Despite the population of foxes that are now living in urban areas, they do their best to avoid dogs. In fact, grey and red foxes will even try to avoid small dogs and do not like this type of confrontation. However, there can be occasions when the two species are brought closer than either would like, so what are the chances of a fox attacking your dog?
I decided to research it to see if I could find any statistics of fox attacks on dogs, including recent press reports. I came to some conclusions on whether foxes eat dogs, and what the dangers might be. Here’s what I discovered.
Do foxes attack dogs? It is very unusual for foxes to attack dogs. However, there have been a few occasions in recent years where foxes have entered yards and gardens and attacked small dogs or puppies. Overall though, a fox would rarely approach a dog, but they could act in defence if a dog approached and cornered them.
The bottom line is, it’s very unlikely for a fox to attack a dog, even a small dog unless it has been cornered and is ill. It’s more likely that your dog will chase and attack a fox than vice versa, as most of the time the fox will avoid canines.
Handy Hint: There is a common misconception that the presence of dog hair or poop will keep foxes away from your property. This isn’t strictly true as I discuss in this explanation of dogs acting as deterrents to foxes.
In the following guide, I will explore the situations in which a fox would attack a dog, how dangerous foxes are to dogs, and even if a fox would eat a dog. It also includes any possible situations where the two species might get along. Read on to find out more about the relationship between foxes and dogs.
Do foxes attack dogs?
There are different types of foxes around the world, and we need to look at the different types a little closer to answer the question best. For information on the chances of a fox eating a dog, that’s further down the page.
There are over 30 species of foxes found all over the world. Red foxes are the most iconic and common of these species. Red foxes are also the largest type of fox and, as such, are the species that pose the highest threat to dogs.
But will a red fox attack a dog?
Probably not; red foxes usually target any small animal that weighs up to 3.5 kg (7.7 lb). This would rule out most typically sized dogs.
However, dogs such as Chihuahuas fall into this weight bracket, so a red fox could attack a small dog given the right circumstances. There is a slim chance the fox could see the very small dog as prey and attack it.
As omnivores, foxes eat a mixture of plant and animal matter, but their diet consists mostly of raw meat from hunted animals. The animals that foxes hunt are mostly small mammals, like mice, rabbits, squirrels, and hamsters.
Next in line are various types of birds, fish, and even reptiles and insects.
Miniature dog breeds like Poodles and Chihuahuas are at risk throughout their life because of their small size, and almost all dogs could potentially be attacked by a fox when they are puppies.
If you have puppies or miniature small dog breed, I would not leave them unattended on your property if foxes are in the local area.
Will a fox attack a dog on a leash?
I can find no reported incidents when a fox attacked a dog on a leash. Foxes are even more afraid of humans than they are of dogs, so this scenario seems almost impossible to imagine happening.
Over 60 years ago, a Russian scientist named Dmitry Belyaev became the Institute of Cytology and Genetics director in the Soviet Union. He was intrigued by how early humans domesticated dogs and thought the best way to learn about the domestication was by domesticating a new species from the start.
“Belyaev was curious as to how dogs first became domesticated. He decided that to fully understand the process, he must attempt to replicate the early days of domestication. He picked foxes for the experiment because of their close family ties with dogs.” (view source)
Belyaev chose to domesticate foxes because of their shared genetic family (Canidae) with dogs. He worked over many years to create a version of the red fox that was friendly with humans and had an agreeable personality.
Over 60 years after the beginning of the experiment, some foxes are considered to be domesticated. These foxes are not afraid of humans and even enjoy pats and cuddles. They are, however, still quite wild and their actions are unpredictable. Domestic foxes may not be afraid of humans, but that doesn’t mean that they listen to us.
Do foxes and dogs get along?
Generally, domestic pet foxes are seen to get along ok with dogs, especially if they’ve been raised in a home with a dog from a young age. Domestic foxes still have a high prey drive, though, and they would still chase any small rodent or bird. The Scientific American website say the following:
“You can walk your fox on a leash. Foxes can also be trained to use a litter box. Generally, foxes get along well with dogs and cats and often learn their habits.” (view source)
Press reports of foxes attacking dogs
There are a handful of reports in the press in recent years relating to fox attacks on dogs. Here’s a selection of quotes and sources that I found.
2020 – United States
“Cranford police are warning residents that a fox attacked dogs in two separate incidents in that town Wednesday, one on Orchard Street and one on Cornell Road.” Patch News
2019 – United States
“Jim Caperelli said he was walking his bloodhound Copper outside his Dewey home Nov. 4 when a fox lept from under his car and bit Copper on the face.” Cape Gazette
2018 – United Kingdom
“My dachshund was bitten by a fox, and I have learnt of neighbours’ pets being similarly attacked by foxes. Is this common, and what can we do?” Sunday Times
2013 – Republic of Ireland
“The fox has killed two dogs in their owners’ gardens and another dog has been taken from the area to the woods where it was eaten. If a fox will attack a dog, kill it and eat it, I’m very concerned that a child could be attacked.” Irish Examiner
2010 – United Kingdom
“Peter Crowden, chairman of the National Pest Technicians Association, described foxes as very territorial. He said: “Urban foxes will go into gardens and attack puppies.” The Telegraph
When would a fox attack a dog?
Though domesticated foxes are less likely to attack dogs than wild ones, they are still a living animal, making them unpredictable. A fox, wild or not, would likely attack a dog in the following situations.
