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Why Are Bears Afraid Of Dogs? (Reasons & Safety Practice)

Why Are Bears Afraid Of Dogs? (Reasons & Safety Practice)

Bears are large, scary creatures that lurk in the wilderness. With a bite force of 1160 to 1200 PSI, these animals can rip apart a human in seconds. But guess what, the minute they hear the high-pitched howling or barking of a dog, they run away!

This is a strange mystery with different explanations around the web. Some say it’s because of the sound, and some say it’s because of the dog’s predatory behavior. 

So, in today’s post, we will get into the depths of the matter and unravel why are bears afraid of dogs. Let’s get started!

Do Dogs Scare Off Bears?

Do Dogs Scare Off Bears

Image Credit: CNN

Yes – dogs are great at scaring away bears. Even the smallest dog breeds (like Chihuahua) are known to scare off these apex predators. 

But, if a dog is chained or behind a fence, the passing-by bear will ignore it completely. This is because the dog’s movement is limited, so the bear doesn’t view it as a threat. A bear will also exhibit a similar behavior if it belongs to the following breeds:

  • Grizzlies 
  • Polar bears
  • Kodiak bears 

These are the strongest bear species and are less likely to be intimidated by a dog. In an encounter, they prefer to take charge and eliminate the opponent (in this case – the dog) instead of running away.

The good news is these bears rarely come near human settlements. They enjoy living in dense forests and won’t bother anyone until they feel challenged or threatened. 

Why Are Bears Afraid of Dogs?

Bears Afraid of Dogs

Image Credit: MLive

Bears are natural introverts. When faced with unfamiliar creatures, they’re likely to change their path unless they feel threatened or happen to be starving. This speaks quite a bit about why bears are afraid of dogs.

Let’s do a deeper dive and evaluate all the reasons why bears are afraid of dogs:

1. The Noise 

Although dogs are smaller than bears in size, they can be much louder and more noisy. They can be loud enough to startle and scare a bear.

How so? Well, you see humans can only be as loud as 80 decibels. If you shout assertively at a grizzly bear standing in front of you, it may convey a sense of aggression or dominance. But it will not necessarily scare the bear away. 

However, a dog’s bark reaches up to 110 decibels, which is significantly higher than humans’. It is a piercing and startling sound. 

So, if a dog barks at a bear who doesn’t frequently encounter dogs, there’s a high chance the bear will be terrified of this new piercing sound and run away. The high-pitched bark panics the introvert bears.

It is also worth noting that habituation can turn the tables. If a bear resides near the human population and has repeatedly heard a dog barking, the bear might choose to stand its ground and even charge at your dog. 

2. Predator Perception

Large and aggressive breeds like the Karelian bear dog and the Bloodhound can be perceived as potential predators by bears. This is because these dogs resemble their ancestors, i.e., wolves.

And as you may already know, the fear of wolves runs in bear hereditary. The wolves are well-recognized vicious predators in the bear community. 

At times, a bear may even perceive a dog as a greater threat than a lone wolf. This is because dogs have a slower running speed (as compared to bears), but these canines still choose to stand their ground instead of running or charging. 

Although dogs do this to protect their human companion, it comes off as pretty bold and threatening to the bear – which makes them back off.

Another reason why bears would run away when faced with a large dog and its human companion is that they have to deal with two threats (the dog and the human). They consider such a situation far more dangerous than a 1:1 battle with a lone wolf.

3. Defensive Response 

Female mother bears have a natural instinct to protect their cubs. Owing to this, if a female bear smells the odor of a dog in its surroundings or hears barking at a distance, the she-bear may choose to leave the area with her cubs. 

It is a precautionary measure. But considering the bigger picture, we can see how it’s one-way dogs scare away bears.

If the dog is in close proximity and seems to threaten the she-bear and her cubs, she’s likely to attack the dog.

Along the same lines, bears also perceive dogs as agile, quick, and potentially aggressive. They realize the dog may bite, harass, or cause injury despite its smaller size. And thus, they find it wiser to retreat.

Can A Dog Protect You Against a Bear?

