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Andrew Tettenhorst
(tettenhorsta) - MLife

Locale: Socal
Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/15/2012 17:59:35 MDT Print View

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?

Edited by tettenhorsta on 08/15/2012 18:04:38 MDT.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/15/2012 18:07:06 MDT Print View

I've started carrying dog spray. I haven't had the need to use it yet. I'd rather have the spray than a big knife.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/15/2012 18:18:04 MDT Print View

You carry a water pistol full of full-strength cleaning ammonia. If the dog goes into full attack mode, you let him have it right in the face. The liquid stops him in his tracks, and in some cases it temporarily blinds the dog.

It is unfortunate that the dog owner can't control his dog better than that.

Maybe there is something about you that dogs hate!

--B.G.--

a b
(Ice-axe)
Re: Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/15/2012 18:35:57 MDT Print View

I have the opposite effect on strange dogs and i don't really know why.
Even mean mountain dogs like me for some reason.

Do you wear large dark sunglasses? That scares dogs.
I don't wear them unless on snowpack or desert.

A backpack will spook dogs.
Nothing you can really do about that.

A large brimmed hat maybe.
I always wear a large hat when hiking so i dunno if that spooks them.

Eye contact.

This is a Biggie.

The fear of a bad past dog encounter will show in your eyes the milisecond you make eyecontact with a strange dog.

Please understand i am not implying you are afraid of dogs.
Maybe the fact that you anticipate the dogs reaction (barking) is what the dog is "reading" in your glance.

They read tension.. any tension, as aggresion, so they respond with aggresion.

If you manage to lock eyes with a strange dog either you need to maintain eye contact until the dog relents or totally ignore that dog until it relents it's agressive behavior.

Either approach can work.

(I realise this can be hard to implement. If a large dog is running at you and barking the natural reaction is to retreat. It is possible that standing your ground in a non-chalant manner will have a calming effect on the dog. THIS WORKS FOR ME BUT I DON"T RECOMMEND THIS TO EVERYONE.)

In other words.. there is an extreme case possible in every situtation, so the afore mentioned advice would not always be appropriate.

This is obviously very subjective advice.

Proceed at your own risk.

Maybe those dogs were just a fluke.

Edited by Ice-axe on 08/15/2012 18:50:09 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal?" on 08/15/2012 19:00:35 MDT Print View

It certainly shows that those dog owners need to keep better control over their dogs (i.e. a lot more obedience training and socialization) or keep them on leash!

Put a sweet loveable dog (I'm thinking that Lab) in a strange place, and it will often start acting aggressive through fear. These are the dogs whose owners say "He never does this at home." Of course not, but he hasn't been trained and socialized to behave normally in strange places such as the mountains. These dogs can become fear biters, the most unpredictable of all. You can assume that a Doberman will do its aggressive guard dog thing (although not all Dobies, by any means, are aggressive), but a Lab?

I've been tempted to carry a squirt gun or pepper spray since my dog has been attacked a couple of times by loose dogs on the trail. Unfortunately, I don't think I could use it without spraying my dog, too! Personally, I'd rather spray the irresponsible owners--they're at fault, not the dog--but that would get me into big trouble!

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal?" on 08/15/2012 19:44:17 MDT Print View

With that many encounters, I'd contact the FS/permit issuing authorities to give descriptions of dogs/people and time/location, maybe they can follow up with correspondence with those parties. I also feel if you do something, it'll make you feel like the bad guy and get the dog owner upset. On the other hand, I'd defend myself by whatever means and let the owner deal with his dog getting killed or injured. I've kicked at least one neighbors dog that got too close to me while acting aggressive. A dog bite will be having a red streak up your arm under 12 hours.
Duane

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Dog owners on 08/16/2012 09:50:29 MDT Print View

It's normal. I've come to hate dogs in the backcountry. And that's coming from someone that usually has a dog with him. Most of my trips are into designated wilderness areas where dogs are required to be leashed. I rarely see any dogs but mine on one. I really don't even care about that as long as the dog is friendly to both people and other dogs. I keep mine on one to keep them from bothering other hikers and to keep them out of trouble. And my dogs are friendly and well trained. But there are people who don't like dogs and some people, like my sister, are really scared of any dog.

