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Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal?
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Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: re: dogs on 08/16/2012 20:52:45 MDT Print View

"You don't sound like a dog person, which is absolutely fine."

Actually, I get along fine with most dogs, more than fine with a select few. To me, dogs are just like people in that they have unique personalities. As with people, some I like, some I don't, most I can take or leave. The problem arises when I am confronted by a dog, or person, bent on doing me serious harm or threatening same. The people part I've gotten pretty good at avoiding down thru the years, same with dogs most of the time. On trails in the backcountry it's a bit different due to the dog's territorial instincts, the subject of this thread.

"No reason you should have to put up with someone who can't control their dog."

My original point, exactly.

"In lieu of contemplating butchering them with a knife, I'd invest in the pepper spray."

Which would require me to carry extra dead weight to protect myself from something I should not have to deal with. I reject having to compensate for some jerk's irresponsibility. Fortunately, it is not an issue where I do my backpacking, at least not so far. The problems for me have arisen on Cascade day hikes close in to Seattle, and they have been few in number to date. Nonetheless, they are profoundly disturbing when they occur, and confront me with the type of situation I have made a lifestyle out of avoiding. Make no mistake, I could, and would, kill a dog or go down trying if it came to that, but who in the he!! wants to be in that situation? I, for one, feel that by far the preferable situation is for dog owners to realize that they are responsible for controlling their dog in the backcountry, including anticipating the dog's territorial response and heading it off before it escalates into a confrontation with potentially disastrous consequences for all concerned. My 2 cents.

Sharon J.
(squark) - F

Locale: SF Bay area
Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 21:19:16 MDT Print View

" 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. "

No such thing as a non-threatening way to say this. It may still be effective with some, but many are going to hear it as "I hate dogs and I'm want to kill yours given the least excuse" and just get aggressive themselves.

"Please leash your dog"/"Leashes are required here"/"my partner is scared of dogs"/"I'm allergic"/"I'm hungover and can't handle the barking right now" are all more likely to get a sympathetic and prompt response.

n.b., dogs tend to use barking as a way of avoiding confrontation. It's the critters who silently stalk you that you really need to worry about.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/16/2012 22:36:58 MDT Print View

Any time I have suggested politely "Did you know that leashes are required on this trail?" (as they are on Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area trails), I've been stared at as though I have two heads. Most don't even bother to answer.

I suggested to the CGNSA trail supervisor that they could probably make back the salary of someone stationed at the Eagle Creek trailhead to ticket owners of unleashed dogs. He answered that all the fines go to a Federal victims' fund and that (as most of us already knew) they lack the budget for staff to do such things. I will no longer hike that trail with my dog because of so many unleashed dogs up there! Much of that trail is carved out of the cliff ledge and with a couple of dogs romping around me and mine winding me up in his leash, it can be quite dangerous.

What really makes me mad is that it's those irresponsible owners who will ultimately result in the banning of all dogs on USFS trails, which means that I will no longer be able to hike. I won't go without him (security reasons as well as not being able to afford kennel fees). No, mine is not at all aggressive but is quite a wimp, and he's certainly not a good watch dog (I joke that a burglar trying to come through my window would probably get his face licked), but of course strangers don't know that and are impressed by his size despite the perpetually wagging tail.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/17/2012 11:53:04 MDT Print View

"dogs tend to use barking as a way of avoiding confrontation. It's the critters who silently stalk you that you really need to worry about."

Seems like this has been the case in a lot of situations I have seen. Head low, ears back, and silently trying to get behind you is how a lot of dogs behave who mean business. Not always though. I just try to be careful and use common sense.


David A
(DavidAdair) - M

Locale: West Dakota
Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/17/2012 16:24:17 MDT Print View

Pretty much normal. I enjoy meeting people with well mannered dogs in the back country. An experienced backpacking dog is relaxed and comfortable in the wilderness and usually a pleasant character to meet. Most dogs will have less experience and feel a little insecure on the trail which often results in their taking a defensive posture.

Realize that, as humans, we have a special ability to recognize the human form and human facial features rooted somewhere deep in our DNA that dogs don't have. For example, if I put on a funny hat it takes my dog 15 seconds or so to realize it is me and not some hungry Sasquatch. So keep in mind when a dog encounters you on the trail it may take him a while to figure out: what you are, if he knows you, and what your intentions might be. Barking and trying to look intimidating all the while of course.

