Is a coyote or pack of coyotes likely to attack my small dog if she is with me on a trail on a leash? I heard of someone's dog being eaten while the woman was walking her pet on a leash. She was allegedly walking in an area known to have wildlife but was on the trail frequented by humans. Is this likely?

The trail is fairly busy with people. There is a no dog policy, but I have a service animal and hiking the trail is really good for me. My dog is small though and a coyote could legitimately see her as a little white rabbit on a leash. I'm not even sure the claim is true but rather safe than sorry with my baby!!

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    I think that question is very relevant, but still slightly different and thus a distinct question: There it is about an unsupervised dog in the yard, here it is about a dog on a leash while walking, i.e. the human is near.
    – imsodin
    May 12 '19 at 19:33
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    Definitely not a duplicate, although related.
    – ab2
    May 12 '19 at 22:54
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    @Sue Dropping a hammer on a coyote is a figure of speech May 13 '19 at 0:27
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    The coyote won't see your dog as a "rabbit on a leash", but as a potential competitor to be driven off (or killed).
    – Mark
    May 13 '19 at 3:28
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    Generally you drop an anvil on a coyote... May 13 '19 at 3:59

Has this happened sure,

Traps have been set out after an elderly woman was walking her small, mixed-breed dog on a leash around 10 a.m. on Saturday on Avenida Majorca and a coyote began attacking the dog, Falk said.

Falk said the woman tried to wrestle the dog away and was bitten in the scuffle – it was unclear if the bite was from the coyote or the dog. The dog was taken to a local veterinarian and later died. The woman had to undergo a series of shots for rabies treatment and is in stable condition, Falk said.

Woman injured, dog killed in coyote attack

Attack incidents are typically preceded by a sequence of increasingly bold coyote behaviors, including: nighttime coyote attacks on pets; sightings of coyotes in neighborhoods at night; sightings of coyotes in morning and evening; attacks on pets during daylight hours; attacks on pets on leashes and chasing of joggers and bicyclists; and finally, mid-day sightings of coyotes in and around children’s play areas. In suburban areas, coyotes can lose their fear of humans as a result of coming to rely on ample food resources including increased numbers of rabbits and rodents, household refuse, pet food, available water from ponds and landscape irrigation run-off, and even intentional feeding of coyotes by residents. The safe environment provided by a wildlife-loving general public, who rarely display aggression toward coyotes, is also thought to be a major contributing factor.

Coyote Attacks: An Increasing Suburban Problem

A lot of this depends on the behavior of the humans in the area, in most areas in Wyoming, for example, a coyote will run at the sight of a human because their expectation is that the human is going to start shooting at them. In other areas where they are not hunted and especially in suburban areas they lose that fear and will become much bolder.

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    There have been two incidents in my neighborhood, walking along an easement road that runs between the houses and a 'wilderness' area. Small dogs have been taken by coyotes, yanking the leash out of the owner's hands. Even larger dogs aren't safe. One dog, Alsatian/German Sheppard mix, off-leash, chased a coyote past a collection of boulders. As the A/GS dog ran past the boulders 3 more coyotes came out from behind the boulders and started chasing the dog. Thankfully large, scary, missile-throwing humans managed to scare the coyotes off before anything bad happened.
    – Arluin
    May 13 '19 at 23:42

Your best overall strategy for trail safety would be to seek human walking partners, perhaps through a walking group or social or neighborhood organization. Not only are threats (coyote and otherwise) going to be more hesitant to attack a pack of humans or even a dog restrained in the midst of one, should there be any sort of mishap, humans are more capable of coming to each other's defense, using mobile phones, blowing whistles, rendering first aid or administering medications, etc.

If you do decide to bring a service dog into an area where dogs are prohibited, it would be wise to carefully weigh the reasons for that prohibition, and take steps to maximize the degree to which the dog is serving and not being illicitly taken for a walk.

Something like a visual assist dog would be in effect physically attached to their human via something that is more an arm-extending "harness" than a "leash" - they are not free to sniff around and start at squirrels. In contrast, a dog which serves in another capacity, being walked on a leash has a much higher chance of coming into conflict, in both practice and perception, with the reasons and regulations prohibiting dogs - things like harassing wildlife, the hazard a leash presents to cyclists and even other walkers, fecal contamination in sensitive watersheds, etc. Even if the dog's legal status is sufficient to avoid a citation many of the practical concerns remain, and need to be given real consideration before deciding to proceed.

So if the dog is legally brought into the otherwise prohibited area (preferably in addition to human companions), it would be good to keep the dog on a very short leash or harness so that she is constrained in both fact and appearance to remain by your side for the safety and consideration of all, including herself. If possible a backpack carrier would be even better. Or if the path is paved and not hilly, a jogging stroller might work especially if enclosed. Remember also to bring water and provide it at frequent breaks - dogs cannot match the sun and heat tolerance of humans.


One factor you might want to consider is how large your dog is. If you have, say, an Alaskan husky, it's unlikely a lone coyote would attack a dog twice his size, especially with a human nearby. Coyotes generally prefer smaller targets, ones they can easily kill and then cart off to eat. This page from an Illinois institute has a good breakdown by size, and while they have recorded attacks on dogs as large as a Labrador Retriever, most were on small dogs

Almost 30 different breeds of dog were reported to have been attacked by coyotes. Smaller breed dogs were attacked more often than medium and large sized dogs, with 20 small breeds, 3 medium breeds, and 6 large breeds attacked. Although smaller breeds are more commonly attacked, larger breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, have also been attacked in the Chicago metropolitan area. Larger breeds of dog were usually attacked by two or more coyotes, often alpha pairs, at a time.

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    "My dog is small though and a coyote could legitimately see her as a little white rabbit" makes the size clear, though a coyote is probably going to smell a fellow canid intruding in their territory, not misidentify a rabbit. May 13 '19 at 15:29
  • Not only is it "unlikely" for a lone coyote to attack a larger breed, but a larger breed can do some serious damage to the coyote. My mastiff/pyrenees picks fights with, and chases off, a local pack of coyotes: this has been her job every night for six years (most nights the coyotes now keep their distance!). She's getting older now, so a younger male pyrenees now tag-teams with her to keep the coyotes at bay - they've chased the packs off and stolen the coyote pack's deer corpses from them.
    – Jamin Grey
    May 13 '19 at 18:33
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    We don't exactly know what size the OP's dog is (or that of anyone else who might stumble upon this question). This answer gives us information on the link between coyote attacks and dog size. +1 May 13 '19 at 21:06

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