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Eli Zabielski
(ezabielski) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 09:23:35 MDT Print View

This weekend I had two dog encounters in one day during a solo weekend trip, and thus I spent a lot of time thinking about what the best way to deal with dogs is.

The question: What do you do when a dog is much closer to you than its owner (off leash), and it is possibly acting aggressively towards you? Assume it's just you, no friends around you.

My situations:
1. Hiking through a willow meadow that is long and narrow at around 9AM, I was minding my own business walking along, trying to apply sunscreen without stopping. I heard a noise behind me, like grass brushing, and I turned around. There was a huge dog 5 feet behind me, with no owners to be found. Seriously, some bears are smaller than this dog. I was startled, and that made the dog bark and growl, and hold it's ground. I pulled out my trekking poles with one hand, put out the "stop" gesture with the other hand, and firmly said "No." Luckily, the owners were camped a little ways away and called their dog off. I am not sure my tactic would have worked.

2. Same day at around 3:30, nearing the trailhead. A family is day hiking up the trail with several dogs. Two of the dogs come running, and don't seem aggressive. One of the two, a black lab, starts growling and barking and doesn't come any closer. The dog's owner calls the dog back, and I proceed to go past the group. While I am going past, the dog once again growls, and gets close enough that I have to put my poles between me and the dog, and push the dog away.

It seems that I should worry more about people's dogs than bears and mountain lions.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Curs on 06/17/2013 09:37:31 MDT Print View

Dogs can be a real problem in the woods.
** Hunting dogs.
** Hiker's dogs.

Hunting dogs in the Southeast mountains are real pests and can glom onto a backpacker and raid his food bags and all the rest. Hunters more or less "abandon" them for the duration and sometimes they stay with me for days.

Hiker's dogs need to be leashed in camp but most are not and generally it's the dogs in camp which are the problem. They consider their camp to be their territory and so it's important they stay leashed by their owners when in camp.

Recently I passed by a person's camp who had two large angry dogs and thankfully the meanest one was leashed but the other had its hackles up and came at me. All you can do is stand still with the hiking pole ready and talk sternly to the thing.

I've only been bit once by a backpacker's dog---on the calf---but I lived.

Edited by TipiWalter on 06/17/2013 09:38:28 MDT.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 09:41:17 MDT Print View

Here we go........

I don't suppose I could convince anyone to spare us the nastiness that always comes with dog threads and just re-read the advice (and, unfortunately, the nastiness) that's already been posted...

here: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=67193

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 09:50:31 MDT Print View

I was bit in the parking lot at Tilley Jane, very minor though, just a poorly trained dog, didn't seem particularly agressive, just energetic. Then they left a plastic bag of poop on top of their car, drove away, bag fell on ground.

On the Badger Creek Trail a dog came running from someone's camp. Ears down. Very agressive. Wasn't barking. I held up my foot and put in between me and it. Better to bite my foot than some other place. I would have kicked but I hate the thought of hurting animals. Maybe kicking the human would be better. Owner finally came and called it off. They said the dog was just "spooked". Compounding the problem they called me a "spook"? : )

Very rude of people to not control their dog. Then they're in denial that it was their fault and that it never happens.

Trekking pole is good protection. The dog is at considerable disadvantage. I think you could even protect yourself some against bear or cougar.

Eli Zabielski
(ezabielski) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
Searching on 06/17/2013 09:51:44 MDT Print View

I did try to search! I don't want to start a dead horse topic. Or one that implies dogs are bad, etc.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Searching on 06/17/2013 10:03:30 MDT Print View

No worries Eli, the search on here is a bit lacking. I just happened to remember the thread. It contains about as many different ideas on what to do as you'll likely need.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Dog on 06/17/2013 10:04:03 MDT Print View

Doug---No nastiness here, just reality. And don't use my post as an example of a backpacker who is anti-dog---I did over 100 trips with my beloved backpacking dog Shunka. See the pics---

Shunka 1
Shunka atop Haw Mt.

Shunka 2
Shunka on the BMT.

Shunka 3
Shunka on Cheoah Bald on the AT.

