Will A Coyote Eat a Dog? Keeping Your Dog Safe From Coyotes


Coyote Looking at the Camera

Coyotes are typically known as opportunistic scavengers- and they’ve gotten this reputation for a reason. They have been known to hunt through garbage, eat leftover food, and eliminate and eat various animals such as rats, squirrels, rabbits, and even snakes. But what about your beloved dog?

Yes. A coyote can eliminate or eat your dog if given the chance or if they are hungry or desperate. While these attacks are not commonplace, dogs under 50 pounds are at risk of a coyote attack due to their size. To keep coyotes away from your dog, make sure to keep your pets inside when unattended.

Now, before we talk about all the ways you can keep your furry friend safe, let’s take a look at some burning questions you have about coyotes and dogs.

How Often Do Coyotes Go After Dogs?

Your first question may be the following: does this happen frequently? Or is this one of those things that happens every once in a while, and people just make a big deal about it? 

Is this something I really need to be worried about? Well, sorry to burst your bubble. 

While it is hard to say how often it happens, it is not uncommon for household pets to go missing in areas where coyotes are known to live and hunt. 

And that’s basically anywhere- you can find coyotes everywhere from rural areas to urban metropolitans like Chicago and Detroit!

Why Types of Dogs Do Coyotes Eat?

So, we’ve established that coyotes do, in fact, attack dogs on occasion. But are they really eating them?

Well, that just depends on a few things. Two things, when you boil it down: how hungry the coyote is, and how large the dog is. 

According to the Urban Coyote Research Project, a project run by various Illinois and Ohio university researchers, if your dog is going to get eaten by a coyote, it will almost definitely be a small breed.

In the research they conducted, it was found that about thirty different breeds of dogs have been reported to be attacked by a coyote. Of those thirty breeds, a whopping two-thirds were small breed dogs.

In these situations, it is more likely that the coyote mistook the small dog for prey, and did consume it after eliminating it.

This brings us to our next question:

Can Coyotes Eliminate Large Dogs?

According to the Urban Coyote Research, there are still a third of dog breeds left that were not considered “small” breeds.

Of those ten dog breeds, three of those were considered medium breeds, and the remaining six were considered large dog breeds. This means that the short answer is yes, coyotes can eliminate large dogs.

Dogs as big as seventy-five pounds, or sometimes even larger, are still in danger of being attacked by a coyote. Coyotes are stealthy and utilize sneak attacks, which is typically how they can wound or even eliminate a larger dog.

Additionally, coyotes are considered very “scrappy” animals and are used to fighting for food and defending what they consider their territory.

On the flip side, dogs are very similar to coyotes in many ways. This includes being protective of their territory. So, if a coyote comes wandering unknowingly into a dog’s yard, typically looking for scraps to eat, they may find themselves embroiled in a fight with a dog trying desperately to protect its territory. 

Because coyotes are, well, wild animals, they will often fight back to the point that both animals are wounded, sometimes even fatally.

What Types of Dogs Do Coyotes Not Eat?

Now, we’ve discussed how breeds like Pomeranians and Daschunds are more likely to be snacks for coyotes, while larger breeds will usually end up as sparring partners. 

With that being said, are there any dog breeds that are actually safe from coyotes?

While there is no way to give a sure answer about which dogs are safe from coyotes, a general rule of thumb is that the larger and more aggressive the dog, the less likely they are to be thought of as prey by a coyote. 

Coyotes certainly don’t go looking for fights with animals that are larger than them. Depending on where they live, coyotes range in weight from 15-45 pounds. Generally speaking, dogs weighing 50 pounds or more are less likely to be taken by coyotes.

Can Any Dog Fight Off a Coyote?

If you live in an area that is heavily populated by coyotes and have smaller breed dogs, livestock, or children, you may consider getting a larger ‘guard’ dog. One that is large enough to protect your smaller pets and children.

According to the Denver Government’s fact sheet on coyotes, they typically range from about twenty pounds to about forty pounds, with very few coyotes being bigger than fifty pounds. 

Coyotes may be depicted as large and scary in movies or on TV, but most of them are smaller than a lot of large breed dogs. 

So, for any dog to have a fighting chance, it will need to be larger than your average coyote. It is also recommended that they are the type of dog that is territorial and preferably used to protect homes and livestock.

Some examples of dogs that can fight off a coyote are Kangals, pit bull terriers, Akitas, Malamutes, Irish wolfhounds, and Great Pyrenees. 