I used to try to be diplomatic about it but those days are gone. The owners are always defensive about it like they can't understand why I'm unhappy with them and their dog. Too bad.

I have a rule. If the person says "Don't worry, my dog is friendly", don't believe them. But if they don't say that, be ready for trouble.

At the recommendation of a dog trainer, I started carrying SprayShield (you can get it at Petsmart, etc). I haven't used it yet. It's a citronella spray and harmless to the dog. It doesn't work on all dogs but pepper spray doesn't either. Some dogs become more aggressive when hit with pepper spray. I've only carried it so far when my dog is with me but I might start taking it all the time. The last 2 times I went without a dog, I've been charged twice by dogs that were barking and growling. Each time I crossed my trekking poles and put them out in front of me pointing at the dog and the dogs stopped. And each time, that movement seemed to get the owners attention as well and they moved a lot faster to get their dogs. Of course followed by the usual "Sorry, sorry, sorry".

It's frustrating but there's not much you can do about it except be prepared to deal with it.

Edited by rlnunix on 08/16/2012 09:57:21 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 10:18:27 MDT Print View

It is common, but I wouldn't call it normal. If people are going to bring dogs, they need to be on a lead and under control, period. Dogs can have a protective nature and I don't think barking is unusual at all, but they should be quieted by the person handling them. Allowing a dog to run loose and exhibit aggressive behavior is simply not acceptable. It goes beyond manners and is a huge liability. At some point, an aggressive dog is just another form of assault. IMHO, if people have dogs that don't behave well in public, they need to stay home.

I consider a dog as livestock. The owner is responsible for their behavior and the outcome if property or persons are harmed. What would you do if someone let their horse run loose? I think pepper spray would be appropriate with a dog, or any other means of defending yourself against an aggressive animal. You might have to use the pepper spray on the owner right after dosing the dog!

I do day hike with my dog and he is kept on a lead. He isn't aggressive and does well with other dogs. If a group is coming down the trail, I step aside and have my dog on a short lead if not by the collar, so it is obvious that I have him under control. Many people are wary of dogs and I don't think it is fair to subject them to my animal. If they want to stop and pet him or talk, that is great--- and at their choice.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
RE Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 11:01:32 MDT Print View

I would say it's the "new normal" but it shouldn't be. Many people seem to think they don't have a responsibility to be good dog owners once they go in the woods (maybe they're that way at home, too, though). It frustrates me that even in areas clearly marked "dogs must be on leash" that people just ignore it and loose their dogs.

I hike with my dog and starting next weekend will be camping with him as well. He's a rescue and although quite friendly he's large and a mixed breed German Shepherd and people are afraid of him due to his size and his GSD appearance. I keep him on a leash at all times unless I am absolutely positive I am in an area where there are no other people and where it's legal to let him run loose (usually up in the mountains, very remote). I feel that I do a good job of controlling him and ensuring that he is safe from other people and their dogs, and that they are safe from him (his only real vice is he's a jumper so I make sure to keep his head down as people are passing to make certain he doesn't try to jump on someone).

Personally, I recommend carrying pepper spray/bear spray. Of course, I live in bear country so I have it anyway, but I wouldn't hesitate to spray an aggressive dog, if I felt an attack was imminent.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Leash Laws on 08/16/2012 12:21:24 MDT Print View

From what I've seen, most dog owners think leash laws are optional. I hear "But it is harder to hike with my dog on a leash!"

That may be so....but it is your choice to take your dog to place that mandates leash laws.

Occasionally I get a question about the AT from people in the CO area. Some ask about their dog. When I mention that be aware that on the AT 40% of the areas requites leashes, the above conversation tends to happen.

So it goes...

