How to Protect Your Dog from Hawks and Other Birds of Prey

PetGuide logo

Once a concern exclusive to pet owners who lived in rural settings, attacks by wildlife on our fur-kids has inevitably become a worry for suburban-folk as well. Gradual encroachment into wildlife habitat has increased the number of assaults on our pets as we eliminate natural sources of food and wild critters are forced to seek out other means of sustenance. Sadly, that search can lead them to our backyards and for a small pet left unattended, vulnerability.

Now, while most owners vaccinate their pets against rabies spread by skunks or raccoons, and take precautions when walking their pets in areas known for coyotes, wolves, or other large predatory animals, they often don’t think about the dangers that can come from above. Yes, we’re talking birds – the big ones – and they can swoop down and scoop up, seriously injure, or even kill pets up to 20 pounds in weight.

So, how can you safeguard your small dogs and puppies? Well, you can start by understanding which birds are more likely to attack, what they look like, and what typically provokes a strike.

Known as Raptor birds, they include the Great Horned owl, the Northern Goshawk, and the Red-Tailed hawk. The smaller, common hawks we frequently see in urban areas are not likely to try to take on an animal the size of a dog or cat but are more inclined to go after rodents or small birds. But the “big 3” will silently strike when hunting for food or protecting their nest / feeling threatened by a human or animal.

The next step to safeguarding your pet from aerial hunters is to check out these 8 tips to come up with an action plan that will work for your backyard. They’re simple, sensible, and can keep your pet safe from injury or death:

  • Be aware of raptor birds in your area. Have you seen them circling, spotted nests where they’re roosting? Either near your yard or when you’re out walking? Be able to assess the threat and take steps accordingly. For example, owls hunt at night. With that knowledge, you know to take extra precautions when letting your pup out for his bedtime piddle.
  • When your dog goes out to play in the yard, stay with him and stay visible. Don’t plan to enjoy a cold one under the patio umbrella. Raptors are much less likely to attack if they can see a human looming large near their intended prey (AKA Rover).
  • If you have two dogs – bring them out together. Even if they’re a handful to control when they start climbing through your flowerbeds. A raptor is unlikely to attack one animal and leave himself vulnerable to the response that would come from a second dog in the yard.
  • If your area is high-risk in terms of having a heavy hawk, eagle, or owl presence, consider building a dog run with a cover that will prevent attacks, give you peace of mind, and can also throw a little shade for your pooch.
  • Get rid of the bird feeder. If you see raptors circling, you’ve just provided them with a buffet of small birds. Particularly don’t feed birds on the ground where they not only don’t have the opportunity for escape, but you draw the aerial hunter in closer to your pets.
  • Doggie’s meals should be served indoors. Bits of kibble and treats can draw in other animals that are natural prey to raptors – such as vermin – and turn your back deck into a raptor’s favorite feeding zone. And once a bird of prey has established a successful hunting, zone, your pet that is busily eating his dinner, will be unaware of what’s circling overhead.
  • Visual deterrents such as owl decoys, streamers, or even shiny CDs hanging from a tree can work, but might be a bit of a trial and error process, with the error being the injury of your pet. Raptors are intelligent enough to know when they’re being tricked by a plastic owl that never seems to move. And you never want to learn the hard way, that he figured it out and it no longer discouraged him from swooping in.
  • If you and your dog love to hike in open areas that can leave him vulnerable to attack, check out some of the talon-proof vests available, or even the shiny, reflective coats that make it difficult for predator birds to get a visual on your pet.