Will Coyotes Attack Humans With Dogs?

We’ve spent most of this time discussing dogs being attacked in backyards. But, will a coyote attack a dog on a walk with a human? 

Coyote in winter at Yellowstone National Park.

Luckily, this is much rarer than a lone dog being attacked by a coyote. Coyotes are typically skittish animals, and most are nervous or afraid in the presence of humans. 

And since adult humans are also much larger than coyotes, the fact of the matter is that coyotes simply do not possess the ability, strength, or confidence to attack a human. While coyotes generally hunt in packs, the instance in in a populated area is still unlikely.

That does not mean that a coyote will never attack a dog or human that is out on a walk, but it is exceedingly uncommon. 

However, if you are out walking your dog in an area that is frequented by coyotes- particularly at night- be sure you are remaining vigilant, and avoid bringing your dog into heavily wooded areas with low lighting or few people.

If you’re interested in repelling coyotes, you can read our piece on how to use the best coyote repellents here.

Can Coyotes Jump Fences?

You may be thinking: I have a fence! That should help keep coyotes out, right? 

Unfortunately, not always. 

According to the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation, coyotes can easily jump six feet off the ground, and typically have no problems scaling fences that are up to ten feet in height. 

Of course, it’s ridiculous to imagine having a ten-foot fence around your property. But, there are a few other things you can do to help coyote-proof your fence. 

To make your fence unappealing to coyotes, make sure it is not only tall but also made of a material that can’t easily be climbed. 

Typically, chain link fences are the easiest type of fence for a coyote to climb. Wooden or vinyl fences are much more difficult. 

To prevent a coyote from digging under your fence, it’s recommended you lay some kind of wire around the bottom, pushed into the ground a couple of inches. 

You can also use what is known as a Coyote Roller Bracket to make your fence coyote-proof. A roller is a large steel tube you place at the top of the fence that makes it virtually impossible for a coyote to jump over it.

An added bonus is these coyote rollers will help keep any particularly athletic dogs in, which helps avoid coyote conflicts too!

Spikes you can place at the top of your fence are also particularly effective in keeping wily coyotes out, but have the potential to harm birds and squirrels, so use caution.

If you’d like to learn more, you can read our article about building a coyote proof fence here.

What Else Do Coyotes Eat?

Honestly? Coyotes will eat almost anything, including trash. They are most certainly omnivores in every sense of the word. 

However, their most common diet is about 20% fruit and 40% rodents. The remaining 40% is made up of scraps, scavenged food, and other small animals. Unfortunately, that does sometimes include small dogs.

You can read a full list of the animals that coyotes eat here.

Will Coyotes Eat Other Household Pets? 

By this point, we’ve talked pretty heavily about the fact that coyotes will eat just about anything they can get their hands- or more aptly, their mouth- on. 

So, for that reason alone, it’s pretty obvious that yes, coyotes will most definitely eliminate and eat your cats, rabbits, birds, or any other pet you can think of.

So, if you’re a proud cat mom, or rabbit mom, or own any animal that goes outside on a regular or even occasional basis, be sure that you are taking proper precautions to keep your pets safe.

If you have chickens or outdoor animals, be sure their pen is secure with a locking mechanism. Burry your fences 6” deep and extend them out in an ‘L’ shape so mischievous coyotes cannot dig under.

If you’re worried about sheep, calves, goats, or other livestock, your best bet is either a guard dog or a companion animal such as a single llama or donkey. These companion animals are protective by nature, and will aggressively defend themselves and your livestock.

That brings us to the most important part of this article:

What Can I Do to Keep My Dog Safe From Coyotes?

We’ve already talked about some major precautions you can take to keep your pets safe from coyotes, but let’s discuss a few other easy things you can do to ensure that your pets aren’t ending up in a coyote’s stomach: 

Make Sure Your Trash is Secure

Keeping your trash receptacles secure is one of the best things you can do to deter coyotes from entering your yard.

This means buying a heavy-duty trash can that is hard to climb and topple over. It also means making sure your trash is tightly secured. Use lids that are difficult, or impossible, for coyotes to nose off.

Unlike bears, Coyotes don’t have the dexterity to remove trashcan lids, so it doesn’t need a lock. It just needs to be heavy and secure enough that they cannot easily nudge or push it off.

