Ag-note: Domestic Dog Predation

Katherine Chen, Randi Goney, Katia Hardman, Hilary Kordecki, and Kaylee Shrock, OSU Animal Sciences Undergraduate Students
Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

Domestic Dog Predation – Protecting your Flock 
** Follow the link above to view the Ag-note.

(Image Source: Farmers Guardian)

In this weeks Ag-note, Animal Sciences students Katherine Chen, Randi Goney, Katia Hardman, Hilary Kordecki, and Kaylee Shrock address a sensitive issue regarding man’s most loyal companion, the domestic dog. In terms of livestock injury and kill, the domestic dog ranks as the #1 predator of goats and the #2 predator of sheep, lambs, and kids right behind the dreaded wile e coyote. These numbers are staggering, especially since most don’t see their family pet as a lethal predator. Unfortunately, due to their nature, dogs tend to take the activities of play too far when interacting with livestock and these events can turn lethal if not managed.

In the unfortunate event of a domestic dog attack or kill, we must use some key identifying factors to ensure that the attack was from the result of a domestic dog as compared to any other predator. Indicators or dog attacks and predation include:

  • Attacks hindquarters, flank, and head
  • Wounds on front shoulders and badly torn ears
  • Superficial neck wounds and severe lacerations
  • Chewed appearance of carcass starting from anus
  • Little flesh consumed
  • Severely mutilated victims
  • Attacks more common in urban settings
  • Attacks occur at any time of the day – day and night
  • Non-selective in individuals that are preyed upon.

As outlined above, the domestic dog will not kill for purpose (i.e. food), but rather will chase and kill for pleasure. Therefore, in many cases, the animals of prey are left intact and if left alive will be severely injured. On the other hand, coyotes can be differentiated from the domestic dog, as coyote attacks are characterized by selectivity of prey (typically young or ill thrift stock), hunts during the night or early morning, efficient predators, carcasses of prey will be cleaned and possibly taken back to the den, and fatal bite wounds will be found on the throat.

For those that suspect that some type of canine is intruding their pastures and want to make sure they know what it is prior to implementing any type of management strategy, there are two additional identification pieces to consider. When comparing scat, coyote droppings will be black whereas the domestic dog droppings will be brown. Coyote droppings will also contain pieces of hair, bone, and wool from their previous prey. In addition, the tracks/foot prints of the coyote will differ from the domestic dog. Coyote tracks will appear in a straight line, will have rectangular toes that are close together, and the middle nail marks will be the only nails that will be visible in the track. As for the domestic dog, the their tracks will appear staggered, will have rounded toes that are spread apart, and all nails will be visible in the tracks.

So now that we have an understanding upon how to properly identify an animal kill and what type of clues we should be looking for, how can we as producers reduce the potential losses associated with predation? In the case of the domestic dog, we can transition to the legal side of the law. According to the Ohio Revised Code, Section 955.28 – livestock owners are permitted to use lethal measures to control dogs that are actively chasing, threatening, harassing, injuring, or killing livestock. In addition, the owner or keeper of the dog is subsequently responsible for any and all damages, injuries, and deaths incurred as a result. However, in the same breath, dog owners are able to then come back on you are the producer for harming, injuring, or killing their dog. Although it is our right to use lethal measures to rectify the situation, before using these irreversible measures, perhaps trying some of the non-lethal measures at first.

So now you may be thinking, what are the non-lethal measures here? Non-lethal measures for predation management include proper fencing, food storage, the use of lambing and kidding facilities, night penning, lighting of corrals and housing areas, as well as fright devices and tactics. However, it should be noted that the act of lighting corrals and the use of fright devices may be ineffective when dealing with domestic dogs alone. For those interested in the details of each non-lethal option listed above, be sure to check out the Ag-note linked below. Of course one that has not been mentioned, but should come to no surprise, talking with your neighbors about supervising and controlling their dog (i.e. the use of a leash or tether) near and around your livestock will be key in reducing future issues.

Of course its easy to think that this type of issue will never happen to you, but its always better to be safe than sorry. Before you have issues, be sure to talk with your neighbors about their pets and how they could potentially interact with your livestock. With fall lambing upon us, I’m sure that your neighbors enjoy seeing your lambs as much as you do so be sure to keep those new born lambs safe by implementing the appropriate management practices.

Domestic Dog Predation – Protecting your Flock 
** Follow the link above to view the Ag-note.