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I've heard various rumors that dogs might help keep bears away, or might be a bear attractant. Is there anything more concrete than anecdotal evidence to go on?

From the companionship end, they are a net positive, helping to calm your nerves when you hear a strange noise (though it can be disturbing when they start growling at some unseen / unheard shadow in the night).

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4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Keep your dog on a leash.

According the the scouts, dogs are a bad idea in bear country.

Leave your dog at home. A dog often infuriates a bear and may come running back to you with the bear in pursuit!

New Hampshire department of wildlife agrees that, while small, the primary risk is that your dog agitates a bear then runs to you for protection with the bear in pursuit.

Denali National Park, with similar advice

Dogs can sometimes keep bears away from a camp, but very often, a dog initially chases a bear and then the bear chases the dog right back to the camp. Dogs may also harass a bear unnecessarily or pique a bear's curiosity. Dogs must be kept on a leash while in the park and are not allowed on trails, in the backcountry, or left unattended at any time.

There are more than a few bear attacks where a bear has attacked a person after chasing a dog to that person, even in suburban neighborhoods. So this is not "well it's not likely but just in case advice". Conversely there are virtually no reports of dogs saving their owners from bears. Usually it's the owner having to save the dog.

It's very clear that a free running dog in bear country will increase your risk of hostile bear encounters.

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Accepting this answer since it is the only one with any "authority" behind it - though I would still prefer something showing statistical significance (ie, a list of %bear attacks with dogs involved vs. % of people hiking in bear country with dogs...) –  LBell Mar 12 '12 at 12:25
I've actually heard stories from residents of how their dog saved them... But they're rare and probably over glorified. –  Nisan.H Sep 14 '13 at 3:43

In general, I wouldn't recommend it, although it would probably be alright for a short trip.

First of all, a bear has no fear of a dog, and they aren't really going to be too deterred. The fact that you are making any noise will let the bear know you are there, and should encourage it to go away, so it would be a slight benefit.

In the event of a close encounter, if a pet is let to go free, they might treat the bear like they would a human, getting close and barking. Well, that would be a very poor strategy for a bear, likely resulting in serious injury to the dog. Likewise, if you were to tie them up, it would likely lead to trouble if a bear should come in the camp.

I would say for a few hours, it probably wouldn't hurt, especially if you are in black bear country. If you are in Grizzly Bear country, or on an extended outing, or just want to be safe, leave the dogs home.

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I don't know that it is true that a bear has no fear of a dog. I have seen bears run from cats even. Of course it will depend on the type and temperament of the bear. –  Timothy Strimple Jan 25 '12 at 17:36
I'm pretty torn on this answer. You appear to be contradicting yourself, saying both that you wouldn't recommend it but it might be alright, and that it would be a slight benefit and probably a good thing. I think this needs some work to be more clear about exactly what you are saying. –  Russell Steen Feb 6 '12 at 21:17
@RussellSteen: I'll try and make it clearer, but I'm saying for a short outing, it might help, but for an extended stay, I would not recommend it. I've updated the conclusion to be better. –  PearsonArtPhoto Feb 7 '12 at 0:54

I can say that the behavior of the owner can affect your safety with taking a dog into bear country.

Taking a rambunctious dog off-leash into bear country can mean the dog chasing a cub up a tree, which I have seen before on the Appalachian Trail. It's miraculous that the mother bear didn't go after the dog or its owners after that.

As far as I know, keeping the dog on a leash and keeping it with you at all times will not increase your danger in bear country.

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I would be of this opinion as well - even in the worst of cases a yappy chihuahua would serve to make more noise and make it less likely you will surprise a bear. Should a bear decide it wants a piece of your party - having more legs on the ground will certainly offer more chance for diversion or indecision and make you safer for having better sensors, a faster companion, and company for any potential bear encounter. –  bmike Feb 3 '12 at 21:13

I know this is an old thread, but...

Live in the Ozark National Forest. Specifically where the game office drop off bears that are written off as "trouble makes" caught near residences.

Last March I was charged by a rather large, male, black bear...the only thing that saved my bacon was a dog named Doo. Not "Scooby-Doo", but "Doo". Then there are the dozen or so encounters where the bears came into my yard that Doo ran up a tree. Then there was the time a bear busted out two of my windows. Bears here are not afraid of people.

Long story short...a dog is a must. If you walk in brown/griz country...I'd take at least three. Don't have to be big dogs. Funny thing is...black bears can count. They tend to think twice with one dog, but two dogs....they will take cover rather than advance. Three dogs...no worries.

Half guard dog and half hound is a good bet. Best of both worlds without them straying too much. With that said you don't want the "half-hound" to be red-bone, blue-tick or anyother hound adept at running 20 miles a day. You will loose them in short order. A mild hound like a "water-dog" (lab/weimeraner) mixed in with a BIG guard dog (mastiff/dane).

Any LARGE pure bred guard dog will do, but they cost money while muts are typically free. Even a single teacup poodle is better than nothing...assuming you can out run the dog of course. A single pitbull will work, but you can't run more than one cause they'll fight your other dogs if not kill them.

With my experience with black bear...I'd never test my luck with brown/griz...


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I completely agree. I think the key is to keep the dogs on a leash so they don't end up chasing and getting chased. But I think bears will want to avoid messing with more animals than it has to. –  Chris Mendez Jun 24 '14 at 13:59

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