Western Coyote (Canis latrans) in a field in Yellowstone National Park

Keep Your Animals Inside

This is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure that your animals are protected from coyotes. 

Make sure you are always supervising your pets outside, even if you have a fence. The smaller the dog, the more vigilantly they need to be watched since a coyote can easily snatch a small dog in seconds and run away with it. 

Utilize Motion Sensor Lights

Motion sensor lights are a great way to keep coyotes at bay. 

Like we mentioned earlier in the article, coyotes are extremely skittish animals. If they are nosing around in a yard and a bright light snaps on, they will most likely hightail it out of there in seconds. 

Something like the Solar Strobe Light with Motion Detector Alarm Light is a perfect addition to your coyote defense arsenal. This product can be set for 24 hours or 12 hours, so if you only need protection at night it will save on battery life. It also comes with a remote so if you install it up high, there’s no need to get a ladder every time you want to change the settings!

Practice Coyote Hazing Techniques

Remember: coyotes are afraid of humans! While you don’t ever want to approach them or their den in the wild, if they are in your territory, let them know it! 

Yelling, shouting, and generally making as much noise as possible are great ways to get them out of your yard or property quickly. 

Keep coyotes wild; don’t let their fear of humans go away! 

Keep Rodents Out of Your Yard 

To keep coyotes out, you need to keep their primary food source out as well.

This means removing thick brush and shrub coverings where rodents may hide, as well as making sure any birdseed, food, or other things rodents may enjoy snacking on are secured or out of your yard entirely. 

If you have outdoor pet rodents such as rabbits, never leave them outside at night or unattended, even if they are in a secure hutch. 

Never Feed Wild Coyotes

This may seem obvious, but everyone knows that bleeding heart animal lover who may see a mangy, skinny coyote and want to help them out by leaving some food or scraps out. 

It may even be you! 

While your heart is in the right place, feeding coyotes will keep them coming back time and time again. 

Indirectly feeding the coyotes will have the same result. We’ve discussed keeping trash secure, but this also means making sure all pet food, human food, and other goodies coyotes may try to snack on are clear from your yard.

Keep Your Outdoor Sheds Locked

In addition to providing food sources, your yard may also provide shelter for our wily coyotes. So, make sure that any outdoor sheds or structures are always locked and secured to prevent an unwanted guest from sneaking in at night. 

Be Aware of Coyote Mating Season

The mating season for coyotes is between January and March every year. 

This means that the coyotes will be especially active during this time. Be sure you are staying extra vigilant and cautious during these high-activity times. 

Keep Your Dog Leashed

Keep your dog leashed while on walks. If you don’t have a fence, always oversee your dog’s activities outside. This goes for both wooded areas and suburban ones since coyotes are extremely common in urban areas as well. 

Coyotes will probably not attack your dog when it’s near you, but if you let it off-leash and it runs into a copse of trees or bushes, it may be fair game for a coyote. 

Wrapping it Up!

Whew- coyotes are a real pain, aren’t they? 

From leftover food and trash to cats and dogs, almost nothing seems safe from a coyote. However, by utilizing the methods mentioned above, you are much more likely to keep these nuisances in the wild where they belong.

To recap, here are a few key points from this article:

  • Coyotes that are hungry or defending their territory will attack and sometimes eat dogs, but this is uncommon for large breed dogs.
  • Cats, rabbits, and other small pets are also at risk from coyotes
  • Making your yard less attractive will make encounters with coyotes less likely:
    • Secure your trash.
    • Keep pet food inside.
    • Make yourself a threat if you encounter a coyote.
    • Keep your dog on a leash or within a fenced-in yard.
    • Keep your sheds and outbuildings secure.
    • Don’t feed coyotes.

Happy coyote repelling!

References

Baker, R. O. (2007). A review of successful urban coyote management programs implemented to prevent or reduce attacks on humans and pets in Southern California [Proceedings of the 12th Wildlife Damage Management Conference].

Poessel, S. A., Breck, S. W., Teel, T. L., Shwiff, S., Crooks, K. R., & Angeloni, L. (2012, August 23). Patterns of human-coyote conflicts in the Denver Metropolitan Area. Journal of Wildlife Management, 77(2), 297-305.

Timm, R. M, Baker, R. O, Bennett, J. R, & Coolahan, C. C. (2004). Coyote Attacks: An Increasing Suburban Problem. UC Davis: Hopland Research and Extension Center.

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