When I encounter a hostile dog I stop and say something like "HEY! lets keep the noise down a little. Are there people with you?" This helps the dog identify you as a person (and a bossy dominant one at that). Most of the time the people are not far behind the dog and will hear this and call their dog back.

Edited by DavidAdair on 08/17/2012 18:44:00 MDT.

Brett Rasmussen
(ascientist) - MLife

Locale: Grants Pass, Oregon
Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/17/2012 17:48:12 MDT Print View

I have been bit by a dog on two different occasions hiking as a kid. Both times with the owner present. One time the bite was proceeded by a "don't worry he's friendly." In addition to this the numerous times dogs have been aggressive to me has left me kind of bitter. Still I am by nature non-confrontational, so I don't say anything when I see an unleashed dog where leashes are required. I have read all about how to act around dogs and I carry pepper spray. I don't want to get in the way of someones love for there dog. I just wish more dog owners could see the perspective of someone who has had repeated bad experiences with them and is in the back-country to get away from stress, then has to wonder if they will be bit by some dog while still trying to maintain civility. I feel better prepared to deal with wild animals, because I don't have to worry about an owner when I feel threatened. How close and how much barking until I can kick, throw, or spray without the owner feeling like I acted unnecessarily aggressive. Because in there eyes the dog is just barking to be friendly.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/20/2012 08:38:27 MDT Print View

IMHO it is a bit of everything, owners, dogs, place and you. I have a dog. I have be bit by at least two dogs. I walk my dog off leash when ever possible, breaking the law. My dog has been attacked by a leased dog that got away from its owner, I ended it. I believe everyone knew I was HOT. I have pretty good control and understanding of my dog. I can not 100% guarantee its behavior, it is not me. Some dogs are frighted, others aggresive. I have developed an attitude with dogs, I will do what is needed when needed, I don't carry anything special. That doesn't work with bears though.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 08/20/2012 09:37:48 MDT Print View

David wrote: "When I encounter a hostile dog I stop and say something like "HEY! lets keep the noise down a little. Are there people with you?" This helps the dog identify you as a person (and a bossy dominant one at that). Most of the time the people are not far behind the dog and will hear this and call their dog back."

I've told dogs to shut up and that has worked, along with "go home." I remember looking at one dog in the pound with some comments on his cage tag about not following commands or something to that effect. He was barking and I told him to sit and he shut up and sat and made good eye contact. I guess he was just used to someone like me.

One time I was climbing over a good sized blowdown and got one leg up on the log to have a Golden Retriever pup pop up on the other side. He was happy and really friendly but having an animal come out of nowhere like that scared the day lights out of me. I laughed after, but couldn't move fast enough when it happened. His owners had let him run ahead and he stopped and waited when he got to the blowdown. I didn't know what it was at first--- almost time for fresh underwear :)

Jen Churchward
(mahgnillig) - F
Trail dogs on 09/05/2012 23:15:06 MDT Print View

The people who say that it's not a dog problem, it's an owner problem, have hit the nail on the head. I work with animals, and have seen every kind of dog out there act aggressively... it's certainly not breed specific either, I have seen aggressive (yes, genuinely aggressive) puppies, and the bottom line is that every dog, no matter the size and breed, has teeth and they know how to use them. The common denominator is lack of pack leadership on the part of the owner.

As far as dogs on the trail... I always take mine with me, and they are almost always unleashed. That said, I do actually take a leash with me, which is more than a lot of people do! I don't flagrantly break leash laws, but I'm certainly not going to abide by one if I'm the only person at the trailhead. My dogs are trail trained... when we see or hear people approaching I call them and they walk beside me. When we get close enough to people, we pull off to the side of the trail and I make them sit until the people go past. I often get compliments about how well behaved they are, and people think it's cool that they carry their own backpacks. In my opinion, if every owner had proper control of their dogs there would be no need for leash laws in the first place.

The very worst offenders are the people who think that just because their dog is friendly, it should be allowed to roam unchecked. The point I always try to make to people is that yes, sure your dog is friendly, but how can you guarantee that the other dogs on the trail are? If your friendly unleashed dog goes running up to someone else's UNfriendly leashed dog and gets attacked, guess who is in the wrong? And yet the owners of the attacked dog are always the ones who are up in arms about it.

