It was a typical sunny morning when I let my dog Rex out into the backyard, expecting him to do his usual business. As a high-energy Belgian Malinois, Rex loves having space to run around and play. But that morning, things took an unexpected turn.
I was sipping my coffee when I heard Rex start barking loudly. He sounded riled up, barking in staccato bursts rather than his usual excited yelps. That’s when I knew something was up.
I went over to the back door to see what the commotion was about. To my shock, I saw Rex standing over a prone armadillo, viciously shaking it in his jaws. My happy-go-lucky dog had turned into a predator on the hunt.
The Aftermath of the Attack
At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Rex had killed an armadillo in our backyard. The armadillo was lifeless on the ground, blood pooling around its body. Rex was intensely focused, almost seeming proud of his accomplishment.
I called Rex back inside, scolding him for attacking the wild animal. He trotted back obediently, the armadillo still clenched in his mouth. I managed to get him to drop the carcass by offering treats as a distraction.
Once Rex was back inside, I went to examine the aftermath. The armadillo had clear puncture wounds along its back and head – telltale signs of Rex’s crushing bite. The canine predator had delivered a swift and fatal attack.
I disposed of the armadillo’s body, cleaned the blood off the grass, and thoroughly washed Rex to get rid of any germs. I kept him inside for the rest of the day, wary of letting him loose in the backyard again. My docile house pet had turned into a skilled hunter.
Why Dogs Attack Armadillos
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so surprised that Rex attacked the armadillo. There are a few key reasons dogs tend to go after armadillos when given the chance:
1. Prey Drive
Dogs like Rex have an innate predatory instinct triggered by small animals running away from them. Even though Rex is perfectly friendly with people, cats, and other dogs, his prey drive kicks in when he sees a scurrying armadillo.
He can’t help but give chase and chomp down with his vice-like jaws. It’s in his nature as a canine predator. His earlier breed’s purpose of hunting down vermin and small prey takes over.
2. Territorial Defense
Armadillos often root around in yards, looking for grubs and worms to eat. To dogs like Rex, this can seem like an invasion of their territory, provoking an aggressive attack. Rex likely felt like he needed to defend his turf.
High-energy dogs left alone in a yard all day are prone to boredom and frustration. An encroaching armadillo can seem like a fun distraction to chase. Sadly, this adrenaline-filled game usually ends with the armadillo’s demise.
Rex simply had too much pent-up energy and hunting instinct. He didn’t mean any harm; the armadillo was just an outlet.
4. Prey Vulnerability
Armadillos lack good vision or hearing, making them oblivious to approaching predators. They can seem like easy targets for dogs looking for something to chase. Their scaly armor also isn’t foolproof protection against a determined dog’s bite.
In short, armadillos trigger a perfect storm of prey drive, territoriality, boredom, and vulnerability that can turn an otherwise calm dog into a killer. I know Rex didn’t mean any cruelty, but his primal hunting instincts overrode his training.
See also: Why Does My Dog Hump Blankets?
Preventing Dog vs. Armadillo Attacks
While Rex didn’t get in any real trouble for dispatching the armadillo, I certainly wanted to avoid any future backyard battles. Here are some tips for preventing dogs from attacking armadillos and other wild animals:
- Supervise dogs when they’re outside off-leash. Be ready to intervene if they begin stalking or chasing wildlife.
- Install underground fencing or other barriers to keep pets within safe areas and armadillos out of the yard.
- Provide plenty of exercise, play, and mental stimulation so dogs are less apt to hunt out of boredom. Rex gets long walks and active playtime.
- Train a strong “leave it” command and praise dogs for disengaging from triggers like scurrying armadillos. Rex is re-learning to ignore tempting prey.
- Use deterrents like motion-activated sprinklers and predator urine smells to make your yard less attractive to armadillos.
- Ensure any small gaps around your home are sealed so armadillos can’t sneak in and incite chaos.
- Clear away brush piles and food sources like grubs that draw armadillos onto your property.
With extra training and management, I’m confident Rex will be less likely to harm armadillos and other wildlife in our backyard. He just needs constructive outlets for his high prey drive.
The Unique Features of Armadillos
To fully understand why Rex was compelled to attack it, let’s take a closer look at some of the unique traits and behaviors that characterize armadillos:
Hard Shell Coating
The armadillo’s name comes from the Spanish word “armado,” meaning “armed.” This refers to their bony, armor-like shell that covers most of their body. It is made up of overlapping plates called scutes that act as a protective shield against predators.
This dermal armor isn’t impenetrable, however. Dogs can still bite through it or attack the more vulnerable underbelly. The armadillo’s shell helps defend against some threats but isn’t perfect protection.
Armadillos use their long, sharp claws to easily dig into the soil. They use this digging ability to burrow underground burrows and to forage for bugs and grubs to eat.
Dogs find this burrowing behavior visually stimulating. They are intrigued by the moving dirt and often try digging up armadillos once they are undercover.
Armadillos are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular, meaning they are most active at night or during twilight hours. This helps them avoid daytime predators and regulate their body temperature.
They often end up in yards during their nighttime foraging, exciting dogs who spot them rustling in the dark. The movement and odd appearance can seem irresistible to canine predators.
