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What to do when encountering dogs on the trail?
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Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 21:04:37 MDT Print View

I frequently have CharlieDog off leash...and I started doing this for both our safety. I found that while he was on the lead, he would lunge at every single hiker we passed. I worked with trainers, two behaviorists...all with the same result. Off leash, on the other hand, he's a totally different dog. He hikes on the trail only (kinda cool, actually), and almost always second in line. He's got a spot on recall, leave it, etc.


There are times he sees hikers up ahead...and he runs to greet them. Guess what happens? "Aw, what a great dog you have! What's in his pack?" Pet pet pet, scratch, scratch, scratch, pet some more...

Chuck runs out of line and is rewarded for his bad behavior EVERY SINGLE TIME.

As for the OP question: I agree that if the dog is barking and growling, be assertive, say NO strongly and firmly...and recognize that the dog is a) startled b) sensing your being startled and/or c) protecting turf/owner. I like the idea of crossing your poles in front of you ...

I wonder what would happen if you just gave the pup some of your jerky?

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 21:15:26 MDT Print View

I make nice with the dog. Has worked so far. Really surprised a woman with her protector a few weeks back. Buds in seconds. Dogs know too if you are a dog person or not. Firm, assertive non threatening works for me with the ones that seem a little aggravated. They're missing the sofa and are cranky. Cut them some slack. The dogs, not the owners.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/17/2013 22:01:06 MDT Print View

Most dogs are all bark and no bite.

I was nearly trampled by a pack of pitbulls running through our camp at 6 a.m. at Terrace Creek in Big Sur. Please control your dogs and don't let them harass or annoy others. Or better yet take them on remote trails or off trail so you don't have to worry about it.

Robert Meurant
(rmeurant) - MLife
Yield right-of-way to anything larger or meaner... on 06/17/2013 22:57:25 MDT Print View

Not to mention what to do when encountering wild yaks on the trail?

(Zanskari experience, just below a pass on a narrow track. Though to be sure, it seemed gentle enough).

Michael Gillenwater
(mwgillenwater) - M

Locale: Seattle area
Re: Re: What to do when encountering dogs on the trail? on 06/18/2013 00:07:33 MDT Print View

Sorry, I probably should keep my mouth shut. And its been hashed over on previous threads. But I here it is: I don't like dog's on the trail.

Especially in designated wilderness areas. Emotionally, I like pets. Always had a combination of four or more growing up (dogs, cats, turtles, fish, hamsters, rabbits, hermit crabs, etc.). Emotionally, they can be great. I find it emotionally comforting to have a dog around. But rationally and environmentally, I know that most pets are sort of a disaster. The stats make this clear. I can live with the tradeoff because they bring a lot of happiness to many people. But I am not OK with the tradeoff in wilderness. I just don't like seeing a dog run wild out on the trail in a place we are only supposed to be a visitor and minimize our impact. On the trail, I try to tread lightly and minimize disturbance to the natural systems and to other hikers. Dogs seem to be unavoidably counter to that objective.

I sort of feel the same way about horses in wilderness, mainly for one reason. How many trails have we all seen destroyed by horse pack trains. Just one train of horses on a muddy trail can destroy years of train maintenance.

OK, now argue or attack if you must. I just felt like a counterpoint here was missing.

This feeling has only intensified as I have started backpacking with my young daughters. I have already had multiple encounters where large dogs off leach come running up (or from behind) with ambiguous intentions and scaring the crap out of my girls. It is one think for this to happen to a full grown adult. But another when you weigh 50 or 60 pounds. There have been a couple of occasions where it took real self control for me to still be polite to these "dog owners." I want my girls to fall in love with the backcountry like I did. I never remember seeing dogs out on the trail when I was young (except hunting dogs in particular contexts). This seems to be more common that it was 20 or 30 or so years ago.

Edited by mwgillenwater on 06/18/2013 00:09:26 MDT.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Dogs on 06/18/2013 05:54:19 MDT Print View

Justin Baker's comment about pitbulls reminded me of a trip I did recently in March.

Shih Tzu
I took my little Shih Tzu out on a 16 day wilderness trip and he starts out great.

Here he is after the trip. Ha ha ha.


Now, to respond to Michael's No Dogs in the Wilderness post. First off, the hunting lobby from Virginia down thru North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia would never agree to not use their dogs for hunting which for the most part roam freely thruout wilderness areas and are unsupervised. In my mind, as a backpacker, these dogs are abandoned and if a pet owner did the same he'd be cited. Ya just can't dump your dog off in the woods and drive away. Hunters do it all the time.

