Aug 15, 2012 at 4:59 pm #1293013
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?Aug 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm #1903018
drowning in spamMember
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.Aug 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm #1903021
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
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.–Aug 15, 2012 at 5:35 pm #1903027
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.
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.Aug 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm #1903037
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
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!Aug 15, 2012 at 6:44 pm #1903052
USA Duane HallParticipant
@hikerduaneLocale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
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.
DuaneAug 16, 2012 at 8:50 am #1903203
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.Aug 16, 2012 at 9:18 am #1903209
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.Aug 16, 2012 at 10:01 am #1903222
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
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.Aug 16, 2012 at 11:21 am #1903244
@paulmagsLocale: People's Republic of Boulder
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…Aug 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm #1903276
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.Aug 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm #1903282
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
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 : )Aug 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm #1903284
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
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.–Aug 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm #1903296
@awsorensenLocale: South of Forester Pass
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?Aug 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm #1903299
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
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) trainedAug 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm #1903300
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.Aug 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm #1903318
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"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.Aug 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm #1903336
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.Aug 16, 2012 at 6:37 pm #1903374
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).Aug 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm #1903378
@ikeLocale: Central Michigan
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.Aug 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm #1903397
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"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.Aug 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm #1903403
@squarkLocale: SF Bay area
" 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.Aug 16, 2012 at 9:36 pm #1903417
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
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.Aug 17, 2012 at 10:53 am #1903529
"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.
RyanAug 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm #1903599
@davidadairLocale: West Dakota
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.
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