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Crag access denied due to dog... ideas?!

Original Post
John RB · · Superior, CO · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 59

Ok, I know there have been 10 million threads about dogs at crags, but I wanted to get people's sense (and maybe advice) of what happened to me and my son recently.

There is an area here in Colorado (called Tiers of Zion, if you know it) where a trail skirts the bottom of the crag.  To your left is steep rock (hosting the climbs) and to the right is a steep  drop-off.  My son and I did the approach (about a mile) but as we arrived at the crag a dog was tied to a tree and standing on the trail.  As soon as the dog spotted us, she started barking in a very aggressive way, so I stopped beyond her leash's limit with my son behind me.

The owner and his partner were off the ground and able to see the situation.  The owner first yelled down, "Biscuit... stop it!" followed by, "Don't worry she's friendly."

Biscuit seemed not to understand that she was friendly, as saliva formed around her mouth as she lunged at me at the end of her leash.  My son said, "Let's just leave..."  But I was incensed: we had come to do a route that was past this dog on the trail, and it didn't seem fair that we'd be denied access simply because this dog didn't like something about me.  I had a bright green neoprene sleeve over my right knee, "I think she doesn't like your knee brace" the owner called down.

So I removed my right shoe and the neoprene sleeve and put it in my backpack, but Biscuit still wanted me dead.  "Dad, can we please just go?" my son said again. I'm a stubborn person, but I saw no other way around the dog and my son was getting upset, so we bailed. 

What could we have done differently?  I don't know dogs that well... is there a way to soothe an animal who's acting this aggressive without being attacked?  Maybe the fact I was intimidated only encouraged her aggression (not sure how to feign insouciance however... dogs can sense these things right?).


· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0

Shoot it with a gun.

Bill Shubert · · Lexington, MA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 55

Yeah, I would have had some very strong words for the owner instead of leaving peacefully. I'm not sure it would have been helpful, maybe done more harm than good, but I wouldn't leave until I was sure they knew how angry I was at them.

Fan Yang · · Boston, MA · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 31

When I had a dog I brought him with me to the crags all the time, but he was very sociable and well-behaved. If I was in your situation, I would have told the owner to make a choice: either rappel down and deal with his dog in the next minutes, or I would have to hit the dog with a stick to put him/her in place. 

scott s smith · · Ketchum, ID · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 0

Viper has a pretty good solution

Tee Kay · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 110
ViperScale wrote:

Shoot [owner] with a gun.

fixed it

Joe Prescott · · Berlin Germany · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 6

I would have said "Get your a$$ down here and take care of your f!@#$&g dog."

Parker H · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 0

I think the whole problem could have been avoided, maybe you should have appeared more personable and brought some treats for it. 

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0

Next time take pictures and out them here on MP.

Sean M · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 25

I'm going to make a somewhat controversial point here.

I want to say first that 

1) The owner was totally in the wrong, and should have NEVER left their dog tied up within reach of a trail. Even if your dog is well socialized and people friendly, it's just wrong. Keep the dog out of the way.

2) After making this mistake, if the owner saw that the dog was significantly interfering with your family's ability to enjoy the crag, they should have IMMEDIATELY halted their climb, and fixed the situation.

HOWEVER, I think a great deal of these recent "I had a bad experience and had to kick/punch/yell at a dog this weekend" posts seem to be coming from people with a really poor understanding of dog behavior. I know you mentioned that you don't know dogs well, so I hope this isn't unsolicited advice. 

Yes, there are a very small % of dogs out there who are so poorly socialized that they will actually bite you if you try to walk past them, however, the VAST majority (something like 99% of the hundreds or thousands of territorial dogs I've had to walk past in my life) are putting on a show. They are barking not because "they want you dead" as you said, but because they are scared of you and if you stroll past confidently but non-aggressively and either completely ignore the dog, or speak to it in a gentle tone, they'll leave you alone. 

In the situation you describe, where it sounds like there was a cliff band on one side and a steep drop off on the other, it is complicated by the fact that there is little space to maneuver, and the owner should have really exercised better judgement. If it was me however, I would have probably just walked straight past it, keeping hands in pockets (most dogs who nip will go for the hand. and nipping is NOT biting). 

The contingent of folks who propose the "kick/stick" method are unnecessarily escalating the situation. Unless the dog is off leash and charging you, then this is totally unjustified, and it is cruel to unnecessarily beat an animal for its owner's poor judgment. 

Forrest Carver · · Edgecomb, ME · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 85

Rub a yellow flower petal onto a piece of meat and throw it to the dog

stolo · · Shelby, NC · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 217

It's not John's responsibility to accommodate someone's dog. Do what you have to do to get by! 

