How to protect your small dog from birds of prey (2023)

From time to time you may hear or read about a hawk, owl or eagle attacking a small domestic dog. Although this is actually quite rare, it does happen.

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to protect your dog from these apex predators. But it helps to first educate yourself about these raptors, their feeding habits, and whether they pose a threat to your fur baby.

Birds of prey are certainly capable of killing small dogs, especially some of the smallest onesChihuahuasAndMiniature poodle. While raptors generally seek out other wild mammal species for food, small dogs can be targeted.

In most cases, a raptor would have to be desperate for food to attack a dog, no matter how small, and it would take certain circumstances for an avian predator to pick up enough speed to lift a dog off the ground. When the pup is on theStrandor in a wide field or yard they can be grabbed but likely dropped, with its own potential injuries.

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While each species of bird has different skills and hunting patterns, there are traits beneath all that can be used to protect your pooch. Some of the protection tips for each species can overlap and apply to all predators.


The owl most likely to attack a dog is the great horned owl, the largest in North America. There are many of them, and they are widespread across the continent. Other predatory owls that may attack small dogs are the snowy and long-eared owls. Owls are nocturnal, so they may attack a small dog if they go out at night. As tempting as it may be to just let your dog go outside for his potty break before bed, there is less danger from owls when you are next to them. Owls are shy and usually stay away from humans unless protecting their nests. They can also become confused and repelled by light. Owls, like most birds of prey, prefer smaller prey such as mice, small rabbits, and moles.

ToPrevent dog attacks by owls, here are a few tips to keep your fur baby safe:

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  • Keep your pup indoors at night
  • Supervise them closely when they are briefly outside for a potty break
  • If you have a dog run, be sure to cover the top with mesh or fencing
  • Dress Fido in protective gear likeRaptor shieldor Coyote vests, which are durable and lightweight. The protective Coyote version has removable spikes for extra bite protection
  • Install a motion activated light on your home
  • Put an LED collar or one with flashing lights on your dog when he's outside
  • Place a decoy owl or two in your yard to scare away live owls and other birds
  • Watch out for owl calls


There are at least two dozen species of hawks in the United States, including the red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, and northern goshawk, although the red-tailed hawk is most likely to attempt to attack a small dog. They are capable of swooping down on their prey at around 120 miles per hour, and they hunt during the day because they are sight hunters. Hawks, like owls and eagles, are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Injuring or killing these birds can result in prison terms and hefty fines, even if you're just trying to protect your fur pal. The best course of action if your pup is attacked is to make a lot of noise and run towards the bird to scare it away.

Hawks may assume they can carry a small dog away, but find they are too heavy once they lift the pup off the ground. You will then drop them, possibly causing head trauma like aconcussion,broken bones, Andinternal injuries, along with claw and beakstab wounds.

The bestProtective measures against hawkscontain:

  • Supervise your pup when he is outside during the day
  • To equip them with a wire-covered housing, such as"cation"for outdoor play
  • Remove birdhouses from the yard because small birds attract hawks and other predators
  • Keep your pup on a leash to prevent a hawk from carrying him away
  • Avoid areas where smaller birds congregate
  • Walk your dog in a group
  • Stay in the forest or at the tree line and avoid open spaces when in nature
  • Installation of an ultrasonic bird repellent system that keeps all birds away
  • Hang shiny objects from trees and porch overhangs to scare hawks in flight
  • Customize your pup with aHawkShieldwhich can be attached to a protective vest with Velcro


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Eagles like to perch in trees and look out for prey such as small mammals, rodents, and snakes. They hunt during the day and often watch from their nests, which they protect from human or animal intruders at ferocious speed. You might not even realize you're passing near an eagle's nest when they attack. An eagle can protect an area up to 150 feet from its nest.

Eagles are not very strong, and although they will initially pick up a small dog in their claws, they cannot carry the pup too far. Trauma from being dropped on the ground can be a sign that your missing dog was grabbed and moved by an eagle. The bird stays with the pup and tries to kill and eat it if allowed. Another protected bird species, the eagle, cannot be harmed or killed.

