Love Me Love My Dog?
Early morning, just after sunrise, it’s still cool and quiet, not much (if any) traffic on the road, cycling goes smoothly, a light breeze provides even more enjoyment.
On moments like that, cycling becomes a kind of meditation, pedaling steadily, until… suddenly out of nowhere a 4-legged monstrosity comes racing after you, barking like mad and aiming for your feet/ankles!
It’s a very rude disturbance of a previously incredibly peaceful bicycle trip…
Barking dogs don’t bite is an old expression but I’ve encountered the odd exception unfortunately.
Whereas having a dog in Holland is subject to a series of strict laws, here in Thailand it’s much more fluid.
Stray dogs - both in temples and on streets - are at times being fed by well-meaning locals, but not much else is being done with the result that their number increases.
The only reason these 2 behaved was because of Spiderman in the back...
Rabies being still an issue here and lots of stray dogs is an unpleasant combination to say the least.
In the countryside dogs are usually kept for guarding property which is all nice and well but the definition of property often includes the public road in front and surroundings as well!
Temple dogs don't cause the monks any problems because they usually receive food from them.
I seldom see dogs being kept on a leash, most are allowed to wander around freely…
To be fair most dogs are happy doing their dog business without bothering humans, although some go through the motions of being aggressive and just bark a few times.
But just now and then a few go berserk and think they’re canine versions of Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Barkinator anyone?).
Barking mad welcome committee at Wat Ket Prayong
By being allowed to run around on roads they also can cause accidents, years ago I had one suddenly jumping back in front of my bike causing me to crash and I’m not the only one who experienced such a ‘dogcident’.
Last month I was happily cycling on a quiet countryside road passing a farm when one of their dogs noticed me almost too late. To make up for it, the idiot animal started running at full speed only focusing on me without paying attention to oncoming traffic and smacked straight into the car that had just passed me, it gave a most satisfying sound!
Local dog gangsters behaving well for a change...
I’m not anti-dog, on the contrary, we’ve had dogs as pets, all fine, but as a cyclist my feelings are much less positive!
Protecting oneself against dog attacks while cycling isn’t easy as I have discovered over the years.
- Having a stick is rather clumsy and can work the wrong way, some dogs may get more aggressive.
- Escaping by cycling away fast might work with a 156 gear super-duper mountain bike, but certainly is no option for my 6 speed folding Dahon Dream, dogs outrun me easily. Plus you actually encourage them to chase you!
- Not tried but read about: offering snacks(!), spray water, or use a loud horn
- Reviews about dog whistles or similar electronic devices are a mixed bag.
- Pepper spray might be an option but I wonder how close you need the dog to get before spraying…
- The most unusual suggestion was offered by Dahon (on their blog, see the link!); get off your bike and quickly unfasten the saddle post, pull that out and use it as a ‘defense weapon’ (I’m not making this up!).
- Face the dog and stand still, yes that makes kind of sense except for the fact that they’re already behind you snapping at your feet…
By now I’m more thinking in the lines of a 'pantzer version', but apparently there are some legal issues with this approach.
Besides that, the portable and foldable aspects will probably become a bit compromised as well...
Alternative idea; I rubbed my legs liberally with tiger balm, hoping that the strong smell (& taste!) would scare dogs away, but no such luck. After cycling for 40 minutes or so any effect of the balm had evaporated and this dog gave me a few licks without exploding into a fireball as I had hoped, bummer!
Nowadays I usually cycle twice a day (early morning & late afternoon) and on average have 2 to 3 dog encounters/chases/attacks a week…
I’ve been told several times to avoid certain roads but it is highly unpredictable, most days those roads are fine, except just once and a while…
Sometimes local people tell me to avoid certain stretches due to an owner having หมาดุ (vicious dog) and I follow their advice.
However it remains rather outrageous that you’re being warned about possible dog attacks on public lanes/roads, we’re not talking about trespassing on private property!
Smart dog enjoying the shop's air conditioning!
In general there are 4 dog groups;
1. Ignore - these dogs completely ignore people and happily continue with whatever they’re doing. In general this is luckily the largest group!
2. Confront - you’ve entered their territory and they start barking in front of you, e.g. at temples, with luck it doesn’t go beyond that.
3. Chase - either just a bit with a few barks for showing off, but others continue running and at times I could feel their noses touching my leg for a second or so, scary!
4. Attack - usually a continuation from chasing and they seriously try to bite the shit out of you...
The first time I got bitten was while cycling on one of those elevated concrete foot/bike paths, just behind our mooban, I’ve been there countless times without any dog problems.
Weirdly enough, it was a familiar dog sitting there, I even slowed down to pass it, but it still put its teeth in my shoe!
Luckily the dog’s owner was there, apologized profusely, drove me straight to the hospital for a rabies shot and took care of the bills, amazing indeed!
The second time was a close call, I was in Bangkok about to visit Jim Thompson House in Soi Kasem San 2 when the front door of a nearby apartment complex opened and a ferocious dog came running out.
As the gate was open the monster ran into the soi and began to bite a Thai man!
Next, he tried to attack me but I managed to avoid that by kicking it hard.
His second attempt was stopped by its owner who finally showed up saying ‘ขอโทษ’ (sorry) many times…
The third time was last month while cycling through a quiet lane when another blasted dog appeared suddenly behind my bike and managed to scrape my leg with its teeth…
A Thai lady - carrying a big stick(!) - saw what happened, but told me she had no idea whose dog it was…
And last week I went for a walk in the neighborhood when from an abandoned market area 3 dogs came from behind and attacked me.
One managed to get its teeth in my leg with bloody results…
I just got 2 rabies shots after the last bite, expensive treatment, altogether 7000+ baht!
However any dog that bites me has an uncertain future, after 12 chemo treatments, 1 Astrazeneca jab and countless dubious drugs over a period of 62+ years, I’m sure my system is pretty poisonous for sure!
Perhaps unnecessary to mention, but the above again clearly shows why cats are superior! No cat has ever chased me while cycling (or walking), certainly not tried to bite me. On the contrary, the cats I encounter on my rides (and walks) usually completely ignore me or perhaps look at me in mild surprise while thinking ‘why is this silly human even bothering?!’.