Groundhogs typically won’t attack a dog unless it’s in self-defense. Although most dogs will “win the fight”, groundhogs can still do some damage. As cute and cuddly as they may appear, they have sharp incisors that can pierce the skin.
Dog owners who live in areas with a high population of groundhogs may experience an interaction between the two species. Keeping your dog in a fenced area and watching that area for signs of groundhog burrows are two ways that you can keep your dog and groundhogs away from each other.
Most of the time, interactions between dogs and groundhogs are uneventful. Groundhogs are herbivores who do not like to initiate confrontation with any animal, so if they have the chance to retreat, they will. They will not attack a dog, and they will quickly escape into their burrows to avoid any confrontation. They are equipped with all the instincts and skills necessary to avoid predators, and that is what they will do at all costs.
On rare occasions, however, a groundhog will defend itself. When cornered, a groundhog can become fierce. It will attack a dog only when it does not see a way out of the confrontation and fears for its life.
Knowing a groundhog’s instincts can help you as the dog owner make predictions about how your dog might react if he sees one. If you have noticed groundhog tunnels in your yard, you might be concerned about this.
If your dog is fast, you may be concerned that the groundhog will not be able to get away in time and be forced to fight back.
But how do you know whether your dog will even attempt to attack a groundhog?
Will Your Dog Attack a Groundhog?
Knowing and understanding your dog’s personal history and the history of his breed can help you determine how concerned you should be about a possible altercation with a groundhog.
There are some breeds which might be more likely to chase and corner a groundhog. Any breed of dog that was bred specifically for rodent control will be more likely to chase and corner a groundhog with intention to kill. This makes it more likely that a groundhog could injure your dog.
However, individual dogs carry different traits and characteristics. Not all dogs will do what they were originally bred to do. By the same token, some dogs of breeds who were not bred for rodent control will still go after a groundhog.
This is why it is so important to know your dog and his tendencies. Has your dog ever exhibited prey drive before? If so, he may attack a groundhog. Don’t assume that just because your dog was not bred for small animal hunting or rodent control, that he will not attack.
Breeds That Are Most Prone to Attack Small Animals
Several terrier breeds are among the most prone to attack small animals. Rat terriers, Jack Russell terriers, and Yorkshire terriers were all bred as rodent and pest control animals. They were specifically bred to have the drive and stamina to catch and kill rodents.
If your dog is one of these breeds and you have noticed your dog chase small animals, you will want to be extra cautious if you see evidence of groundhogs in your yard. Contact a professional who can help remove and relocate the groundhogs.
Other breeds to watch closely include beagles and dachshunds as these breeds were bred to hunt small game. Other breeds that may show prey drive include Affenpinschers and a variety of bird dogs such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and even Standard Poodles.
Understanding your dog and the history of your dog’s breed can give you insight into his level of prey drive.
How Can I Keep My Dog from Attacking a Groundhog?
The best way to keep your dog from having an altercation with a groundhog is to keep him away from them. Removing them from your yard or keeping your dog away from wherever you see their burrows will reduce the chances of interaction between the two.
If you’re afraid that you will not be able to keep your dog from interacting with a groundhog, and if you have seen your dog display signs of having a high prey drive, another option is to pursue professional training for your dog. Some owners may have the time and commitment to train their dogs on their own, while others will want to hire professional trainers.
Can I Train My Dog Not to Attack a Groundhog?
Yes, you can train a dog not to attack small animals. Even though prey drive is an instinct, it can still be trained out of a dog most of the time. Training is a good option for owners who do not believe they can keep the dog from encountering a groundhog, or for owners who have other small animals around that they wish to keep safe from their dog.
Many farms with free-range chickens and dogs use such training to keep their dogs away from their chickens. Other owners who also own cats or gerbils, hamsters, and different pet rodents would also do well to train their dogs not to attack small animals. If you’re in this category of owners, training might be a better option than trying to keep your dog away from small animals such as groundhogs. There are a variety of training methods to achieve this purpose.
Using a Shock Collar
There are a variety of different training methods promoted by different trainers within different schools of thought. One of the most common ways to train your dog not to attack small animals such as groundhogs is the use of a shock collar.
This method is not ideal for all types of dogs, so it is best to get the advice of a professional trainer before pursuing this method of training. Using this method, the owner or trainer will keep the dog on a leash close by for the first few weeks of training.
When the dog sees the groundhog and tries to go after it, the trainer or owner can use the remote on the training collar to give a slight zap, thus distracting the dog from the groundhog and administering a negative feeling will hopefully keep the dog from pursuing the groundhog further.
After weeks of training this way, the dog should no longer show interest in the groundhog because he now associates that animal with a negative feeling.
Using a Leash
Some owners and trainers prefer not to use shock collars. There are also some dogs that do not do well with shock collar training. If the dog exhibits signs of high anxiety associated with the shock collar, it is safe to assume that such training may only cause adverse effects.
In such cases, using the leash and commands may be sufficient. The owner or trainer keeps the dog on a leash and gently pulls on the leash when the dog tries to chase the groundhog. The owner or trainer will pull the leash and firmly say, “NO.”
Using a Whistle
If the leash training and use of commands does not seem to deter the dog from chasing the groundhog, but you do not want to use a shock collar, a training whistle might be the right tool for you.
When your dog sees a groundhog and attempts to chase it, you can pull the leash gently as you blow the high pitch whistle.
Can Groundhogs Hurt My Dog?
Of course, the goal is to keep your dog from ever having an altercation with a groundhog. Still, you may wonder how well your dog would fare should he ever find himself in a fight with one.
This depends on many factors, but the main one is your dog’s size. A large dog would probably easily conquer a groundhog. If a chihuahua or toy poodle were to corner a groundhog, they might not fare quite as well.
Since groundhogs can be fierce when cornered, it’s important to keep a close eye on small breed dogs, especially small breeds with a high prey drive. If your dog is a larger breed dog, he will probably not be injured by a groundhog, but you should still be concerned about rabies.
Since groundhogs are known to carry rabies, it’s important to make sure your dog is up to date on his rabies vaccination, especially if he seems prone to go after a groundhog.
Best Practices Concerning Dogs and Groundhogs
Overall, it is best to keep dogs and groundhogs from ever having an altercation, but that cannot always be avoided. That’s why training your dog and removing groundhogs from your property are also good practices. If an attack occurs, having your dog vaccinated for rabies can ensure that he remains healthy.
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