Dogs have never bothered me when I bicycle. I’m might just be lucky, but I think it’s because I’m a slower breed of cyclist, and I have never tried to outrun a dog. Besides, I have had two experiences that prove to me that trying to outrun a dog is futile.

The first was on a trip to a carnival a couple hours’ bike ride away. A black and white dog, not large, chased me. I wasn’t scared; in my experience dogs that chase me are just having fun. I decided to race the dog on the flat stretch. I was going all out at 20 mph and that dog just loped alongside. It turns out that dogs can run 16 to 31 mph. I could not sustain that speed long and had to slow down. Disappointed, the dog turned back. Really, I was relieved, because just then I saw in my mirror a car approach from behind, and I was worried about the dog getting hit.

The key point in this story is that the dog chased me until I slowed down. Dogs are territorial but they also like to chase things that are running away. So get out of their territory quickly, but slow down just a little so they don’t think you are running away.

The other experience was riding with my dad in the hills north of Kansas City. We crested a hill and 3 beautiful black dogs shot out of a yard. One stopped at the side of the road and supervised. The other two flanked my dad, barking at his heels. He sped up and got quite fast on the downhill but I could see that if they wanted him, they had him. Their coordinated effort was amazing. Later, when he turned back and I continued on, he was worried about riding up that hill to the dogs’ home. I told him not to worry, because they could easily have taken him out the first time around. They weren’t around when he went back.

Other approaches I have heard of include spraying water from a water bottle or carry pepper spray (not mace, which can kill a dog), but I have never heard of either approach being used successfully.

I interviewed Dr. Webb at Lindquist Veterinary Care Center, who confirmed that slowing down is wise. According to her, speeding up stimulates and reinforces the predator-prey response. They instinctively chase anything that is running away from them, and when you speed up, they think you are running away. Your running away rewards the chase, so they will do it again next time.