3 min read


Can Dogs Smell Coyotes?



3 min read


Can Dogs Smell Coyotes?


While they may share the same ancestors, dogs and coyotes are not the best of friends. In fact, there are countless reports of coyotes attacking dogs (often smaller breeds, but large dogs are at risk as well). If you live in an area that has a strong coyote population, there's a good chance you've noticed some strange behaviors from your pawsome pup. 

It's true, many dogs can smell coyotes and react accordingly. From howling to whimpering and sniffing around like crazy, there are numerous tell-tale signs that your dog is aware of the presence of a coyote in the area. Because some dogs have a much stronger sense of smell than others, your dog may not always be aware of a nearby coyote.

Whether you live in the woods or in an urban setting, there's good chance coyotes have been in the area. While coyotes are rarely interested in humans, when you add a dog to the mix it's a whole different story.

Coyotes often view dogs as potential prey, which is why it is imperative you remain vigilant and aware when walking your dog in an area with known coyotes. Your dog very well may tell you there is a coyote nearby, often long before you are aware of its presence. This is why it is important to educate yourself about how dogs react when they sense a coyote, even if this is the furthest thing from your mind!


Signs a Dog Smells a Coyote

If your dog has a good sense of smell and is overtly aware of his surroundings, there's a good chance he will be able to smell a nearby coyote. Different dogs will react in their own unique way, but many will become alert and uneasy as they display a heightened awareness of their surroundings. 

Your dog may start sniffing and looking around for clues or any signs that will tell him where the coyote is. If your dog eventually spots the coyote, they may either give chase or become glued to your side with their ears perked in alertness. It's hard to say exactly how a dog will react when they smell a coyote, but any peculiar behaviors should be your first sign.

Body Language

Here are some signs your dog smells a coyote:

  • Growling
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Guarding
  • Listening
  • Howling
  • Sniffing
  • Raise Ears

Other Signs

These are other signs your dog may smell a coyote:

  • Heightened Awareness
  • Stronger Interest In Surroundings
  • Becoming Uneasy
  • Searching For Clues
  • Digging Into The Ground

History of Dogs Smelling Coyotes


While there is no historical evidence pertaining to dogs sensing coyotes, there is a lot of information out there regarding dogs' sense of smell. The average dog's nose is estimated to be tens of thousands of times as sensitive to different odors than the human nose. Some scientists even say that a dog's sense of smell is 100,000 times as acute as ours. If we go back in time, it's safe to say we will find many instances of dogs sensing a coyote or other wild animal long before we see it.

Science of Dog's Smelling Coyotes


Dogs have such an acute sense of smell for numerous reasons, but mainly because the air a dog breathes in immediately separates into several distinct paths. This means that dogs can detect some odors that humans couldn't even imagine sensing. 

Dogs possess more than 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, which compares to just six million in humans. Furthermore, the part of a dog's brain that is used to analyze smells is an impressive 40 times greater than ours. It is also important to understand that your dog's nose functions very differently than yours. This goes back to the different paths a dog separates air into. In addition to all this, dogs actually have a secondary olfactory capability that humans do not have. They have an extra organ - the vomeronasal organ or Jacobson's organ - that is located at the bottom of the nasal passage. 

All this goes to show that a dog's smelling skills are far beyond ours and what most of us even understand about sense of smell. This is why dogs are able to sense when an intruder - such as a coyote - is in their territory. They can smell much further distances than we can, as well, so the coyote may not necessarily be an imminent danger, but it's there. 

Training Your Dog to Smell Coyotes


Some dogs carry a natural ability to smell other animals and certain scents, but you can also teach your dog to follow a track or identify scented objects. If you want to teach your dog to track coyotes or other animals, start by finding an open grassy area. This will take time and patience, but with a handful of treats and the right scent, your dog will be on alert for coyotes in no time.

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Safety Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe from Coyotes

  1. Keep your dog on a short leash at all times.
  2. Avoid areas with known coyote activity.
  3. Stay on marked trails.
  4. Avoid areas with thick brush.
  5. Avoid walking your dog at sunrise or sunset.

Written by a Chihuahua lover Allie Wall

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/14/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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