6 min read


Can Your Dog Understand Coyotes?



6 min read


Can Your Dog Understand Coyotes?


Have you given a thought to how connected the coyote and family dog might be? You might see one of these wily creatures when walking your canine through the park and notice how curious they are about your dog. They even look a lot like German Shepherds, so it might get you thinking. Does my dog understand what the coyote is saying? 

The answer to that burning question is about to be revealed and it’s a fascinating read. To give you a hint, the coyote is known as the "barking dog" and emulates a whole song sheet of sounds that seem overly familiar. What makes this a journey of discovery is linking the dots to find out how much the coyote and dog have in common. You might be surprised!


Tell-Tale Signs Your Dog Understands The Language of Coyotes

 This canny, dog-like creature is highly adaptable and like our canine friends, derived from the wolf way back in time. In fact, the survival instinct in the coyote is so strong it’s been known to mate with dogs producing offspring known as coy-dogs. An urban myth to some, and to others proof coyotes will mate with mans best friend, as they are known to breed with wolves.

Do you believe it?

Fascinating friendships have evolved as reported by "The Dodo," of a lost dog that had been taken in by a wild pack of coyotes and treated as one of their own. Wiley, as he was affectionately named by his rescuer, was seen running with the coyote pack near Kingston, New York. A trap was set and Wiley was then taken to Ramapo Bergen Animal Refuge, in Oakland where the staff were amazed to meet an affectionate dog- showing no effects of his former life in the wild. 

Wiley understands coyote language, so a unique bond was formed. This story slams the theory that dogs and coyotes are incapable of communicating.

When dogs are confronted by a coyote, their body language can take on many forms.

Barking is the most obvious sign, as your dog may be in protective mode and lets the coyote know to keep their distance. This is something coyotes prefer to do in close proximity to humans, so generally, conflict is averted. Some dogs will give chase – not such a great idea when a coyote has wilder skills than most family pets in a fight. These gutsy predators can take down a deer and have been known to steal a small dog from its yard for food.

What should you expect when your dog challenges a coyote?

When confronted, a coyote will growl like a dog plus make a huffing noise, which literally spits in the eye of their opponent. His hackles will be raised and his back arched, he may even walk on tippy toes. This is threatening behavior, but might not lead to an attack.

The body language of your dog will at first be curious - cocking his head to one side while wagging his tail. Once the coyote messages his disapproval, your pooch should walk away. If not the battle may commence beginning with classic warning signs of aggression. 

Your dog’s ears will be pulled back as he snarls back at the coyote. His body stance at this point will be rigid and alert while staring intently into the enemies eyes. The dog knows if the coyote whines, a backup could be on the way and if he howls, there may be nowhere left to run. Depending on the breed, your dog may attack, and if a human is unable to intervene it’s anyone’s guess at the outcome. If your dog heeds the early messaging, he’ll be free to leave the scene.

In general, it appears there is a not a lot of love lost between these two canine cousins linked by an ancestral code.

Body Language

Here are some signs your dog understands coyotes:<br/>

  • Growling
  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Head Tilting
  • Wag Tail
  • Ears Drop

Other Signs

Other signs your dog understands coyotes are:<br/>

  • Whining
  • Howling
  • Hackles Raised
  • Standing On Tippy Toes
  • Barking
  • Messaging

History Shows Dogs Can Understand Coyotes


Now that you are a little more enlightened about the understanding between your pet Bulldog and the coyote, you might be wondering how this clever canine evolved. It turns out we have to go a long way back in time to a dog-like creature referred to as a Eucyon, or “original dog.”

Digging deep we find this ancestor of our doggie pal and coyote walked the earth 10-15 million years ago in the North American region. The coyote and family dog share a genetic code that implies an understanding even though - one lives in the wild, while the other resides in our homes

So, what happened next?

History took a turn around 200 years ago as European settlers in  Southern Ontario set upon the wolf’s territory, reducing numbers in droves. This opened the door for the coyote to move in and with wolf numbers sadly declining, the survival instinct took hold to create the Easter Coyote, which also bred with domesticated dogs.

