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Over the past week I have noticed an owl hunting in our neighborhood at night. I have seen the owl in some of the trees in our yard.

I haven't seen the owl well enough to determine what kind it is, but it looked large while flying and it makes the classic who-whoo-who-whoo sounds when sitting in our trees.

Do I have to worry about it hunting my small, 3.6 kg (around 8 lbs) pomeranian/chihuahua when I let her out at night?

If so, what can I do to deter the owl from coming in our yard and do I need to go out with my dog to protect her?

  • In our neighborhood (in N. Viriginia) we regularly have a falcon sitting in our local trees, and more rarely (twice that I know of this summer) bald eagles. One of my neighbors in a condo with a balcony said her little Pomeranian was "going crazy" at the window and went to look and was being stared at by one of the eagles. Said it "looked hungry". :) – CGCampbell Dec 21 '15 at 14:16
  • For people answering... Let's not get carried away with anecdotal answers here. Don't forget that part of the question is asking how to protect/prevent a small dog from being attacked by owls. – Spidercat Mar 23 '16 at 14:45
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Yes birds of prey can be a risk to small pets (and children!).

When we have our rabbits out in the yard we are always outside with them. As this video shows even a terrier on a leash surrounded by people is at some risk.

Other images of dogs and cats being attacked by birds of prey can be found on the internet. From these images it seems that animals in the 7 pound (3kg) range are at risk from birds of prey. How big does a pet need to be, in order to be relatively safe from attack by birds of prey?

The following images may be disturbing to some, mouse over will display them.

Small dog being attacked by hawk Owl attacks cat

The size of pet that can safely be left outside unsupervised depends on the size of predators in your area, as well the amount of protection that you have to keep predators out of your pets area.

If you leave your small pet outside unsupervised, you presumably have a fence to keep feral/neighborhood dogs out as well as yours in. You need to be aware of all the predators in your area, some like racoons can climb fences and occasionally attack cats and even dogs (rarely).

Some flying birds of prey like Eagles can carry off animals up to half of their body weight. Some source recommend that pets under 15 pounds (7kg) never be left outside unsupervised. I did not find good references for birds of prey eating dogs, I did find reliable references of them catching and eating foxes, it is not difficult to image that dogs would also be at risk.

Some Eagles have been known to take prey up to 4 times their own weight. While they are unable to fly away with prey this size, the will kill and eat it.

IMHO Pets under 15 pounds (7kg) should never be left out alone.

References

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5

My 6 pound (2.7 kg) Maltese was attacked by an owl 2 days ago at 5 AM. The owl carried her about 12 m (40 feet) and dropped her. I took her to the emergency vet.

She is suffering from sores on her right side over her ribs and several sores all over her front left leg. She has an eye injury from being dropped on her head and bruises on her body, her left front leg and neck. She was so terribly traumatized that she cried at the top of her lungs for over an half hour.

She is recovering, although she is very tender and sore. I knew we had an owl that resided in our backyard - I could hear it sometimes at night.

It never crossed my mind what it might do. I now go out with my dog for her potty breaks and am thinking seriously of getting a dog run. A lesson learned the hard way at my dog's expense.

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My dog was attacked by an owl tonight, I was watching my dog and it just swooped on him I ran outside and kicked the owl until it flew away. My dog was rushed to a vet hospital with puncture wounds on his head, neck, and eye. So yes they attack dogs!

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My neighbor lost her small Yorkshire terrier last night and she suspects an owl. The dog was in the yard, but it is a large yard and the area is rural. She heard the dog yelping, but before she could get to her, the yelping stopped and there was no sign of the dog being there anymore. Another Yorkshire terrier was with her, but he was not harmed.

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In theory yes, in reality no

Owls can, and have, in very rare cases attacked dogs. Few verified reports of this exist. In those cases, it has been the largest owls such as great horned owls attacking extremely small dogs.

Protection Options

In reality you don't really need to do anything. The odds of an owl attack are extremely small. In all likelihood the owl you've seen isn't large enough to be a threat to your dog.

If you want to though, you can put up something like "Nite-Guard" or another strobe type deterrent. These produce small flashes of light when triggered by aerial movement. In reality this is probably overkill. If you are truly concerned then going outside with your dog in the evening is probably the safest and easiest course of action.

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