Can Birds of Prey Steal Small Dogs?

A bird of prey probably won’t swoop down and carry your Chihuahua away. However, it can happen. Here’s how to keep your dog safe.

May 8, 2024By Colt Dodd
can birds of prey steal small dogs

Every now and then, a story makes the news about a bird of prey (like a hawk or eagle) carrying off someone’s small dog. However, these incidents are few and far between. The good news is that most birds of prey can’t carry more than a few pounds at a time. Unfortunately, this doesn’t prevent many predators from dog-napping attempts during certain parts of the year when food is scarce.

By supervising your dog, keeping them on a leash, and monitoring your surroundings, you can keep them safe.

Birds of Prey Could Make Attempts on Small Dogs

eagle with fish
Image credit: Jun-Zuo/Audubon Photography Awards

Birds of prey, also known as raptors, rely on a meat-based diet. These birds include owls, eagles, hawks, and falcons. Using their sharp talons and incredible eyesight, they routinely make meals of rodents, other birds, and even some reptiles.

Small dogs aren’t exactly on the menu for a bird of prey, but it’s important to note that these birds are opportunistic hunters. If a bird spots an unattended Yorkie in a field, it might not see a beloved companion. It might instead see an easy meal.

If a bird of prey starts circling your dog, turn tail. If a bird tries to steal your dog, focus on intimidating the bird––not hurting it. That’s because many birds of prey are protected under federal law. Injuring or killing a protected bird to save your dog might not hold up in court, and you could be ordered to pay a hefty fine if convicted.

How Often Do Birds of Prey Attack Dogs?

fox fighting bird
Image credit: Shutterstock

While there isn’t a centralized database that tracks how often birds attack dogs, some stories do make the headlines. In 2022, security camera footage recorded a bald eagle attempting to make off with a Yorkshire Terrier named Coco. Luckily, the dog somehow escaped the bird’s clutches and was unharmed.

A similar incident happened just last year in 2023. A dog owner let out his two Yorkshire Terriers when one, named Rocket, was attacked by a Cooper’s Hawk. Rocket’s owner told new sources that if he wasn’t standing in the doorway, his dog could’ve been seriously injured.

What Breeds Do Birds of Prey Attack?

group of small dogs
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you own a medium or large-sized dog, it’s likely safe from being carried away by a hawk or falcon. Yet, if it comes too close to a mother’s nest, a bird may attempt to “shoo” the dog away. Matters change if you have a small dog. These dogs can be seen as both threats and dinner.

Dogs that birds of prey could target include:

There are also some small, mixed-breed dogs that could also be at risk.

How You Can Keep Your Dog Safe

dogs wearing sweaters
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Our dogs rely on us to keep them safe from things that could hurt them, whether it’s a hungry eagle or a piece of chocolate that fell on the floor. If you have a small dog, and you’re worried about bird attacks, you can keep them safe by:

  • Keeping your dog on a leash. Even if a hawk swoops down and tries to steal your dog, they won’t get very far if the dog is leashed. Also, a bird is less likely to attack your dog if you’re right there.
  • Monitoring your surroundings. Some birds of prey can swoop at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. So, even if you attempt to stop the attack, you might not be fast enough. Instead, look for signs of birds in the area, such as nests, bird poop, and birds circling overhead.
  • Getting an airhorn. Birds of prey are easily frightened. If you see a bird about to target your dog, blowing an airhorn could scare them off.
dog by its owner on leash
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

You should also research the birds in a particular region. This can help you create a safety plan for your dog and know what to look out for. For instance, Harpy Eagles, a giant raptor native to South America, can carry up to 40 pounds. A small owl can’t come close to that, and therefore isn’t a threat.

Considerations After a Bird Attack

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

If a bird attacks your dog (whether it’s an eagle or an angry Blue Jay), you should check them for any signs of injury. This may include looking for gashes or scratches. While some injuries just require some bandaging and antiseptic, others require immediate veterinary care. Your dog may need stitches or antibiotics to prevent infections.

Your dog will understandably be frightened after a near-death experience. Soothe your pup by whipping up a DIY meal, or delight them with a new squeaky toy. They may feel apprehensive about going outside, which can make potty time complicated. Yet, using positive reinforcement, you can teach them to associate going outside with a reward, such as a treat or verbal praise.

Other Animals That Target Small Dogs

side picture of wolf
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Hawks, eagles, and falcons are just some predators that might see your dog as dinner. While these incidents are rare, other animals that could try snacking on your pet include:

  • Alligators. If you live in a southeastern state, like Florida, every body of water has an alligator in it––even if they’re small. In these regions, keep your dogs from playing too close to the water’s edge. Going in a freshwater body should also be off-limits.
  • Ticks and fleas. Ticks and fleas aren’t after your dog; they’re after their blood. These parasitic bloodsuckers can carry deadly illnesses (such as Lyme disease), so keep your dog vaccinated and on a prevention medication.
  • Wolves. You would think that because dogs and wolves are closely related, they wouldn’t threaten one another. That’s not true. A lone wolf may attack a dog, either for food or to protect their pups.

While many dog breeds exist to keep us safe, we must do our part to protect them, too. While a bird of prey likely won’t steal your small dog, you should be mindful and keep your dog leashed.

Colt Dodd
By Colt Dodd

Colt Dodd is a sighthound enthusiast with three years of freelance writing experience. He has an Italian greyhound/Shetland sheepdog mix named Homer. In his spare time, he enjoys going to dog parks and writing fiction.