Leashed Dog Approaches, Gets A Mild Message, Walks On

I was watching this coyote when a man and his leashed dog appeared on the trail.  The only way home was on this path. The man told his dog “off”, and they proceeded down the path very calmly. But notice the coyote. He at first just watches. Then he gives a snarly warning — “just in case” the dog might have mean intentions in mind, though this is not a very intense warning. The coyote then watches again before giving an even milder warning — probably when the dog looked at him. These warnings did not involve any “barking” — they were all visual and totally silent.

I could not see the dog because I was focused on the coyote. But a dog’s “look” is easily read by coyotes and vice-versa. If these animals zero in on each other, you can be sure they are communicating. Leashing dogs keeps them calmer, usually. I say usually, because if an owner is tense or apprehensive upon seeing a coyotes, this mood will be communicated right through that leash to the dog. But generally, the leashing keeps the “look” these animals give each other calmer.  In the end, the coyote just watched as the two proceeded down the path — there was no incident except the eyeing each other, and that must have been “respectful”!

The coyote’s message is always the same: “leave me alone”, or “don’t invade my personal space”. When a dog and walker do get too close, the coyote will flee out of the way, usually to some underbrush. The message sent by the dog is also important. This dog, although curious about the coyote, has never gone after the coyote antagonistically. The warning would have been much more intense if there had been antagonistic communication or a past history of chasing.

Coyotes are threatened not only by unleashed dogs chasing them, but also by antagonistic dogs who pull on their leashes and communicate a threat or desire to chase. Since few people really know what the communication between these animals is, it is always best to move on and away from a coyote you have encountered. On April 21st Charles Wood posted a video which shows a coyote giving a message involving a warning bark — this is a stronger message. Charles and his dog respectfully kept their distance, but the coyote ended up fleeing to a safer place.

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