Just like wolf dogs, Coydogs are a hybrid of not just two different breeds of dogs but two distinct species of animals. Canidae is a family of mammals from the order Carnivora. It includes domestic dogs, foxes, wolves, coyotes, jackals, and dingoes.
Members of the Canidae family can interbreed. A Canis lupus familiaris or domesticated dog, crossed with a Canis latrans, or coyote, will produce a hybrid conveniently nicknamed a Coydog.
Although several records show Coydogs might have been around long before we knew of them, the earlier recorded deliberate breeding was in Pre-Columbian Mexico, where coyotes were favored and revered.
In certain parts of the world, it was common practice to cross-breed coyotes and wolves with domesticated dogs to produce more resistant, loyal guardians.
When the coyotes were trapped for their fur in Illinois in the early 1980s, their cranial measurements indicated that some were Coydogs. Observations of encounters between coyotes and dogs in the wild have been both hostile and playful behaviors in equal proportions.
What Do Coydogs Look Like?
Coyotes are medium to large canines that are athletic and strong. They have long muzzles, upright ears, and brown, piercing eyes. Their sable-colored coat is dense and thick with a bushy tail that points downwards.
The appearance of a Coydog will depend on what the dog parent looks like and which parent the puppy takes after more.
Depending on the size and appearance of the parent dog, most Coydogs will take after the thick coat of their coyote parent but can also be white, brown, or black. The hybrids are medium to large dogs that can weigh anything between 60 and 120 pounds and stand 22 to 28 inches at the shoulder.
Fun Fact: Coydogs can howl like coyotes and bark like dogs!
Do Coydogs Make Good Pets
Coydogs are half-wild animals and not domesticated pets. They are not generally playful or outgoing and are only suitable pets for highly experienced dog owners with deep insights into natural canine instincts.
With lots of socialization work, consistent training, and a firm hand, any dog can be a good family member. However, the wild streak in a Coydog will be an enormous challenge for any inexperienced pet owner.
If raised appropriately around other animals and children by an owner trained in canine behavior, a Coydog could be an excellent addition to the family. However, there are many possibilities of ending up with a dog with a quick-to-bite, aggressive, shy, or fearful personality.
In addition, a Coydog will have voracious exercise needs. Coyotes are athletic and high-energy dogs used to running miles each day in search of prey.
Coydogs are likely to have high energy levels requiring massive amounts of exercise a day to keep them mentally stimulated and out of trouble.
A tired dog is well-behaved. Coydogs are no different, needing daily fast walks, runs, long hikes, and other high-intensity exercises. They are highly unsuitable for apartment living.
Their energy might be more manageable if their dog parent was a low to medium-energy dog breed like a hound, mastiff, or Great Dane.
Like any animal, a Coydog can be conditioned from a young age on desirable behaviors. However, keep in mind that this might not be in its nature, and you could potentially be turning an animal into something it’s not.
How To Identify A Coydog
While a Coydog can look distinctively like a husky mix or another cross, they tend to have lighter-colored, wild eyes from their coyote parent. In addition, one of the critical differences between coyotes and dogs is that coyotes howl and dogs bark.
A coyote’s howl is distinctive and definitive, rising and falling in pitch, interspersed by loads of yips, yaps, and yelps. Here is an exciting video with great audio on the din of a coyote pack. If you have pets, be mindful of their potential sensitivity to the audio.
A Coydog’s bark will combine long howls, high-pitched yipping, and plain ol’ barking. In addition, Coydogs will yelp, whine, growl, and huff just like any other canine as their form of verbal communication.
Their behavior and temperament might also give insight into whether the “dog” has some coyote in him. Coyotes are wild animals that hunt for survival. They will have high prey drives, likely chase smaller animals, and can be aggressive and unpredictable.
Coydogs have also been known to lure larger dogs out to gang up on them and kill them. They hunt in packs, traveling long distances for prey.
If unsure, specific DNA test kits are available to test for the coyote gene in the dog’s lineage one or two generations back.
Are Coydogs Illegal?
