Runners & Cyclists & Dogs

Many dogs chasing cyclistDogs and their owners, runners and cyclists often share the same sidewalks, streets and trails – but who has the right of way when they meet?

Dogs bark and chase and sometimes they bite.  Runners try to run faster.  Cyclists just pedal away.  But too often, a nasty encounter occurs.  Here are some guidelines to help everyone share-the-road without incident.

Dogs can be extremely quick to attack.  Watch this 0:31 second video of how fast a dog attacks a cyclist.  Yahoo News

dog_chasing_cyclistTIPS FOR RUNNERS & CYCLISTS:

  • Warn the dog owner that you are approaching.
  • Runners – shout “on your right/left.”
  • Cyclist – use a bell to alert the dog owner.
  • If there is no leash on the dog, ask the owner to control the dog.
  • Approach the dog slowly and give a wide berth.
  • Don’t assume the dog owner has control of the dog.
  • Be polite – thank the dog owner for controlling the dog.


  • Always keep the dog on a short leash – not a retractable leash.
  • Be alert for approaching persons and dogs.
  • Enroll in an obedience class for dogs that are prone to chase.


  • Stop running and stand stationary with your arms pulled in to your body.
  • Avoid staring at the dog and look to the side.
  • Once the dog has calmed down you can back away slowly.
  • Avoid turning your back on the dog.
  • If the dog attacks, drop/throw a piece of clothing for the dog to grab instead of you.
  • In all cases avoid screaming and flailing like wounded prey.
  • Report the incident to your local law animal control authority.

A FINAL WORD – No dog gets one-free-bite.  Tennessee law requires the dog owner to keep the dog 1) under reasonable control (use a leash) and 2) from running at large (no loose dogs).

Jonathan Stephens lives in East Nashville and has been practicing general civil law for over 20 years.  He is a member of the Executive Council of the Tennessee Bar Association Animal Law Section.  Mr. Stephens is available for speaking engagements and dog law questions.  He may be contacted at

The content in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.  Contacting an attorney does not create an attorney-client relationship.  If you need specific legal advice for a case or potential case, you should retain and attorney directly rather than relying on this article.





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