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Our dogs are beloved family members and cherished companions. Unfortunately, they face many risks when outdoors. The coyote has become an increasing threat to our dogs in recent years, even in urban and suburban landscapes. Coyotes have increasingly been sighted in populated areas, leading to more interactions with domestic pets.
While these encounters are rare, there’s an upward trend that demands your attention as a pet parent. Human encroachment has caused coyotes to abandon their natural habitats and food sources to seek them elsewhere, leading them to our backyards.
According to the Urban Coyote Research Project, encounters between dogs and coyotes can sometimes turn tragic. Nearly 30 dog breeds have been documented as victims of coyote attacks, including small and large ones.1
In addition, research shows that attacks on smaller breeds are often fatal, while larger breeds are commonly ambushed by multiple coyotes at once, leading to potentially fatal outcomes. And these attacks are happening in perceived “safe zones” for our pets, like backyards and parks.
While coyote attacks are relatively rare, the upward trend is alarming. Knowing what to do if you encounter a coyote with your dog can save their life. Keep reading to learn more about coyote safety for dogs.
- What Are Coyotes?
- Do Coyotes Attack Dogs?
- What Should I Do If I Encounter A Coyote With My Dog?
- Coyote Safety Tips
- Final Notes
What Are Coyotes?
Coyotes are members of the dog family and are native to North America, spanning from Alaska through the Great Plains.2 They look like smaller wolves, standing at just 24 inches and weighing 20-50 pounds, with coarse fur and a bushy tail.2 However, several different coyote subspecies are found throughout the United States, so appearances differ.
Coyotes are adaptable and inhabit different types of environments, from deserts to urban areas and grassy plains.3 Unfortunately, this adaptability has allowed them to venture into our backyards.
Like domestic dogs, coyotes are omnivores and have a varied diet that depends on their habitat. Their meals typically range from small mammals like rabbits to fruits and vegetables. In cities, coyotes can be found eating garbage in search of food scraps.
Coyotes are typically active during the early evening and morning hours.2 However, they can also be nocturnal, especially if they want to avoid human encounters throughout the day.
In general, coyotes don’t want to encounter humans. However, their behavior can change if they feel threatened, especially during breeding season when they have more territorial tendencies.2
When comparing coyotes vs. dogs, you’ll notice coyotes look a lot like dogs, especially some ancient breeds, because they share a common ancestry. Over millions of years, evolution led to distinct species of dogs, including domestic dogs, coyotes, wolves, and so forth. Therefore, coyotes and your pet share much of their DNA.
Do Coyotes Attack Dogs?
Are coyotes dangerous? Coyotes will eat many small to large mammals, ranging from rabbits to deer. However, your pet is also at risk. Do coyotes attack dogs? They can and sometimes do. Coyotes are typically afraid of humans, so it’s more likely for a coyote to attack an unattended dog. However, they may still go after smaller dogs with humans nearby.
Since coyotes are opportunistic carnivores, they view small pets like dogs and cats as potential prey. However, they generally avoid confrontations with larger dogs unless they’re in a pack.
Coyotes can jump fences depending on the height and easily enter backyards. They might also view your dog as prey at the park or in other settings. Coyotes are territorial and might attack when protecting their dens or nearby pups.
Coyotes can hunt alone or in pairs and packs, making them more likely to attack large dogs if they’re with another coyote. In addition, like other animals, coyotes are more likely to attack if they feel scared or threatened.
If a coyote attacks your dog, they could be mortally wounded. Coyotes also carry diseases like rabies, distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, mange, and other illnesses that can affect your dog’s health even if they survive a coyote attack.4
What Should I Do If I Encounter A Coyote With My Dog?
Whether going for a walk or camping with your dog in the wilderness, encountering a coyote with your dog can be an unsettling feeling, but by taking the appropriate actions, you can keep yourself and your beloved pet safe.
The most important thing you can do is stay calm, which can help keep your dog calm. Your dog should stay on their leash, allowing both of you to back away slowly without turning your back to the coyote. Making loud noises or throwing objects can be effective to scare the coyote away.
Never let your dog chase the coyote because they can view it as threatening. Instead, you’ll want to keep as much distance from the coyote as possible.
Making yourself big can also deter the coyote from approaching. At this point, your dog might be barking to do the same. Stand as tall as possible, raise your arms, and assert yourself. Loud noises like clapping or yelling can also startle the coyote away.
If your dog is small enough, consider picking them up to make them seem less like prey to a coyote. Remember, coyotes typically don’t want to approach adult humans, so picking your dog up and keeping them as close to you as possible can deter the coyote.
Coyote Safety Tips
Active dogs need plenty of exercise, which includes outdoor play and walks. Unfortunately, that means you may encounter a coyote. The best way to protect your dog from a coyote attack is to focus on prevention. As coyotes’ natural habitats overlap with human communities, coyotes will continue to become more common in our neighborhood. Pet parents must be aware and take the necessary precautions even when their dogs are hanging out in their own backyards.
Since coyotes are less likely to approach a yard with a human in it than a yard with a dog alone, consider supervising your dog’s outdoor time, especially during dawn and dusk when coyotes are most active. You can also secure your yard and garden to deter coyotes from coming onto your property. Unfortunately, coyotes are agile and great climbers, so a simple fence might not be enough to keep them out of your yard, so monitoring your pet is so important.
When outside your property, adhere to local leash laws and regulations to ensure your pet’s safety. Letting your dog off leash may make them look even more like prey to coyotes. Even parks aren’t necessarily safe from coyote vs. dog attacks, so keeping your dog on a leash or harness at all times is crucial if you live in an area with high coyote activity.
