You might think that a coyote attack won’t happen to you and your dog — but you never know! Follow these guidelines to keep your pup safe.
Coyote attacks on dogs are rare, but when a tussle does happen, it’s pretty scary. It isn’t just the enthusiastic trail hiking dog that’s at risk – suburban and city dogs are equally at risk. Coyotes have made temporary dens under decks, in culverts, even in city storm drains. Not all that long ago, a coyote trotted through a coffee shop in New Haven, Connecticut, not far from the Yale campus. No, he didn’t stop to order a latte, but he did give the afternoon regulars a bit of a shock.
Still, there are many things you can do to protect your dog from a coyote attack. Here are some helpful dos and don’ts:
DO keep your dog on a leash even on trails.
It’s so much fun to have your dog off leash, but if he’s not trained to stay close he could get into trouble. Chances are, he won’t be able to outrun a coyote, many of which can run faster than most dogs, up to 40 miles per hour. Long leashes or retractable leashes can also get your dog into trouble, making them easy prey for coyotes hiding in brush cover.
DON’T make the mistake of thinking your dog is too tough to tangle with.
It’s comforting to imagine that your Great Pyrenees is so big or that your Boxer is so tough that a coyote wouldn’t think of taking him on. Truth is, large dogs have been attacked and with disastrous consequences. Coyote attacks on large dogs aren’t about a prey drive; these attacks are usually over territory. An older dog especially, even if a giant breed, is no match for the fighting skill of a coyote.
DON’T trust that a fence will keep your dog safe.
Coyotes can jump up to six feet and they climb chain link fences. Coyotes use objects like stumps, picnic tables, or horizontal rails to climb up and over fences. It’s a good idea to install an extra rail of PVC pipe or chicken wire at the top of your fence to act as a baffle. Be sure to sink wire 12 inches below ground to prevent predators from digging under the fence. Even so, watch over small dogs at dawn and dusk, prime hunting hours for coyotes that den near human activity.
DO learn about coyote behavior and habits.
The coyote breeding season runs from late December through March with pups born in the spring. They mostly dine on mice, voles, insects, and rabbits, but with urban sprawl, they’ve expanded their diet to include carrion, garbage and, sadly, domestic pets. Urban-living coyotes tend to hunt at night to avoid human activity, but they’ll hunt during the day when they have a litter of pups to feed.
DO be aware that your dog might mistake the coyote for a playmate.
Some dogs seem instinctively aware that coyotes are dangerous. Others, particularly those dogs who see all the world as friendly, could think a coyote is just another chum from the dog park. Don’t trust your dog to be smart enough to avoid a conflict. Yes, he’s smart, but he’s not coyote smart.
Of course, we shouldn’t fear or revile coyotes. They are, after all, our dog’s kissing cousin. But like any wild animal, they are territorial. Just as your dog defends his hearth and home, so will the coyote. Following these dos and don’ts should help you avoid a conflict and keep your dog safe.