It’s easy to think of your dog as being at the top of the food chain. Bigger dogs definitely seem a lot like wolves, but the truth is that dogs are just as subject to predation as many other animals. One of the biggest problems in recent years has been the encroachment of coyotes into neighborhoods and their attacks on dogs.
While many people think of coyotes as a farming problem, they’re actually becoming more common in suburbs. In fact, the fact that cities are spreading and coyotes are losing much of their typical prey has made coyotes a major problem in places where they usually wouldn’t hunt. This, in turn, puts dogs in a great deal of danger.
The good news, though, is that you can keep your dog safe from coyotes. Just like there are great solutions like the invisible dog fence for keeping your dog in your yard, there are plenty of ways to keep coyotes out. You’ll need to learn more about these animals, of course, as well as what can scare them away. Fortunately, doing so is well within the means of most dog owners.
Why Are Coyotes on the Move?
The first step in solving your coyote problem is figuring out why they’re heading your way in the first place. The answer is short and simple – they’re just trying to survive.
If you see a coyote in your neighborhood, it’s because the animal is thirsty or (more likely) hungry. This means it’s looking for prey and that your dog will look particularly tasty. Dogs aren’t the first choice, but they can be good prey for a starving animal.
The problem here isn’t that you’ve made your home particularly attractive to the coyote, but rather that the animal has few other choices. As such, most coyotes with which humans deal are particularly desperate animals.
Coyotes are canids, which means that they’re actually a little harder to tell apart from dogs than you might want. It’s entirely possible that the animal you’re afraid of is just a dog that’s gone feral, so you do need to figure out if you’re actually looking at coyotes before you take the steps necessary to scare these animals away. Luckily, coyotes do have some characteristics that make them easy to identify.
Coyotes are actually smaller than you might assume. Most are around the size of a mid-size dog, with grey or cinnamon coats that can make them very easy to mistake for small wolves. Coyotes in the Western US tend to be on the smaller side of the scale, while those in the East tend to be a little bit bigger. The easiest way to tell a coyote apart from a wolf or dog, though, is by looking at its snout – coyote snouts tend to be long and thin.
Sometimes it’s easier to identify a coyote by what it’s left behind. Coyote tracks look a lot like dog tracks, for example, but they tend to be both narrower and in a straight line – dogs, on the other hand, tend to be wanderers while coyotes move with purpose. Likewise, coyote stool tends to be long and ropy with plenty of undigested matter, while dog stool is something that’s more commonly found digested in a yard.
Keeping Coyotes Away from Your Dog
The most important step you can take is to ensure that coyotes don’t come near your dog in the first place. This requires a little planning, but it’s fairly easy to do. Your goal is to make your property less appealing than the idea of going elsewhere.
Keep Your Property Clean
Since coyotes are coming to your property in order to eat and drink, the most effective deterrent is to make sure that there’s nothing there for the animals. This means keeping your garbage cans locked up tight and ensuring that your pet’s dog food is always kept inside.
This also means that you’ll need to keep any animals you have inside at night. This is easier with dogs and cats, but you need to ensure that you keep animals like chickens and rabbits indoors if you know that coyotes are around. This greatly reduces the likelihood of attracting coyotes to your home.
Fence the Area
Traditional fences are great for keeping your dogs in, but they’re just as effective for keeping coyotes out. Coyotes are jumpers and diggers, so you need to ensure that you have a fence that’s at least six feet tall and that is buried into the ground so that the coyote can’t get over or under your fencing. Wood and composites are usually the best materials, but there are others who swear by electric fencing.
Install Deterrent Lights
Sometimes your best move is just to scare the coyotes away. A set of bright lights that can light up your property at night are much more likely to scare coyotes off than anything else. Choose a set of lights that are motion activated to give coyotes a good fright so that they’ll run off to find easier prey.
Practice Nocturnal Safety
It’s vital that you understand that coyotes are nocturnal hunters (1). Yes, they’ll go after easy prey during the day but they’re much more likely to try to sneak around at night. As such, you need to pay careful attention to your property at night time.
For many dog owners, this means keeping a careful eye on their dogs at night. If you take your dog out to the bathroom, bring a flashlight and make sure that your dog is in and out as quickly as possible. If you must let your dog out to roam, make sure that he or she does so in a space that’s enclosed, safe, and easy to monitor.
Simply put, you need to make sure that you’re paying attention to what your dogs do at night and that you limit the amount of exposure they have outdoors if you know that coyotes are on the hunt.
Keep Vulnerable Pets Inside
If your dog is sick, he or she needs to stay inside. Likewise, pregnant dogs or dogs who have recently given birth need to stay indoors any time there is a coyote around. Coyotes, like most other predators, are attracted to easy prey and sick or injured dogs are as easy to hunt as it gets. Again, if they must go inside out they should absolutely be accompanied and should spend as little time outside as possible.
What About Wolf Urine?
One very common recommendation for scaring away coyotes is that you should spray wolf urine around your property. This is a good move if you’re in an area that also has wolves, but it’s not so useful if the coyotes have no clue where the scent comes from. As such, it tends to be a little more effective in extremely rural areas, but you really can’t count on this working to keep your dog safe.
What To Do If You Encounter a Coyote?
While prevention is always for the best, there are steps you will need to take if a coyote does get onto your property. In many cases, coyotes are going to be more scared of you than you are of them. When coyotes get used to humans, though, problems can start.
Don’t approach a coyote if you can help it. You and your pet are much more likely to get attacked if you approach, if only because the coyote feels threatened. Sometimes coyotes will run away if you make a move, but you can’t count on that happening every time.
This is especially important to keep in mind because coyotes can be carriers of rabies. In fact, you should always get both yourself and your dog checked for rabies if you are attacked by a coyote, as the last thing you want is to fall victim to this horrible disease.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What will keep coyotes away?
Generally speaking, the best way to keep coyotes away is to make sure that your property is as unattractive to them as possible. This means keeping your garbage cans closed uptight, your dog food inside, and ensuring that any animals you own are kept inside or in a safe area that the coyotes cannot access at night. It’s also a good idea to consider putting up a fence in order to keep your property safe.
2. What smells keep coyotes away?
Many people think that the scent of wolf urine will keep coyotes away. While this can happen in some cases, the truth is that coyotes who haven’t ever been around wolves are unlikely to get scared off by wolf urine. Instead, the best steps you can take involve removing smells that could attract coyotes. This usually means picking up after your dog, ensuring that you keep your pets somewhere inside, and ensuring that all of your trash cans are kept airtight.
3. What is a natural way to repel coyotes?
The most natural way to repel coyotes, at least in some areas, is light. If you can set up some motion lights, you might be able to scare away the coyotes. Likewise, blinking LEDs can scare off coyotes who think that the lights are the eyes of other predators. Some people swear by wolf urine as a natural repellant, but this only works in areas that also have wolves. Perhaps the best way to repel a coyote is to put up a barrier that he or she cannot get past; if a coyote can’t jump your fence, get through your fence, or dig under it, he or she will look for someplace else to hunt.
4. What are coyotes afraid of?
Coyotes tend to be afraid of animals that are bigger than them, at least when they’re not starving. That’s why animals like dogs, donkeys, and even llamas have been used for quite some time as great guard animals. Some coyotes are scared of humans, while others tend to be very frightened of wolves. Much like humans, though, it’s hard to tell what an individual coyote will be frightened of as the circumstances of that coyote’s life thus far are going to play a huge role in its psychology.