I carry pepper spray for this reason while outdoors and have had to use it quite a few times.

Jim Turner · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 295

I would have asked them to come down and move their dog to a better spot.  That part of Tiers is pretty much all short single pitch, so shouldn't be a big deal for them.  If they refused, I'd scramble around and up to their gear, grab it, let them know I was walking away with it, and see if that didn't change their mind.   But then again, I'd be so pissed after all that, that it would be hard to climb after that.  I'd probably just bail to Lookout Mtn Crag and chalk it up to you can't fix stupid.  

Joe Prescott · · Berlin Germany · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 6

Some people (including myself) are afraid of dogs they don't know and don't want to risk just walking by it. My wife would be the one to just walk up to it and start petting it. The "dogs sense fear" thing comes into play. You just can't turn off your fear. Many times while out and about, I've been mildly attacked by dogs while with my wife and they totally ignore her. I'm not walking by that dog, and I shouldn't have to. Not the dog's fault, certainly the owner's fault.

caesar.salad · · earth · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 75

pee on it to show dominance.

GabeO · · New Haven, CT · Joined May 2006 · Points: 302

Tell the dog owner he has two options:  1 - come down and get control of his dog, or 2 - you are going to climb through his route (and across his rope if necessary) to get to the trail on the other side of his dog.

I'm kind of kidding.  In reality, the owner probably would have said "No way dude, what's the big deal?  Biscuit won't really hurt you, she's a sweetheart!"  As a pet owner and a dad, I think I am not speaking out of turn to say that most pet owners (and parents) have some degree of blinders about the foibles of their wards.


John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,535

While there are things you can do to learn about dog behavior and how to interact with animals in general- in this particular scenario, i think you did the right thing in terms of your interacting with the dog. 

As a dog owner, i dont assume that everyone my pup interacts with understands his behavior and as such, i assume as a default that no one wants to interact with him and plan accordingly for that during my walks and time out in the wilderness with him. If someone wants to pet him and say hello- they always let me know. If they don't, i keep him on heel and on the opposite side of me from the person as they pass by. 

It's unfortunate that Biscuit's owners put you and Biscuit in that situation. There's no way of knowing how Biscuit would have reacted had you tried to pass her- and the owner really shouldn't have put her in a place where people passing by could have been perceived as getting between her and her owner. While you could have started screaming at the owner to come down and deal with it, that likely would have upset Biscuit more. 

I wish dog owners wouldn't assume that their dog will be friendly and loving in every situation. Or even if they are, assume that everyone will see and recognize the friendly behavior. I also wish that dog owners wouldn't assume that everyone loves dogs- because it's not the case and people who don't love dogs, or who are scared of dogs, shouldn't have to deal with your dog, regardless of whether the dogs behavior is friendly. 

Guy Keesee · · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 311
caesar.salad · · earth · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 75
Guy Keesee wrote:

Report it to the cops. People need to be punished for their behavior.

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 746

Unpleasant situation, and I'm sorry you had to hike in and turn around.

I honestly don't know that you had any other option. If you are not the kind of person who can kick the dog, or go into a confrontational mode and yell at the dog owner, if you are somewhat afraid of dogs, and you have your kid there to consider, also, there isn't much else you could do, other than walk away.

smurray47 does have a point though. I personally don't have a dog, but quite a few of climbers around me do. And I have seen absolutely calm and nice crag dogs act territorial and start barking or growling at someone walking up the trail. ESPECIALLY is they are on leash, and are sort of "guarding" the spot that they consider theirs. Normally they only do it when someone just walks up the trail, and then they stop, though some bark and growl more than others. And usually people who walk up the trail walk right up to that dog, say something in a soothing tone of voice, say hello to the dog owner, and the dog looks like it has done it's "duty" to protect the territory, and this new person is now an accepted member of this territory, and doesn't merit barking-at anymore.

But of course if you are not comfortable with the dogs, that initial barking can be quite a jolt, and if the dog sees that you stopped and aren't coming in, then the barking is working to protect the territory from you, the intruder! And should be continued!

An you can't really force confidence, and dogs totally do sense your hesitation... my daughter loves dogs and is very comfortable with them. My son has always been hesitant around dogs. And dogs always seem to bark and growl at him more, while they are all too happy to slobber her with dog kisses and to get petted by her.

So it all comes back to, I think you did what a reasonable "non-dog" person in your situation would have done, and I'm sorry you had this experience.

s.price · · Pagosa Springs · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,346

A small spray bottle or water gun with a mix of water and any natural mild irritant works great. Tabasco, mint, lemon juice will all work. A squirt or two to the nose will stop any dog instantly.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

General Climbing
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