But Michael's comment "I just don't like seeing a dog run wild out on the trail in a place we are only supposed to be a visitor and minimize our impact." Both humans and dogs are supposed to be temporary visitors to wilderness areas---both the humans and the dogs will leave soon enough. So there's no problem in my mind. While I do see coyotes living out and while I wish the red wolf would repopulate my mountains, I do not see domesticated dogs living in permanent packs---they are just visitors, like us. No problem.

What irks me in the Southeast wilderness areas I visit are the near constant overhead jet traffic noise, the Army flying nap-of-the-earth helicopter training missions (yes, right over the wilderness), the screaming and roaring motorcycles on "scenic motor loop" roads 10 miles from our camps, and the TN valley air pollution making the GSMNP the most polluted in the country. The weathermen actually tell people to stay indoors. Compared to this crap, dogs have no impact whatsoever.

But I agree that horses destroy a place and if you want proof just look at what they do in the Mt Rogers backcountry in Virginia.

Edited by TipiWalter on 06/18/2013 06:00:10 MDT.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Horses on 06/18/2013 07:42:50 MDT Print View

"I sort of feel the same way about horses in wilderness, mainly for one reason. How many trails have we all seen destroyed by horse pack trains. Just one train of horses on a muddy trail can destroy years of train maintenance."

Just keep in mind that many of the hiking trails that we love to hike were built and are maintained by horses and horse people. Agree completely that irresponsible horse people (and hikers) in the early season can reek havoc on a trail. Now back to dogs......

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Dogs on trail on 06/18/2013 07:49:24 MDT Print View

I wonder if a person who is scared of dogs(and maybe for good reason) sees having a large scary dog coming towards them with owner a ways back like having some mean looking guy come down the trail pointing a gun at them appearing to have the intention of pulling the trigger and then some one a ways back yells "its OK he won't shoot you its not even loaded ... its not is it Roger?" I'm asking a question not making a statement so please keep that in mind. Is that a good analogy? I am better at reading dogs than I am at people. I don't trust people till they prove they can be trusted and the same with dogs, actually I usually trust dogs much quicker they are far more honest. I'm not scared of to many people I meet on the trail or dogs but I have been. I think this is a great topic as every time I go out on the trail I meet clueless or worse yet pet owners that just don't care about the feelings or rights of others I've made a lot of mistakes on the trail with my dogs it is my responsibility as dog owner to look after my dogs and follow the rules the op shouldn't have to be posting this question he really should not be disrespected in any way. If you really know dogs the answers range from ignoring it to try to kill it, the dog that is.

Edited by mtmnmark on 06/18/2013 12:06:29 MDT.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Dog Laughs on 06/18/2013 08:12:50 MDT Print View

Gotta have some levity---

Not all dogs are bad in the wilderness. This one enjoys reading thru a Campmor catalog. (Cherry Log Gap, Citico wilderness TN).

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Re: "What to do when encountering dogs on the trail?" on 06/18/2013 08:45:03 MDT Print View

"I frequently have CharlieDog off leash...and I started doing this for both our safety. I found that while he was on the lead, he would lunge at every single hiker we passed."

Jen, have you tried a Gentle Leader AKA Halti? The dog in my avatar has a very soft trachea, for lack of a better description, and any pressure on his throat at all causes him to cough badly. The first day of obedience class the trainer came over before the class started and asked if he had kennel cough. Training was/is very easy with him except he wants to visit with every dog he sees and will pull to do so. It's tough to correct because of his trachea. So I got a Gentle Leader and problem solved. He will not even try to pull with it on. But I don't use it on the trail as I use trekking poles and don't want him right beside me. I use a flexi lead attached to my waist belt and his pack and have him lead or follow. Probably the main reason he doesn't lunge on the trail is because we don't pass people directly on the trail. When we encounter other hikers, we get off the trail and he's put in a sit/stay until they pass. Just like we do for encountering horses. It helps put people at ease and if they ask to visit with him, he's released. I don't see anyone else do this but it's worked well for us. Sure it slows you down a little on a busy trail but we try to avoid those for the most part anyway. When we're passing others in the same direction, I shorten the lead and move briskly past.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Horses on 06/18/2013 10:57:10 MDT Print View

My wife and I once almost got trampled by horses running free on a trail.