Does this sound far-fetched?

For the non-believers comes an endearing story from Alberta where a coyote mated with a neighbor's female dog to produce a cute pup name D-Jay, who displays characteristics of both sides of this canine families. 

Coyotes prefer to keep their distance, but as they move into human-populated areas, breeding with pet dogs is likely to increase.Time will tell whether history takes hold or the similarity between the species is acknowledged and appreciated.


Science Points to Dogs Understanding Coyotes


Perhaps, Stella, your majestic Siberian Husky, holds a secret smile when it comes to her coyote relative. She may understand the only difference is her wild counterpart is persecuted by humans, while she is revered by her pet-lovers as a precious playmate.

This really happened!

A wonderful story to warm your heart appeared in the Aeon Magazine about a coyote who for a moment in time seemed more like the family pet than a predator to be wary of. A wildlife photographer was in for a dream shot one morning when she noticed a coyote in her driveway.

What happened next was totally unexpected. The coyote came across her dog’s new toy and after an exploratory sniff, began playing with the toy just like any pet doggie would do. The photographer was fascinated and grabbed her camera to record the moment. There was no doubt the coyote was having a really fun time and after playing for a while, took the toy in his mouth and left.

What makes them different?

Dogs do understand coyotes and see their own history and heritage in their eyes. At some point in time, a split emerged and dogs were chosen by man to be companions. Coyotes, on the other hand, were ostracized and hunted as pests. A predator with panache, the coyote may not invite in close friends, but it is known that they can get along with wolves, dogs and sometimes people.

Need a little evidence?

An article posted on "Fluradil Upine" plays with the ongoing debate about the origins of dogs and their relationships to other species. An intrigued canid biologist and molecular geneticist at UCLA discovered dogs originated from Grey Wolves - of which coyotes are close relatives. This settles the fact that coyotes and dogs are genetically linked and therefore have a much deeper understanding of each other than we previously thought.

Teach Your Dog To Understand Coyotes


When a smart dog comes across a coyote, he generally understands they are wild and respects their personal space. A dog off-leash might challenge a coyote and be hurt in the conflict. You need to teach Molly your inquisitive Maltese not to approach these stealth creatures. If by chance she has run after a coyote, use your recall command to get her out of there.

The classic "COME" command is an invaluable cue, and if you live in coyote country you’ll need Molly trained to come to you when called. Start the process at home with a long leash and treats as a reward. Try not to use this direction if Molly has an appointment at the groomers or vet. She might equate your call as something she would prefer not to do.

If little Molly comes up against a coyote, this training tool will get her out of harm’s way. As her owner, you can do a lot as well. Pick her up and walk backwards slowly. If you turn and run, you’re sending mixed messages and the coyote might mistake you and Molly for prey. 

If her canine relative begins a pursuit, use a system called hazing where you can shout, wave your arms and generally let the coyote know you want them gone. These ghosts of the plains are wary of humans, so this might be enough to spook them into leaving. 

Dog owners need a few training tips of their own to avoid conflict with a coyote - including keeping your dogster on-leash and not walking them before dusk or after dark! These trickster canines are nocturnal, so daytime walking is preferable if you're looking to stay away from them. 

It also pays to carry some kind of noise-maker to ward off adventurous coyotes interested in your dog. Molly knows intuitively the coyote is her kin, but that’s not always a guarantee of a friendly encounter. 

In order for coyotes and dogs to co-exist, we need to be aware of their behavioral traits. Like humans, they protect their kin and territory, so a little respect goes a long way! 

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Safety tips for your dog understanding coyotes

  1. Teach your dogstar to come to you if a coyote appears.
  2. Pick your small fur-baby up if you see a coyote.
  3. Praise your dog if he quietly walks past a coyote.
  4. Never walk your dog at night.
  5. Keep your dog pal indoors at night.
  6. Keep your pooch on a leash in areas where coyotes live.

By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Published: 01/29/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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