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06/03/2011

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bg

I've been unsing an AirZound bike horn on my bikes for 15 years. Some dogs are immune, but most literally flip out. A few years ago an unleashed basset hound ran in front of me and I hit the brakes and the horn. The dog literally did a back flip. The dog owner immediately yelled at me "Hey, don't do that to my dog!" I stopped (foolish) and said "I'm sorry, I'll go around the block and this time I'll be sure to run him over!"

Another time I was barrelling down a residential street at 20-23 mph and two unleashed dogs caught up to me, I hit the horn and they stopped in their tracks.

And once I was stopped at a stop light and a big scary dog leapt out of the back of a pickup truck a few vehicles ahead of me, but luckilly headed across the intersection and towards the highway. I rode up to the oblivious owner and let him know.

The worst though, wasn't even on a bike. I was walking my daughter's little ShiTzu on it's leash at the park and two German Shepherds and two Rotweillers came charging across the grass. I put our little dog inside my jacket as the 4 dogs fought each other to get at the dog inside. Not knowing these dogs I was terrified but managed to free my arm to spray them with pepper spray, which produced no effect except to enrage the owner who came sauntering up despite my screams and yells. "Hey" she shouted, "don't spray my dogs." I told her if I had a gun they'd be dead, and I'm not so sure about you.

My first thought upon encountering a loose dog is "how are their children being raised?"

Tomstrummer

Being both a dog owner and cyclist, I'll point out that this sort of behavior is no different from cyclists who ignore traffic laws, motorists who speed, pedestrians who ignore crosswalks, and smokers who stand in front of signs that read "no smoking within 100 feet of this sign."

People tend to ignore rules when they are inconvenient and the penalty is not more inconvenient.

Jonas

Dog chasing you? dismount, bike between you and the dog, pick up rock, wait for owner, throw rock at owner.

Matt

I'm a daily bike commuter and owner of a medium-sized dog (who like most dogs loses rational thought at the sight of a squirrel!), so I have a couple comments :)

@ Matt (OP) -

Dogs love chasing squirrels, and city dogs hardly ever get to chase squirrels (since no squirrel in its right mind ever goes in a dog park!). I'd bet that these "irresponsible" owners feel bad for their pets and are trying to let them have some fun in what they perceive as a "safe" place. Their anger at you is not justified (since you're following rules and they're not), but they're probably not quite as unthinking as you paint them. Echo Tomstrummer's comment here.


@ BG -

I have to say, I'm with you on the first couple things you mention but don't think you were in the right on the last.

Unless the german shepherds and rotties were exhibiting signs of viciousness on their way over, they probably just wanted to say hi to your dog. I've found that a lot of times, owners of small dogs are unreasonably terrified of big dogs - whereas the small dogs aren't scared at all! If you keep your dog on the ground, they won't jump up on you - and they all get a chance to check each other out in a friendly fashion. Picking your dog up was probably a bad call; spraying the big dogs with pepper spray because they were "big and scary" was an even worse call. The owner was right to be angry at you (though depending on the laws where you were, they maybe were wrong to have the dogs off leash).

On a side note, the worst scenarios I've seen at dog parks have almost all been when an owner of a small dog gets scared and picks their dog up. The dogs all pick up on the nervousness, the small dog yaps at the big dog(s), and the small-dog owner stands a chance of getting knocked down or injured by an excited big dog. If the small dog is allowed to stay on the ground and just be a dog hanging out with other dogs, everything usually works out just fine.

Matt

Another comment on riding and dogs:

Spend some time reading up on dog "emotional" indicators - signs a dog is happy/scared/aggressive/defensive/etc. Alternatively, watch the Dog Whisperer... that'll cover some of the same ground. Being able to tell at a glance the mood of the dog chasing you is incredibly useful - most of the time, it means you can relax (and those times you can't it'll give you some extra warning)!

Jonathan R

According to the NYC Parks and Recreation Department, even when dogs are off leash, they must remain under the control of the owner. In addition, it's "disorderly conduct" for dog owners to let their pets block the path or road in any NYC park. If being hassled by unruly animals is a problem for you, you can always write the local city councilmember for how to resolve the issue.

Leo Horishny

I'm a dog owner and agree with your comments, but 'it's not about the dog'. It's the human factor.

I could share equally stupid observations about horse or cat owners, I assure you ;-)

I don't agree with Matt. When I told a dog trainer I quit going to dog parks because I noticed that my dog was not happy there and was not interested in 'social' behavior with strange dogs, the trainer said to me, 'Good for you. Most dog parks are like recess with unsupervised children running around and a guaranteed way for your dog to pick up negative behaviors (re: owners letting dogs not interact in a responsible manner)'

atom

@Leo - when i had a dog he loved going to the dog-park, but bad dog-owners were sometimes a problem. when other dogs were behaving inappropriately/aggressively i wasn't shy about yelling *NO* while making aggressive eye contact with them, and usually the dog and it's owner left quickly. i have no problem if they think i'm crazy, what's important is that their dog was learning how to behave around me and my dog, and my dog was learning that i'm the alpha by protecting him.

rhino

Even worse than dogs off leash are dogs on long leashes with oblivious owners. I've nearly been garroted a few times now when I failed to see that the person standing on one side of the bike path was actually connected to a dog on the other side of the bike path.

Also, while I like to vent and get this off of my chest, it's also important to remember that part of riding safely is riding at a speed that allows you to react and avoid these situations. Even though the police may find the dog owner eventually responsible for causing your crash, if you're slung up for a few weeks or killed some dog because it was being a dog, you've still lost.

pepperspray

Nice videos..Well as I suppose both the thing is good and important...to ban motor vehicle traffic from Central Park and to focus on banning cigarette smoking on the Hudson River Greenway...

anon

agree with comments that read-- what about the dog that is probably cooped up alone most of the day? My small pooch does awful at dog parks where big dogs in packs bound up to her-- she tends to snap and try to bite them. It's nothing to do with me, I got her after several bad homes and she's a high-strung canine. If she snaps the big dogs generally leave her alone, but then their owners get upset and anyway my dog isn't comfortable. So I prefer places that have off-leash hours before 9 a.m. so she can just run away from big dogs she doesn't want to interact with. Problem is these parks are all 2 miles from my apartment. I don't have time to walk 4+ miles just to let her run around.

I'm also a biker and sympathize with the imperfect system accommodating multiple users. Maybe the bike lanes should be cordoned off by a fence so bikers can zoom as fast as they like. The real problem is inadequate infrastructure for bikes on the roads.

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