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Does anyone have advice on how to manage dog encounters when out in the woods? I am an avid hiker but have been limiting my time on unfamiliar trails since I adopted Indy. Now that mud season has gone by and black fly season is nearly-ish over, I am bound and determined to get back into the Whites for some (much needed!) conditioning before our backpacking trip in September.

My biggest concern is Indy's dog reactivity (intensified on leash) and the fair amount of friendly-stupid, off leash dogs that hike with their owners. A lot of the time, the dog recalls without issue, and there's no problem. But I'd like to be prepared for the stubborn, poorly-trained dog that we've all run into before. We've been doing a lot of training for her reactivity, but she's still very uncomfortable with dogs within 10-20 feet of her — especially when she's leashed and they aren't.

What's the best way to discourage a dog from coming over to investigate? And any tips/tricks on dealing with oblivious dog owners?
 

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Is it an off leash area? If not, then I would make a point of reporting/complaining to whoever monitors the area, perhaps they can write some tickets.

For the actual event, carry a walking stick or a riding crop, as well as a squirt gun. When you see a dog coming up get your dog sitting, step in front to deflect the dog (stomping into their path works well usually) and then squirt if needed. The stick or riding crop can be used to move them away as well, most dogs aren't going to push the issue with a stick pounded on the ground in front of them, or a riding crop makes a good noise on a tree and a good tap on the chest helps if needed.

For you, keep calm, don't make it a big growlfest, just be assertive and firm. If you go mental and wiggy your dog is going to also get worked up, but if you have the 'I'll handle this, you stay back, it's fine' attitude your dog will be calmer. If the owners are in sight and can't call their dog off, then they don't have much right to complain about a tap on the chest with a riding crop (it won't harm the dog and is less damage than your dog eating them).
 

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The majority is off-leash, yeah.

Trekking poles! Another great reason to sink some cash into them! And I'll pick up a small squirt gun at the dollar store— that's a fantastic idea, one that I would have never dreamt up. A short lanyard to attach it to my hip belt and we'll be golden. :)

I'm assuming that it wouldn't hurt to practice the routine beforehand, right? Get her used to the sit-stay-step and the ground smacking, etc. (Heck, it'd help me too, I bet.)

Thank you so much!
 

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Some cheaper squirt guns leak so I'd get one of the nicer ones! I bought one a while back when we first moved into this house to work on Roxie's barking and it leaked so I couldn't use it. But she quit on her own after we settled in so it was okay.
 

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Read up on this :- Leslie McDevitt's LOOK AT THAT! Game

Teaches the dog some self control whilst focusing on you rather than the distraction.

One pointer I would give is try and keep your leash loose and relaxed. If you tighten the leash, you are sending a signal to your dog that you are scared of the dog coming to you so he had better defend you.
 

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There isn't a whole lot that you can do if you are in an off-leash area...after all, the other dogs ARE allowed to be off leash, and lots of people will take their dogs to off-leash area's specifically to socialize them and give them a chance to play with other dogs. And if there is a major issue, you may well be at fault, depending on your local by-laws - many require that reactive or "problematic/aggressive/take your pick of inappropriate words" dogs are not brought to off-leash areas. It tends to depend on whether or not the trail is a walking trail where dogs are allowed to be off-leash, or an off-leash dog area where people walk.

Definitely keep working on your dog's behavior, and keep focused on being relaxed, and taking charge of any situations with new dogs. The water gun is a great idea - most dogs will run off from it! Just get a slightly better one that will allow you better aim and a longer range. For the most part, the best idea is to move yourself and the dog away - I don't know what kind of trails you are walking, but if they are wide enough, walk to the other side and sit the dog beside and slightly behind you.

Your body language is important for what you convey to the dog, but also what you convey to other owners! There isn't much you can do for the distracted owner, or the ones that let their dog run ahead until they can't even see them....but those that are within sight will see that you are moving the dog AWAY, and usually that is enough for them to recall. Certainly most intelligent owners will watch the body language of other owners, and pay attention to whether the person is releasing the leash and letting the dog move forward with a big smile, or if they start to guide the dog in the other direction....If they aren't paying attention to that, and the dog is still happily padding forward - call out to the owner! Be friendly and polite, but you can still call out "Excuse me! Could you please call your dog?" Very few people will refuse a direct request, even if some of them will do it very rudely. And then you can just say "thank you - she just not great around other dogs.". Say it with a smile, and they may mutter behind your back...but that is better than them trying to sue you or get your dog put down because it bit theirs....
 

