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My morning with coyotes and dogs…

We live in Marysville, WA; we're about 35-40 minutes north of Seattle, WA on a good traffic day.  On a bad traffic day it can take over an hour to get home.  I take the train, a 50 minute ride that allows me to get a lot of blogging work done.  But I'm rambling, because it's 4 in the morning and I've been up since 3 on a roller coaster ride that no dog parent should have to experience.  I learned a lot about coyotes and dogs in the past 2 hours.

Our morning routine started a little earlier thanks to a compressor going off at 3am.  I couldn't get back to sleep so I figured…”Why not start the day early?”

Lack of sleep = bad decisions

I should have known not to let the dogs out in the main yard that early, but I wasn't thinking and thought they'd stay close.  We live on 5 acres and they can run off and still be on the property within sight.  Even if coyotes were nearby, the dogs wouldn't go after them; right?  Everything was fine until Blue and Sydney started barking – the big, scary dog barks, you know what I mean.  Dammit; Rodrigo went off to protect his territory and my heart stopped.

I took Sydney and Blue inside, grabbed the “police flashlight” – a tool and a weapon- and started running and praying as I listened the sounds of a dog fight.

Rodrigo comes home

I ran directly to Rodrigo (who was jogging towards me), covered from head to toe in red.  No time for a melt down.  I took him to the shower to figure out where the blood was coming from; neck wound?  He was bitten in the muzzle.  My boyfriend applied 10 minutes of pressure to stop the free flow (props to him for not giving me a lecture about 3 am and coyotes) and now I'm sitting here with three sleeping dogs.

What I Learned About Coyotes When Our Dog Was Attacked


On to the list: 10 things I've learned about coyotes and dogs

Coyotes look like small dogs:  It took living in Marysville for a while before I could identify a coyote; at first I thought someone's dog was lost on our property.  In our area, they're about 35-40 pounds (Blue's size), with a greyish-brown coat, and they run with their tail tucked between their legs.

Coyotes are naturally afraid of humans:  Whenever we see a coyote on our property, we make lots of noise and they run away.  Just because they have a natural fear of us doesn't mean that we're safe from them, so don't approach them, feed them, or let your dog approach them.  If you see a coyote in your yard, reinforce their fear by making loud noises, waving your arms; my thought is that by doing this, I'm letting them know that this territory is taken.

Coyotes go for small animals:  Coyotes will attack animals that are smaller than they are; small dogs, cats, as well as local wildlife (bunnies, squirrels, rodents, etc).  Pictures of missing cats and small dogs are common in our area.

Local coyotes hunt in packs for bigger prey:  When I read that coyotes hunt for small animals; that made sense.  When I read that coyotes can't tell the difference between their natural prey and pets; that made sense to me.  Then I remembered the hunt on our property for deer; not a smaller animal.  It only takes one or two coyotes to go after smaller prey, while a pack will work together to take down something larger.  That summer hunt may be why we have coyotes so close to our home right now.

Larger dogs aren't necessarily safe: Coyotes tend not to go after larger dogs unless they feel threatened.  I've read that they view dogs as competition, not prey.  But don't get comfortable with this fact; there are plenty of stories out there of larger dogs coming home with wounds from a coyote fight, because coyotes may not be afraid of your dog.  Rodrigo is 70 pounds and although stockier, he's the same height as a coyote.

Several reasons precipitate a coyote attack: Other reasons (besides food) that a coyote may attack a dog is because it's sick and rabid, protecting it's territory, it's driving your dog away from it's pack, and they don't like strangers (I don' t know you, so I'm going to scare you away).  Pretty much sounds like an unsocialized dog (except the rabid part).

Coyotes run in packs and pairs: Coyotes may run in a large pack, their family, but they tend to hunt in pairs.  I've read that they have the ability to make noise as if they're a large pack through their vocal cords.  If you've never heard a pair on a hunt, imagine the sounds of dogs crying loudly, sometimes like their in pain, along with high pitched barks, yelps, and yips.  It's pretty terrible and sends all the dogs in our area into a barking frenzy.

Mating season:  Coyotes are most protective of their packs, den and territory during mating season, which is January through March, and when they have pups, which is May and June.  If you walk your dog in an off leash area during these months, take care.  I used to think that a well populated, off leash dog park won't have coyotes nearby, but it's common knowledge that you don't walk your dog off leash at Strawberry Fields at dawn (many coyote sightings – with 2 or more coyotes together).

Dogs may give chase without warning: We've never seen two coyotes, but it's safe to say that a second isn't far behind and there's no telling how close the pack is; so keep your dogs close by keeping then in a fenced yard or on a leash when walking them.  A dog's instinct may be to give chase and there's no telling what he'll meet at the end of that chase.

No outdoor food and water:  Having dog food, raw bones, and/or water outside and accessible to wildlife rewards coyotes for coming on your property.  Other food sources are fruit falling from trees (we have this), compost piles, and open trash containers.  If they find a food source at your home, they'll become a risk to your dogs.  We keep our dogs' food and water inside the puppy condo, not outside.

Bonus! Get Pet Insurance Now!  I know it's tempting to think that this will never happen to you, but this was a terrifying experience for me and if I had to add to that worry about vet and hospital bills for our dog, it would have just been too much.  This is why I think pet insurance is so important for dog owners.

I learned these things through internet research.  If you do some of your own, I will suggest staying away from sites forum or question/answer sites and click on the links that look a little more fact based.  When you're working on little sleep and coming down from an adrenaline rush, the forum/question/answer sites will scare the bajeebas out of you.

Rodrigo is sleeping fine, occasionally opening his eyes to look at me.  Thank heavens for his 3 year rabies vaccination.  He must smell like coyote, because Sydney was trying to smell him from a distance and Blue was acting deferential towards him.  Rodrigo gave Blue and me lots of licks “I'm okay,” is the message I got.  Everyone went back to bed except me; I'm typing, trying not to dwell on how badly this could have gone.


Update 9/4/2014:  Learn more about coyotes over on SlimDoggy.  I just read a post entitled Protecting Yourself and Your Dog from Coyotes that offers more great information.

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