“Barking dogs, seldom bite”

If you are a cyclist or a jogger, then getting chased by dogs is something you can’t avoid. I have been chased by dogs frequently. After a few narrow escapes, I have faced them with dignity and have now mastered the art of handling vicious dogs.

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Here are nine ways of tackling dogs when chased:

  1. Get off the bike: When you are on a cycle or running, you may think by speeding-up, you can outrun a dog. Sorry to say, but dogs can often run faster than your thoughts. While that is a matter of debate, keep in mind the other dangers associated with fleeing. Once while cycling, a dog chased me. As a reflex, I sped up as if there was no tomorrow, but unfortunately lost control on the gravel and fell into a gutter. I bruised my knees and elbows. The dog that was chasing me came towards me. “Bhow, bhow, ” he said. He stood right there, and stared at me, wagged his tail, and walked away.
  2. Have a conversation with dogs: Dogs are social animals. We often refer them to as humans’ best friend. Most dogs understand our language perfectly well even when we think they don’t. Now, when I get chased by dogs, I get off my bike and often have a long conversation with them. I explain to them what I am going through, and how I am no different from them. In listening, they often get pacified and finally wag their tail, and walk away.
  3. If a dog is barking at you, bark back: One way to dodge the wrath of dogs when they are barking on top their voice is by barking back and establishing that you are an alpha that can’t be messed with. Establish dominance. Dogs are pack animals and they have an innate need to show their dominance. After all, it’s all about ‘territory’. The reason behind most dogfights or displays of aggression is usually related to guarding their territory. If you listen carefully, there are different types of barks, and each bark has a meaning and purpose. Listen to their barks and notice the nuances in their frequency. Some dogs howl, whereas others give short bursts of barks, and then there are those that don’t bark at all. Understand which dog will bark and which dog will chase. Fear dogs that don’t bark; they mean business.
  4. Follow a rag-picker: For a rag-picker getting chased, or barked at by dogs, is an occupational hazard. Experienced rag pickers across most Indian cities have great wisdom in handling aggressive dogs. In every gully they enter, they invariably get barked at by dogs of different sizes. At times dogs come close to biting them, but most rag pickers stay calm and composed and DO NOT REACT. They often carry a stick or weapon that they use only when the situation gets out of hand. Dogs can sense fear as much as you can. Most Indian dogs have been chased or pelted by neighbouring kids. I remember when I was a child my friends would collect stones on the way back from school and throw them at dogs. The winner was the one whose stone got the loudest yelp. They imbibe the memory of this trauma, and the moment they see a human being with a stick, they get the message to stay away.
  5. Identify areas in your neighbourhood and categorise these areas into low, medium and high-risk areas: Near my workplace and stay, there are three areas where I travel frequently. The ‘Sahakar Nagar’ dogs are relatively friendly. I have categorised this area as a ‘low risk’ area. Then there is the ‘Canara Bank Layout’, where there are a few streets where dog attacks are common. The riskiest area in the neighbourhood is the ‘Judicial Layout’, where I have had a narrow escape on several occasions. I have categorised this area as a ‘high risk’ area. I am always mentally prepared when I have to cycle in these areas. I can also predict which dog will attempt an attack, and which one will only bark from a distance.
  6. Cycle or walk with a friend or group of friends: Unity in numbers. Dogs are pack animals and they understand the meaning of a pack. Dogs often chase people who are travelling alone. If you have an option, then walk, run, or cycle with friends.
  7. Get drunk when you travel the lane frequented by dogs: Thanks to the adrenaline rush that booze provides, it can give you a great sense of courage. No matter how many dogs chase you, you can face them with valour and dignity. Also, dogs can sense when the person is drunk, and they are wary of drunk people as they can often be more dangerous to them than sober people.
  8. Start dancing on the road: Dogs can’t predict uncanny absurd behaviour. Based on their experience, they are expecting you to run for your life when chased. Unexpected dancing on the road can puzzle dogs and the chances of being left alone are higher. But remember, that this should only a last resort. I won’t advise you to resort to dancing unless necessary.

Published by Vardhan Patankar

Email: vardhanpatankar@gmail.com