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2+ on what ManyRoses said. I live in an area where my dogs are off leash the majority of the time. Usually I keep an eye ahead for people with dogs on leash and call ahead to them. Occasionally I do get distracted and really appreciate someone saying "Could you please hold/leash your dogs? Mine isn't friendly", especially if it's said nicely. It's amazing how much grief a little polite communication can prevent.
 

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I totally understand where you're coming from, ManyRoses & Rowdy. There are definitely areas around here that are dog-oriented without being dog-specific — and rightly so! I grew up taking my dogs to a local beach, which is off-leash/dogs allowed during the winter months, and it's crawling with four leggers between Nov. and Apr. But I would never take Indy there. Ever. It would be her version of a waking nightmare and possibly disastrous for everyone else.

The areas that I'm talking about aren't quite as populated. It's the backcountry, for the most part, and the people out there are there for the hiking. Bringing their dog is the added bonus. And you're right! The majority of people are wonderful and accommodating when it comes to recalling their dogs. I'm more concerned about the unattended pooches. They're pretty rare, but sometimes they do wander away from people's campsites. Plus, there's always that one 'torpedo dog' that zooms right at you while its oblivious owner shrieks in the background, haha.

The gist is: I don't anticipate any problems, but I like to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Also, if I rambled or made no sense, I'm sorry! I just came off a double shift, and my brain has gone a lot mushy.
 

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We live in an area unfortunately where neighbors allow their dogs to roam. This is really bad for our situation, because Charlotte is dog aggressive, and these dogs like to get in her face. About a week or so ago, one of the dogs approached her while I was taking her out to pee, and a small fight broke out, where she was cut pretty deep under her chin. We're apparently in an area where there is no leash law, so we have to deal with it.*

The way we deal with it? We get mean towards the roaming dogs. I carry a big plastic hollow bottle and crack it hard against my leg and shout aggressively "GO HOME!" before the dog even approaches. My husband has chased the dogs with sticks in his hand before clear out of the yard. We've sent dogs running with their tails between their legs the moment they see us. Mind you we would NEVER hurt or lay a hand on these dogs, we just want to scare them so they stay away from Charlotte. It's our job to protect her from herself and other dogs, in addition to ourselves.**We already have her on a leash here, and if something happens, it would be our "fault", and that's not something we should have to deal with.

Our case is a little extreme though, and it's the first time we've taken this approach. While out hiking, I've always told owners we see up the path that our dog doesn't like strange dogs, and that usually is enough for them to quickly leash their dogs long enough for us to pass.
 

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Mud season came late this year but is abating. Because of the dry early spring, black flies were not too bad. It is well into mosquito and deer fly season.

Where will you be backpacking? Will you bringing the dog?


The White Mountain National Forest is like most other NFs, dogs off-leash except in picnic areas, campgrounds, and other developed areas, or as otherwise posted.

Not all NH state parks allow dogs, the ones that do allow dogs have a leash requirement. In actual practice, some of the ones that are officially "no dogs allowed" are OK with dogs away from high-use areas and in the off-peak periods. And in reality, some of the ones that are "leashed dogs only" are perfectly fine with off leash dogs.

Most of the hiking trails in the White Mountains are in the WMNF, so off-leash dogs are the norm. In Franconia Notch, Crawford Notch, and Mt Washington state parks you are likely to encounter off-leash dogs away from trailheads and campgrounds.

Trails are almost entirely narrow single-track, often steep, usually with very little opportunity to get much off the trail when meeting another party that has a dog. I have noticed a tremendous increase in the popularity of hiking in the Whites over the past 20 years. Now even the obscure, out-of-the-way, and insignificant trails get regular traffic throughout the summer, and there is a lot of weekday traffic.

I hike 365 days a year with my dogs, and in the mountains 2-3 times per week. I've never encountered any DA dogs in the mountains, but occasionally in some of the low country state parks. I am sure there are some, but it's the exception rather than the rule. Even dog-reactive dogs are pretty unusual. Hiker dogs are usually pretty chill.

