Friday, October 8, 2010

Kodi and Coyotes

We have several regular haunts where we take Kodi for walks, and, if he is lucky, romps with other dogs. As soon as we arrive at one of these places, Kodi pops out of the car all smiles, tail up, nose to the ground or to a blade of grass, and he scans the vicinity for any dogs that he can greet and play with.

Recently I've to come realize that there are a few other places that he does not like. Three, so far, to be exact. At first, I wasn't sure what caused him to be unsettled at these sites -- his tail down, ears back, nose in the air, eyes a little scared. These three places have two things in common: lots of fresh coyote scent and little fresh domestic dog scent. As soon as we start walking at these three places, Kodi's expression says let's go back to the car. And if I don't turn back, he turns back anyway.

My theory is that coyotes are actively marking their territories and their scent is overwhelming to Kodi. He senses something that says stay out, this is coyote country. At the same time, Kodi is not picking up any other more comforting dog smells. Also, we've been to these three places alone, with no other dog, except once.

Last April, just after we adopted Kodi we cared for our friends' dog Teak for two weeks. Teak is a big, friendly German shepherd that Kodi loves to pal around with. Once a day I took Teak and Kodi to Cuba Road (a discontinued class VI road) where they ran and chased each other and generally had a good time. That was the first time Kodi visited Cuba Road. Since then we've tried to go back twice, alone, and both times Kodi darted back toward the car.

Now, all the places we visit likely have coyotes running through them now and then, including our own yard. Perhaps the level of coyote territorial marking and the lack of dog scent determines whether Kodi is comfortable with a place. He seems particularly at ease when other dogs are around or when he smells lots of dogs or when hiking in non-coyote country such as in the mountains.

I will continue to observe Kodi at new places to see if my theory plays out. If we can visit one of his three coyote sites with another dog, I may try that to see if he behaves differently. Maybe we can get Teak back for a visit to Cuba Road. In any event, there is no shortage of Kodi-friendly places to visit so I'm not worried about stifling Kodi's thrill for the outdoors.

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