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: RE Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 14:54:54 MDT Print View

Dena pondered, "I would say it's the "new normal" but it shouldn't be. Many people seem to think they don't have a responsibility to be good dog owners once they go in the woods (maybe they're that way at home, too, though)."

Nope, people are consistently STUPID in town too, and like the man says, "You can't fix 'stupid'." I frequent a local Sunday flea market and there is a dog fight just about every Sunday. People have told me they bring their misbehaving mutt to a crowded venue with other dogs to "sensitize" them. Right.

I saw a Golden Retriever that would walk along calm enough and then make a psycho lunge at another dog passing by with no warning signs at all. It freaked me out, and I'm used to big dogs and their stunts. The owner said, "Yeah, he does that." Why anyone would bring a dog like that to a busy public place with lots of other dogs is beyond me. Somebody's kid is gonna get bit in the face and the lawyers will stampede. Sigh.....

People let their kids run havoc the same way or worse. And then you have the kids AND the dogs together. That needs to go to Chaff :)

I love my dogs can't imagine not have a mutt or two around, but I know very well that isn't universal.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 15:06:18 MDT Print View

I was hiking on Badger Creek, came to someone camping.

Their dog ran up to me, barking, snapping at me, ears back and other agressive signs.

Usually when dogs come at me I just stand there and ignore it, but this time I held up my boot between it and me. Didn't actually kick it though.

The owner said it was "just spooked" and never does that.

Riggghhhhtt... never does that... and then they called me a "spook" whatever that is : )

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 15:11:01 MDT Print View

Lately I have backpacked in some wilderness areas where dogs are allowed. I will see people hiking along with their dog on a leash, and there is a simple muzzle strap present on the dog. I guess that is to keep the dog from actually biting somebody. It seems to work wonders for keeping the dog calm (and also me!).

--B.G.--

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 15:38:55 MDT Print View

My dog is very timid in the back country. Aggressive, no, bark at anything and having another seem as if it's aggressive, possibly, (bite no way).

My dog will even stay up most of the night looking around as it "knows" there are things out there. By the end of day 2 she's tired.

I always get down and sit on my feet and clap for any dog in the backcountry to come here. The act of being nice and not as any potential threat makes a huge difference on the way the dog will act when it sees you. Plus you will know almost immediately if the dog is going to aggressive or not friendly when you get low and call it toward you.
If it barks, I stay down and let it bark, at least it knows that I am not being aggressive and it will have no reason to be aggressive back to me.

This has worked 100% of the time I have come across a dog in the back country and I see many more dogs just wag their tails and approach me before I did this.

You also have to realize that you are coming at them with the big pack on that looks deceiving to a dog. They may take it that their owner needs to be protected from it.

When a dog that will protect it's house or car is put in the back country, some may still feel that need to protect and that surrounding area grows to involve anything it sees or comes across.

Isn't this at least part of the reason we get a dog in the first place?

Edited by awsorensen on 08/16/2012 15:41:35 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 15:52:40 MDT Print View

I think it's great for humans and dogs to go hiking and off leash as long as it's well behaved.

95% of the time dogs are well behaved, come up to me with tail wagging, fine.

Even when the dog agressively barks and snaps at me, fine, I'll just stick my boot up if necesary.

Trekking poles are good.

People should get their dog (actually, it's themselves) trained

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 15:53:37 MDT Print View

Bob wrote: "Lately I have backpacked in some wilderness areas where dogs are allowed. I will see people hiking along with their dog on a leash, and there is a simple muzzle strap present on the dog. I guess that is to keep the dog from actually "

There are several brands of halter style leads now. They work on the idea that where the dogs nose is pointed, he will go. You can control a large dog easily with such a lead. I've had two dogs that wouldn't heel well and the "Halty" lead worked immediately , turning a tug of war into a pleasant walk for both of us. Most dogs adjust quickly with minor muzzle rubbing.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: RE Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 16:54:22 MDT Print View

"Somebody's kid is gonna get bit in the face and the lawyers will stampede. Sigh...."

Or somebody'll exercise their 2nd Amendment rights and there'll be one less problem dog to worry about. SIGH...

