Dog and Black Bears: Mitigating Risks at the Campsite

Does having a dog at the campsite with us increase the chance of attracting a black bear?

I was out camping last weekend with our family and dog, and my wife asked me this question. Honestly, I have never thought about it before. I always assumed they would keep them away. Let us find out.

Dogs can act as both a deterrent and an attractant. A dog’s heightened senses can alert the owners of an incoming black bear providing you a chance to leave the area if possible. On the other hand, there are more aggressive type dogs that will run after and chase the black bear until the black bear turns on them and tracks them back into the camp, which leaves a whole other problem at hand. Let us dive deeper into the do’s and don’ts of having Fido at your campsite.

Campsite Doggy Do’s

First, make sure that you know the regulations in your campground. Rules about dogs and other pets are different from one campsite to the next. Each state has its website where you can access campground information. I live in the Pacific Northwest and camp in and .

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Health info.

Is your dog is up-to-date on all its shots and immunizations? Before taking him into the forest, you must make sure that the dog is vaccinated and up-to-date on rabies. The last thing you want is for him to get a tick or a bite by an indigenous animal and end up getting sick.

Pet-friendly first-aid kit

That brings me to my next point; an animal first aid kit is essential and should not be underrated. It is not a bad idea! You can buy a pre-assembled kit or make your own by throwing some dog sunscreen, quick clippers, a nail file, and some tweezers – for pulling out splinters in case it steps on something hidden beneath the forest debris-

Your dog will also require a place to sleep, and you need to decide if it is in your tent or the vehicle. Just not outside! Your dog needs a safe shelter where he will not bark at night waking up all the other campers or animals that might become curious and come walking into the camp.

Emergency info.

Have you updated your dog’s tags? If not, upgrade them to your home address just in case he trots off and is picked up by random humans in the forest. Also, if he is microchipped, you will need to make sure that is up-to-date as well.

Campsite Doggy Don’ts

Keep them on a leash

A very critical rule of thumb when it comes to allowing dogs in campsites is to make sure they are on a leash. I do not know about your dog. But mine is a small one, and he likes to put his nose down and take off. He does not run, only just wanders around marking his territory. He does this repeatedly.

Black bears will eat your dog’s poop.

This is another significant problem. Do not let your dog poop willy-nilly in the woods or the campsite. Make sure, if he does defecate, you pick it up and dispose of it properly. Wrap it in a plastic bag put it in the garbage bag. If you happen to have a campground bathroom, empty the contents into it.

Two good reasons to pick up your dog’s poop!

  1. The little bits of unprocessed dog food in your dog’s feces is not part of a natural diet of a black bear.
  2. If a black bear gets a taste of your dog’s food, chances are, he will want it more and more and go out of his way to get the dog food. That means in and around your campground and your car.

Leaving your dog

This is not a great idea. While you are off kayaking, fishing, or any other recreation, you must not leave him behind if you can help it. If it is not an option to take him with you, put him in a tent or vehicle with the windows down. Make sure he has plenty of air, food, and water.

Honestly, if he can’t go with you on some of your adventures, you probably should have left him at home with a dog sitter. I know I would not want to be left behind when my family went off and did a bunch of fun stuff….q;)

Dog and Black Bear Interaction.

Your dog takes off. You do not know which way he has gone. Everyone worries and starts searching. You are whistling and calling for him. Then all the sudden, you hear him coming.

Behind him is a giant black bear running full speed, following him into the campground! What do you do?

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No matter what you do, it could have been avoided!

You see, an animal is always going to be an animal, and your dog might take off if it has the chance and there is a possibility that he will bring back a black bear, a cougar, or another wild animal that might be a threat to your campsite.

It happens more than we would think and know what to do when this scenario happens is what is going to change the situation into a bad one or just another day that could have been bad.

If a black bear has laid eyes on you, you need to try to keep your dog as close to you as possible. You need to remember and respect the fact that the black bear is much more powerful than you and your dog.

Do your best to keep your dog calm. You should try not to let him start barking, freaking out, acting all tough and having little dog syndrome. Remember, you are in the black bear’s territory.

Do not make any sudden moves

If you can move, slowly back up as far away from the bear as possible until you can leave the area safely.

If the black bear comes close to you, you somehow end up close to it, or the black bear changes its actions. You need to make yourself as big as possible. Try to speak as calmly as you can until you can back up. Get your dog and remove yourself from trouble.

If a black bear does decide that it wants to come towards you threateningly. Make yourself as big as possible by waving your arms and making lots of noise. Most black bears will back off pretty quick. They are more scared of us humans and as hunters than we are of them.

Never corner a black bear

Make sure it always has a way to get out of the situation. You do not want the black bear to feel threatened or trapped. It could charge you. If that happens, you need to stand tall. Look right in its eyes and say “hey bear, get out of here bear.” If you have bear spray, I suggest you use it if necessary. If not get some here on Amazon

Take the Dog Camping or Not?

I was not able to come up with a cut and dry decision. There is many if’s and but’s. You love your dog and want it to be with you and your family when you are out making memories. I know I do.

With that being said, I do not want my dog to act in a way that it will put my family in danger. Acting out is barking at everything that moves and running around the forest as if he owns it. This action will start attracting these wild animals to the campsite where my family is living for a few days.

In my opinion

With my small, seven pounds, white dog, I probably will board him next time. Only because he did scamper off a few times were when we were camping. I did have to yell and holler for him to come back.

I want to circle back to where we first started.

Making sure that the park you are going to is animal-friendly is very important. The rules and regulations are in place for the safety of the campground and the rangers who take care of the parks and the other campers, hikers, anglers and hunters. It is all a big cycle. Wild animals are very unpredictable.


You are going to have to make your own decision

Everyone wants to bring his or her dog along to the campsite. That is fine. Just make sure that your dog well trained and they still keep him on a leash. You are going to need some planning ahead of time. Maybe check the local website (linked above) to see if there have been any black bears in the area. Just make sure that is going to be a safe trip for everybody.

Most importantly

Get out there and have a blast. Here in the Pacific Northwest we only get a few months out of the year too really enjoy our forests. So do not waste time and make sure you and your family and little Fido have a great adventure.

Be safe. Have Fun. Explore.

“Choose only one master – Nature” –Rembrandt


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