|Like a bullet! Dogs are part of gravel riding. Get used to it.|
NOTE: I wrote a pretty comprehensive post about dogs and country riding in 2018 which you can read HERE. This post will be about some additional thoughts I have had since that time.
Dogs. They are a part of riding in the country- paved, gravel, or dirt roads, and even in towns and cities. Legendary tales of mean dogs and feats of speed are told every year around this time. Ever notice that it seems to be that late Winter and early Spring are the worst times for this? I mean, I almost never hear about dog issues in late Summer and Fall. ("Almost never" means it happens, just not as often.)
Dogs are cooped up, left with little to do in the Mid-West for months. What do you expect they want to do once the weather breaks? I'd be chasing you if I were a dog after sitting around in negative wind chill Iowa for two months straight! Bark!
So, I think I would suggest that you should expect to have to deal with dogs on gravel rides- especially in Spring. I am always on the alert when I come across a country abode and I scan the area for a dog. Many times the barking will alert you to a dog's presence, but believe me- the silent attacks are the worst- and to detect a dog you need to be aware. Generally they almost always are around houses and barns. Rarely if ever will you have issues with aggressive dogs away from properties. So, whenever you pass a property, you need to be sitting up and scanning the area.
Dogs can and will be seen out away from properties, but almost always these are benign encounters. The dog can be a issue because of getting in the way, but I've rarely had an aggressive dog away from a property.
|I rarely, if ever, see dogs in empty country. |
Secondly, I have noted a lot of people recounting dog encounters that were negative and there is no mention of stopping. If you don't stop, you will perpetuate the 'prey instinct' dogs have which is triggered by your movements on a bicycle and by the speed you are traveling at. Legs moving up and down and speed are two triggers to a dog's embedded instinct to hunt herd animals. You will not break them out of this until you stop and dismount. Many times the dog's demeanor changes so drastically at that point when you dismount that it can be comical. But whether or not the dog is disoriented by this, you need to be willing to stop and dismount, place the bike between you and the dog, and be patient.
Trying to outrun a dog is usually a great way to end up getting bitten. Dogs live for this. They are hard-wired to hunt. Only the most disciplined dogs will resist this urge, and there aren't that many well trained dogs on the loose in the country. So, before you ever get out on a ride, you need to be prepared to swallow your pride and stop. I'm not sure why cyclists generally do not see stopping as an option, maybe it seems counterintuitive, but all I know is that it is a necessity when riding where dogs may be wanting to chase.
Finally- you have rights as a road user and a citizen. If a dog does become an issue, either by its continued aggressiveness or due to inflicting injuries and damage to personal property while you are on a public roadway, the dog owner is liable. Report any incidents to county sheriffs or whomever handles the law enforcement in the area. Contact dog owners and file grievances where possible. Remember- you have a right to ride the roads, no matter what property owners may think, and as long as you stay on public roadways, you are good. Your rights become compromised once you get off public roads. So, stay out of fields, Level C Maintenance roads which are supposed to be gated, and the like. You are only inviting trouble if you venture off public roads.
This goes for approaching a farm house for assistance. So be super careful if you are placed in a situation where you need water, for an example, because all bets are off if you walk into a farm yard where a dog is present. Just be smart and be well prepared ahead of time. Self-supported cycling is something to strive for, but I realize there are times you may need to ask for assistance. I have- been there-done that. Just be hyper-alert and careful.
I think that about does it for my additional thoughts. If you have any further ideas or advice for folks dealing with dogs, let's have those in the comments. It may end up becoming a resource down the line for someone. Thanks for reading.