Many of the protections mentioned in the sections on owls and hawks also apply to eagles. In addition, you can:

  • Make noise and flap your arms to scare him away from your dog
  • Place balloons or beach balls decorated with big eyes in your yard to scare them away
  • Prune the trees in and near your yard to discourage them from nesting or settling there to hunt
  • Keep the yard clean and free of debris that mice and other prey that might lure them into your home could be hiding in


Hawks are much smaller than hawks and eagles and less powerful than owls, although traditionally they were used for hunting and handicapping deer and other mammals. However, their food preference is smaller birds, which they can catch mid-air or knock down and return to their nests. Small rodents are also more likely to be targets than puppies.

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Even the smallest Miniature Poodle is too heavy to be carried away by hawks or even caught on the ground. However, their lack of interest in canines doesn't mean they will never attack a dog, and their claws and beak can do damage. Following the same preventative steps as for owls, eagles, and hawks listed above can help deter hawks from attacking your small dog.

The cost of veterinary care for a dog that survives a raptor attack depends on the nature of the injuries. For a dog with only puncture wounds, requiring only a few stitches and antibiotics, care can cost as little as $100 or less. For more common injuries, such as head injuries, broken bones, or injuries to internal organs, the cost of cast and splinting, imaging, and surgery can add up to $3,000 or more.

Protecting your small dog from birds of prey starts with educating yourself about the birds in your area and their hunting habits. Introducing effective tactics in your yard or in the great outdoors goes a long way in keeping your pup safe. If you know how to fend off these predators, you can act quickly when a bird attacks and potentially save your dog's life. If your pooch has been attacked by a bird of prey, it's important that you get them to a veterinarian right away.

If your dog is at risk of being injured by a bird of prey, check out oursPet insurance comparison tool. wag! Wellness allows pet owners to compare insurance plans from leading companies likeFigoAndHealthy pawsto keep your pooch covered in case of an attack.

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How do you scare hawks away from small dogs? ›

If you do see a hawk in your yard, experts recommend trying to scare the bird away by running toward the area, waving your arms over your head, and making as much noise as possible. NOTE: Birds of prey are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

How do you keep small dogs away from birds? ›

The best way to keep your dog safe from birds of prey is to discourage the birds from being around your property in the first place. Keeping your yard clean, pruning trees, and getting rid of your bird feeders are all ways to keep your pooch protected. Birds of prey commonly eat rats, rabbits, snakes, and small birds.

Will hawks go after small dogs? ›

Most dogs (and cats) are large enough to be safe from hawks and owls. Even very small dogs may be too heavy for a hawk or owl to carry, although it's still possible that large raptors might attack them.

Will a bald eagle attack a small dog? ›

Two types of eagles are known to attack small dogs in the US: the golden eagle and the bald eagle. Bald eagles mainly dine on fish and smaller birds but occasionally go after bigger prey when hunger strikes.

What do hawks hate the most? ›

Hawks don't like noise, but they sometimes get used to it, just like they do a decoy. Use various sources of noise and switch it up every few days. Wind chimes, radios and other sounds often discourage hawks.

Can a hawk pick up a 10 lb dog? ›

Pat Silovsky, director of the Milford Nature Center in Junction City, Kansas, explains that while there have been reports of hawks and owls attacking and carrying off very small dogs, the reason it is such an uncommon occurrence is that birds of prey cannot carry anything that weighs more than their own body weight.

Do eagles pick up small dogs? ›

Pets at Risk From Eagles: The pets most at risk from hungry birds of prey are small animals that spend time outdoors unsupervised. An Eagle or large bird of prey may carry off a 2-pound Yorkie puppy, but it's unlikely that a 70-pound Labrador Retriever would be light enough for most birds to lift.