The biggest favor you can do for your dog is to work really hard on desensitization and counter-conditioning to the presence of other unleashed dogs. There are tons of places that you can do this close to home. I personally would not bring a dog that was not completely comfortable with the presence of other dogs hiking in the Whites. Anywhere you go to hike you are likely to encounter other dogs, and that puts your dog under a lot of unnecessary stress, and is not fair to other trail users.

If I met anyone on the trail who started threatening my dogs or tried to spray them with anything because their own dog was not ready to be in that situation, we would have a big problem. Just saying.
 

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If I met anyone on the trail who started threatening my dogs or tried to spray them with anything because their own dog was not ready to be in that situation, we would have a big problem. Just saying.
Why? It's your job to keep your dog near you and under control at all times. If you fail to do so and allow your dog to approach another without the owners permission you're setting yourself and your dog up for confrontation, you darn sure should prefer I spay your dog with a little water or make noise/gestures to scare it off than what would happen if my dog felt the need to defend herself.
 

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Why? It's your job to keep your dog near you and under control at all times. If you fail to do so and allow your dog to approach another without the owners permission you're setting yourself and your dog up for confrontation, you darn sure should prefer I spay your dog with a little water or make noise/gestures to scare it off than what would happen if my dog felt the need to defend herself.
Maybe you missed the context? We are talking about narrow and often steep single-tracks, through heavily forested areas, typically without much opportunity to get off the trail. Except above treeline, lines of sight are very limited and it is easy to turn a corner and run into an oncoming party with little or no warning. When meeting or overtaking other parties, there is no alternative to close proximity. Off-leash dogs are the norm. This is not a great place to bring an under-socialized or reactive dog.

This is also a lot different than Mission Trails or the Cleveland National Forest, Elfin Forest, or SDC open space preserves. The chaparral generally affords long sight lines and plenty of opportunity to get well off the trail, so it is easier to manage poorly socialized dogs in those environments.

As it happens, SOP for my own dogs for when meeting people, dogs, or equestrians on the trail is to sit and allow the oncoming party to pass. When overtaking, it is to heel. When I see that someone is approaching with an under-socialized dog, I try to be diligent about getting off the trail as much as possible, to allow them to pass. This is an opportunity to reinforce my dogs for the desired behavior, work on focus, and (if the handlers have any clue) allow for a desensitization opportunity for the reactive dog. When overtaking (hiking every day, I move more quickly than most) a party with a sketchy dog, I request that they allow room for us to pass. I get a lot of comments about how well trained my dogs are. They don't run up on other dogs, but other dogs frequently run up on us. I have spent a lot of time habituating my dogs to people, bicyclists, dogs, horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and moose.

Having spent a lot of time in the areas the OP is talking about, I can attest that it is very common to encounter off-leash dogs that are not aggressive, but not all are well controlled. That is just a fact of life. If you don't want your dog approached by off-leash dogs, this is not the place to go. It is not a problem for properly socialized dogs.

There is also the consideration that hunting with dogs is very common in the National Forests. Hunting is generally allowed in the NFs, but the hunting regulations are state-specific. For example, in CA it is legal to hunt just about every game species with dogs, except hunting mountain lions with dogs requires a special permit. It is legal in CA to "train" dogs on or off game all year long, except in designated "dog control areas" during the deer season. In NH it is not legal to hunt deer or moose with dogs, but it is legal to hunt most other game species (including black bear) with dogs. There's no closed season in either state on coyotes or squirrels. In both states, it is illegal to interfere with a dog engaged in the legal pursuit of game.

In the National Forests and other public lands where hunting is allowed (e.g., BLM, NH State Parks and State Forest, etc.), one should expect to encounter hunting dogs that are going to be working at some distance from the handler. I run my dogs on game at every legal opportunity. The cur works close, generally within 100 yards. The lurcher typically works within a quarter mile in the chaparral, closer in forest.

So if you have your dog in an area where unleashed dogs are the norm, you have to expect to encounter unleashed dogs. For most of us with well-socialized dogs, this is not a big deal. But an owner engaging in threat displays is a big deal. It turns what should be an innocuous encounter into a confrontation. The threat display is intended as a distance-increasing behavior, but may in fact trigger an otherwise calm dog into an active defense reflex. If you did it with my dogs, you'd find yourself getting bayed up, something we both want to avoid. Squirting my dogs in the face with water is pretty much just an invitation to play, but they would prefer that you had a hose with a jet nozzle for that. It is not a deterrent. My dogs have both worked rabbits and hares, squirrels, opossum, raccoon, deer, bobcat, coyote, and black bear. They hike or hunt every day, and are in excellent condition. Reactive dogs really don't phase them very much.

