My two-year-old Jack Russell Terrier has a strong dislike for cyclists, and we have quite a few of them on the road where we live. He will bark, spin and lunge at them as they go past. Any advice would be appreciated, as I’m worried he will hurt himself – or cause an accident – if this behaviour persists.
Nick Jones advises…
To address this, you first need to ensure that you have safe physical control of your dog, so I would suggest a snug neck collar, along with a body harness that can be used with a double-ended lead. Clip one end of the lead to his neck collar, and the other to the harness. You can use a head or body harness as you prefer, but I would suggest a body harness in this instance.
Start off at a level that is achievable – in other words, a time of day when the street is not too busy, and a location where there is space to stand back from the roadside – so that you set yourself and your dog up for success. You will then require a good pile of the highest-value treats you can find, while keeping it healthy. Cooked meats would be a good option. Keep your initial training sessions short and sweet, and feed him generously each time a cyclist begins to approach, goes past you, and rides on into the distance. If you find your dog is too reactive, move further away from the roadside.
When he begins to improve and cope a little better, and will feed from your hand happily, you can then reduce the distance to the kerb – and also, later on, aim to be out at a busier time of day when there are likely to be more cyclists around. Take time each day to create a structured, safe training session, whereby you are effectively building your dog’s self-control, and desensitising him to cyclists in the process.
You could also enlist the help of a friend with a bicycle. Meet at a quiet location, and ask your friend to slowly and quietly cycle past at a distance your dog can cope with; gradually coming closer – or cycling a little faster – as his confidence grows.