While you might be well-versed in bear knowledge and know what behaviors to avoid and how to deal with bear encounters, your dog, due to his or her heightened sense of smell and amazing ears, is going to sense a bear far before you even know you're upon one.
How can dogs do this, and how can you read your dog's body cues to stay alert when approaching wildlife? We thought you'd never ask. We've laid out the most common ways that dogs will let you know they're sensing wildlife - especially bears - and why they're set up to do this better than we are. Read on for more info!
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Signs Your Dog Can Sense a Bear
- Back hair on edge
- Stiff tail
- Uneasy or anxious behavior
- Howling or barking
- Running away
The History of Dogs Hunting Bears
In fact, Egyptians used Molossian type dogs that were extremely large in order to hunt a diverse selection of animals that included large game like wolves and bears. Romans and Greeks, known for having lots of time on their hands due to their lifestyle, devoted a ton of attention to breeding dogs to hunt with.
However, hunting dogs became a widespread phenomenon through the era of the middle ages, when specialized dogs were trained and bred with extremely strong bloodlines, such as sight hounds, retrievers, scent hounds, and pointers.
The Science Behind Dogs Sensing Bears
They also have an extra organ known as the vomeronasal organ that's located at the bottom of their nasal passage, allowing dogs to smell far more than we can.
Pups can also hear much better than people. With about 18 muscles in each ear, they're able to modify and rotate their ears like antennae to hear better.
Training Your Dog to be in Bear Country
That being said, however, it's not always a bright idea to train your pup to hunt down bears, as it can be a dangerous practice. If you'd rather train your dog to avoid bears (which we recommend), we suggest keeping your dog leashed while you hike, always remaining alert, and staying on marked trails. Typically, bears can sense dogs, too, so staying on a marked trail is going to be the safest. We suggest avoiding areas known for bears and carrying bear spray while hiking.
How to Keep Your Dog Safe from Bears:
Keep your dog leashed.
Carry bear spray.
Avoid areas known for bears.
Stay on trails.