As for dealing with aggressive dogs on the trail... well, it's hard to tell someone who is terrified of dogs to act like they're not afraid. A dog is not going to be fooled by that. Pepper spray is certainly an option, especially since a lot of people carry bear spray anyway, but it doesn't always work and you have a good chance of spraying yourself with it as well. In my professional opinion, the best way to deal with an out and out aggressive dog is to stand your ground and confront it with a stick. Dog owners will always act defensively if you try and hurt their 'baby', so it's best to go for a defensive rather than an offensive strategy (ie. forget knifing it in the chest - not a good option from any angle). For an 'iffy' dog, get down on its level and talk to it... that will often turn a fear biter into a friend, but be prepared for the stick as a backup strategy.

@Bob - Those 'muzzles' you are seeing are not really muzzles... they are not meant to stop a dog from biting. They are the 'Gentle Leader' or 'Halti' style leash which is designed to be similar to a horse's halter. The idea is that by directing the dog's nose with the leash, you are able to control it a lot more easily, and they work very well on dogs that pull on their leash a lot. We use these at work in our training programme for unruly dogs... it's amazing how quickly a dog learns not to pull when you have control of its nose!

Dave Ploessel
(mailesdad) - F
This thread is so disturbing on 09/06/2012 10:50:10 MDT Print View

Just saw this thread, and I want to directly address the OP's comment about considering a large knife to be able to easier kill dogs with....I want to make it clear I am NOT making excuses for people who don't control their dogs....there is no excuse for having a mean dog off leash or harassing people, but something you have to remember is that dog people are nutty about dogs. Irrationally, emotionally, nutty. Nutty and overprotective.

I am a dog person. I can admit this. I do control my dogs, but they still can and do bark when they see a stranger. It's part of what a GOOD dog does - they alert their owner to the presence of strangers. The difference between a good dog and a bad dog is that a good dog will mind when their owner calls them off or tells them to be quiet... 99% of the time. (and to be frank, when my dogs don't back off from a person, there usually is a reason - I trust their judgement)

Here's the rub, if a stranger appeared on the trail and whipped out a large knife and started waving it around because my dog barked, or just ran up to say hi, that stranger had better be prepared to use that knife on me, because if you wave a knife at my dog, you might as well be waving a knife at my kids, and that's the way dog people think... Also, if you pull a knife out, I don't know your intentions, and I will be forced to assume you intend to use it and take proactive measures to protect myself, my friends, my family, and my pets. Most rational people understand this and think the same way. All pulling a knife will do is escalate a situation from bad to peotentially life threatening.

if you start waving a knife at someone's dog, or, god forbid, STAB someone's dog, nothing good can come from it. Nothing good at all. Remember, a lot of people bring guns into the back country (regardless of legality). You kill someone's pet and they will NOT react rationally. Period, end of converstation.

Just whack the dog with your trekking pole instead, or use bear spray, throw a rock, etc, and save lives all around. I can't begin to say how disturbing it is to read one poster saying that he thinks a family pet's life is not worth the "inconvience" of carrying the weight of pepper (BEAR) spray. I mean, think about that for a couple long seconds. He is literally saying that he would prefera LETHAL method of defending himself over a NON LETHAL one because the non lethal one is HEAVIER or INCONVENIENT.

I started a thread a bit back where I said that some in the UL community are so obsessed with weight that they lose sight of the bigger picture and got somewhat shouted down for it, but here you have someone saying that taking a life when there are non lethal alternatives available is acceptable if it cuts weight.... Sheesh.

Edited by mailesdad on 09/06/2012 10:55:29 MDT.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: This thread is so disturbing on 09/06/2012 11:26:50 MDT Print View

I can see where you are coming from Dave - people love their dogs. We love ours too. I don't think anyone here would prefer to actually kill a dog on the trail. What they would rather do is not be put in the position to have to make that decision - that's the rub here. If hiking why should someone have to determine whether a dog is "just trying to say Hi" or ready to chew their leg off? There is no way for me (or you) to know exactly what that dog is going to do.

Do your part in not creating a bad situation by keeping the dog on a leash and as close to you as possible when around other creatures(humans included). This way, I'm not in harms way and neither is the dog. Is this a reasonable expectation?