We live in troubled times. I find this whole thread very depressing. Nobody should have to worry about having their backcountry experience ruined by an aggressive, unleashed dog. If you can't control your dog, keep it out of the backcountry or suffer the consequences, as far as I'm concerned. No room for compromise here. Period.

Brandon =Þ
(Beeen) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 17:42:42 MDT Print View

A friend of mine was hiking fairly far in front of me on a 10 day trip, and we were in a place with lots of off leash dogs. I randomly stopped to talk to some of the dog owners coming the other way about the trail conditions, and would find out that their apparently happy go lucky well mannered dog that was letting me rub their belly, had just previously barked viciously at my friend when he passed them by. My friend has always been a little skittish around dogs, and my working theory is they must pick up on his body language and react to him as some kind of threat. So, I'd take a guess that you are displaying your annoyance with how dog owner keeps control of their dog, and these dogs are triggering on that.

Consider that the one main job that dogs have had for the tens of thousands of years they've been living with human beings, is to warn them of threats and ultimately protect them. So, in a lot of ways, a dog barking while we are in the area is what we should expect (especially in some place remote). I think our best bet with dogs, is to try and think about them like dealing with black bears. By and large, they aren't going to do anything and so it is just a mental game of getting familiar with them and knowing how to behave around them.

To directly answer your last two questions. I grew up with exposure to large territorial dogs, and on the occasion these days that I run into a dog that is protective of something and barking or even charging at me, I first try to relax my body a bit and give off an impression I could give a crap and keep going the way I am going without even looking at them much. I've never had to go much beyond that. Now, as far as confronting an owner and expressing that "somebody" might kill their dog if they don't keep it under control (which their definition may be different than yours); I don't think they'd probably react very well and would most likely escalate into a shouting match that you both would just relive in your minds for the next few days with a lot of anger.

Will Webster
(WillWeb) - M
Doggy pop psychology on 08/16/2012 19:37:03 MDT Print View

I take different approaches, depending on circumstances.

Usually when a dog gets a certain distance from me it looks like it's sizing me up to decide whether I'm a threat or not. I try to act before the dog gets to the decision point. If the owner is there I will greet him or her in a casual, friendly way - if the dog sees that we are OK with each other it won't feel threatened or that it has to protect its master. If the owner isn't there I'll try baby-talking the dog: "Hello puppy", that sort of thing. I'm trying to put the dog in a juvenile mindset (I read somewhere that dogs are just wolves that have been bred into a permanent juvenile state) so it's less likely to be aggressive, and it establishes me as dominant in a totally non-threatening way. Maybe total BS but it seems to work.

If a dog expresses aggression from a long way off it's a totally different scenario. Then I look for high ground, and rocks and/or a stick big enough to put a serious hurt in it if I'm attacked. In the event that I'm charged without time to prepare, I've decided that my approach is going to be to try to put my stick in its mouth, and then try to make it come out the other end. Fortunately I've never had to try this. I have also rehearsed a speech to the owner, explaining to him in a friendly and helpful tone that if his animal bites me it won't be a good thing, because we'll all three have to go to the hospital, and if the vaccinations aren't up to date they will remove the dog's head to check for rabies, and even if the shots are current there's still the hassle of the police report, and the lawsuit, and odds are that their insurance company will make them get rid of their pet.

I also make a point of thanking responsible dog owners who control their animals and/or who have trained them well enough that they just ignore me (I don't like being jumped and slobbered on either).

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: dogs on 08/16/2012 19:55:27 MDT Print View

Kind of a disturbing thread.
As the old saying goes, "There are no bad dogs, only bad owners."

You don't sound like a dog person, which is absolutely fine. No reason you should have to put up with someone who can't control their dog. In lieu of contemplating butchering them with a knife, I'd invest in the pepper spray. Likely more effective and more likely to result in a justifiable action when the dust settles. Be a shame to stab someone's family pet over a misunderstanding, when effective non-lethal alternatives exist.