In about the last month I've done 2 trips up in the Sierra, one was Minarets Lake/Ediza/Garnet Lake and the other was Sabrina Basin (Sailor Lake, Midnight Lake, Baboon Lakes). In the just 8 days backpacking between the 2 trips I've been barked at/harassed by 4 dogs. Here's the breakdown of each situation:
-Photographing Ediza Lake in the morning I came around to the meadow on the eastern bank where a young yellow lab commenced snarling, snapping, and barking at me approaching within a couple feet. Its owner was also photographing near the bank and tried to get it under control which took some time. I didn't feel threatened by it and just went on doing my thing, it proved more of a distraction for the owner than for me as he was trying to get it to stop barking and bothering the 25+ other people around the lake.
-Next was at Garnet Lake. Was shooting Banner/Ritter reflections and a dog barked at me from several hundred feet away. The owner got quick control of it and it stopped barking. I never got close to it and I got out of their camp's line of sight while moving to a new shooting angle so it didn't escalate.
-Third time was at Midnight Lake. A group of older day hikers were lounging around the outlet of the lake and their cocker spaniel mix started snarling snapping and barking at my wife and I as we passed by them. One woman in the group sat there and watched it harassing us and did nothing. It at one time brushed up against me but did not bite. We kept moving and walked by and a couple of group got control over it.
-Last time my wife and I were hiking from Baboon Lakes back to the Sabrina Basin trailhead. As we were passing by Blue Lake I saw a couple of 1 man tents off on the side of the trail. As we passed by a dog let out a couple of barks, didn't think much of it, kept moving and the dog seemed to be coming up on us from behind barking. Feeling that something was different this time I stopped and turned around and was facing a full grown Doberman snarling and barking at 20-30ft. This was the first time I had felt threatened and chose to stand my ground until the owner finally took control.
The only one of these incidents that I felt even slightly worried in was with the Doberman. All the others involved dogs I wouldn't really consider a threat. Now that I've thought about it though, even a small dog bite would require hiking out for proper treatment and ruin a trip. My patience for people in the backcountry runs thin, seeing illegal camping, fire rings, garbage and I really don't have any left over for bad dog owners. I really had to hold my tongue in the Doberman situation, I wanted to tell the guy I would kill his dog if it got within range. I figured opening my mouth would just irritate me even more so after he got control of it I just turned around and continued hiking. With the realization that even a small dog bite could ruin a trip the next aggressive one I run into might get a trekking pole or shoe to their face.
I've thought about carrying a large knife for protection against dogs, but already realized that if you are able to use it you're already being bitten and that would ruin a trip and require returning to the trailhead, though if a dog did attack it would make killing it easier. Trekking poles are a good candidate but seem awkward to use as a weapon against a fast moving large dog, they would seem to the lightest option though if you already have them. Mace would also be a possibility, though if unused its just dead weight, not to mention limited use in wind. I'd almost rather have a full sized knife for its multi-use potential and close range defense and use the trekking poles to hopefully keep any aggressive dogs at distance.
Anyone else have problems with dogs and how did you deal with them? I also wonder if telling the owner in a non-threatening way that if their dog is menacing someone it is within the person being menaced rights to kill the dog. Do you think this would make them think twice about not keeping control of their dog on the trail?