Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Another good reason to keep your dog in your yard

I spoke with the very shaken owner of an 8-year-old, 8-pound Maltese named Sunshine who was attacked by a coyote on Sunday night in the backyard of her Troy home.

I’m always a bit nervous when talking with folks about stuff that happens to their dogs.

My biggest fear is that they’ll tell me something they did as a dog owner that I’ll disagree with — like letting their dog outside without a leash because “he always sticks around” or letting their dog off-leash on a walk because “he always sticks around.”

And let me tell you something about your dogs folks — they don’t always stick around. They aren’t going to stick around when another dog walks by, they aren’t going to stick around if a rabbit runs through the yard and they may even wander off for no good reason at all. I hate the term “always sticks around.” Why not replace “always” with the truth, which is “usually, if the circumstances are right.”

Start telling people your dog “usually sticks around, if the circumstances are right” and see what kind of looks you get then. It might change your habit.

But I digress.

So here I am, talking on the phone with Patricia — she’s near tears as soon as I identify myself and the last thing I want to do is upset her by questioning her dog ownership practices. I remind myself to keep my mouth shut.

Luckily, I didn’t have to. There wasn’t a single thing Patricia was doing that didn’t get my stamp of approval.

From the video, it looks like Patricia has a pretty large, non-fenced yard. But Patricia doesn’t practice the “always sticks around” mentality and actually makes sure her dog sticks around.

She has a little chain that snaps on to the collar of her 8-pound precious pooch and keeps her tied to the house while she wanders off to piddle on the grass. Good girls — both of them.

Not only that, but Patricia stands by the doorwall to keep an eye on Sunshine while she does her business.

Such a vigilant dog owner and yet, what happened Sunday night couldn’t be prevented by all Patricia’s responsible dog ownership practices.

A coyote leapt out of the darkness just after Sunshine finished piddling, grabbed poor Sunshine around the back of her neck and — if I know canines right — probably tried doing the infamous canine death shake.

Patricia opened the doorwall, screaming in terror and the frightened coyote dropped the terrified Maltese and ran back off into the darkness. Patricia then took her injured dog to the emergency vet, where five stitches on each side of her neck were needed to seal the bite wounds.

Read the full story here and check out video below.

At this point, you’ve got to be wondering why I titled this blog the way I did since even this responsible dog owner, keeping her dog in her yard via the use of a chain, couldn’t stop a coyote attack.

Well, Patricia pointed out the first reason to me during our interview:

“Luckily, she was on a chain, because if she wasn’t, he could’ve just picked her up and brought her back into the woods,” she said.

Reason one, nailed.

Reason two — if your yard can be a dangerous place for your dog, what do you think about the rest of the world? Think it’s safer?

I’d argue that your dog’s chance of running into a coyote or another predator, like a cougar, is far greater outside of your yard than in it. After all, what is outside of your yard is pretty much their yard, right?

And if you live in an urban area and it’s nothing but a bunch of paved streets and buildings, then it may not be a cougar’s playground but it could very well be a coyote’s, and even if it’s not, then there’s still cars to worry about.

So once again, I implore everyone to keep their dogs in their yards. If you have a small dog or a cat, you should not let your pet outside unsupervised. Coyotes are all over Oakland County and they are a genuine threat to small pets.

Dogs that are about 70 pounds and bigger will ward off coyotes. In fact, I’ve been told a coyote won’t even come into a yard if it smells of a big dog.

Coyotes are generally between 25 and 35 pounds, so they’re not going to get themselves into a fight they can’t win.

Last but not least, I want to point out another thing that Patricia did right — screaming and making a commotion. If your pet or child is being attacked by a coyote, don’t just stand there and cry. Scream, yell, run toward it — it doesn’t take a whole lot to scare off a coyote, at least a normal one.

Now, if the coyote is out in the middle of the day and behaving oddly, you do have reason to stay away — rabies. Rabid animals are, well, rabid and you don’t want to get near them.

Otherwise, though, it often takes little more than your presence to scare off a coyote.

Kudos to Patricia for being such a good dog owner and here’s to hoping she and Sunshine enjoy many more happy, healthy years together!


  1. I agree with everything that you said but I would take it one step further. I wouldn't even put the dog on a chain and "watch from the doorway or "doorwall"....I would take the dog out on a leash, I am wondering if carrying a flashlight at night would help too?

    I get nervous whenever my husband or I take our Sheltie out to piddle at night because we do have a creek with brush and we get some animals here occasionally....I never let our Sheltie out without a leash, granted we live on the 2nd floor of a condo but if I had a house with a yard and my dog was as small as that dog I would never, ever have it on a chain and watch it from the door. You mentioned it was a "little chain"....she is very, very lucky the coyote didn't yank the dog and chain so hard that the chain didn't break....a chain for a dog that small could easily be broken.

    I am very happy that the adorable little dog is going to be ok.

  2. Thanks for the comment Caren! And yes, that is exactly what Patricia is now urging others to do. She said she'll put Sunshine outside again without being right there with her!

    As for the chain, I don't know what type of chain it was, but made the assumption that for such a little dog, you wouldn't be using a heavy one :-)

  3. Opps, meant to type "She said she'll never put Sunshine outside again without being right there with her."

  4. yep I saw an interview with her on WDIV last night and she said she will now use a leash (GOOD!!!) Showed the original chain...you are right for a small dog it wasn't very strong, she is extremely lucky.....this was a most important post! Thanks!

  5. The Sunshine incident reminds us that even when we do everything right bad stuff can happen. Kinda like life, eh? Stay vigilant folks!

  6. I live in Milford your over reacting.
    I raise Rottweilers and must be careful not to get sprayed by skunks and dogs going after Gophers and Ground hogs.
    The little dogs look like vermin and act like they are big dogs. We must have predators to remove coons and the rest.
    It is the owners responsibility to protect the animals they have chosen to care fore.
    Not to change nature because they moved from the suburbs .