There's a wonderful off-leash ravine hiking trail about a 10 minute drive from my house. The last two times we were there, we spotted Coyotes. The first time I saw one, he was quite a ways in the distance, just milling about minding his own business. The second time, we were nearing the end of our walk and he (or she) was watching myself and Casey quite intently from about 15 feet away up a little side path from the main trail.

Not surprisingly, I was a little freaked out after the last time (I made eye contact with the bloody thing; I was so close I could see him breath in and out!) so we hadn't gone back since then.

But as I mentioned in the opening line, it's a beautiful trail that's very close to my home and it is a nice change of pace from walking on the boring old suburban sidewalk to go to an undeveloped woody area.

So, I set in motion some plans to minimize the danger of my dog getting eaten by a coyote, while still enjoying this beautiful area. I rummaged up an old cross-country ski pole from my garage, which has a sharp metal prong on its end; I purchased some bells from a craft store and made a little bell collar for Casey, and attached several of the bells to my new "walking stick" (AKA - sharp poky ski pole), and I purchased a $30 extendable leash.

While it is an off-leash trail, Casey likes to run through the brush, which is exactly what I want to avoid because that's where hungry and/or bored Coyotes like to hang out. I figured an extendable leash would be a nice compromise, because she would still be leashed, but it would give her some freedom to roam about and sniff as she sees fit (one of the benefits of a nice ravine trail).

Well was I ever wrong. Yesterday, we went back to the ravine since the Coyote spotting(s), and I put the new extendy leash on her for the walk. The thing about those extendy leashes, as oppose to the plain old nylon ones she's always had, is that she has to pull slightly to overcome the tension of the lead and get it to unravel past the 2 feet that always stays out. Except that the second she feels the slightest tension on the lead, she immediately slows down and moves back into a heel position. Every time I tried to get her to pull on the stupid thing, it would give the slightest bit of tension on her collar, and she would go back into a heel. I tried stopping, but then she would walk back and sit next to me. I tried moving backward, but she would notice the tension and start walking backward with me.

I basically spent $30 on a two foot lead.

Now I'm pretty sure with a bit of work I could train her to use the lead, but I don't know if I want to now, because then she might start pulling when we walk with the nylon lead, thinking that that's OK. I'm sort of undecided, but annoyed at myself for not thinking about this and buying the stupid thing with grand thoughts of ravine trail walks in mind instead of practical things like whether it would actually work.

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Comment by Gromit, Sparkle, and Doug on August 19, 2010 at 3:25pm
Beth, I've hunted coyotes here in AZ although I gave it up years ago. I know them pretty well and have sat watched them hunt game. I've also seen videos of them taking on much larger dogs. Coyotes have no problem tackling larger dogs and wouldn't stop to weigh a short Corgi to see if it was bigger than itself. Large male coyotes can reach 35lbs and that's all muscle and toughness. Males and females often hunt together giving them an extra advantage over a single dog. Hunger, a common problem for desert animals, sometimes push them to greater degrees of boldness.

Hunters kill about 30,000 - 40,000 coyotes a year here in AZ and according to the State Fish and Game Dept. that number keeps the coyote population stable. Coyotes are extremely prolific year 'round.

By they way, we have our share of predators here in AZ including mountain lions. I've spent most of my life in the desert amongst the rocks, cactus, and rattlesnakes (they do taste like chicken), and I guess I understand the risks that the desert poses in all it's forms and know that not taking it seriously can be fatal to man and beast. I love the desert, it has a ragged beauty that grows on a person and the wide open vastness of it all seems to take a person out of themselves when you are out there. Mountains and forests make me feel claustrophobic.

But back to Carla's original question/comment about retractor leashes. I dislike them simply because they are mechanical and may fail internally causing some problem and I also prefer to keep the leash looped around my hand in such a way that I can't accidentally lose it should the dog pull suddenly or I stumble and fall. When I want to let the dogs further away from me when walking them I have a very long nylon leash.
Comment by Beth on August 19, 2010 at 7:06am
Hi Doug. Dessert coyotes are typically around 15-25 pounds; they look bigger because they are rangy. Small dogs are indeed at risk from coyotes, but a 20 pound coyote is probably not going to challenge a 28-pound Corgi. If you had a Yorkie, that would be what is generally meant by small dogs. I don't know that it's where people live so much as their sense of risk. My aunt has the much-larger Eastern coyotes on her acreage; they come right down near her barn. She has Jack Russell terriers, much smaller than Corgis. They are allowed to run in daylight but not allowed off-leash at night, and she has lights installed. Bears are also a concern.