Just like Wolfdogs, Coydogs are illegal in most if not all states. They cannot be regulated as native wildlife or kept as a hybrid. However, this is somewhat of a fuzzy grey area. Because tracing the coyote bloodline is difficult, most Coydog owners tend to get away with what can look like a mixed breed dog.
Just like Wolfdogs, the intentional breeding of Coydogs is banned in most states. Although there are no federal laws explicitly prohibiting the possession of Coydogs, most state and country laws have restrictions on hybrids.
Without proper DNA testing, it isn’t easy to prove the coyote gene in a domestic dog. DNA testing kits are widely available and will provide relatively accurate information on any presence of wild canids in your dog’s bloodline.
When in doubt, always check your local and state laws thoroughly. It would be disastrous to have to give up your Coydog!
Are Coydogs Common?
Coydogs are not as common as Coywolves or Wolfdogs. Although the breeding of Coydogs is illegal in most states, including California, some accidental breedings do take place.
The accidental breeding of a coyote and a domesticated dog is rarer than that of wolves and dogs or wolves and coyotes because of the difference in mating cycles.
Coyotes go into heat between January and March, having their pups in May or June, while dogs generally have their litters in winter.
However, some dog breeds go into heat twice a year and can have multiple litters.
The social behavior of coyotes and dogs also makes it rare to find a coyote that wants to be friendly to a domestic dog; they usually want to hunt and eat them!
Female coyotes go into heat once a year at the beginning of the year. During which the male coyote sperm count increases for about two months. During the rest of the year, the count remains dormant or extremely low.
In addition, coyote breeding pairs are known to stay with each other for several months after the birth of their puppies. A male coyote is unlikely to leave his mate for another dog while caring for puppies.
However, there are some rare cases of wild Coydogs. If a male coyote encounters a sizeable female dog in heat and there are no female coyotes, they might breed.
Or, if a large male dog encounters a lone female coyote in heat, it is theoretically possible for them to produce a litter of Coydog puppies.
Are Coydogs Dangerous?
As with any animal, Coydogs can show aggression, especially when fearful, threatened, or upset. Coyotes are wild animals, and any of their hybrids can be unpredictable and easily show aggression.
The Coydog’s temperament will be significantly affected by the parent the pup takes after, how it was socialized and brought up, how it was trained, and its unique personality.
Coydogs taking after their dog parents can be loving, affectionate individuals that love spending time with their humans.
Those that take after their coyote parent can be wild, unpredictable, shy, timid, fearful, or aggressive.
In addition, Coydogs are known to be aloof and unsociable.
Coydogs who were brought up and spent their early socialization months in a family-oriented home with other pets are also likely to be different from those brought up in a solitary environment with just one person.
The more exposed a Coydog is and desensitization training done very early on in life to achieve a stable, even temperament, the more the Coydog is less likely to react badly to sudden environmental changes and freak out.
Even the gentlest, most loving lap dog can bite if threatened or fearful, to say nothing of a Coydog that is a half-wild animal and probably not half a lap dog either.
That being said, Coydogs aren’t for everyone. They are ill-suited to inexperienced owners, small kids, apartment dwellers, and soft owners.
In addition, they are incredible athletes with high energy levels and need daily vigorous exercise to keep them happy and tired. A 30-minute walk a day isn’t going to cut it. Coyotes are highly active dogs that run many miles a day hunting prey.
Coydogs will need daily fast walks or long hikes over a few hours, a run now and then, and other physically intense activities like agility, flyball, or fetch.
They are well-suited for active, highly-experienced assertive owners that have an excellent insight into wild canine behavior.
Final Thoughts: So You Want A Coydog As A Pet?
Think carefully before bringing home a Coydog. Although they may, in all likelihood, take after a Shepherd or Husky dog parent and become a loyal, friendly companion, they are still, after all, wild animals.
Their wild tendencies can lead to unpredictable behavior or aggression, especially when startled, scared, or angry.
While dogs seldom show aggression from anger, this is not true of wild canids that can be moody and temperamental.
If you have a healthy, active lifestyle and have trained and conditioned many dogs, then maybe a Coydog might be the thing to result in a perfect partnership.