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Gear Prudence: Whenever I go to inflate my bike’s tires, my dog lunges towards the bike and tries to bite the tires. She’s a really sweet dog and in no way aggressive, and this seems really out of character. Is the noise of inflating tires bothersome to dogs? Is she scared of it for some reason? I love my dog and don’t want pumping my tires to be stressful for her, so how do I get her not to do this? —What Other Options Follow?
Dear WOOF: Over the years, GP has picked up punctures almost every way imaginable, but not once from the canines of a canine. This whole scenario sounds distressing for both you and your pup, but she could just be trying to help. Maybe she’s sniffed out that you’re overinflating your tires and is doing her best to stop you before suboptimal PSI hampers your riding experience. Does your dog spend a lot of time reading cycling message boards? Did you adopt her from Jan Heine? Or is she, like you said, just scared?
That’s what it sounds like to Dr. Heather McCurdy, a veterinarian at AtlasVet and a year-round bike commuter. “The owner’s action of pumping and/or the noise it creates may cause his dog to see the pump as a scary threat,” she tells GP. “The pump could also be stimulating predatory behavior. Regardless, if he wants to eliminate the behavior he will need to first desensitize her to the pump itself, and then to him using it.”
The best way to achieve this is through positive reinforcement. Treat and praise your dog when she successfully interacts with the pump. It will be a progressive process that’ll take a some time and practice. Once the dog feels more comfortable around the pump itself, you can work on getting her more used to the pumping motion and associated noises. If there’s someone else in the house, one of you can raise and lower the pump handle while the other person praises the dog and gives her treats. McCurdy emphasizes that you always want to make it a positive experience and you never want to force the pump onto your dog. Like all things cycling, patience and repetition will lead to the best results.
Of course, there’s another solution and it’s pretty straightforward: stop inflating your tires in front of your dog! Either you or she can go into a different room. This doesn’t really address the underlying issue of your dog reacting to the pump, but it does stop the immediate problem of your dog freaking out and you freaking out about your dog freaking out. But while this is simpler and more expedient, it also robs you of some fun bonding time together, so GP thinks you should invest the the effort to try to sort it out. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets at @sharrowsDC. Got a questions about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.