While it is true you will hear the rare story of a coyote attacking a larger dog, I have also heard of raccoons attacking dogs (and the are everywhere). Add to the list a bald eagle that carried off a dachshund,, attacks by martins, other dogs, and angry cats, and even a photo series I saw once of a large dog being beaten up by a squirrel.... well, again I guess here in PA I've had the pleasure of growing up in an area surrounded by woods and mountains, and I am just used to the risk. I think my dogs have a better chance of upsetting a hive of bees or being hit by a car than taken by a coyote.
Comment by camile d sateren on August 19, 2010 at 12:44am
Hi Carla,
While I dont have an answer for you dilemma, I'm not crazy about extension leashes. I do use one to exercise our dog as we live in a rural-ish edge of town area & dont have a fenced yard. The extension leash handle is bulky to hold for some; as an adolescent our corgi saw some deer & gave chase, yanked free of the family member who was walking her, & was gone into the woods. We spent many hours searching, crying, a sleepless night worrying; eventually after 24 hours I was tramping deep in the woods thru heavy brush calling her name & I found her. She was still attached to her leash, & it was fully extended & wrapped & tangled so tightly in the brush that she couldnt move. I unhooked the hook & left the leash there & brought my girl home. After this nightmare which thankfully had a happy ending, I wouldn't recommend using a flexi where there is heavy brush or if there is any chance you could lose your grip on the plastic handle. Maybe a freak occurence for us, but very upsetting.
Comment by Gromit, Sparkle, and Doug on August 19, 2010 at 12:38am
Carla, Talk of coyotes raise a red flag for some of us. It sounds like Canadian coyotes aren't as bold as our desert coyotes can be. I live in a semi-rural town surrounded by farms and open desert and letting a small dog off leash away from town would be an invitation to trouble.
Comment by Carla on August 18, 2010 at 11:53pm
This suddenly became about coyotes and not extendable leashes, which was my original intention....

I've lived in Edmonton my entire life, and we are fortunate enough to have North America's largest undeveloped urban green space (our wonderful River Valley and Ravine system!). Along with this, come things like wildlife. I've spent a good deal of time in my life in our River Valley/Ravine area, and even spent my childhood summers running about it without a care in the world. I am quite certain that there were, are, and will continue to be, coyotes in the same areas as I. That's the reality of sharing undeveloped natural space. Indeed, I am also a fortunate resident of Alberta and as such have also spent many summers camping in Jasper and Banff (the Canadian Rockies!) and have experienced my fair share of bears, moose, coyotes and wolves.

While there are risks to entering these spaces, with some reasonable precautions there is no reason that I should avoid enjoying these wonderful locations that I am privileged to live near. If I lived my life concerned about every small risk that crosses my path, I’d never leave the house. I leave the house with my eyes open, but I still leave the house.
Comment by Sammie Esposito on August 18, 2010 at 11:34pm
As Beth suggested with the release word it is a good idea. For instance with my dogs I say "free dog" when they are able to roam on the leash instead of healing. It works very well and it makes it easier then just leash differential. That way if you want your dog close to you on the leash where she is allowed to roam you just give a command and she isn't confused because she is on her roaming leash. I use the retractable for just about everything because it is so versatile.
Comment by Sarah C. on August 18, 2010 at 10:59pm
Does your dog go that far from you on the trail? If not you might consider bear spray.
If you don't like that idea, you might consider an air horn. I think that'd make even a bold coyote scram. I know they make me scram!
Comment by Beth on August 18, 2010 at 10:47pm
If I never let my dogs off-lead in an area with coyotes, they'd never be off-lead.

My dad was cleaning up one year, late, from a large neighborhood picnic near a Little League field. Mind you, I live in a fairly urban area; we are not in the suburbs.

There were coyotes at the garbage cans. I had grown up in that neighborhood, my parents live there still, and we've never seen an sign of coyotes, yet there they are.

I saw one once, running at dusk in a park near our house. I could probably throw a ball from my front yard and hit the area where it ran, and I throw like a girl. :-)

I read an article on urban coyotes once in National Wildlife magazine. It said that coyotes have been living in parks in urban areas for decades, and that most cities have resident coyote populations and most people don't even know it.

IF they are out during the day, as this one was, you need to use caution. However, if Casey is a normal-sized Corgi, in most cases she would be safe from a coyote, unless she stumbles across a nesting area.

We have coyotes, foxes, and black bears around here and we hike off-leash with our dogs frequently. They roll in coyote poop, and where there is poop there must be coyotes. On our last hike, we saw a big pile of bear droppings, which made the dogs stick closer than they normally do.

It sounds like you are using reasonable precautions.
Comment by Lucy & Ricky (Wendy/Jack ) on August 18, 2010 at 10:05pm
we have an expandable lead and can keep it at a 3 or 4 foot, or any length we feel appropriate. our dog can't extend the length. if you're in an area with coyotes, as we are, i would recommend another path. if you run into a coyote during the day, it's usually a feeding mother who will do anything to get her pups food. we've had more pets in our area taken by coyotes (and hawks). coyotes have even taken small children. I would never let my dog off the lead in an area with coyotes, and moreover, i'd avoid these areas.
Comment by John Wolff on August 18, 2010 at 7:26pm
A coyote in that circumstance might possibly be more dangerous than in a remote area. Like bears, I'd expect coyotes to get habituated to humans and lose their fear. And possibly stalk dogs in places where they've learned to expect them.
I've heard of coyotes playfully luring dogs to their death.
I've never seen a coyote at close range in a remote location, but I've had close encounters in Mt. Rainier National Park and at Snoqualmie Pass (ski area place near I-90 in Washington State).

I'm glad my dogs tend to stay quite close on the trail, almost always in sight.

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