There is also the large issue of access. Bringing under-socialized/aggressive dogs into areas that are traditionally off-leash areas has a negative impact on the access rights of other users. For example, public lands within the Adirondack Park in NY have always been off-leash, but just recently (last few years) they have implemented and are vigorously enforcing leash requirements in the high peaks region. This is a direct result of too many people hiking with their under-socialized/aggressive dogs, and negatively impacts those of us with well-socialized dogs.
 

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We live in an area unfortunately where neighbors allow their dogs to roam. This is really bad for our situation, because Charlotte is dog aggressive, and these dogs like to get in her face. About a week or so ago, one of the dogs approached her while I was taking her out to pee, and a small fight broke out, where she was cut pretty deep under her chin. We're apparently in an area where there is no leash law, so we have to deal with it.*

The way we deal with it? We get mean towards the roaming dogs. I carry a big plastic hollow bottle and crack it hard against my leg and shout aggressively "GO HOME!" before the dog even approaches. My husband has chased the dogs with sticks in his hand before clear out of the yard. We've sent dogs running with their tails between their legs the moment they see us. Mind you we would NEVER hurt or lay a hand on these dogs, we just want to scare them so they stay away from Charlotte. It's our job to protect her from herself and other dogs, in addition to ourselves.**We already have her on a leash here, and if something happens, it would be our "fault", and that's not something we should have to deal with.

Our case is a little extreme though, and it's the first time we've taken this approach. While out hiking, I've always told owners we see up the path that our dog doesn't like strange dogs, and that usually is enough for them to quickly leash their dogs long enough for us to pass.
This is how it is at my dads house. We're kind of out in the country and really the only house with a fence. Everyone else's dogs free roam. Most are very friendly and it's not a huge problem (except for our little num-nuts who go crazy at the window every time they see them walk in our yard) but there is one family who just continues to keep adding dogs and they don't listen at all and come over and cause trouble. A HUGE Lab named Titan is our biggest problem. He has bruised my little brother before while running and knocking him over and we finally resorted to calling AC. My dad now keeps an air soft gun and shoots at him when he tries to come into our yard. It's what we have to do in this case because obviously nothing else works (we've called them a bagilion times and asked if they could keep their dog in their yard, called AC, etc, etc).


There isn't a whole lot that you can do if you are in an off-leash area...after all, the other dogs ARE allowed to be off leash, and lots of people will take their dogs to off-leash area's specifically to socialize them and give them a chance to play with other dogs. And if there is a major issue, you may well be at fault, depending on your local by-laws - many require that reactive or "problematic/aggressive/take your pick of inappropriate words" dogs are not brought to off-leash areas. It tends to depend on whether or not the trail is a walking trail where dogs are allowed to be off-leash, or an off-leash dog area where people walk.

Definitely keep working on your dog's behavior, and keep focused on being relaxed, and taking charge of any situations with new dogs. The water gun is a great idea - most dogs will run off from it! Just get a slightly better one that will allow you better aim and a longer range. For the most part, the best idea is to move yourself and the dog away - I don't know what kind of trails you are walking, but if they are wide enough, walk to the other side and sit the dog beside and slightly behind you.

Your body language is important for what you convey to the dog, but also what you convey to other owners! There isn't much you can do for the distracted owner, or the ones that let their dog run ahead until they can't even see them....but those that are within sight will see that you are moving the dog AWAY, and usually that is enough for them to recall. Certainly most intelligent owners will watch the body language of other owners, and pay attention to whether the person is releasing the leash and letting the dog move forward with a big smile, or if they start to guide the dog in the other direction....If they aren't paying attention to that, and the dog is still happily padding forward - call out to the owner! Be friendly and polite, but you can still call out "Excuse me! Could you please call your dog?" Very few people will refuse a direct request, even if some of them will do it very rudely. And then you can just say "thank you - she just not great around other dogs.". Say it with a smile, and they may mutter behind your back...but that is better than them trying to sue you or get your dog put down because it bit theirs....
In the case of the OP, I agree with this. :)
 
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