Many rural areas as well as city streets serve as home to a wide range of wildlife, and that can lead to animal attacks or animal fights that involve your puppy. Tiny pups look like snacks to visiting wildlife. It can happen when you least expect, even in your own front yard. Just ask Pete Kloppers, a gentleman who lives in a suburbs of my North Texas community.
A couple of years ago at 11:00 pm at night, Kloppers followed his usual bedtime routine when he let his miniature Dachshund named Harley outside in the front yard for a last potty break of the evening. “Harley always comes in when he’s finished,” says Kloppers, so he left the door open as he remained inside and turned off the household lights.
He heard Harley scream, and raced to the door, but the little red mini-Dachshund was already gone. Snatched from the well lighted front yard, his yelps grew fainter as he was carried off into the night.
The culprit was brought to justice later that month after the City Animal Control placed a trap across the road. “They caught a coy-dog, part coyote and part dog,” says Kloppers. “If we’d known it was anywhere around I’d have never let Harley out there.” He mourns the loss of his special little dog but doesn't blame the wildlife for doing what comes naturally.
Common Critter Culprits
It’s not unusual to see coyotes these days even in the city. My German shepherd, Magic, has chased coyotes away from the house, come nose-to-nose with armadillos, and wrangled a raccoon during our early morning ramble. Here in Texas we also must contend with bobcats, mountain lions, snakebites, porcupine, skunks, feral hogs, bats, and birds of prey. The wildlife varies depending on where you live. Contact your county extension agent to learn specifics about your region.
Even if you're able to chase off the critter, a close encounter with wildlife exposes your puppy to disease. Skunks do more than douse the dog with stink--learn how to remove skunk smell here--they can carry rabies. Raccoons also carry rabies, and can overcome much larger pets and drowned them. North Texas raccoons in 2013 suffered an outbreak of a distemper epidemic that killed many of the critters, and is contagious to your dogs and especially puppies. The distemper virus can stay in the environment for weeks. Wildlife typically stays in the shadows unless emboldened by hunger or compromised by disease or injury so animals out in the open should raise your concern.
With any construction in and around cities, wildlife habitats are disrupted and the inhabitants forced to live in close proximity to our homes. Drought-ridden areas and those affected by natural disasters such as floods, ice storms or other weather challenges can also mean less available food and water, increasing the odds you’ll find a wild interloper sipping from the backyard hot tub, raiding the garbage, or swiping cat kibble off the back porch--or even coming into the house through a pet door.
Pets Gone Wild
Sadly, it’s not only wildlife that poses risk. Attacks and bites from larger dogs can severely injure or even kill a puppy. Cat bites from a hissed off feline aggravated by the puppy lead to infections (and of course, proper puppy to cat introductions can help).
Even a friendly dog’s behavior can change for the worse when influenced by the group dynamic of a canine pack. Think of otherwise well-behaved children egging each other on to more and more outrageous deeds--yet we hope our kids know better so they stop short of mayhem. But dogs are dogs, with natural hunting behaviors and prey drives easily triggered by smaller, scurrying animals -- like your puppy. Out of control play can tip into aggression.
Stray dogs looking for food may, in fact, be more dangerous than wild animals because they have little fear of humans and consider back yards perfect hunting grounds. In some parts of the southern United States, packs of feral dogs carry diseases such as mange, distemper and rabies that can infect your pets. And as with the opening story, dogs gone wild may breed with coyotes and produce coy-dog crosses that are bigger and bolder than wild counterparts, and add to the problem.
How to Protect Puppies
Protect your puppy from animal attack by keeping her safely inside whenever you cannot be with her. A fence may keep your pets confined, but wild animals could still get inside so stay vigilant especially at night. Walk puppies on a leash.
Clean up brush that provides hiding spots and habitat to small critters like rodents, which draw larger predators including coyotes and snakes to hunt them. Pick up pet food from porches and garages or other easily accessed outdoor areas. And secure garbage containers with critter-proof lids, only setting them out for pick up for brief times. Anything that smells like food will ring the dinner bell to wildlife as well as stray pets.
Offer covered shelter for puppies when outside to shield them from the view of predatory birds. Prevent puppies from roaming. Even if your pup is not injured and would never hurt a fly, a big adolescent pup could be blamed for an attack if she’s known to be a wanderer and seen in the vicinity of an attack.