|It took a while, but the confrontation with these two farm dogs in Kansas was successfully diffused....and I lived!|
I've ridden thousands of miles of gravel in many states and I have had encounters with dogs from all over. So, I feel that I have enough knowledge of the subject that I can pass along a few tidbits that probably will come in handy for many people.
Now before I go any further, yes- I have had some really mean, nasty dog encounters. I've been cornered on a hilltop at night by an Australian Shepherd in Benton County, I've been nearly bitten by a large, black mutt in Bremer County, and I had the encounter, pictured to the left here, in Kansas last year- a Great Pyrenees and a shepherd of unknown lineage gave me no quarter. However; I can also say that I've never been bitten either. Nipped at- yes. Never bitten.
|A dog giving chase at the Renegade Gent's Race|
Don't Ride Alone: I've found many dogs, not all mind you, but many, will not give chase if there is a group of people. They will bark, come out on the road, but they aren't usually going to come after you if you are "in the herd". Generally the dog will stop at the end of its perceived territory and that will be that. But there are the occasional mutts that think the group is for play time, and the dog may follow you or even frolic around within your group. This kind of dog usually means no harm, but they are no less dangerous. They can easily cause a crash. Generally by stopping and giving a strong "Go Home!" command you can rid yourself of the unwanted companion. Or not. I've had dogs follow for miles, just happy to run. Oh well..........
Don't Be Afraid: Outwardly showing fear just seems to egg mutts onward as if they can sense that their "prey" is "on the run". Dogs are instinctual. Don't act like prey animals! Showing fear isn't helpful to your situation, at any rate. It clouds thinking and your amped up voice will, in the very least, only excite the mutt further. Be assertive, but don't be afraid. (At least until afterward!)
When You Are Alone: I often ride alone, so dogs are a bit bolder when it comes to single targets. I ALWAYS scan farm yards I am approaching for movement. Dogs will try to cut you off at an angle of pursuit that intersects with your direction of travel that matches up with their speed. Go faster, you can disrupt that angle in your favor, but keep in mind- dogs are fast. Bigger dogs are faster! I've had to go at speeds of upwards of 25mph to ditch medium sized mutts. A big dog like a German Shepherd or a Pinscher can easily go faster than that for short bursts. Smaller dogs with shorter legs can even go pretty fast, so gauge your reserves and situation accordingly. Downhill with a tailwind? Outrun that dog. It's fun! I call it "Dog Sprinting". But what if you cannot outrun that mutt?
|Short legged dogs like this Corgi are easy to outrun, but watch out! They can still cause you to crash!|
I don't allow the dog the chance to intersect me in his line of pursuit. I stop immediately, get off my bike, and put the bike between myself and the charging dog. Probably 90% of the time that is all it takes. Here's an example that happened just last weekend on Aker Road.
I got off my bike and this big, probably 70lb-80lb dog was barking, running back and forth up along its property line, and would have pursued me had I tried out running it. I spoke kindly to it until I felt I could walk along the far side of the road. All the while I spoke to it. He came out on the road way once, but that was early on. The more I spoke to it the less amped the dog was. I felt I was going to be able to walk past its territory easily until the owner heard all the commotion, called the dog, and the dog ran back to the house. By that time I was nearly home free anyway.
Now there are the other 10% of cases. The Kansas duo, above, took me about 20 minutes to "talk down off the edge" before I could remount. In fact, the image I took shows them wandering back to the house, having decided I wasn't a threat.
Sometimes you will get the dog calmed down, it will look good, then the owner yells and the dog figures they now must protect their person at all costs. Back to square one! In those cases, I have had to stand there till the owner came right out on the road to get the dog. I've run across hundreds of dogs, and I think this has happened three times.
|There was that one time I was chased by cats. Really!|
One is "The Command". I've seen a few folks use this to great effect. A stern, loud, "Go Home!", or "No!" can dissuade a dog and send them back to the house.
I've heard that tossing a dog a treat can also get a dog to calm down, although you may end up with a traveling companion for several miles! This tactic was put to good effect at Trans Iowa one year by Sarah Cooper, the well known ultra-distance cyclist.
You could also employ the ever popular "squirt the water bottle in the face" technique, although I've never seen that done or heard that it actually was effective.
Finally, while it may seem really weird, I have disoriented dogs by actually barking back at them. Admittedly, I've been told that I have a rather convincing bark. So, that may not be a good alternative for everyone!
Got any good tactics for dealing with farm dogs? Tell me in the comments!