Thursday, September 24, 2009

When a dog is not your best friend

The Canine Pedefish Incident is still weighing on my mind, and I've been thinking a lot about dogs.

Last night on my way home, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye as something darted across a lawn on my right. I didn't see it clearly, and I thought to myself, "Dang! Big squirrel."

But then I saw more movement, and the thing had circled around behind me as was running along side me on my left.


I laughed at it and scolded it and told it to go home, which—once sufficiently embarrassed—it did.

Sometimes, though, being chased by a dog is obviously not a trifling matter.

You're not likely to ever encounter a pit bull in Denver, but if something equally large and especially mean is chasing you (Labrador, German Shepherd, Doberman, Large Mutt), it can be very scary. And quite dangerous.

The thing that's often easy to forget at the moment is that it's not a good idea to indulge the dog's "fight" and "chase" instincts by sprinting away. It's better to stand your ground and fight back in some way.
  • Scream and yell at the dog. Call it names, call it a Bad Dog. Shame it and haze it.

  • Ring your bell and blow your horn at it.

  • Squirt it in the face with water from your bottle.

  • If you can do it safely (as in the instance of me vs. chihuahua) quickly dismount (on the side opposite the dog), position your bike between you and the dog, and start chastising at it.

  • Mace/pepper spray. (Maybe not a bad idea to carry some anyway if you're going to be riding around by yourself at night.)

  • If you're in danger, kick the dog. Don't worry about the stigma attached to dog kicking. Worry about getting mauled by an aggressive dog.

  • If you have an air pump on your frame, grab it and take a swing.

  • I don't think I could find it in my heart to U-Lock a dog unless it's a "his life or mine" situation, but if that is the case, take a U-Lock to the dog.

And don't forget that you have the option of always keeping some bacon in your pocket to throw as a distraction!

The list above obviously progresses from best case scenario to worst case scenario. From what I've read and from second hand accounts, most dogs will hesitate and falter if you make lots of big noises at them.

And, just so you know, almost all pet-related fines and fees in Denver, including off-leash fines, are scheduled to go way up pretty soon.

"Unlicensed animals would incur penalties of $75, $100 and $200, and failure to pick up animal waste is punishable by fines of $150, $250 & $500.
The fine for an off-leash dog would be $80 for a first violation, $150 for a second, and $300 for subsequent breaches. The penalties for un-spayed or un-neutered pets are $250, $550 and $999, and those for animal cruelty are the most severe at $300, $700 and $999."

So it it's always the same dog at the same house that's chasing you on your way home from work everyday, for the love of Bob, call the police. Maybe a hefty fine will get that pet owner to take a little responsibility for their dog.

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