Monday, 15 June 2015

Still living with a coyote hybrid (Coydog)

Urban coydog Tristan
As it will soon be two years since I adopted Tristan and Living with a coyote hybrid (Coydog) has been my most popular post, I thought it time for an update.

Every day (weather permitting) we go to one of two dog parks. The first dog park where he roamed free was fenced, but the one illustrated on the right has no fences at all. Tristan knows he is supposed to keep on the grass, but whenever he goes close to the sidewalk or a bike path he will stop or return to me on command. He is also getting along well with other dogs, although both dog parks are not well-used. Today, we encountered no dogs at all. On the way home, however, we encountered a cat: it came up to us with its tail raised in friendship. I told Tristan to say "Hi" and they sniffed noses. Tristan showed no hostility but seemed to want to play. Had I not been so surprised by this meeting, I might have thought to get a photo of it.

Tristan hears a sound along a side trail in the wood
In the centre of this dog park is a wood with a small creek running through it. Tristan likes to go in the water and often runs through the water with his lower jaw under the surface as if trying to scoop up fish like whale feeding on plankton. I keep trying to get a good photograph of this, but I'm ready to give up with the camera on automatic focus and the darkness of the wood combined with Tristan's speed in the water would make it difficult to get a clear shot even on manual. Perhaps I will try it with a flash on manual next time. Wild coyotes are expert fisherman (video)

I never have to worry about Tristan getting too far ahead of me on the trails through the wood because if I am out of his sight for about a minute, he comes back to make sure I'm not lost. Although Calgary does not allow dogs to be of their leash on the streets, I have risked a fine by training him to walk at heel, sit at the curb and cross the street only on command while off the leash. I think this is important as a dog might be well trained to do such while on the leash, but if the dog got out on his own, he might not be so well-behaved. I think the laws are poorly written: dogs should be under control at all times, and some dogs do not need a leash top be properly controlled. Tristan seems to understand the importance of such exercises and is even better behaved off his leash than on it.

We finally met the Wolf Man, he is a neighbour who I have heard owns a wolf-hybrid. We stopped by a garage sale at the community centre and a man looked at Tristan and said "He has some coyote in him." Most people do not recognize a coydog. We got into a conversation and, as so often happens with dog owners especially of "difficult" breeds, he brought up methods of training etc. He did not believe in giving the hybrids any raw red meat as it would reinforce their wild side. I have heard this before, but I don't really believe it. My own philosophy is very different; I think it best to allow Tristan to express his wild side, but by hunting mice or by chasing squirrels (he has not realized that he cannot climb all trees, just some of them). If a behavior is too suppressed, I think it possible for a dog to act it out when in a very stressful situation. Better to give it a harmless channel from the start and make sure that the dog knows what is allowed and what is not.

One slightly problematical side of me keeping him away from small children and animals at first is that he is now not too sure about small children. I think that he believed I was keeping him away from them because they are dangerous. The other day, a small girl tried running up to him. He gave a couple of warning barks and retreated toward me for protection. His training will require some adjustment.

Tristan will be coming camping in northern British Columbia with Monte and myself in a month or so. We are going to make another attempt at getting to his remote quarter section. As it is grizzly bear country, we will be taking hand flares and noise makers, but I am also going to buy Tristan a red bandanna for his neck so that some hunter does not mistake him for a wild coyote. Our food will be suspended from the branch of a tree some distance from the camp, of course. I think Tristan is trained enough to be able to handle the trip properly, but I am going to be extra cautious of course, especially when it comes to potential encounters with black or grizzly bears and moose. This trip will be with a 4WD equipped with a winch, a come-along and extra chain, and a chainsaw for felling any trees that have overgrown the trails.


  1. Hi John ! I like coyotes and always wondered why there weren't cross breeds. Everyone seems to think a wolfcross is the way. Altho there are times I think the dog in question is not a wolfcross but a coyote. We live in northern BC and coyotes are part of rural living. To us we say, stay and eat the mice, pack rats and chipmunks ! But stay away from my live stalk !. Having 2 large Pyre. helps. Thanks for your very interesting articles ! I'm glad to know coydogs really exist!! And I have to admit I do yell out "hello' to the wild coyotes. Val

  2. Thanks, Val. I think that the misunderstanding in the press (do they ever get anything right?) is that it might well be impossible for a coydog to be born in the wild. I've lost the link, but I saw that two adolescent blond coyotes had been captured in the US because they were thought to be hybrids. It was said that they could not survive in the wild so they would have to spend their lives in captivity. How they managed to survive until adolescence was not explained.

    Tristan really bonded with me after I took him on the Great Mouse Hunt. When urban coyotes get shot, there will be even more coyotes coming into that area. It's best to just let them eat the mice etc.