Can a hawk pick up a 12 lb dog? ›

The answer is: no. No hawk can carry off a 12-pound pet. No hawk can carry off a 3-pound pet. The largest hawk in North America (the Ferruginous Hawk) weighs at most four pounds, so leaving the ground carrying three – let alone twelve – would be aerodynamically (not to mention logically) impossible.

What birds prey on small dogs? ›

Great horned owls, northern goshawks, and red-tailed hawks are three of the most common birds-of-prey to lash at small dogs and cats, typically those under 20 pounds.

What time of day are hawks most active? ›

Most hawks hunt for small mammals with dusk and dawn being their preferred hunting time. They rely on their razor sharp eyesight to spot prey and then either suffocate or claw into their prey with their talons.

Can an owl pick up a 10 lb dog? ›

A great horned owl might make a pass at your dog just out of curiosity, but it is very unlikely that it would actually fly away with it. Great horned owls are skilled predators, but their culinary tastes run to rodents, birds, snakes, rabbits and insects. Their lifting capacity is about five pounds.

How big of a dog can a hawk lift? ›

Logistically, it is possible for a hawk to pick up a small dog that weighs under five pounds. This is because hawks aren't able to carry anything that is heavier than their own body weight. Their wings are not strong enough to carry excessive weight.

Can a bald eagle pick up a 15 pound dog? ›

Gail Buhl, who manages education programs at the Raptor Center, says eagles generally can carry about a quarter of their weight, some 2 to 3 pounds. An eagle might catch something larger than this but wouldn't be able to carry it very far.

Can a bald eagle pick up a 25 lb dog? ›

Eagles can generally lift more than half their body weight. With that said, a big eagle such as the bald eagle can carry a small dog weighing up to 4 or 5 pounds.

What keeps eagles away? ›

Scarecrows may discourage eagles from using an area for a limited period of time, usually up to 3 weeks. Guard dogs that are aggressive toward predators may repel eagles. Hazing with aircraft has limited value and requires a written permit from the Director, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Are hawks afraid of dogs? ›

Hawks and their cousins are opportunistic animals, so dogs, puppies, cats, kittens, ferrets, guinea pigs, ducks, rabbits, and chickens are all at stake. Fiercely protective of their nests, these formidable birds are also known to attack larger animals, and even humans on occasion.

What is a hawks weakness? ›

The more feathers that Hawks uses, the more his flying abilities are impaired. Furthermore, his feathers are vulnerable to being burned and/or destroyed, making Hawks weak against enemies with fire abilities. If all his feathers are destroyed then his main wings will regrow them in two days.

Do fake owls keep hawks away? ›

The reason such decoys are effective is that by their natural behavior, owls and hawks are enemies. So if a hawk thinks there is an owl close by they are likely to look for an easier meal other than your chickens. Owl decoys on chicken coops and runs help to frighten away hawks and other birds.

Do owls eat small dogs? ›

The answer is yes, Great Horned Owls do on rare occasions attempt to catch and kill small cats and very small dogs. They are not always successful in attempts to kill them, but pets can wind up with significant injuries if they survive an attack.

Does reflective tape scare hawks? ›

Simply hang strips of the reflective tape around areas you want to deter the hawks from. As it shimmers and shines in the sunlight, they'll be too nervous to approach the area. It also makes a metallic noise as it flaps in the wind. Because hawks are daytime predators, this is the perfect fix.

Do hawks fly at night? ›

Typically, hawks do not search for food at night, but they definitely hunt up until dusk, which is the time period right before it gets dark. During the day, hawks will fly high in the sky and look for prey below. At night, however, hawks will often perch on a branch or in a tree and listen for their prey.

How far can an eagle see a small animal? ›

All birds of prey have excellent long-distance vision, but eagles stand out. They can see clearly about eight times as far as humans can, allowing them to spot and focus in on a rabbit or other animal at a distance of about two miles.

What bird can lift the most weight? ›

1. Harpy Eagle. Harpy eagles can lift sloths and monkeys over 30 lbs each. The harpy eagle is by far one of the strongest birds on Earth.