Edited by TipiWalter on 06/17/2013 10:05:24 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 10:10:54 MDT Print View

Ha, ha Doug

Now if we re-read the old thread, there will be nastiness

Maybe this new thread will be nastiness free : )

And I don't think it's anti dog nastiness, but anti dog owner that doesn't control their dog nastiness

Eli Zabielski
(ezabielski) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
Nice dogs on 06/17/2013 10:12:43 MDT Print View

I would love to play with dogs I encounter on the trail, but I think they are quite intimidated by me. I am pretty tall/thin. I'll almost always have either sunglasses or a hat on, too. Along with trekking poles and a backpack, I think I must be pretty intimidating, which is a bad situation for me and the dog.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 10:15:31 MDT Print View

Massive rudeness on the dog owner's part. I hike with my dog a lot, but I don't think it is fair to subject others to him. Some people don't like dogs and others are fearful of them. I've been muddied by loose friendly dogs jumping up which led to some terse words.

It can be the same or worse when walking with your own dog on a lead. I've had my dog subjected to aggressive behavior from loose dogs and had some words with the owner.

For a lone dog acting aggressively, I would throw rocks or even pepper spray depending on response, but I've never had a dog stand up to my aggressive behavior in public. It's no different than a wild animal, IMHO. I love dogs, but that behavior is not tolerable, let alone legal. Dogs are livestock-- what would you do if their horse acted that way? If a pack goat butted you?

With a dog acting aggressively near the owner, I would stop and tell the owner to get their dog under control *and* clear the trail, then proceed. Getting aggressive with a dog protecting his owner is a really bad idea.

An extreme story: my father and a friend who was a state patrolman were riding motorcycles when a loose dog attacked them both. The state patrolman shot the dog and then arrested the owner who went berserk on him after.


I keep my dog on a lead and may let him loose on an unpopulated trail and call him back if I see or hear anyone else. On a busy trail he's on a lead all the time. I step aside and let people pass unless they do so first. If people want to greet him, we have a nice exchange. It's usually easy to tell if someone is uncomfortable and I put myself between them and my dog.

I've had the same issues in the city. We frequent a large local dog park at home. Aggressive behavior simply isn't tolerated and the other dog owners there are very vocal about it.

Dogs aren't some uncontrollable beings to be tolerated. We have bred them for centuries to be obedient members of our communities, providing service and companionship. Ownership has its responsibilities and the legal end of that has a long history. Follow the law or pay the consequences!

William Chilton
(WilliamC3) - MLife

Locale: Antakya
Re: Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 10:18:00 MDT Print View

Doug, I remember that thread. Some pretty extreme reactions among the others.
If I could add my own spin to the question, and perhaps some of you who have owned dogs will have an answer.
I often hike where there are shepherd camps and flocks with dogs that are trained to fight off anything they regard as a threat. Their job is often to chase off packs of wolves, and they are big!
If you avoid passing close to a camp or walking through a flock, they will usually satisfy themselves with barking and growling. But sometimes you can meet them coming down the trail as you head up (for example) and there's nowhere for you to go. So far, we've never come across a situation where the threat of stones hasn't worked, but I have heard of people who have been attacked and maybe it's only a question of time.
Does anyone know what is best to do with a dog that isn't just spooked but is intent on defending its flock? Is it best to play submissive and unthreatening or is it best to try to dominate? I know this might be out of most people's experiences in the States, but there seems to be plenty of dog lovers on this forum who might be well-read in dog psychology.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Dog - Doug on 06/17/2013 10:18:09 MDT Print View

"And don't use my post as an example of a backpacker who is anti-dog"

Hello Walter,

I would have PM'd you but that's not possible. Anyway, I wasn't using your post as an example of anything. We were writing our posts at the same time (when I was writing mine there was no reply to Eli), your's just happened to post before I finished mine - without ever seeing yours.

The nastiness I referred to was in the thread I linked to.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Dog on 06/17/2013 10:22:58 MDT Print View

Dogs see, smell, and hear "fear". That's how they survive and rise to the top.

A confident, loud, deep voiced NO! while facing the dog will usually do the trick.
Repeat as necessary. Hopefully an owner will show up, call the dog off, and then tell you "He's friendly. He's never bit anyone." Ya, right.

If you are still worried use your pack as a shield and keep shouting NO! as you work your way past the dog.

Most dogs are OK, but you really don't know, so learning the dog signals of aggression verus fear versus alarm is very useful. If all of this is new and uncomfortable to you, look for opportunities to practice and learn dog behavior. Your "I'm the Alpha Here!" attitude is your best defense.

