Jun 12, 2022 at 8:33 pm #3751911
Solo, middle of nowhere. Sultry afternoon.
Quite suddenly, one, then two, then five, now ten farm dogs, barking viciously, advance slowly. Trekking poles swinging wildly, standing my ground growling back. I am almost surrounded. No time to look for rocks.
Past visions of seeing farm dogs fighting each other in a gyroscope of dust and bodies had me ready for the worst. I inch back slowly off their territory and, thank God, live to see another day.
I’ve dealt with dogs before and find that pretending to pick up a rock usually works. But I’ve never had to deal with an emboldened pack. What would you have done in this situation to be better prepared if things got bad? Does bear spray work on dogs?Jun 12, 2022 at 9:56 pm #3751915Philip TschersichBPL Member
@philip-akLocale: Kodiak Alaska
Bear spray (capsaicin) works on every mammalian mucosal membrane. The only category of vertebrate that capsaicin does not work on his birds. Spray the crap out of the bastards.Jun 12, 2022 at 11:18 pm #3751917Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
Yep, it works. I had to spray an aggressive pit bull (how cliché is that?) that escaped from its owners on a trek in Montana, and the dog charged me. I popped a really brief < 1 sec burst when it was about 10 ft away from me - the dog was not happy (turned away, ran, and yelped), and the owners were really mad. After spraying the dog, the owners were far and away the bigger problem...I wonder if the spray would have worked on them 🤔 Nail in the coffin of absurdity was that this was a National Park trail (Yellowstone) 🙄Jun 13, 2022 at 12:53 am #3751924
Good to know. Bear spray it is then.
The number of times I’ve heard smiling dog owners sheepishly say, “It’s okay, he’s actually very friendly” just after stopping their dog from leaping onto my throat…Jun 13, 2022 at 5:51 am #3751929PaulWBPL Member
@peweg8Locale: Western Colorado
I’ve had the aggressive dog experience more than once. Without a doubt, my hiking poles saved my butt. For a pack, if you can get the alpha to back off, the rest will usually follow. But, it may be that bear spray or firearms are your best options. My local sheriff warned me that some dogs become more aggressive when sprayed, so suggested carrying a gun.Jun 13, 2022 at 6:06 am #3751930
Yes, those poles were a lifesaver. The leader of the pack took them seriously. For the first time in my life I can safely say that using trekking poles for walking is the second best reason for having them. I shudder to think what a cyclist would have done in such a situation, finding himself in the middle of a mob with no time to properly react. Truth be told, having at least one other hiking partner would have helped. The last time we encountered a pack I was in a group of several, and we stayed together, trying to look like a large mass because dogs don’t see as well as humans.
This was a classic “skills short” for me (I have to learn everything the hard way: by >not< doing it the first time around). Later in the day I encountered more farm dogs. This time I had made myself aware of signs of farmland at least 100 meters in advance and started picking up rocks. Apparently, dogs are up to 20 times more sensitive to motion than humans, so a couple of rocks sent in advance let them know you aren’t worth the trouble.Jun 13, 2022 at 6:20 am #3751931Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
We encounter dogs when road cycling quite a bit. Most of the time, they just want to make noise and run along beside you but occasionally they do get aggressive (one bit me 3 times in 2020 before I got away, and last year one knocked me off my bike). Most of the time a squirt with a water bottle will do the trick, but pepper spray works too, so if it’s just for dogs, you don’t need to carry a whole bear spray container.Jun 13, 2022 at 7:21 am #3751937
One of the main reasons I switched from a 6 oz carbon trekking pole to a 9 oz high-grade Komperdell retractable aluminum pole is to deal with dogs. It’s bomber and I can bash an attacking dog’s skull in with this thing and not worry about it breaking (when retracted). The carbide tip allows the pole to become a spear as well.
