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Are Bears Afraid of Dogs & Should You Take Your Dog Hiking?

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Are bears scared of dogs? Some are, such as the black bear, while other species are less likely to be intimidated, such as grizzlies. A barking dog can at first scare a bear but can have terrible consequences.

Bear are some of the largest land mammals. They’re apex predators, respected by other animals in their habitats.

But are they scared of dogs?

In this article, we’ll talk about whether bears are actually afraid of dogs, whether you should bring your dog when hiking, or if it’s a bad idea.

Are Bears Afraid of Dogs?

Some bears are afraid of dogs. However, dogs can also cause bears to turn aggressive and defensive faster, resulting in a possible attack. 

There are many different species of bears, and each of them behaves slightly differently. This is also the case in terms of their response to a barking dog.

Black bears are the most likely to be scared of dogs. This species isn’t as dominant as the grizzly bear, and will hence be frightened more easily.

A barking dog may just chase them away.

Grizzly bears are less likely to be afraid of dogs. When it comes to grizzlies or brown bears, dogs may cause more harm than good. Studies show that dogs are more likely to cause negative encounters with grizzlies (and other bears).[1]

Why Are Bears Afraid of Dogs?

Some bears are afraid of dogs because the dogs will run at them, barking, and chasing them. This can cause intimidation and scare the bear away. 

However, this is rarely the case. Most encounters between dogs and bears, where dogs act aggressive toward the bear, end up the other way around.

The bear will be agitated, feel provoked, and maybe even threatened. This can cause it to attack.

Related: Are bears related to dogs?

Can a Dog Protect You From a Bear Attack?

Generally speaking, a dog can protect you from a bear attack. Unfortunately, dogs typically have the opposite effect and are more inclined to trigger attacks than prevent them.

While dogs can sometimes chase bears away, they can also have the opposite effect. Excessive barking may cause a bear to see you, and your dog, as a threat.

This is why dogs are often left tied up outside campsites and are not allowed in parks near bears territory.

One major study shows how 53% of bear attacks involved dogs. Three of these lead to the death of the owner.

Related: Do bears eat humans?

angry dog

Do Dogs Cause Bear Attacks?

Yes, dogs do cause bear attacks. Several studies confirm this. Dogs cause more negative encounters with bears. There’s a direct correlation between free-roaming, poorly trained dogs and bear attacks.

If you want to bring your dogs to bear territory, keep them on a leash.

What Bears Are Afraid of Dogs?

Are Grizzly Bears Afraid of Dogs?

Grizzlies are among the biggest land mammals on earth and are not easily frightened. Grizzlies are also not intimidated by dogs and will typically attack them. Especially if the dog is small. 

In some extreme cases, dogs are killed by bear attacks after barking at them, or chasing them.

Hence, if your dog isn’t trained to behave around wild animals, don’t bring it on your next hike. Let your dog sit outside the park, or at home.

Are Black Bears Afraid of Dogs?

Black bears are more afraid of dogs than grizzlies, however, it depends on the situation. 

Even the smallest dogs have a chance of chasing away a black bear. But as with grizzlies, it can also escalate an encounter instead of deescalating it.

The reason why dogs are able to intimidate black bears is that they’re very dominant. Black bears aren’t very “tough”, and will hence act submissive if another creature is acting dominant.[2]

Dogs vs Bear Spray

Bear spray is far more effective at keeping bears away than dogs. Because it is simpler to strike a charging bear with bear spray, it is more effective. Dog spray is frequently used to protect your dog from an attacking dog or coyote. [2]

Some people believe dogs to be a better bear repellant than bear spray. This is not true.

When hiking, if you are confronted by an aggressive bear, it is best to back away slowly and leave the area. If that is not possible or the bear continues to approach, use your bear spray.

The earlier study showed how dogs provoked 53% of attacks from bears. Other studies show how no people were killed when applying the bear spray, over the course of a 21 year period.[3][4]

Dogs can be aggressive animals. While this may be a favorable trait in some situations, it’s not effective against most bears.

angry white dog

Do Bears Attack Dogs?

Bears typically don’t hunt dogs or wolves, but they may attack if provoked or harassed. It’s usually the canine who starts an aggressive encounter though. 

While bears typically aren’t aggressive and tend to keep to themselves, they will defend themselves and their cubs. If someone, or something, provokes them, they will respond to the threat.

The bear, forced to defend itself, can easily kill a dog. This counts for both grizzly bears and black bears.

When bears attack, they use both their claws and their teeth. For smaller prey, such as a dog, a bear would most likely bite around the neck, breaking the spine and neck of the dog.

Related: Do Bear Eat Pets?

angry bear in the dark

Do Dogs Attack Bears?

Yes, some dogs will attack bears. They do so out of instinct, as they see bears as competitors. 

Although dogs are not a threat to bears, some dogs will still attack bears, or at least chase them and bark at them. 

A dog’s bark can scare away black bears, but grizzlies are more fearless and may take action, attacking and killing the dog. 

Related: What eats bears?

How to Survive a Bear Attack

1. Act according to the species of bear (back away slowly if it’s a grizzly, but stand your ground if it’s a black bear)

If you are confronted by a bear, it is important to remain calm and use your judgment. Do not run away, as this may trigger the bear’s hunting instincts. Instead, try to slowly back away while keeping an eye on the bear.

Different bears require different techniques.

2. Don’t provoke the bear

Never provoke a bear, as this may result in an attack. Bears are powerful animals and can cause significant injuries.

3. Use bear spray if necessary

If you have bear spray, use it to fend off the bear. Aim for the face if possible. This should only be used in case the bear attacks you.

Should You Take Your Dog Hiking?

You should generally not bring your dog to bear territories. Many hiking trails are dog-free, specifically to prevent any negative encounters between dogs and wild animals. If you do bring your dog, make sure your dog is properly trained.

Dogs are often very enthusiastic about hiking, and they can provide great company on the trail. However, it’s important to be aware of the dangers that follow when taking your pet hiking.

If a dog gets the scent of a bear, it may chase after it. This can lead to negative encounters between the two animals.

Active Senior Couple Hiking with Dog

Conclusion

Bears are naturally afraid of dogs, as they’re also afraid of wolves. However, this doesn’t stop them from attacking. Once a bear realizes that a dog is not a threat, it may turn around and attack.

Studies prove that dogs result in more bear attacks. Hence, bringing a dog to an area with bears is a bad idea.

The best way to avoid bear attacks is to prevent provoking them. Dogs, if not properly trained, will provoke bears. If you are attacked, using a bear spray is the best way to go.

Related: Are bears afraid of fire?

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.

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