For a seemingly friendly dog, don't cower, avoid eye contact (look at the tail, ears, and hackles), do not smile (show teeth), and move assertively as you assess your next move based on behavior and the dog's body language.

Edited by greg23 on 06/17/2013 11:04:16 MDT.

Ian Van Halen
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 11:07:08 MDT Print View

I've only been bitten twice (not including training) but both times it was without warning. The first time was as a kid where I was chewed up by two Labradors. No barking or growling before they had me on the ground and I became a chew toy.

The second time the dog approached be from behind. No warning of any kind and I drove to the hospital on one cheek.

On another occasion and during a search warrant, the owner's pit bull attacked another dog which was located on the property and ripped it to pieces. Please note that the owner always allowed for the dogs to roam free on his property and our presence changed nothing about their lack of restraint. Again, no warning before it happened.

Apples to oranges but SERE-C has a class about dogs where we all took turns wearing the Michelin Man arm. There were four Belgian Malinois and one German Shepherd. I'm not sure if it part of their training or instinct but none of the dogs barked when they committed to attack us. In the E&E phase we were tracked by bloodhounds. Forget what you saw in Coolhand Luke; the dogs made no noise when they were on our trail. I'm of the opinion with my very limited experience that dogs will stop barking/growling when they have committed to attack. If they are still barking or growling, I feel that they are giving me a courtesy warning.

Some if not most breeds are naturally defensive of their owner. Whenever I see dogs (or a horse) coming down the trail, I give them a wide berth. If I see that the dog has zeroed in on me, my reaction will depend on a number of things including body language, size, breed, proximity to the owner, and the owner's reaction to the dog approaching me. If the dog is coming at me and I don't sense aggression, I'll ask the owner if it's ok to pet the dog and offer my hand for the dog to sniff. If I thought the dog was going to attack, I’d keep my trekking poles or pack between us.

Fortunately I see dogs on the trail more often than not (including trails where they are prohibited) and have never had an adverse encounter with one.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 11:27:40 MDT Print View

"I'm of the opinion with my very limited experience that dogs will stop barking/growling when they have committed to attack. If they are still barking or growling, I feel that they are giving me a courtesy warning."

That one dog that ran at me was not barking, not tail wagging, ears back,...

I think you're right, that's the worst case, that's when you have to be worried.

Ian Van Halen
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 11:44:19 MDT Print View

Of course General Gizmo is an expert in asymmetrical warfare and you'll never see him coming.

.Gizmo

Edited by IDBLOOM on 06/17/2013 11:45:41 MDT.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Dogs on 06/17/2013 11:46:48 MDT Print View

Yeah, and my dog is Ranger Qualified---

Ranger Tab

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 11:57:20 MDT Print View

Doug:
"Here we go........

I don't suppose I could convince anyone to spare us the nastiness that always comes with dog threads and just re-read the advice (and, unfortunately, the nastiness) that's already been posted...

here: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=67193
"

Yup. This one and guns and sexual orientation and religion and climate change and TP and LNT and fires and ....
Another cycle I guess.will take the heat off some other threads perhaps.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Dogs on 06/17/2013 12:12:48 MDT Print View

It won't get nasty. Heck dogs are great. The only advice I have is "Keep 'em leashed when in camp." Pretty simple. No torque.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 12:20:05 MDT Print View

Yup, I deal with unleashed dogs coming at me and my leashed dog all the time.

If you watched the Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan show on Nat Geo a few years ago before he got all glam, he had some good advice.

He's a short guy but it's your personality that can make a difference.

I do the same thing as I would when encountering a bear.

Assess if the attacker is a predator or looking for a food hand-out.

set a mental buffer zone that the dog should not cross. length of a pole seems right. maintain that 3 foot radius.

I yell aggressively NO. BACK. SIT. the dog knows these, the bear... well...
if the attacker is a "nice" dog, he might be nosey and pushy but harmless. he just wants your beef jerky, and your B.O. smells like the mailman.

I always put myself in the middle between my medium sized dog and the invader dog. I get my dog to sit, somewhat tough with all the attention, but that's primary. My dog trusts me to protect him, so he stands down. Also when he is sitting the other dog is less encouraged to engage in a dogfight.

Although with my wife, he senses a lack of leadership so he steps up to protect her.

Edited by RogerDodger on 06/17/2013 12:23:40 MDT.