Traditionally, dogs have enjoyed chasing the delivery man on his bicycle or the paperboy on his rounds. It becomes a game the dog anticipates as a routine visit is expected. Many dogs are already sitting waiting for the sound of the bicycle or the drop of the paper. They are compelled to react to this event by barking or by chasing the cyclist as he passes by. This is a bit of fun for the dog but not so entertaining for the cyclist. Perhaps you have had a complaint about your dog’s obsession with the cyclist or maybe this behavior is beginning to get out of hand. Chasing bicycles is getting more intense and your dog now looks to every bicycle for a chase exercise. What you need to know is how this behavior is triggered, remember dogs are not bred to chase bikes.
The Root of the Behavior
Chasing bikes feeds the predatory nature of your dog. The dog’s chase mentality is alerted by something moving faster than himself and that sets off his prey drive. Chasing often becomes the outlet for a bored dog. The bicycle flying by with whirring wheels and a cyclist is just too much to resist. Bicycles come in different sizes and perhaps your dog’s initial interest in bicycle wheels started with running after a child’s bike in the garden. Cute and funny at the time but this is a behavior that should not be encouraged. The dog’s attention will be focused on bigger and better bikes as it grows older and the challenge of changing the behavior becomes more difficult. Start with obedience training when your puppy or young dog is ready to learn to sit, stay, and come when called. A positive response to the recall command with your dog is a great way to stop the chasing and get your dog to return to you. Rewards and praise for good behavior will reinforce the action you have taken.
Chasing bikes probably feeds the playful nature of young dogs. The wheels going round, the speed of the bicycle, and the fact that the bike is moving away leads the dog to believe this is part of the chase and the game is on. Unfortunately, the cyclist does not know that this may just be a game and could lash out with a nasty kick to distract your dog and avoid a bite. Now chasing bikes is linked with some measure of fear and your dog has a different perception of the moving bicycle. Fear and territorial protection could now become the reason behind chasing bikes.
When you are out and about with your ‘bike chaser,’ make sure you have control over your dog with a lead and special treats to divert attention away from the bicycle and on you! Find stimulating activities for the dog that likes to give chase. Tracking, search and rescue, and even dog carting could be great activities for a dog obsessed with wheels. Attach your dog calmly to the toy cart and try out this activity. Suddenly, your dog is at the helm of the wheeled vehicle and responsible for pulling the cart along. Carting is a sporting activity for dogs so you could investigate this as an option to work with your dog and his desire to chase wheels.
Encouraging the Behavior
Dogs that enjoy chasing bicycles are clearly your high-energy prey-driven variety. A dog that needs lots of exercise finds chasing a bike very satisfying. If your dog falls into this category, perhaps he will actually enjoy running with a bike! Well, ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ may be a change of focus that could turn an obsessive behavior into a favorite outdoor activity. There are many dog owners that have successfully combined their love of dogs and cycling into one enjoyable activity. Running with a bicycle instead of chasing it could be a solution but will need patience and time spent on changing the dog’s view of bicycles. There are special leashes for this activity and there could be other bikers in your area happy to help if you want to try this route. It is always important to have your dog under control. Exercising with bicycles will provide a high-energy activity but can only be a success if your dog is comfortable with bicycles and fit to accompany you. It is a great way to enjoy a hiking trail or cycle through open areas without the danger of other traffic. Safety for you and your dog is always top priority. The dog that chases bicycles for fun can probably be rehabilitated to work with you and not lose focus as you initiate other activities. If chasing bicycles has its roots in fear or a desire to protect then changing the behavior will be more challenging. Trying to change behavior patterns may need the help of a professional depending on the severity of the unwanted activity.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Starting out as a fun little nip and chase activity chasing bicycles can escalate into fanatical behavior. Triggered by the innate instinct to chase something that is moving, the bicycle becomes the prey or the play object that is up for grabs. This is why bicycle chasing should not be encouraged and as soon as you realize it is a problem, you should change your dog’s focus to something else and get his attention on you. Reward the behavior you favor and divert your dog’s attention from the moving bicycle he is now becoming obsessed with. If you see training with bicycles as an option, then look out for groups of like-minded cyclists to get you going. The chase and the bicycle could go hand in hand with a positive outcome. Whatever your personal feelings are, chasing bicycles cannot be ignored and finding a way to deter this behavior is necessary if you plan to take your dog out on walks or continue to have your paper delivered to the door!
Now that you have the background to dogs and their relationship with bicycles, you will be more informed about where your dog fits into the picture. Perhaps you like the idea of dealing with a bicycle phobia by facing it head on with your dog and a bike ride. There is nothing like a positive approach and who knows it could be the start of a ‘Paw de France’ for other enthusiastic cyclists and their dogs!