Can A Dog Protect You Against a Bear

Image Credit: National Park Service

Yes, dogs are fierce protectors. They will guard your safety in all circumstances – even when their size and fighting abilities are no match for the threat.

In a bear encounter, your dog will be the first one to give a warning if a bear charges. It will growl and bark to scare it away. If the bear doesn’t stop, it will attack and chase the bear away from you. 

However, if the dog isn’t aggressive or a fighter by nature, the chances of it winning against the bear are less. The bear may kill it and lunge after you. So, you should always select a dog breed that is naturally capable of combating bears. 

Which Dog Breeds Are Best to Protect Against Bears?

What To Do If a Bear Attacks You & Your Dog? 

If you live in a bear country and love exploring the outdoors, chances are you will come across a bear at least once in a lifetime. It’s best to prepare for that time because bear encounters can be fatal. 

According to recent statistics, there are 40 bear attacks every year, with one being fatal. The largest number of attacks are by black bears – followed by grizzly bears. There is hardly any attack by other bear species. 

So, here is what you should do if one of these bears attacks you and your dog:

Black Bears

Black bears are easily identified by their rich black coat and the distinctive white patch on their chest. While these bears look really frightening, they are scaredy cats in nature. They don’t approach humans and will leave when threatened. 

In rare circumstances, a black bear may follow you and your dog out of curiosity. You shouldn’t run, back away, or show any sign of fear. Instead, stand the ground and make a lot of noise. Shout and scream angrily while waving your arms. 

The sudden movements and noise will give the impression that you’re stronger than the black bear. However, if the bear still pursues you, use bear spray or throw a rock at it. Fight the bear – if necessary. 

Grizzly Bears 

Grizzlies are the opposite of black bears. They may look fuzzy, but they are very aggressive and wild. No opponent stands a chance against these ferocious predators. 

So, if a grizzly bear notices you and your dog, it will charge — especially if the dog growls or barks at the bear. You shouldn’t run away because that will only make you appear weak. The bear might even consider you prey. 

Instead, stand firmly and use a bear spray when it is 30 to 35 feet away. If the bear gets too close, play dead as a way of surrender. Grizzly will most likely leave you alone once it feels victorious. 

Alternatively, if the grizzly hasn’t noticed you and your dog yet, slowly back away and go to a safe shelter. Don’t make eye contact and keep your dog leashed – otherwise, it may harass this brown bear and make it angry. 

Important Notes:

  • Never climb a tree in a bear encounter. Bears can climb trees at a faster rate than humans. 
  • If your dog and bear start fighting, don’t get in between the dangerous situation. Instead, stand at a safe distance and throw stones at the bear to protect your dog. Shoot if you have a gun, or call the local wildlife emergency services. 


Can dogs sense bears

Image Credit: RoundGlass Sustain

1. Can dogs sense bears?

Yes, dogs have a powerful sense of smell that they use to detect bears. If a dog notices a bear on the hike, it will growl and bark in the direction to alert you. 

2. Can you shoot a bear if it attacks your dogs?

Yes, it is legally permissible to shoot a bear if it is attacking humans, animals, or property. But you can’t shoot a bear for entertainment or hunting purposes. Also, if your purpose is just to scare bears, use rubber bullets and pepper spray

3. Are dogs safe around bears?

It depends on the situation. If a dog is on a leash, you can avoid it from directly interacting with a bear. It will only bark and growl, which will scare away the bear.

However, if the dog is off-leash, it may get too close to the bear. Both of them may fight – which usually results in the death of the dog.

Last Words 

Bears are usually brave and aggressive. However, some of them may get scared of dogs because:

  1. They are startled by the loud barking.
  2. They are reminded of their predators – wolves.
  3. They are protecting their cubs. 

So, if you’re traveling in a bear territory, it’s always a great idea to keep a companion dog. It will protect you against the bear and even sacrifice its life to ensure your safety. 

Well, by now, we hope the answer to the question –  why are bears afraid of dogs –  is clear. But if there is still any doubt or query, let us know in the comments below!

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