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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Coyote and dog body language

I love this photo, not for the obvious "coyote on a mission" in the foreground but for the coyotes in the background. One appears to be inviting the other to play using a classic "romping" posture that we've all seen our dogs use.
Coyotes look bigger than they actually are. When they stand under our birdfeeders, they look only slightly smaller than our dogs. However, the data say that adult coyotes range in size from 18 to 44 lbs. My dogs weigh around 60 lbs so much of the coyotes' bulk is fur.

I've been in a dry spell at my other wildlife cameras. I arrived at one of them today to discover that, for the first time since I set up the camera, the wind had blown away the snow so that I could see the pine-needle covered ground around the camera. My eyes were drawn like magnets to two piles of mountain lion scat just behind the camera. "Ah ha", I thought, "I do have a good spot here". I just need to adjust the camera in case the spot currently *behind* the camera is habitually used by mountain lions for scent marking. So, I did - and we'll see if my luck improves soon. It's a hobby that is teaching me patience, patience, patience.

K and I went for our sunrise snow bike ride today. The mountains glowed in the light of the sun just cresting the eastern hills.
I pedaled all the way to Hug Hill without getting bogged down in snow drifts, for the first time in at least a week. When we get to the top, K knows that I like to have her do tricks and other training games. Often, I just wait to see what trick she "offers" me. Today, K surprised me by offering an old favorite from before her toe amputation. She perched and balanced precariously atop a stump.
I didn't plan to ever ask her to do this one again because I thought that it might be too tough for her balance with a weakened paw. I'm glad that I was wrong!

Later in the day, we took a sunset hike. K rolled in the snow, a happy Labrador.
R got wind of the fact that someone was having fun without him and barreled into the scene with a cloud of flying snow. We sometimes call him the "fun police" because of his reaction when he discovers anything fun underway that he's not at the center of!
In the blink of an eye, snow-covered K was on her feet running with a supremely surprised look in her eyes.
Within a stride, she stopped and offered R some "calming signals". In the photo below, you can see that K is starting to lift her left front paw, a classic signal that a canine uses to try to bring down excitement or tension levels. Although it's hard to see in the photo, she also curled her body into a "C" and lowered her head, telling R to "cool it".
It worked, and R rapidly calmed down. He and K are an interesting pair because R is so excitable and K gets overwhelmed by it. The body language that they use to negotiate fascinates me.

We headed for home as dusk fell, a tired and happy pack.


  1. Thanks for catching and sharing the coyotes at play pic!

    I'm smiling at R and his Fun Police role!

  2. Never a dull moment here! More great pics! :)

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  3. I love the analysis of what they are doing when. Markers that you have learned to read that many of us would just ignore. Their personality difference and K's unwillingness to let R go full tilt. This is all fun for me to read, so thanks!



  4. I hope your luck with the wildlife camera improves, too! It is hard to think of coyotes as small, but we have quite a few around here, and they definitely are.

    I love how much K seems to enjoy wriggling in the snow. It's just so puppy like! I cannot fathom her hiding behind a washing machine from you! Some time, I would love to hear the whole story about how K came to you.

  5. You always have the coolest wildlife shots! (And I love the photos of the pups playing in the snow... adorable!)

  6. You read the sign language of your dogs' bodies well. Cannot believe that K is romping and balancing so well - it is wonderful to see her healthy!

  7. Barb said what we were going to say - you DO know your pups well.

    Sibes are a lot like those coyotes. A lot of people call them big dogs, but they really aren't. TD is a bigger than normal sibe, mainly in stockiness, not height; he has a barrel chest. But Ciara and Phantom are both under 45 pounds. If Phantom ate well, he would be 50-55 pounds, still not very big. And Ciara is going to stay small, but her thick coat can be very deceptive.

    Great photos, and even greater pup fun.

  8. that is a great shot of the coyotes playing
    Benny & Lily

  9. Watching dog behavior is mesmerizing. They manage to negotiate a working relationship despite differences in personality, energy, status. Eye opening, really - there are so many lessons we can learn from them.

    Thanks for the coyote pics - they're fascinating creatures ;)

  10. K surely appears to be the boss! I love seeing them together!

  11. Your hobby of photography, hiking, blogging and sharing all your beautiful pictures continues to enrich us all.
    Sending lotsaluv

  12. R's energy seems to never run out, ever!


  13. Was always taught that coyotes en masse are a rout. 'The font' says they're a band. Said we'd leave it to the expert to settle it. What do you call a rout of coyotes ?

  14. I have only seen one coyote in my life. He looked to be the size of a german shepherd, but he was moving so fast it was really hard to tell.

    Great pictures as always!

    Your pal, Pip

  15. K and R are lucky to live with such an observant and knowing person, KB! Love the surprised look!

  16. Very intriguing what animals teach us. Sophie spent a couple days a week as a puppy at a day care which was on a farm nearby. She learned socialization there with the majority of dogs being Labradors. I watch her now as she approaches dogs on our walks at the park and on the beach and she is so cool how she takes her steps forward and then manages to tell everyone "I'm harmless" all I want to do is meet and greet. R and K are so different and really have a great bond. Enjoy your next adventure...I know I am anticipating. Ron...Sophie's Dad!

  17. Non verbal communication is fascinating, even among humans. I've never had a dog, so I'm not familiar with what their body language means, and I found this post very interesting. Now, I know some things to look for.

  18. Hehe, I don't know how many times I can tell you how muc I love your pictures! I wish my mom was that talented!

  19. Whew, I'm relieved to hears dat coyotes are da size of dogs. Howevers, dat does me no good cuz I now weigh in at 11.9 pounds so hey is still WAAAAAY biggers than me.
    Dats was a very good analysis of da behaviour. Me and Brudder is likes dat too. I just can't let anybuddies has more fun than me...hehehe...I guess you knew dat though. Animal behaviour is so fascinating!

    And ditto to what Corbin said.


  20. Angus: We call a group of coyotes a "pack". They have similar pack hierarchy as wolves have.

    Puddles: We have a few "size-challenged" dogs in our area, and they go out only when protected by the BIG dogs in their families!

  21. The coyote shots are great!

    But we thrill everytime you post photos showing just how far K has come and how much has been regained!

  22. The coyote photos are just facinating to see.
    And of course we love to hear about the episodes of K and R and who is having too much fun, and all that goes along with it.

    Does moutain lion and bear skat look alike?

  23. Poor K! Her first instinct when she was jumped while enjoying a roll in the snow must have been "mountain lion!" How old is R? It seems like he still feels the need to challenge K for the top dog position, even though she apparently offers him no opposition? If he's tightly wired, that may be a lifetime situation. Jed is younger than Abby and when they first came, he deferred to her. Once he was fully mature and confident, he began to gradually challenge her. Now he's the top dog. There's never been any real contention between them; just a gradual shift in position. Bit of a surprise to mama, who is more accustomed to Great Danes. With Danes, the top dog in the house is almost always a female. It's good that K is both so skilled in managing R and so non-confrontational.

    Jed & Abby

  24. I like your snow faces too.

    The coyotes behind our place were active last night. When I took the dogs out for last call, they were singing. My dogs don't like the noise and stick close to me. I'm not sure who's protecting who.

  25. K and R interact a lot like asa and booker. asa's usually pretty calm, but when she gets the urge to roll or do zoomies first, booker gets all riled up and asa has to calm him down, too. :)
    thanks for sharing about the coyotes. i've never seen one in person before, and they are much smaller than i thought they would be!

    the booker man and asa's mama


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