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Danger in the Sky?

September 22, 2021
How to protect your dog from a bird attack
 
While I was sitting in my backyard the other day, a hawk caught my eye as it glided over my yard. As I watched the hawk, it dawned on me that despite the numerous blogs I've written on puppy-proofing your home and preparing for a new puppy (see my recent puppy proofing tips blog here: https://www.ckc.ca/en/The-Dish/October-2018/How-To-Pre-Puppy-Proof-Your-Home), there was one element that I hadn't yet considered.

There's a potential danger in my backyard that has nothing to do with keeping dogs in and predators like coyotes out. It’s a danger in the sky.  

Like so many suburban neighbourhoods, my area has been experiencing a massive influx of housing development. Sadly, building new houses for humans evicts wild animals from their homes and pushes them into our blocks. Most of us in these areas have to deal with coyotes more frequently than we had 10 or 20 years ago, and the same goes for birds of prey.


 
Why do bird attacks happen?

While hawk, owl, and eagle attacks on humans are rare, they are more common on household pets. 

Unfortunately, many owners don't know about the danger until it's too late. To a wild animal, a meal is a meal, be it a rat, rabbit, cat, or dog.

While attacks on dogs can happen (especially if they get too close to a nest), those under 20 lbs are at the greatest risk. You might be thinking that a hawk couldn't carry a 20 lb dog, and you might be right. But, it won't matter much if the dog is already in the bird's grip. If a bird overestimates their strength while trying to ascend with its prey, it may drop it from a high altitude and kill the victim.

 

Who are these perpetrators?

Canada is home to owls, hawks, vultures, eagles, and falcons. While any large bird of prey can attack a dog, there are three who are the most common perpetrators who can live in a wide range of habitats across the country.

The Red-Tailed Hawk can be distinguished by its pale belly and red-tipped tail. 1  They are extremely common raptors seen throughout Canada.

Great Horned Owls have a wingspan of 5 feet, and although they usually feed on small birds and rodents, they can also go for a small dog if the opportunity presents itself. 2

Golden Eagles are huge. With a wingspan of up to 7 feet, they can be a real danger to your dog. 3 They are brown with shimmering gold feathers.

 

How to prevent an attack

An incredibly effective way to deter birds of prey is to stay close to your dog while they are outside. Birds are generally afraid of people and aren’t likely to come close to your dog if you are near. 4 

If you have an enclosure like a dog run, consider adding a roof to it. Not only will a roof protect your dog from aerial hunters, but it can also help protect them from the sun and rain. Birds of prey also seem to prefer a straight down, direct attack. Having lots of trees or a canopy above your space can help deter attacks. If you are able to, exercise multiple dogs together, as it deters birds from swooping down. 5

Displaying shiny objects in your yard, such as silver streamers, has been known to intimidate predatory birds. 6 I've heard of people hanging reflective tape from branches of trees. There are also balloons with eye-like markings designed to scare away birds of prey. 7

And lastly, look to see if who you are feeding is feeding the birds — large birds like the ones noted above prey on smaller birds and small rodents. If you are feeding these creatures from bird feeders or by leaving nuts and seeds on the ground, you could be attracting larger birds to your property as well.
 
We commonly try to avoid dangers that could hurt our dogs on land but must also consider the possibility of predators coming from the sky. By using some of the tips above to discourage birds of prey from your property, covering your dog runs, and remembering to physically supervise their outings, you can lower the chance of an aerial attack on your beloved pup.
 

1Canadian Raptor Conservancy, https://canadianraptorconservancy.com/
2 Ibid., Canadian Raptor Conservancy
3 Ibid., Canadian Raptor Conservancy
4The Bark, https://thebark.com/content/protect-your-dog-hawks-and-other-birds-prey
5 Ibid., The Bark
6 Ibid., The Bark
7  Varment Guard, https://varmentguard.com/blog/how-do-i-keep-my-small-dogs-safe-from-birds-of-prey

The opinions expressed by authors on the Canadian Kennel Club Blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Canadian Kennel Club or any of its employees.

Les opinions et les commentaires exprimés dans le blogue du Club Canin Canadien sont ceux des auteurs et ils ne reflètent pas les opinions du Club Canin Canadien ni de ses employés.

Author InformationInformation sur l’auteur

 Ian Lynch

Ian Lynch


Ian Lynch is a comedian, on-air personality and Canadian Kennel Club member.

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