What attracts hawks to your yard? ›

Ground bird baths are also suitable, and bird bath fountains that include a deep basin will help attract the hawks with splashing sounds and sparkling drops. Bird baths can also be another source of food, as an active bath with many visitors can attract a raptor's attention as another hunting area.

Can a vulture pick up a small dog? ›

Pat Silovsky, director of the Milford Nature Center in Junction City, Kansas, explains that while there have been reports of hawks and owls attacking and carrying off very small dogs, the reason it is such an uncommon occurrence is that birds of prey cannot carry anything that weighs more than their own body weight.

Why are hawks hanging around my house? ›

Why do hawks stay around your house? Most hawks will hang around urban and suburban areas if there is an easy food source. This usually means that you have a bird feeder that attracts many smaller birds.

What scares hawks away from dogs? ›

Since hawks are federally protected, do not attempt to throw anything at one to scare it away. Instead, once your dog is safe, raise your arms over your head and wave them around. Yell and make loud noises to try to intimidate the bird to fly away. Call your veterinarian if a bird makes contact with your dog.

Do eagles and hawks eat small dogs? ›

From time to time, you may hear or read about a hawk, owl, or eagle attacking a small household dog. While this is actually quite rare, it does happen. The good news is that there's a lot you can do to protect your dog from these apex predators.

What is the natural enemy of a hawk? ›

Hawks get attacked and can be eaten by hawks that are larger, eagles, owls, raccoons, foxes, and snakes. Their position on the food chain keeps them out of reach for most predators. However, hawk eggs and younger hawks who haven't developed full strength can still be gobbled up.

Can a red-tailed hawk pick up a small dog? ›

A redtail is not going to carry off your dog. But if you have a small pet, a large hawk could injure or kill your pet. It's unlikely, but it could happen.

Where do hawks go to sleep at night? ›

Since hawks are diurnal birds rather than nocturnal, they must rest at night to restore their energy for the following day's hunt. Typically, you will find these birds resting in trees or cliffside nests at night. Sleeping in high places ensures hawks are safe from dangers such as predators or human interference.

What sounds scare owls away? ›

Try noisemakers, alarms, horns or whistles. If you annoy the owl enough, the owl will go away.

How do you scare away hawks but not birds? ›

Ways to Deter Hawks Away From Bird Feeders
  1. Get a guard dog. ...
  2. Refrain from ground feeding your birds. ...
  3. Temporarily take down your feeders. ...
  4. Remove hawk food sources. ...
  5. Remove Hawk Vantage Points. ...
  6. Hang reflectors in your garden. ...
  7. Install a Cage around your Bird Feeders. ...
  8. Put a scarecrow or a fake owl.
Jan 2, 2023

What is the difference between a falcon and a hawk? ›

Falcons have a notch or "tooth" at the tip of their beaks. If you see one of these birds of prey perched, notice the shape of the head: A falcon's is short and rounded whereas a hawk's is pointier. Hawks do not have a notch at the tips of their beaks—a "tooth" that falcons use to kill their prey.

Can a hawk lift a chicken? ›

These predators typically are able to kill, pick up, and carry off an adult chicken. Hawks typically take chickens during the day, whereas owls take them during the night.

How much weight can birds of prey carry? ›

Experiments indicate that, without wind to assist them, even large eagles cannot take off from flat ground with more than 5 or 6 pounds (2 to 3 kg) in their talons. Eagles flying into the wind and taking prey from hillsides, however, sometimes carry animals of twice those weights for considerable distances.

What is the heaviest animal An eagle can pick up? ›

Generally a male can lift about 1.5 pounds and a female up to 2.5 to 3 pounds — the latter if there is a good headwind. However, this is not even lifting this weight for more than a few 100 yards and not necessarily up to a nest. On the other hand, many a small cat, or parts of a road killed cat, can be lifted.

Has an eagle ever picked up a child? ›

Eagles have tried to carry off children before, though it was much more of a problem 100 years ago. One eagle tried to carry off a Scottish baby, and another a child in Maine. In Milwaukee, an eagle snatched a two-month-old child from its cradle and flew back to its nest.