The owners let them loose near the end of their trip to run down to a corral or something. We were heading up and barely heard them coming around a bend in the trail. We just barely jumped off the trail in time. I shudder to think of what would have happened if they ran over us.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Horse Curs on 06/18/2013 11:19:18 MDT Print View

I could write a long screed about horses on foot trails---not about horses but about the humans who ride them. But that would hijack this thread. For some reason riderless wild ponies are a whole different subject---and are trail benign---

Hippie Horse
Freakish pony in the Mt Rogers backcountry.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Halti collars on 06/18/2013 12:01:40 MDT Print View

I've used Halti collars on two dogs with instant results. I find them to be much more humane and gentle than any kind of pinch or choke collars. Some dogs will paw at them at first, but a little treat and learning that the Halti=a walk usually takes care of that issue. You get to go for a walk with a slack lead and even a small person can control a large dog with one. You are using the simple principle of leading the dog by their head and can direct them away from issues. My theory is that they use an instinctual trigger as a mother dog will correct her pup by mouthing their muzzle, which the Halti does when you take up the slack. IMHO, they are the best way to go.

I've seen a lot of people with the Gentle Lead collars which are similar. I tried one once and found it harder to put on the dog and adjust. They are very light and simple.

The only issue is that some people think they are a muzzle and get freaked out. Rare, but it has happened to me.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Ah...the dog thread on 06/18/2013 19:41:37 MDT Print View

Ok. This is an online post. You cannot hear my tone, but please imagine that I am saying this nicely and with absolutely NO malice in my voice. I am not writing this in anger, or frustration, or anything similar. I am simply going to make a point.

I very much enjoy hiking with my dog, who is a very, very good trail dog. He is very well behaved, rarely ventures from his number 2 spot on the trail, and after a great deal of effort, work, and a lot of mistakes on my part, he's turned into a dog most people enjoy meeting on the trail.

Seeing him get to run around free (usually he's stuck in a condo and only gets to go on sidewalk walks in the city), the goofiest grin on his face, he's an image of pure joy and it makes MY hiking experience just amazing.

Ok, maybe you don't like dogs. Why do I have to give up MY hiking experience to save you the 90 seconds out of your whole hike you see my pup because you don't like dogs in the wilderness?

Yes, I agree that I have a big responsibility and it's one I take very seriously. Am I perfect? Of course not. But I just can't get over the nastiness some people have over dogs on the trail.

It's an animal. Like a coyote, or a deer, or a mosquito, or snakes, or ticks, black is an unpleasant experience with a dog any different from that? Because I brought him there?

I don't like mountain bikes, but hey, on trails where they are allowed? oh well. Horses? Same thing. How about large groups? Or as Tipi said, the sound of helicopters, or nearby roads, or motor boats, or planes..........I guess I don't understand how the purity of YOUR wilderness experience trumps mine.....

Ok. I'm done.

Let the flaming begin :)

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Ah...the dog thread on 06/18/2013 19:46:14 MDT Print View

Nice point.
Thank you.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Ah...the dog thread on 06/18/2013 19:46:18 MDT Print View

You left out my favorite group. Rotten children.

I mean that in the nicest way possible.

Hoot Filsinger
(filsinger) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Ah...the dog thread on 06/18/2013 20:54:01 MDT Print View

Dogs fear my encounter on the trail.

Dogs fear me.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Ah...the dog thread on 06/18/2013 20:59:38 MDT Print View

Chuck n i

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Ah...the dog thread on 06/18/2013 21:03:12 MDT Print View


Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Re: Ah...the dog thread on 06/19/2013 09:07:09 MDT Print View

I see no reason for the flaming to begin :) we are just discussing the OP's scenario. And I really have not seen any nastiness here yet just opinions that we are all entitled to. Only a couple of posts have said they don't like dogs in the wilderness and I think it was done in a respectful way and I can see their point. I feel bad that they feel that way. I think Dale Randy Dena and others all threw out helpful suggestions. I don't think the OP's question can be answered with an easy one size fits all answer and that 99%+ of the time there is nothing to worry about, but a dog can be as big of a whack job as their owner and the dog attack statistics are real over 800,000 bites a year in the usa. So I see any thread that helps the dog owner see others point of view as helpful to everyone. So we can all have our wilderness experience.

Edited by mtmnmark on 06/19/2013 10:54:47 MDT.