Training And Behavior
Because coyotes can attack smaller animals when they feel threatened, you don’t want your dog barking at or engaging a coyote in any way. An adult human “acting big” sends a much different message than a small dog doing it.
Being able to calm your dog so they don’t exhibit aggressive behavior that can tempt the coyote is crucial. If your dog is off-leash when you encounter a coyote, you’ll want to be able to get them leashed again and close to you as soon as possible.
Obedience training and teaching your dog reliable recall is crucial even if you don’t live in an area with coyotes because it can be life-saving. With reliable recall, your dog will return to you when you call them, allowing you to keep off-leash in the appropriate settings. This skill also comes in handy if your dog escapes your yard and you need them to return to you.
A reliable recall is a training foundation that takes time. You should start inside the home, where your dog is less likely to be distracted.5 Choose a verbal cue that’s one word and easy for your dog to understand, like “come,” and slowly increase the distance while rewarding them with treats. When your dog has mastered recall indoors, it’s time to take it outside.
Don’t expect your dog to have the same attention span outdoors. Instead, an A+ student inside may become an F student outside because the outdoor world has so many distractions for dogs. However, you’ve laid the foundation inside and can begin more easily training your dog to “come” outside in your yard or by using a long leash.
Recognizing Aggressive Behavior
While you should never walk past a coyote if you see it on the street or trail while hiking with your dog, you should recognize when they’re becoming aggressive and may be more likely to attack. A coyote’s aggressive body language is similar to that of a dog’s and includes:
- Direct stare
- Raised fur
- Ears pulled back
- Rigid/low body posture
- Sideways approach
- Baring teeth
- Tail tense
Walking And Hiking Safety
When walking with your dog, always choose a safe route. At night, your route should be well-lit, and bring a flashlight to ensure you can see all your surroundings. In areas known for coyote activity, wearing reflective clothing or gear for you and your dog can increase visibility.
You should aim to avoid any areas you know have high coyote activity and those with thick vegetation. There are also coyote deterrents you can pack with you in a bag or pouch. Coyote deterrents, such as noise-makers, sprays, and whistles, may provide you with more peace of mind.
In addition, you can further protect your pet by investing in a coyote vest for dogs. These vests are designed as protective garments for the neck or entire body to shield dogs from potential attacks and have various features like spikes, and are made from tough materials like Kevlar designed to resist bites and punctures. These also work well to protect small breed dogs from being attacked by large birds of prey, such as hawks and eagles.
Seeking Professional Help
Always report coyote activity to your fish and wildlife department, especially if you notice them in your neighborhood. You should also notify your neighbors, especially those you know with small children or pets. If you notice consistent coyote activity in a particular area, it might indicate a den or regular food source that warrants professional involvement.
Additionally, if you know a coyote has approached or attacked a dog, consult wildlife services immediately.
What’s the difference between a coyote and a dog?
While coyotes and dogs share a common ancestor, they evolved through thousands of years and developed distinct differences in appearance, behavior, and habitat. Coyotes typically have a lean build with pointed muzzles and ears and a bushy tail. Domestic dogs, on the other hand, come in a variety of shapes and sizes due to selective breeding.
Coyotes are the size of a medium dog, but they don’t act like one. Coyotes are solitary wild animals but can form small packs or family units. As opportunistic predators and scavengers, they have a diet that varies from mammals to fruits. On the other hand, dogs have evolved and been bred for various tasks, so their behavior varies based on breed, training, and individual personality.
Is my dog safe from coyotes during the day?
While coyotes typically hunt at dusk and dawn, they can also be active during the day and at night. Coyotes may be more active in the daytime in more urban environments and neighborhoods. Therefore, technically, your dog is not safe from coyotes during the day, so monitoring them when spending time outside is crucial.
What size dogs will coyotes attack?
A single coyote is more likely to attack small dogs, but since they’re opportunistic predators, they may choose to engage with a dog of any size. Small dogs are the most vulnerable because they’re easy prey. However, even large dogs can be at risk of being attacked, especially if the coyote is provoked.
Coyote attacks on dogs are relatively rare, but as humans continue to encroach on their natural habitats, they’ll become more common in suburban areas. The safety and well-being of our beloved pets require us to remain vigilant. Equipping your dog with certain training skills like reliable recall will ensure they return to you when called, minimizing the risk of chase or confrontation. Training your dog to avoid wildlife, like coyotes, birds, and skunks, and staying close on walks can further protect them.
A well-trained dog responds swiftly to commands and is better equipped to navigate situations where wildlife like coyotes may be present. As a pet parent, having resources catering to your pet’s health and behavior is crucial. Dutch vets can offer training and health advice to ensure your dog’s well-being.
Dutch vets can diagnose and treat a wide range of behavioral issues that can lead to undesirable behaviors and health issues that may hinder training. Try Dutch today.Note: If your dog is attacked by a coyote, take them to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic as soon as possible.
“Conflicts: A Research Perspective.” Conflicts: A Research Perspective | Urban Coyote Research, www.urbancoyoteresearch.com/coyote-info/conflicts-research-perspective.
“Coyote.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 14 July 2023, www.britannica.com/animal/coyote-mammal.
“Coyotes: Under Seige & Misunderstood.” Predator Defense, www.predatordefense.org/coyotes.htm.
“Coyotes: State of Tennessee, Wildlife Resources Agency.” Coyotes | State of Tennessee, Wildlife Resources Agency, www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/mammals/large/coyotes.html.
Sassafras Lowrey, CTDI. “Reliable Recall: Tips & Tricks for Training Your Dog to Come When Called.” American Kennel Club, 16 Aug. 2023, www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/reliable-recall-train-dogs-to-come-when-called/.