“Not Welcome” Behavior?

Here is coyote behavior which I’ve been seeing more of lately. A coyote appears to be going about its own business when it becomes aware of a walker and dog some distance away, maybe 200 feet or so. The coyote stops what it is doing, trots closer to the walking pair, and follows, getting closer and closer to them. Neither owner nor dog is at all aware of the coyote following and getting closer. Usually, at some point, the owner senses the coyote, turns around and shoos it off — noise, making yourself big, flailing arms and charging back at the coyote. The coyote takes the hint and moves on and, importantly, the dog and walker continue on rather than linger at the scene of the encounter.

Once I saw a coyote actually go all the way up to the dog. The dog and owner were totally oblivious to what was coming up behind them, until the coyote actually poked or touched the dog — maybe even nipped the dog — the dog squealed from the surprise encounter. This is when the owner turned around and shooed the coyote off.

In this behavior, the coyote very carefully avoids the gaze of the human — he gets as close as he can to the dog. When detected and faced by the owner, he heads off.  I’m not sure what the coyote’s purpose is: however, coyotes are territorial and may be messaging a “not welcome” message. I have seen this happen only with medium to medium-small size dogs — let’s say about the size of a coyote or a tiny bit smaller. In one case, I was told, there were two coyotes who actually approached and knocked a dog off its feet. The owner told me that her dog now stays right next to her when she runs in the park. In another instance, there was such an incident involving two coyotes. After being shooed away, both pooped and urinated on the path right where the dog had walked. Pooping and urinating are how coyotes tell you that this is their area.

It seems that at this time of year, whether there are pups or not, coyotes are out defining and redefining their territories, making sure that all four-legged comers know that the area already has been claimed and is owned.

The important point to remember if you have a dog is that having your dog follow you is not the best way to keep your eye on your dog’s safety. One walker told me that he always has his dog in front of him, where he can keep an eye on him. This is a probably a good bit of advice. Better yet, keep your dog leashed on a short leash and right next to you in a coyote area.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Daren R. Sefcik
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 03:33:00

    Wow..this is such a different reaction than my dog would ever have. My dog would have known the coyote was near before I even saw him, he seems to be able to “smell” them when they are near. He holds his nose high in the air and has a very distinct behavior when he senses coyotes are nearby. My dog will generally take the lead on our walks and I agree, it easiest to keep track of him that way.


  2. yipps
    Jun 01, 2011 @ 04:11:51

    I get the impression that there are extremes in how dogs react. If a dog is already well aware that coyotes exist and are around, they react like your dog does. I have a friend with a Ridgeback who acts just like your dog does. But also there are dogs who are totally oblivious to coyotes — at least to begin with.


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