Often times I’ll carry a 3 fl oz Fox pepper spray attached to shoulder strap. I modified a baton holder I got from a tactical store to hold the bottle. Fits perfect. Spray weighs 3.9 oz and the holder 1.1 oz, so 5 oz total. The Fox police grade spray contains the same 2% Oleoresin Capsicum as the much larger Counter Assault bear spray. Also comes in a stream form that allows you to reach out further and get into the eyes, but you’d better have a good aim. The spray will reach out about 8 feet without strong winds and will also work against black bear or aggressive humans. Like Ryan says, the dog owner can be the bigger worry. With the breakdown of civility and increased violence in the US nowadays, you may have to protect yourself against the owner, even though their dog just tried to attack you. Everything is all about them and they really don’t care if their aggressive dog harasses people. I love to hear Judge Judy admonish stupid dog owners.Jun 13, 2022 at 11:45 am #3751977
That’s a scary situation, for sure, and I think you did the right thing. I’ve been bitten a few times, but never by a barking dog. The really mean ones don’t generally give you a warning, they just charge and bite. :-)Jun 13, 2022 at 12:01 pm #3751980John VanceBPL Member
@servingkoLocale: Intermountain West
My wife’s uncle was attacked by three stray dogs last Friday in Houston while out for a morning jog. The attack lasted about 10 minutes before someone heard his screaming and scattered the dogs with a baseball bat. He is still in the hospital having undergone the first of several reconstructive and plastic surgery’s. Mace or bear spray would have likely eliminated or greatly reduced the severity of the injuries. It’s got me thinking about carrying something.Jun 13, 2022 at 2:20 pm #3751986David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Fido can be a well-behaved house dog, but once in a pack with other dogs, reverts to pack behaviors and can chase down and kill livestock and large wildlife. In some areas, left to roam during the workday, it can be the same dogs that go home to kibble and Netflix that are working together to take down livestock. The local rancher in my area doesn’t hesitate to shoot any dogs on his land.Jun 13, 2022 at 4:14 pm #3751999
Fido can be a well-behaved house dog, but once in a pack with other dogs, reverts to pack behaviors and can chase down and kill livestock and large wildlife. In some areas, left to roam during the workday, it can be the same dogs that go home to kibble and Netflix that are working together to take down livestock. The local rancher in my area doesn’t hesitate to shoot any dogs on his land.
David, I agree with you, but respectfully, I think that’s a separate topic, and I hope this isn’t going to evolve into a generic anti-dog thread. From my first-hand experience (and I assume you’ve probably observed the same), predatory behavior in domestic dogs is not necessarily related to human-aggression or dog-aggression.
In fact, I’m sure that many forum members have spent time in countries where feral dog packs are common, and exhibit predatory/scavenger pack behavior, but coexist in harmony with people.Jun 13, 2022 at 7:26 pm #3752015David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I felt it was related to the OPs situation in that, be they farm dogs or household pets, there’s the potential for more aggressive behavior from a pack than an individual dog.
One dog – act bigger and more threatening and it leaves.
A pack of dogs – none of their prey wants to be eaten and will fight back and yet sometimes be taken down.
Hence pepper spray (or superb swordsmanship with a trekking pole) may be needed to resolve the situation.
My point, and I did have one, was that it’s not only farm or feral dogs that are a risk – one could encounter pet dogs in a pack in a county park or elsewhere near the front country.Jun 13, 2022 at 8:40 pm #3752018
I used bear spray on my neighbor’s dogs; they used to chase everyone and anyone down the street, including cyclists, a little old lady with a walker, moms pushing strollers, and me. I asked him to keep them tied, and he said they needed their “freedom.” Next time they chased me on my bike, I nailed the closest one head on with a blast of spray. The dog in the back got only a whiff, but followed the leader back to their driveway. They never chased anyone again as far as I know; they would not come out of the driveway.
The one who really deserved the spray didn’t get it, but at least I solved my problem. And the dog never forgot it.Jun 13, 2022 at 9:45 pm #3752030
And just to show I love dogs!Jun 14, 2022 at 10:18 am #3752046
They never chased anyone again as far as I know; they would not come out of the driveway.
From a training perspective, that couldn’t have gone any better. Sometimes negative reinforcement is a perfect approach, and incredibly efficient.
We adopted our latest dog from some neighbors who had adopted him as a puppy, but two years later they were going to take him back to the shelter. The behavior that bothered them most was stealing food off of the counter. My wife told me that she couldn’t tolerate it.
So I bought a battery-powered mat on Amazon that gives a shock and makes a loud noise when touched. We put the mat on the counter, baited it, and set it to the strongest and loudest setting (he’s a 90 lb pit-bull mix). He triggered it one time, made a little yelp, and came to sit next to me in the family room. Amazingly, that one event cured his counter-surfing behavior. So the mat only got one use.Jun 14, 2022 at 1:21 pm #3752062John VanceBPL Member
@servingkoLocale: Intermountain West
If only children could learn so quickly. 🤣Jun 14, 2022 at 6:01 pm #3752077Roger CaffinBPL Member
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Those are not ‘farm dogs’ nor are they ‘domestic dogs’, in that context. They are feral menaces, and should be dealt with as such. To be sure, they may be someone’s pets when at home, but in the wild they are ferals.
