Four basic rules for walking dogs in coyote territory
1. Keep your dog on a 6-foot leash. This length is long enough to let your dog have some freedom but not so long that you can’t easily control your dog should you need to, especially at a moment’s notice. Retractable leashes are of little help to a dog owner, since it is very difficult to reel your dog back in if they are pulling on a long line way ahead of you.
2. Avoid areas known to have coyote activity, especially during breeding and pupping season. If there are signs posted or you’ve heard neighbors report coyotes sighted in a certain area, make the common-sense decision to avoid walking your dog in those areas. This is especially important during pupping season when mother and father coyotes will be more defensive of their den sites.
3. Stick to trails and open paths, and avoid areas with thick brush. Going off trail, following game trails, or heading into areas where there is thick brush lining the path increases your chances of running into a coyote. Staying on trail in open areas gives you plenty of time to spot and react to a coyote.
4. Avoid walking your dog at sunrise and sunset hours. Coyotes are naturally active during the day, though urban coyotes usually switch to nocturnal behavior. Either way, they are often active at twilight hours. If you’re walking your dog during sunrise or sunset, be aware that it increases your chances of an interaction with a coyote.
If you follow these simple rules, you’re way ahead of the game in enjoying a quiet walk with your dog with little chance of seeing, let alone interacting with a coyote. Truly, the most important rule is simply following all leash laws. Even if there is an area of open space where dogs are allowed off leash, unleash your dog ONLY if your dog has a solid and reliable recall. This simple behavior alone would send the number of dog-coyote conflicts plummeting.
Unfortunately, not everyone is going to abide by leash laws, nor will many people stop using retractable leashes that allow a small dog to wander a dozen feet or more away from their owner — far enough for a coyote to feel minimal threat from a human while eying the small dog as a possible meal. Large natural areas that welcome off-leash dogs are also welcoming to coyotes, and thus create the possibility for dog-coyote interactions and conflict.
In these areas and situations with a higher likelihood of running into coyotes, it is important to know what to do if you come across one.