1. To protect their young from the threat of a dog
One of the most likely reasons that a fox would attack a dog is if the fox was protecting a young litter of babies. Foxes only breed once a year and are extremely protective of their young. Often the male foxes will go hunting, while the female fox, known as the vixen, stays with the babies.
Foxes naturally build their homes in cozy nests or dens, and this is where they lay their litters. These enclosures provide the babies with protection from the elements and predators. One of the places that foxes like to build their dens is under porches, decks, or sheds.
These man-made structures are ideal for a fox den in urban areas… but of course, that can put them into close contact with dogs.
If a fox chooses to build her nest on your property, your dog may be in danger. A vixen protecting her young can be very violent. If your dog enters the den space or even goes near, the fox may attack your dog.
Keep your dog on a leash at all times and call animal control. Once the foxes are eradicated, you may resume your dog’s routine.
2. If the fox is starving
Foxes are most active in the early hours of the day, and after dusk. Foxes hunt daily, though they don’t always catch something. If a hungry fox were to encounter your small dog during these times, it’s possible that the fox would attack… and there have been reports of foxes eating puppies that they come across.
The best guard against a fox attacking or eating a small dog or puppy is to keep your pets on leash for their first and last trips outside during the day. Never leave a small dog or puppies unattended in your yard.
If your property is fenced in, provide regular perimeter checks to ensure that wild foxes aren’t digging into your property from the other side.
3. If the fox feels threatened and cornered
Any animal can attack if startled. If your dog happens to encounter a fox up close, chances are the fox didn’t see the dog coming. Foxes don’t usually hunt animals half their size, but they can aggressively respond if caught off guard.
Your dog could get bitten by a fox in cases like this.
4. Rabid foxes could attack a dog
Foxes are one of the most common carriers of rabies. Rabies is a disease which attacks the nervous system in mammals and causes death. It is contagious and transferred through saliva. An infected fox could attack your dog and potentially give him the deadly disease.
It’s not as much of a concern as you might think though, as rabies has virtually been eliminated from countries such as the UK and Australia, bar being present in some bats and possibly even flying foxes (a bat species).
The numbers are a little different in North America though, where foxes are known to be a rabies carrier. Again though, it’s not a huge epidemic and is probably rare given that in the United States, foxes are only said to report for 5% of rabies cases (see report).
Do foxes eat dogs?
As you’ve probably guessed by now, the chances of a fox eating your dog is relatively slim, depending on the size of your dog.
Yes, puppies and smaller dogs are more at risk of being eaten by a fox, but in most cases the only time a fox would eat a dog would be if came across an already dead carcass.
Are foxes dangerous to dogs in other ways?
Foxes can be dangerous to dogs for other reasons other than attacks and bites. I’ve written a more extensive guide about this relating to the ways foxes can make dogs sick (read that here). Here’s a synopsis of what I found:
- Roundworm when dogs eat fox poop.
- Bite infections if a fox nips your dog.
- Fleas and ticks from a dog being in close proximity to a wild fox.
- Weil’s disease when a dog drinks from water contaminated with fox urine.
- Salmonella and listeria from dogs eating fox poop.
- Dogs getting mange from foxes when in close contact.
- Rabies being a possibility as already discussed.
Keeping foxes and dogs safe from each other
If the scenes described above have you worried that a fox will attack your dog, there are certain actions you can take to protect your dog from a potential attack.
1. Bear bell
Attach a bear bell to your dog’s collar when you walk him off-leash or let him out in the backyard. This Coghlan’s Bear Bell on Amazon will let a fox know that your dog is coming so he doesn’t get startled.
2. Vaccinate your dog
Most domestic pets could benefit from rabies vaccination. Get your dog vaccinated to remove the worry of rabies from a fox bite.
3. Ultrasonic animal deterrent
This small machine is simply to set-up and works by emitting flashing lights and sounds that we can’t hear but are irritable to foxes and other pests. You can buy this on Amazon.
There’s a solar panel on it which means you can leave it out to charge by itself. It has a range of 9 meters, and an angle sensor letting it have a wide coverage.
It doesn’t just deter foxes but is also said to work on other pests you want to get rid of such as rats, moles, squirrels, and coyotes.
4. Remove any food sources
Another reason that foxes will frequent your property is if they have a readily available food source. To prevent this, keep your dog’s food out of your garden or yard, as it will attract hungry foxes.
Some people will even leave dog food out for foxes to eat. Don’t do this if you want them to leave your garden alone.
5. Install motion lights
Foxes are most active during the early and late hours of the day. They do a lot of their hunting and stalking in the dark.
A motion sensor light could startle them enough to keep them away from your home and your pet. These Motion Sensor Lights on Amazon are a simple solution.
Foxes and dogs are related, but that doesn’t mean that they get along. Foxes are wild animals, and the red fox is the most widespread carnivore in the world. Wild carnivores are not known for their ability to get along with domesticated animals, and foxes are no different with dogs.
Ultimately, a fox is more likely to run away from your dog than attack it, especially if your dog is medium-sized or larger. There are a few main reasons why a fox might attack your dog. The fox is protecting its babies, your dog startles the fox, the fox is extremely hungry, or the fox is infected with rabies or another disease.
Keep your dog by your side and on a leash if you think a fox is in the area and call animal control if you have an issue with a fox on your property. There shouldn’t be a problem as long as you remember all of the information provided.
You might also like…
I have written other guides about dogs and foxes which you might also find of interest.
- Why your dog loves to roll around in fox poo
- How to get rid of the smell of fox poo in your dog’s fur
Image in header via https://unsplash.com/photos/D0hILsoEXD4