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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Keeping Pets Safe When Living Remotely

training tools

Anyone contemplating moving to a remote area where you can establish your homestead and has a furry family member needs to consider some factors. If the location you choose is similar to where we live, there are wild animals and birds of prey that could pose a threat to your beloved family member. Large dogs are not immune to the dangers of remote living and smaller pets actually face more dangers.

There are so many topics to take into consideration when changing lifestyles that it may be easy to overlook your furry family member or make wrong assumptions. This post is being presented to invoke some thought along these lines. We do not have any cats, mainly due to allergies, but cats face as many threats as canines do when it comes to animals or birds that would look upon them as a food source. This post will be mostly focused on canines because that is where this writer has some experience.

Predators that Pose a Threat

We have coyotes, wolves, bobcat, mountain lions, lynx and bears that will see domestic family members as a source for food. We also have eagles, owls and hawks that will swoop down and carry off a small dog.

These are not occasional threats, and even if your dog can hold its own with other domestic dogs, it will be no match for the predators that it will face when living remotely. It only takes one encounter to regret not taking more precautions and exercising more control over your beloved pet.

Predators are very accustomed to hunting large prey, wherein domestic pets are more accustomed to hunting chipmunks, rabbits or squirrels. Deer present a separate threat to dogs and will be covered later.

Keep Pets Close and Be Especially Diligent

We keep our fur family on leashes and have them well trained so they come on command. We have a 6-foot fenced-in backyard where they can run freely but never without us being present. The fenced in area will keep predators out, except for a lion which can jump the fence, but it is unlikely that any would attempt to enter an enclosure with four German shepherd dogs.

Even when walking our dogs on leash, we have had mountain lions pass by very close, showing little fear of our dogs. The same with bears who do not seem to pay any attention to our dogs. This is our 19th winter living here, and we have only had one serious encounter, and that was with a coyote which was driven off after being very persistent.

Properly Train Dogs

Displayed in the photo are the tools we use to train our fur family. The bean bag is by far the most effective. It is just some cloth material with some pinto beans inside. It is used to show displeasure over certain canine behavior. It is thrown near them but not to hit them with it. It is a distraction and lets the animal know it is demonstrating unwanted behavior.

Some people use a newspaper, but we prefer not to hit our fur family. The whistle is one designed for dogs and with their acute hearing it is an immediate high-pitched distraction. We use it when they want to bark at a squirrel or some other animal. Barking only puts predators on notice that a domestic animal is nearby.

Deer Pose Special Threats

Deer are a special threat to dogs, especially if the dog is allowed to run free. If the dog chases the deer, it stands a good chance of having those sharp hooves used on it and most likely maiming it or killing it.

That is another reason we do not allow our dogs to run without constraint. We have personally witnessed a doe deer use its hooves on a coyote and it was brutal to see. Once the deer had it down, it leaped high and came down with all four hooves on the coyote several times.

Useful Training Commands

Living where we do, one of the most important commands to teach a dog is "come." If they don’t come immediately when called they may not get another chance. Also "sit" and "stay" can be important.

I was once surprised by a mother bear and her two tiny cubs which came up from a ditch 20 feet from us. I gave our dog the sit/stay command and he sat next to my leg for 20 minutes while we were entertained by the two cubs and mother. The mother would let the cubs get about 10 feet from us and then give them a warning where upon they would scamper up a tree.

The point is that you never know when a predator can suddenly appear and it is best to be prepared. It is best to have pets trained ahead of time, because when the time comes to use that training, yelling at them only serves to excite them more and could put everyone in a very bad spot.

Mountain Lion Threats

Mountain lions have been known to come right up on a deck or porch to get a domestic dog. It only has to happen once, because the dog really doesn’t stand much of a chance against some of these wily and strong predators.

These incidents can happen suddenly and one of our friends once told us their beloved dachshund was taken by a bird of prey when they let the dog out in the yard. It was gone just that fast, so being super cautious is a virtue when it comes to your pets safety.

Animals face dangers in the cities and suburbs but many of those dangers are from vehicles or predators of the two-legged variety. When you live remotely, the dangers are numerous and usually fatal. If a dog darts off into the woods chasing a rabbit, squirrel or chipmunk and they end up lost, their chance of an unfavorable encounter are considerably greater.

The purpose of this post is to inspire some thought and hopefully keep your pet safe and your experience a more happy one. Our fur families deserve our full attention toward keeping them safe in an otherwise hostile environment.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and remote living go to: McElmurray's Mountain Retreat. Read all of Bruce's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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