I hike with my wife and kids all the time and no dog, human or otherwise is going to behave aggressively towards us. If that means killing a dog - sorry. If the dog owner has a problem with it we can discuss afterwards.


Edited by ViolentGreen on 09/06/2012 11:36:34 MDT.

Dave Ploessel
(mailesdad) - F
I agree ryan on 09/06/2012 11:44:06 MDT Print View

Ryan, I agree that we shouldn't have to deal with irresponsible people.

Your expectations are 100% reasonable.

Problem is that reality clashes with that notion. Reality is that there are UNreasonable idiots out there who don't train, leash, or control their dogs. We also shouldn't have to deal with litter, we shouldn't have to deal with people who are irresponsible with fire, who are rude, etc etc etc etc ad nauseum.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to deal with any of that crap, but we live in the real world and as such sometimes that means we are inconvienced by inconsiderate people. The fact that there are jerks out there is just part of life. That's no justification to do bad things ourselves though. Just because someone is an inconsiderate jerk and doesnt stop their dogs from barking does not excuse someone KILLING said dogs when they could just as easily protect themselves in a non lethal way.

Say someone is driving recklesslyt and cuts you off on the freeway, forcing you to slam on your brakes and nearly causing an accident... You shouldn't have to deal with that, but does that give you the right to speed up ahead of them and force them off the road, potentially killing them when you could just as easily call the police and report them as a reckless driver? Not the perfect analogy, but you get the point.. We all wish we lived in a perfect world where nobody inconvienced anybody else, but that's not reality.

Edited by mailesdad on 09/06/2012 11:48:26 MDT.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Is this just bad luck with aggressive dogs or is this normal? on 09/06/2012 11:46:43 MDT Print View

Dead dogs don't bite, and you might have to deal with the owner, but you wont be facing his angry dog while doing so.

Dave Ploessel
(mailesdad) - F
You gotta be kidding cameron on 09/06/2012 11:56:10 MDT Print View

"Dead dogs don't bite, and you might have to deal with the owner, but you wont be facing his angry dog while doing so."

naw, you'll just be facing someone who is completly enraged to the point of losing rational thought by the fact you just killed what most people view as a member of their family... possibly armed with a gun, or knife...

You would really prefer that when you could just as easily spray a dog with bear spray?

I just don't get that kind of thinking.

I know it seems like I'm beating a dead horse, but I just think people need to take a long hard look at what they are saying and the things they are advocating. Some of these thought trains peope are riding are just sickening.

Edited by mailesdad on 09/06/2012 12:01:37 MDT.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: I agree ryan on 09/06/2012 11:57:57 MDT Print View

True, we are inconvenienced by inconsiderate people sometimes and I would never kill another human being over an inconvenience. However, to me, a dog in my personal space(or my families) and acting in an aggressive manner is no longer an inconvenience. It is a threat to our safety. In those cases, I have no issue with taking the dog's life. Because of the actions of the dog and the irresponsible owner, now we're all "inconvenienced".

The difference in your stance and mine is the value placed on the life of the dog. We will not find a common ground on that point and that's OK.

P.S. - You're assuming the nutty, extremely emotional, illogical dog owner will be totally fine if I kick, punch, or spray their dog. In most cases they will not appreciate this either.


Edited by ViolentGreen on 09/06/2012 12:02:43 MDT.

Dave Ploessel
(mailesdad) - F
There's different levels on 09/06/2012 12:21:06 MDT Print View

Again ryan, i mostly agree with you,

but there are different levels - I'd be pi%%ed if you kicked or pepper sprayed my dog, but if you pulled a knife on, or even killed, my dog, you would be escalating things to a whole different level. There's a major difference between me being upset you pepper sprayed my dog, and me losing my ability to think rationally after watching a pet I consider to be a family member get murdered (which is how us animal nuts would think).

I think the difference is not that people place different values on the dog's life, it is that when someone chooses to escalate a situation to a lethal level when there are NONlethal options available.

I just can't get behind that kind of thinking. As long as there are nonlethal options, there is NEVER any excuse to skip them and jump to lethal options. It's sick.

Don't you agree that's reasonable? Choose NONlethal first?

