These long (dark) fall-leading-into-winter days have me a bit stressed. Oh, it’s not the lack of light per se. I’ve grown up in Canada and am used to it. It’s having to let my dog outside when it’s dark out that has me anxious. During the summer, I was able to time it so that she was only ever going out when it was light out but now, that’s just not possible. And call me a worry-wart, but that has me concerned that the dog might just encounter a coyote.
Coyote sightings have become more prevalent here in London, Ontario. At one point in the spring, it seemed like there were reports of coyotes every week. Three of them were just a few blocks from my house. The thought of it sends shivers down my spine. When attacked and bitten by our neighbour’s dog, Trinity got scared and just ran straight for me but what would she do if approached by a coyote? Would she be able to get away? Would she be able to hold her own?
- My first big tip is not to leave the dog outside unsupervised. This is especially important at night and early in the morning (when they are likely to be more active) but coyotes have been spotted taking a little stroll down the sidewalk in the middle of the day.
- Don’t leave dog food outside. This isn’t an issue for us because I have never fed her outside at all but I also want to be sure that all my trash is secure inside covered trashcans (I use bungee cords to keep the lids on tight and ensure that no animals can get into them). Compost bins are another area of concern. Composting meat is not advisable. And as much as we like to keep the birds well fed, just know that birdfeeders attract squirrels and rodents, and they attract coyotes.
- Use a secure leash and collar. The collars that snap together with a clip tend to break easily when under stress. My vet recommends the kind that buckle like a belt. When it comes to leashes, look for the strongest you can find. Some of the really cute ones also tend to be really flimsy. And retractable leashes really aren’t a good idea. They aren’t terribly strong and don’t give you as much control of your pet. They make it more difficult to bring your dog back to your side in an emergency. And, did you know that in most places there are laws on how long your leash is allowed to be? Most people using retractable leashes are violating the law when they let the leash out to its full length. In London Ontario, the law is: A dog shall be deemed to be running at large if it is not under the physical control of any person by means of a leash not greater than 1.8 metres held by the person.
- Keep up to date on where coyotes have been spotted. Our police department releases this information through local news outlets but you can also usually call your local animal control department for the most current information. Obviously, you should be avoiding the places where they have been seen. Taking your dog on a trail walk may not be the best course of action but if you do, keep to the paths and avoid areas of brush where coyotes can hide.
- Stay aware and vigilant while walking your dog. This is a good idea anyway – you don’t want to be surprised by another dog on the loose, small children who might startle your dog, or traffic.
- Scare away the coyotes. If your dog is small enough, pick it up if you spot a coyote. Otherwise, pull your dog as close to you as possible. Coyotes may see dogs as prey but often are still afraid of humans. You want to look as intimidating as possible. Don’t turn your back to the coyote and don’t try to run away. These will be seen as signs of weakness. Back away very slowly. You can also try to scare the coyote away with the light from a flashlight, by setting off a personal alarm, opening and closing an umbrella, yelling at it, or throwing rocks or sticks in its direction (NEAR the coyote, NOT at the coyote – you don’t want to hurt it!)