When threatened, armadillos are able to leap straight up into the air. This vertical jump, up to 3-4 feet off the ground, helps them evade predators and spooks dogs.
However, this movement just riles most dogs up even more, encouraging them to chase and try dominating the armadillo.
Armadillos have very poor eyesight despite having small beady eyes. They see blurry movement and shapes but cannot detect fine details or identify threats from a distance.
This forces them to rely heavily on their sense of smell but makes them vulnerable to being ambushed by dogs and other predators they can’t see sneaking up on them.
Are Armadillos Protected or Dangerous?
Since armadillos are unusual animals that most of us have limited experience with, dogs killing them can bring up some important questions:
Are dogs legally allowed to kill armadillos?
Yes, dogs face no legal consequences for attacking armadillos. Armadillos are not an endangered or protected species, so there are no wildlife regulations prohibiting dogs from killing them.
Of course, repeatedly killing wildlife is ethically questionable. It’s best to try to prevent the behavior through training and management. But an occasional armadillo death usually doesn’t land dogs in major trouble.
Do armadillos pose a health risk to dogs?
Armadillos do carry some concerning health risks that could be transmitted to dogs:
- Leprosy – Some armadillos are natural reservoirs for leprosy (Hansen’s disease). Dogs consuming infected armadillo meat could contract this bacterial infection.
- Rabies – Armadillos can sometimes carry the rabies virus. A rabid armadillo poses a transmission threat on top of the danger of an aggressive attack.
- Fleas & worms – Armadillos have their own species of fleas and intestinal worms. These could infest a dog that had prolonged contact.
To be safe, dogs should be prevented from having intense interactions with armadillos and never allowed to eat them. Quickly dispose of carcasses before curious canines decide to scavenge. Prompt treatment for any bites or scratches is also crucial.
While concerning, the risks armadillos pose don’t mean they have to be eradicated. With proper precautions, dogs and armadillos can safely coexist in shared environments. Lethal force should always be an absolute last resort.
Learning to Live Together in Harmony
My backyard drama was an important wake-up call on the need to manage Rex’s interactions with local wildlife. He can coexist with creatures like armadillos, but I need to provide proper training, enrichment, and supervision.
Rex is an amazing dog with natural instincts. He just needs guidance redirecting those hunting urges in positive ways. With time and consistency, I’m confident we can welcome armadillos and other neighbors into our yard without violence.
My commitment is to help Rex be the best version of himself. I want to allow his wild spirit to thrive while also cultivating compassion for all living things. We may encounter some challenging moments along the way, but the effort is well worth it.
Our backyard can become an enriching ecosystem for all residents by making a few simple changes. This starts with acknowledging each animal’s needs and tendencies. A little understanding and proactive management will let us appreciate the benefits of diversity, even when instincts collide.
While it may take patience and persistence, I know we can eventually achieve a backyard habitat where playful dogs and meandering armadillos can exist in perfect harmony. With care and cooperation, our shared environment can transform from a battlefield into a sanctuary for all its inhabitants. The first step is a commitment to peaceful coexistence between species.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dogs and Armadillos
Many dog owners have questions about canine interactions with armadillos. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:
Q: Will an armadillo bite or harm my dog?
A: Armadillos tend to be quite timid and non-aggressive. They prefer fleeing rather than fighting. However, if cornered, they may try to bite or claw in self-defense. Their sharp teeth and nails can cause damage.
Q: Should I be concerned about diseases if my dog catches an armadillo?
A: Yes, as mentioned above, armadillos can transmit concerning illnesses like leprosy and rabies. Thoroughly clean any wounds and monitor your dog closely following any armadillo encounter. Seek prompt veterinary care for any signs of infection.
Q: Why do dogs seem obsessed with attacking armadillos if they aren’t good to eat?
A: The compulsion is all about the chase for dogs. Even if they don’t eat armadillos, they are driven to catch them thanks to high prey drives and boredom. The shell also intrigues dogs who want to try cracking it open.
Q: Are armadillo shells totally impenetrable for dogs?
A: The shell offers formidable but not absolute protection. Very strong or persistent dogs may eventually be able to bite or claw through it. The tender underbelly is also vulnerable if the armadillo is flipped over.
Q: Should I punish my dog for attacking or killing an armadillo?
A: Punishment is usually ineffective after the fact and can make dogs fearful or aggressive. Instead, focus on prevention via training and management. Reward non-pursuit behaviors. Don’t leave high-prey drive dogs unsupervised outdoors.
Q: How can I make my yard less attractive to armadillos?
A: Eliminate food sources like grubs, seal gaps they can enter through, use deterrents like predator urine granules or motion-activated sprinklers, and clear brush piles offering shelter. Lack of access to food, water, and cover will discourage them.
My dog Rex’s deadly armadillo encounter taught me some important lessons. Canine hunting instincts can overtake even mellow house pets when triggered by vulnerable prey like armadillos. As dog owners, we must provide proper supervision, training, exercise, and deterrents to prevent needless wildlife attacks. While challenging at times, I’m dedicated to helping Rex peacefully coexist with the armadillos and other wild neighbors we are lucky to share space with. With patience and compassion, backyard habitats can transform from battle zones to serene havens benefiting all inhabitants, both canine and armored.
Featured Image: istockphoto.com