TCI Friday

This is Django. He might be 6-years-old. He has an underbite, that makes it look like he’s possibly angry with you. He isn’t. He’s just sorta ugly, which turns out to be one of his primary charms. Django came from Arkansas, we’re told. It’s possible he was abused. His behavior, when we first brought him home, implied as much. If you raised your voice to him, he would roll over on his back and pee himself. It was a sad sight. At the same time, he was the sweetest, snuggliest dog we’d ever had. He wanted to trust us, and so we gave him all the reasons to do that, and he no longer cowers in fear if we try to correct his wayward urges, of which he has many. This is also a part of his charm.

Django is an ok trail dog. He is willing, eager even, but he lacks the sort of inexhaustible stamina that a lot of trail dogs have. He sticks with you as best he can, and he has a good sense of how hard things are going to get. He takes fewer squirrel-based detours than other dogs, because, I think, he understands his limitations. If I expect to be out for more than an hour, Django doesn’t come along.

If you love dogs, consider donating to the ASPCA.

One other critical criteria for a trail dog is staying-the-f-out-of-the-way. On the bike, we’re doing our best to read the line and stay on the bike. The last thing we need is a dog parked in the trail, inert, bringing the whole rambling process to a halt. I’ve ridden with some dogs who get in the way occasionally, but are sharp enough to understand they’ve made a mistake. And then there are others who, finding themselves in the wrong spot, freeze, staring right at you, as if you’re the problem. For a species so seemingly in tune with the human project, some dogs are pretty clueless. Django is more of the accidental obstacle type. Most of the time he’s behind you, so … he effects his own sort of solution.

To my mind, there are a few solid benefits to riding with dogs. First, they enjoy it, which in my experience helps you enjoy it more. They remind you how joyful a thing it is just to be in the woods, playing. Second, you get them exercised without having to resort to the same tired route around your neighborhood. And because they have to be exercised, there is also the benefit that they force you out of the house more than you might get there on your own. You, like me, are even lazier than you think. Finally, they keep you safer. If you happen to live where there are bears, mountain lions, or other trail users whose path you’d rather not cross precipitously, then a dog will serve as a distant early warning system.

There are those who get annoyed by dogs in the woods, wanting “owners” to keep them on-leash and under control at all times. I’m sympathetic to this view, but I think it’s mainly the result of some dog people not owning up to the fact that their dog isn’t well enough trained to be out there. Acknowledging that fact, I think it’s churlish and mean of humans to think we get to make the rules for the woods. If any place doesn’t belong to us, isn’t that it? Maybe we just need to accept the risks of being there, even as we reap the rewards.

This week’s TCI Friday asks, do you ride with dogs? How often? What do you like about it? Are there benefits that I’m missing? Conversely, do you get annoyed by people with their dogs in the woods? Not every dog is well-behaved enough to be out there, off-leash, right?

If you love the Cycling Independent, consider subscribing. We know you’re not made of money, so we appreciate whatever you decide to do. Thanks.

Join the conversation
  1. tcfrog says

    I don’t ride with my dog, as she is a 115 pound Newfoundland with stamina issues, but I have no issue with others doing so. The caveat to that, of course, is that their dog is well-trained and doesn’t shit in the middle of the trail. Honestly, I think the second one is more important.

  2. TominAlbany says

    I’ve never been with or had a trail dog. Our dog, Charlie, is twelve pounds of undisciplined terror. Actually, he won’t even leave the house to go for walks anymore. Something, we don’t know what, spooked him a couple of months ago. (Actual fear response from him…) So, now I take him for walks in the park on weekends but he growls and snarls at everyone we pass.

    But that’s just me whining. I’m all in on trail dogs with decent manners. We’ve taught our kids to ask before petting so they know if the dogs are OK with that. As for picking up after pets, that’d sure be nice. I wish horseback riders would do this. On some trails, you can’t really ride around a pile of horse crap without dishing the trails, which I try to avoid.

    As to your last point, I keep reminding my family that when we’re outside, that’s where the creatures all live and do their daily. Even when some of them get in (insects, bats, mice, squirrels) I remind them that the house is in the middle of the outside as well and it just looks like somewhere else to go check out.

    So, train the dog and recognize if your dog is just not up for being a good trail dog.

    1. TominAlbany says

      Oh, and Django looks like a very handsome, good boy! Square-headed dogs are the best!

  3. khal spencer says

    I used to bike with dogs when our Aussie-Border mixes, Cash and Lilikoi, were young. The first time, training them, was hilarious. I had Cash on a retractable, 20 ft leash and he saw a rabbit and cut across the front of the bike. Of course this yanked my handlebars so I went ass over teakettle.

    But as they got older, they couldn’t keep much of a pace so we walked them instead of riding.

    As far as dogs on trails? As long as the dog is relatively predictable and under reasonable control by the owner, I consider it the trail riders responsibility to ride within one’s limits and watch for people, their dogs, and other stuff. I see too many a-holes who ride as though they own the trail and everyone, whether it be walkers, hikers, joggers, or other bicyclists, are intruding on their sacred domain. An example? Our trails in Santa Fe are pretty busy right now as most other recreational resources are shut down due to the rapid spread of the pandemic. I was rounding a curve a couple days ago where a tree reduced my sight distance but as I approached, I saw two people walking towards me. Not knowing if there were others or dogs, I slowed to a crawl. Some distance behind was another rider. He kept up a torrid pace and almost hit all three of us.

    With Covid running rampant, the last thing we need are assholes on the trails. Dogs are not the problem. Humans are. We need to all dial it back and treat each other and our animals as equal participants in this adventure.

  4. Dan Murphy says

    So, Django is the one on the left, correct? The dog on the right didn’t have an underbite.

    Good timing as we picked up our rescue dog on Monday. Total mutt all the way, one year old, with a Border Collie body and speed and who knows what else. He’s turning into a great pooch. He definitely needs training and he had accidents the first 4 days, but things have settled down and we’re working on the training. He loves people and other dogs. Feeling c9nfident, we took him to an open dog park yesterday where he had a ball and we found he can run like the wind and has some great moves. Of course, we don’t quite have “come” in the vocabulary and had to chase him down when he was trying out his new freedom.

    As a dog lover, I have no problem with dogs off-leash as long as they’re well-behaved. We walk on local trails a LOT and rarely, if ever, encounter a bad dog. We look forward to the day that we can hit the trails with our pooch off-leash, both walking and riding. Gonna be awhile.

Leave A Reply

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More