How much weight can a 25 pound dog carry? ›

The general rule of thumb for an active, adult dog is that they can carry no more than 25% of their body weight.

Can an eagle pick up a Shih Tzu? ›

An eagle can weigh up to about 15 pounds, depending on which kind. Since shih tzus weigh anywhere from 9 to 16 pounds on average, it would not be possible for a hawk or owl to carry it away.

How long does it take for a bald eagle head to turn white? ›

When does an eagle's head and tail feathers turn white? Eagles reach maturity by their 5th year. From a young eaglet, each year they will gradually change until completely white at age 5.

What to do if an eagle attacks your dog? ›

If an eagle is attempting to attack your dog, grab your dog (if it's safe to do so) and seek shelter. Once you get your pet to safety, examine them for injuries and contact your vet if needed. Do not attempt to harm the eagle in any way since this is a federal offense.

What are eagles favorite prey? ›

Diet varies with season and with what is available (eagles are very opportunistic in their feeding habits), but fish is the number one food type followed by some birds (waterfowl), occasional turtles and other rarer items.

What are hawks and eagles afraid of? ›

But, what are hawks afraid of? Contrary to what you may believe, hawks do have predators and will avoid contact with these whenever possible. These predators include owls, eagles and crows. They also include raccoons and snakes.

What are hawks most afraid of? ›

Now you know that hawks do indeed have predators. They're most afraid of owls, eagles and even crows. Snakes and raccoons also pose a problem for any nesting hawks as they like to steal the eggs.

Are hawks scared of dogs? ›

Hawks and their cousins are opportunistic animals, so dogs, puppies, cats, kittens, ferrets, guinea pigs, ducks, rabbits, and chickens are all at stake.

What noise scares hawks away? ›

What scares a hawk away? Hawks and other birds of prey usually are deterred by people or strange sights or sounds that can be perceived as dangerous. This includes reflective tape, scarecrow decoys (owl or human form), and balloons. Even having your small dog outdoors with larger dogs can help.

What size dogs do hawks go after? ›

Great horned owls, northern goshawks, and red-tailed hawks are three of the most common birds-of-prey to lash at small dogs and cats, typically those under 20 pounds.

What size dog would a hawk pick up? ›

It's definitely possible for a hawk to pick up a small dog that weighs less than 4 or 5 pounds. Anything larger than this, and it would be physically impossible for the raptor to fly away with the dog.

Should I be worried if my dog killed a bird? ›

Should I Be Worried? While dogs are known to eat anything and everything and seem to have stomachs made of steel, eating any sort of dead animal can pose a health risk. Dead animals may carry bacteria, parasites or toxins that could make your dog seriously ill.

How many pounds can a hawk pick up? ›

As a general rule, hawks can't carry anything that is heavier than their own body weight. Therefore, most hawks can't carry more than around one to three pounds in weight. This means that it is possible for a hawk to pick up and carry a very small dog or cat but this is highly unlikely.

What smells do hawks hate? ›

If you're looking to keep birds away, consider taking advantage of the smells birds hate.
Some smells birds hate include:
  • Essential oils. These scents are overpowering to birds, especially peppermint oil. ...
  • Peppers. ...
  • Garlic. ...
  • Cinnamon. ...
  • Vinegar. ...
  • Citrus oil.
Dec 15, 2022

What makes hawks go away? ›

The safest option is only letting them outside under your personal supervision. This is because the big size of humans scares away hawks. Having a larger dog around works in the same way. Another option is placing shiny reflective objects in your backyard which are disorienting to hawks.

Do fake owls keep birds away? ›

Do Fake Owls Really Keep Birds Away? Owls are considered a bird of prey and will frighten off pest birds if the owls make their presence known in a particular area. Using a fake owl in a nuisance bird roosting or nesting place will show results since the decoy will likely prevent the birds from landing.


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