Albemarle County is an amazing place to live, and Crozet in particular is sublime. Tight community, incredible mountain views, and enough breweries and wineries to last a lifetime are some of our many blessings. But Crozet and western Albemarle are also an incredible place for outdoor exercise, especially running, hiking, and biking. Between the miles of scenic, challenging roads and the miles of rugged mountain trails, Crozet really does have it all for keeping you fit.
And don’t forget about the dogs! What? You’ve never been bitten by a dog? Or you’ve experienced a few bites but seem to long for something deeper? Or perhaps you want to be the last one to whom Mrs. Jones can honestly say, “Don’t worry! Killer never actually bites anyone”? Well, have I got a column for you!
As someone who knows the behavior of dogs pretty well, and who loves to exercise outdoors, I’ve amassed quite a bit of experience on the best ways of getting yourself bit in and around Crozet. And boy do we have some good opportunities–from spoiled suburbia dogs, to country dogs, to free-roaming wild dogs–stick around long enough, follow my advice, and you’ll have some sweet puncture marks to share with your friends on Instagram! Here we go!
1) When approaching a dog walking with its owner from behind, be sure to quietly pass right by them!
This technique is one of my favorites because it seems to surprise everyone it works for. Even the most docile of dogs can be unpredictable when it gets suddenly spooked, especially when it may think its owner is suddenly in harm’s way. So, when you’re running or biking and you see Mrs. Smith walking down the path with her friendly Labrador, just be sure to pass right next to the dog without giving any warning of your coming. Assume that dog is friendly and well-behaved–it makes the surprise attack even more exciting! And once her dog suddenly senses a fast-moving stranger about to overtake him and his master, if you’re lucky, he’ll get a quick adrenaline spike along with some anxiety, and he’ll make a rash decision that it’s probably time to protect his house first and ask questions later. Remember, even really good dogs with really good owners can snap if surprised—the power is in your hands!
Alternatively, if you’re chicken, I’d advise that if you’re coming up on a dog and its owner from behind, that you give wide berth and be sure to make some noise to let them know you’re coming up on them. That way, the dog can have a little time to assess you and the owner can have a little time to restrain the dog if they think it’s needed. I hate to admit it, but I’m chicken and I never ever run by a dog from behind without a lot of notice or without first getting off the sidewalk and onto the road. I just can’t commit to the pale thigh fang mark Instagram post yet!
2) If you see a menacing dog coming toward you, quickly start running/pedaling away!
Even though you’ll almost never be able to outrun a charging dog, you should totally try anyway because it really stokes their predatory instincts, often making the impending attack even more bold! Most of the time, if a dog is running out of someone’s yard barking and coming towards you, it is just telling you to go away in the best way it knows how. If you stand your ground and yell at them to stop, they will almost always stop at this bluff, however you can quickly turn this situation into a guaranteed dog bite by frantically running away. The dog is already amped up and suddenly it sees the strange human transform from a large powerful creature to a prey species. The chase and bite instinct is pretty strong in dogs, especially in maladjusted dogs, and it’s easier than you think to really score a sweet leg bite here. Even on a bike, these dogs will happily shred a rear tire or put a puncture in your freshly shorn legs if given enough provocation—just experiment and have fun, but be sure to run fast!
If you change your mind though, if you’re feeling a bit “yeller,” simply stand your ground, make eye contact, and yell at that dog to stop and get away. Admittedly, this can be hard to do if you’re really feeling spooked, but even a charging big dog is intimidated by a charging bigger human. I’ve used this trick more than any other to avoid getting bit when charged from a dog coming out of a property I was running by. They come charging and barking, and I start charging and barking right back. “HEY!” “GIT!” “BACK UP!” I’ll even take a step or two towards them or give them a squirt from my water bottle. When you reach a stalemate, simply keep up your confident “mean human” demeanor as you slowly back away from them. One of these days I’m gonna turn around and run, but I just don’t want my calf sleeves to get a hole in them.
3) Run with headphones in and pay no attention to your surroundings
That’s right, unfortunately, dogs almost always tell us when they are coming towards us, giving us ample time to chicken out and avoid a Twitter-worthy torn shorts photo. Especially when you’re out there on country roads, they sometimes give you a quarter-mile notice. But if you pump up the jams in both ears and generally disengage from your environment, it will make it so much easier for that dog to charge you and then think you’re just running or pedaling away and SNATCH!
But if it’s not quite your day and you’re needing a little reassurance, then I’d suggest you take the headphones out and engage in the outdoor environment you’re in. Besides easily recognizing an upset dog coming towards you, you can also better hear that more fatal enemy, the car. It’s not as fun as blaring the Gin Blossoms as you head down Jarmans Gap Road, but it’ll keep you safe until you get your wits about you to try #2 from this list.
4) When you encounter a nervous looking dog with their owner, be sure to reach down and pet it, regardless of its body language
Here’s one where you just need to go “all in!” Let’s say you just killed a long ride and you pull up in front of the Mudhouse in your sweet new kit including helmet and matching shades. You see your friend on the sidewalk with their Weimaraner who is not quite loving your tight clothing, helmet, shades, and carbon fiber bike frame. Pay no attention to those bulging eyes or the dog’s efforts to back away from your “space alien” likeness. You gotta commit and reach in fully for the head pat. You tell that dog who’s cool and in charge!
Okay, if you’re still a chicken, or perhaps you need both hands for your “job” or whatever, you may want to just refrain from petting dogs while you’re in your running or biking get up. Those dogs see and smell you as some wild beast who just came up to their owners from out of the blue and they are just not sure about you. Yeah, it’s a bit insulting, but just go with it and don’t you dare reach in lest you are ready to post to your FB with your left hand for the next week.
And don’t worry, these tips work everywhere, not just in Crozet! Now let’s see those bite wounds and be sure to tag your pics with #igotbit!