Confrontations with Coyotes

How to avoid them, how to handle them
By Karen B. London PhD, September 2015, Updated June 2021

I often judge trends in the experiences of dogs by what people call to ask me or what my friends casually mention. (Very scientific, I know.) In recent weeks, I have heard about a number of run-ins with coyotes and received just as many phone calls from people who are concerned about the risk of encountering one. The prevalence of coyotes in urban and suburban areas is on the rise and has been for years.

Most coyotes are fearful of people, and generally make an effort to avoid us. They react very differently to dogs, however, taking quite an interest in them. A huge number of interactions between people and coyotes happen when a person is accompanied by a dog. Coyotes may view dogs as a threat, or as potential prey, depending mainly on the size of the dog.

The best way to avoid trouble with a coyote is to avoid coyotes, though that is far from a simple matter. As much as you can, stay away from areas known to have a lot of coyotes. Stick to open trails and paths and stay away from areas with thick vegetation. Walk your dog on a leash (retractable leashes not recommended!), preferably not around sunrise or sunset.

If you do see a coyote, do not run away. Be assertive and attempt to scare the coyote away. If it is possible that pups are around, walk away rather than try to scare the coyote. (It’s hard to know if pups are around, but this is most likely during spring and early summer.) Do not turn your back on the coyote, but rather back up to get away. For more advice on how to handle coyote situations, check out this piece on the subject.

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I’ve run into coyotes in Wisconsin and in Arizona. In Arizona, I was out on a trail and saw a coyote in the distance. It moved away from us without my having to do anything. In Wisconsin, I saw one walking right down the middle of the street in my suburban neighborhood while I was walking a dog with aggression issues towards other dogs. The dog stiffened and barked and I knew that no good would come of getting any closer. Not knowing it was the wrong thing to do, I cued the dog to do a U-turn and we scampered out of there. Luckily the coyote did not follow.<

Have you and your dog come across a coyote?

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Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life

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