My dog brought a baby possum in our home — lucky us!
When hunting dogs love the chase and wreak havoc in your home
My dogs absolutely loved my mother, but she has had far more heart-thumping moments with them than me, my father and my brother combined. A part of me sympathizes with her bad luck, but the facetious part of me cackles at how much rodents love her.
Three of four of us are terrified of mice. However, a mouse chose my mother as a target in our sealed dog food bucket. She reached in to scoop up some dry food, and a mouse came swimming to the top and ran across her hand.
Then there was the time my Labrador Retriever/German Shepherd mix strolled over to her with a dead bird in his mouth. No matter how much she tried to talk him into leaving it alone, he just kept pawing at it and picking on the poor thing.
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Another time my father happened to see our purebred German Shepherd with something circular in her mouth. She dropped it as soon as she walked in the back door, and it quickly disappeared. My father, thinking his eyes may have played tricks on him, wasn’t quite sure what he’d just seen. He picked my mother up from the train station and drove her to my grandfather’s house so he could scope out the house alone. Hours later, he saw nothing and assumed it was his imagination. Meanwhile, our German Shepherd looked completely uninterested in his search.
Less than a day after my mother returned home, one of her ceramics fell on the dining room floor. When she went into the dining room, she saw something strange. There was this unfamiliar object on the carpet — a baby possum playing dead. She screamed. The baby possum ran, knocking down a few more ceramics, and my father heard the blood-curling scream that confirmed his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him.
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My German Shepherd also refused to come in the attic with her, after she found out a squirrel had babies. She needed to get her work clothes and go through her collection of shoes from our unfinished attic. However, our semi-fearful dog (the possum hunter) fell down the attic steps one time and refused to go up ever again — in her nine-year lifetime. So my mother had to dart upstairs to get clothes, pray that no baby squirrel came running out and flee back downstairs where our dog patiently sat at the bottom of the steps. Poor Mom.
Controlling the four-legged visitors in your home
Talk to exterminators, and they’ll tell you that nothing works but them — not your peppermint oil, electronic pet repellers or your cheese traps. They do support glue traps though. And, grudgingly, they’ll admit that dogs are unpaid exterminators who can spend their entire day focusing on a curious sound in the wall.
But outside of that, if you have a hunting dog, expect to spend some time keeping him (or her) away from squirrels, birds, possums, rats, (sometimes) cats, chipmunks and pretty much anything else that will play hide-and-seek with him. While there are some dogs who lose interest quickly after the chase is over (i.e. my German Shepherd, who refused to re-chase the baby possum around to take it back outside), for other dogs, this is a never-ending game of fetch.
Sometimes that comes in handy. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs like German Wirehaired Pointer have a coat that’s ready-made to keep them protected from thorny bushes during a hunt. Waterfowl are not their biggest fans. Retrievers and English Springer Spaniel are a pain for birds. And the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever looks so much like a fox that it can lure ducks in before they realize they made a bad decision. These hunting traits really come in handy if you’re a hunter. But if you’d rather not know everything your dog digs up in the backyard, you may want to choose a non-sporting dog such as an American Eskimo, Dalmatian, French Bulldog, Poodle, etc.
While there are exceptions to the rule, non-sporting dogs either were never or have become too domesticated to train for hunting by pointing, flushing and retrieving game. Some would rather clip their own dog nails instead of chasing something uninteresting in the backyard. Meh. Hard pass.
There are things you can do to deter prey being brought into your doors. A few quick tips include:
- Avoid a doggy door if you want to keep tabs on what your dog is getting into outside.
- Do not put poison outside to keep away rats and other pests. Your dog may not realize it is off limits and eat it. However, if you must do so, find alternate locations for your pet to play until the pest problem is under control.
- If you have a garden, stay on top of your vegetable picking. Insects, mites, slugs and snails can become an absolute nuisance, and so can rabbits and squirrels.
- If you happen to be someone who grows a wide variety of food, make sure you know your dog’s health status. Some dogs can only eat legume-free food, meaning a snack of chickpeas, clovers, lentils, peas, soybeans and other legumes can be dangerous for him. Set up proper barriers to keep your dog away from them, as well as legume fans like rabbits, chipmunks and (if you live near them) deer.
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Hopefully, these tips help you keep your sanity, your garden safe and your dog under control. Just remember this, though. No matter how much you try to train or control your dog, you cannot train wild animals. And sometimes they would rather risk their own lives to get into your own home or garden, even if it means getting too close to the family pet. Make sure your dog has updated shots to avoid health scares from a pet-pest confrontation.