“When a dog runs at you, whistle for him.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Most dogs that you meet on the trail are just REALLY HAPPY.
If you have a dog run at you while you are hiking, try not to freak out. Assess the situation:
- Is the dog’s tail whirling around?
- Does the dog look happy? Tongue hanging out?
- Is a leash trailing behind the dog?
- Is there an owner chasing after the dog and cursing?
- Does the dog have on a collar?
Most dogs are not going to attack you, they’re just thrilled to be outside – on a walk!
And, they are overjoyed about meeting someone NEW on the trail. It’s like the best party ever for a friendly dog.
But, you have to handle yourself well because it is a strange dog to you so here are some pointers:
- Avoid turning on their chase/kill instinct
- Never scream or run
- Never turn your back
- Be calm and unafraid
- Make yourself appear larger
- Baby-talk to the dog like you would a very cute puppy
- “Who’s a good boy? You are. Sit! That’s a good boy.” (This has saved me from more than one jam.)
But, what if you meet Cujo in the woods?
- Move any gear (backpack, walking stick) in front of you to make you look bigger and to act as a buffer in case the dog does attack.
- In a deep voice, firmly tell the dog, “NO! Sit!” or “No! Go Home! Get!” and then stamp your foot forward and point.
- Spray it with mace, bear spray, wasp spray, bug spray, whatever you got – spray it!
- Whack it with your walking stick & keep hitting it until it retreats and you can safely retreat too.
- Immediately call law enforcement and file a report.
- Go home and take a long hot shower and drink a cold beer.
I have never had a dog charge me while I was hiking. I did have a German shepherd charge me when I had a job working outside marking trees. I coated the dog in bright orange spray paint (used for marking the trees). It was still coming after me because it was a trained attack dog and I was on its territory. The owner had to literally pick it up and carry it away from me and it was still trying to get at me. I’ve never been so thankful for a full can of bright orange spray paint. I took a mental health day after that!
I’ve had a lot of goofy dogs, thrilled to be free, race by me and on more than one occasion had a dog (that wasn’t mine or apparently anyone else’s) hike a trail with me. I have used the “Who’s a good puppy?” routine on rottweilers, dobermans, German shepherds, chows, and a multitude of mutts. And, it worked.
Here is just one more story: I was hiking when the owners of three rotties and one chow fell down an ice covered slope and in the process accidentally let the dogs go.
I was waiting at the bottom of the icy slope to come up. The dogs made it to the bottom and had me surrounded. The owners where still half way up the hill trying to get up and not having much luck. The woman was crying because she hurt herself and the guy was panicked because the dogs weren’t under control. So the owners are sounding hurt and here are four protective by nature dogs starring at me like I’m the problem.
I nearly peed my pants but kept it together long enough to say in a very cheerful dorky baby-talk voice, “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? Now SIT. That’s a good boy.” I managed to get all four dogs sitting looking at me like I was some kind of magician. (I kind of felt like one.)
The couple finally made it down the hill and the panicked guy asked, “Did they bite you?”
I really didn’t want the dogs to think his panicky voice was because of me so I answered, “Who’s a good boy?” All four dogs wagged their tails. “Nope were all good here.”
Happy Cujo Free Hiking!