We have two laws in Australia about this:
* A dog must be either on its owner’s property or on a leash. (Council law)
* The owner of a rural property can deal with feral dogs as he sees fit. (Firearms Act)
Our neighbour had some pet sheep – about 12. They were away and some ferals attacked them one night. The vet had to put 6 of them down , and tried to ‘repair’ the other 6. Sue and I spent a months replacing bandages every morning and evening.
Sue has had her trousers slashed and her legs bitten (bloody) at least once.
Take a hard line, every time.
CheersJun 15, 2022 at 3:41 am #3752108
And some go feral at home. Witness the pit bull attacks on owners here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_dog_attacks_in_the_United_States. At the end of the day, they are animals, and instincts may prevail in most any situation.
According to wide ranging epidemiological data from the Wilderness Medical Society, over 4 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year. That’s crazy. That’s only counting bites. Millions more are getting a good scare, near-attack without a bite (as described in the original post). The statistical sample itself would not include the many people who are rarely near dogs (the sedentary, office workers, etc.), so the percentage is actually much higher than one might imagine. One can only speculate what the statistics are for hikers.
The Australian laws that Roger cites are unsentimental and sensible. I wonder if it is legal in North America to pepper spray a dog in any unfriendly encounter.Jun 15, 2022 at 4:33 am #3752109
If it’s anything like human perpetrators of aggression and violence in America, the attacking dog will be afforded all of the rights and protections imaginable, whereas the victim will have to go broke on attorney’s fees trying to prove that they were justified in defending themselves.Jun 15, 2022 at 4:34 am #3752110Roger CaffinBPL Member
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
I wonder if it is legal in North America to pepper spray a dog in any unfriendly encounter.
Look it up.
To be sure, you need some justification, but the rights of humans far exceed those of pets. It is called self-defense.
CheersJun 15, 2022 at 4:47 am #3752111BonzoBPL Member
@bon-zoLocale: Virgo Supercluster
I have a personal scale of Dog Threat. Here it is:
Low Threat: Farm dogs, livestock dogs, police dogs, service dogs, other working dogs, dogs with backpacks, etc. They’re all either on the clock or ready to be done for the day, and they know exactly how to act in both situations.
Medium Threat: Single wandering-around-loose dogs, shop/garage dogs, domestic dogs in houses/yards. Most of these are harmless, but occasionally you get one that’s either assertive/aggressive or just totally unmanaged by their owner.
High Threat: Most dogs being walked in neighborhoods, any dog that looks like it’s been to a salon in the last 24 hours, and ferals. The latter of these is predictable because there are no humans involved; the other two are not, and I generally avoid them.
Uber-Threat: Dogs chained within enclosures, feral packs. Avoid at all costs…especially the former.
So, come to think of it, this is as much a scale of Dog-Owner Threat as it is a scale of Dog Threat…and that makes sense, because the owners are usually the ones that I’ve had a problem with.Jun 15, 2022 at 5:08 am #3752113
This is the closest I could find to a legal explanation available online (lovely pictures): https://www.uslawshield.com/pepper-spray-and-dogs/
Is Pepper Spray Legal for Self-Defense Against Animal Attacks?
“Generally speaking, pepper spray is legal for defense against animal attacks. It’s legal for use in all 50 states, but there are restrictions that vary by location. Before using pepper spray for self-defense from a dog, check your local laws about defensive sprays…”Jun 15, 2022 at 5:45 am #3752115
I’ve seen numerous pedestrian mail carriers and meter readers carrying pepper spray, usually the 2 to 3 oz canister size like in the pic I posted earlier. But pepper spray specifically for dogs is much diluted compared to that for bear and humans. You can potentially mess a dog up with those stronger compounds.
Mail carriers are taught to place their bag between themselves and the dog(s) to blunt an attack as a first move.Jun 15, 2022 at 9:30 am #3752124
I have to admit, I don’t really care what the law says when I’m being attacked – by anyone or any animal. I’m going to save myself. I’ve been bitten in the face and even though my wound was not extreme, it was terrifying. I also am not carrying special spray just for dogs, when I’m already carrying bear spray. I’m not convinced that dogs will be “messed up” by bear spray. I’ve gotten it in my own face and it hurts like hell – and does no lasting damage. That’s the beauty of it over a gun if your goal is deterrence, not death.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
August 4 @ 5:30 PM US MDT: Member Q&A • Backcountry Photography & Cameras
Our Community Posts are Moderated
Backpacking Light community posts are moderated and here to foster helpful and positive discussions about lightweight backpacking. Please be mindful of our values and boundaries and review our Community Guidelines prior to posting.