wagging. They may also engage in a few “hello” barks. Stay calm and don’t focus on them as this is taking place. They will quickly see that you are boring and aren’t any fun. They should now return to their yard or front porch. As the saying goes, “every party needs one”, and you have become the party pooper.
- Some dogs are just nasty. Even though responsible dog owners shouldn’t let these dogs loose to roam the neighborhood, we all have at least “one of those dog owners” in the neighborhood. These dogs will normally take an aggressive posture towards you as you come into their line of sight. They will be jumping, showing their teeth, portraying a tense body tone with raised fur, uncontrollably barking, and lunging. This is not good. Immediately stop and get off your bike. Put the bike between you and the dog. Remain calm and still so that the dog does not perceive any aggressive action on your part. Slowly back away, continuing to display that you are non-aggressive and uninterested. Your slow departure from the dog’s perceived territory and lack of interaction will gradually cause the dog to lose interest and go back to his other activities.
- I now often go for bike rides where there are loose dogs in the immediate vicinity. I still use these techniques from time to time. I can clearly state that they really work. I wish I had thought of those things when I was a kid riding my bike to my friends’ homes.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over seventeen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.