Can a Dog Guard Against Bears?


Bears now….previously have answered about porcupines pets and coyotes and pets – here’s a question (from my newspaper column) about how to “train” a dog to defend against bears, and a unique way to determine how a dog might respond.

Q: We live in the woods, and the bear population has been increasing here. A neighbor actually had a bear nearly walk into her home. Her dog began to growl and bark, and the bear ran off. Her dog is a large mixed-breed, and so is mine, but Charlie Horse is so sweet that I worry he’d do nothing and the bear might attack. To test my theory, I asked a neighbor to put on a bear costume I saved from a Halloween party. Charlie Horse wagged his tail and kept a safe distance, but seemed amused more than afraid. Could I train him to at least alert me if a bear came near the house? — B.C., via cyberspace

A: Charlie Horse was likely entertained when your friend attempted to threaten him wearing the bear costume. Charlie totally knew this was no bear. In fact, he might have even recognized your friend by sniffing under the costume.

There’s no way to predict how your dog might respond to a real bear. However, it’s unlikely Charlie Horse would wag his tail and say, “pet me.” There’s a good chance he’d offer warning barks. Some dogs will do what they can, holding their ground, as perhaps your neighbor’s dog did. Others will quietly, or not so quietly, attempt to hide or escape.

Experts say to keep trash securely closed (in bear-proof trash bins) and never leave food in the yard. Remove plants with berries (a bear delicacy). Some contend wolf urine (available online or at some feed stores) can be a deterrent. You could dribble it around the perimeter of your property (when it rains, of course, you need to reapply).

While a large dog can be a deterrent, I still recommend not allowing your dog outside unsupervised. Install outdoor lighting and make lots of noise when you go outside at night.

You could encourage your dog to bark at any unusual sound, which many dogs routinely do. However, be careful what you wish for. In a month, you might be writing another letter, telling me Charlie Horse’s barking has become unbearable.

©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC; Tribune Content Agency