Personally, I always assume worst case scenario: Say a dog looks like it's going to attack, I assume it will, and shout at it, whack it with a stick, throw a rock, bear spray it, etc. There are DOZENS of ways to defend yourself without just jumping to "pull out a knife and kill it" and making the situation worse.

Consider both scenarios, and tell me which you would prefer to create. Please don't give me the "the dog owner created the situation" line... that's BS - once you escalate, you are creating a whole new scenario..

It's not about how much value you place on the life of the dog, it's about how much value you place on life in general.

Edited by mailesdad on 09/06/2012 12:31:55 MDT.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Trail dogs on 09/06/2012 13:58:27 MDT Print View

The thing is dogs and pets in general used to be live on the farm and they preformed a job, whether its was herding, hunting, or security. These days dogs and pets have been re-marketed as family companions whose function is to replace children or otherwise give emotional support to humans. This means that instead of being in its own fenced in large farm area dogs are asked to perform no function except shut up and lay down. people are now trying to cram dogs into small apartments and little yards. they act like they are little people and expect others to treat them with the same respect and benefits of the doubt as humans.I owned dogs and would never dream of exposing people to them unleashed nor would I force my dog to hike simply because I enjoy it ( he can't speak up for himself and say no thanks) nor would I expose my dog to a public that doesn't know him and he doesn't know in turn.
I have no sympathy for dog owners who bring their pets unleashed onto public lands. What ever happens to the dog or other people is 100% on the head of the owner. If someone is in ones judgment irrationally scared and overreacts and harms or maims your unleash pet its 100% the fault of the owner for putting their pet in that situation. If you want to assault the person after they defend themselves from your dog go ahead. But remember when your burying the body of the passerby how easily that situation could have been avoided if you followed some simple courtesy. the public has no responsibility to take dog whisperer classes to avoid being assaulted by your dog.
I cared about my dog too much to be so selfish.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
This is irresponsible on 09/06/2012 14:39:40 MDT Print View

"I always take mine with me, and they are almost always unleashed...My dogs are trail trained... when we see or hear people approaching I call them and they walk beside me."

What do you do if I surprise you or your dogs? You don't see me until I am a few feet away? I would suspect that if I surprised your dogs, no matter how well trained, they would feel threatened. And now you do not have them under your control...

The most common words from a dog owner when their dog is off their leash and the dog attacks/bothers/etc. someone else is "he/she has never done that before...". If the dog is not on a leash they are NOT under your control, period. EVERY dog has something that will cause it to not obey their owner. The owner may not know what that something is yet.

When in public places (including the back country) keep your dogs on a leash. I don't want to be in a position of having to hurt them to defend myself. And I am not a dog owner and therefore not necessarily good at knowing when I actually need to. If I feel threatened I will defend myself.

Keep them on a leash for everyones, the dogs included, safety.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Everyone sees it differently on 09/06/2012 14:52:59 MDT Print View

"it is that when someone chooses to escalate a situation to a lethal level when there are Nonlethal options available."

The problem with this is that the person feeling threatened by an unleashed dog may not agree that there are Nonlethal options available.

"You" may not have the same opinion on what is threating. I remember being in a camp ground with my 2 year old daughter. A friendly and very large dog came running (off a leash of course) up to us. That dog was almost injured by me. It apparently understood my aggressive stance (I stepped in front of my daughter) and stopped. I was afraid that the dog would jump on my daughter and injure her. Had it simply gotten close enough for me to kick it I would have. I would have aimed for either the chest or head and I would have kicked as hard as I possibly could. It's quite possible the owner would not have understood. The dog wouldn't hurt anyone, he was just being friendly. But I felt my daughters safety was being threatened and would do whatever "I" deemed necessary to protect her. And I would error on the side of insuring her protection...

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
You expect them to know this?!? on 09/06/2012 14:57:31 MDT Print View

"Here's the rub, if a stranger appeared on the trail and whipped out a large knife and started waving it around because my dog barked, or just ran up to say hi"

You expect the other person to know that your dog only wants to say hi? That is a big problem. You cannot expect others to know the intentions of your dog. If they don't like dogs they likely see every dog as a threat. Even if that is not the case, other conditions may cause them to see a threat where you do not. See my real life story above. I would have used whatever I had handy at the time.