Dear Homeward Bound: How can I keep my dogs safe around bears?

Dear Homeward Bound, 
I recently thought I saw a black bear in the field across from my house and I am worried about my dogs, who sometime run loose out there. 
What can I do to make sure that my dogs stay safe? 
Dear Curious, 
Good question! Preventing conflict between wildlife and our pets is always a good idea. And especially in the case of a wild animal as big as a bear. The good news is that it is not hard to live in harmony with bears who may cross our paths. Black bears are both very timid and very smart so their first instinct is to stay away from people as much as possible. In fact, the only thing that lures them into areas where people live is food. 
The best thing you can do to keep your dogs safe is make sure that you have no food sources about — no bird feeders, no trash cans, no compost bins, no grills still tasty with last night’s BBQ, no anything. It is also helpful to talk with your neighbors to make sure they are also aware of the power of food to lure bears. If everyone in the area works together to keep food sources secured, any bear passing through will just continue to do so once they learn there is no food source. 
In the meantime, however, it is probably best to keep your dogs on leash. Little dogs especially are vulnerable to the swipe of a bear paw. If you do encounter a bear (with your leashed dogs), just move away quietly. The bear will be seeking to do the same.
Good luck.
Jessica Danyow
Homeward Bound

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