When it comes to how to keep dogs away from hedgehogs, it can seem like an impossible task. There are many reasons it’s important to figure out a way, though. Hedgehogs can spread many diseases and parasites to your dog, and much bigger dogs may attack and even kill them — especially if you’ve noticed your dog has a prey drive or simply doesn’t know their own strength when playing!
Even if you aren’t worried about these things, hedgehogs are afraid of dogs and the kindest thing to do is encourage your dog to keep its distance. But how exactly do you do that?
Consider getting the following things for these steps:
- A clicker (or choose a marker word) for training
- High-value treats, such as cheese or boiled chicken
- A long leash
- Porch lights and flashlights
1. “Leave It”
The “leave it” verbal cue is the most effective way of keeping your dog away from hedgehogs. The only downside is that this requires supervising your dog every time they’re in your yard — especially at night, when hedgehogs are more likely to frequent it.
“Leave it” is a cue that takes months to become reliable, so have patience. Start with placing a treat in front of your dog and cover it with your hand every time they try to take it.
When they visibly pull away, give them a different (and better) treat from your other hand. If they have a marker word or you use a clicker, make sure to sound this the second they pull away from the treat.
The main thing to remember is to always give them something different than the thing they left alone, so it doesn’t create the illusion they’re allowed to get the thing later.
Once they’ve mastered this exercise, introduce the verbal cue of when they pull away and then move on to other things. Instead of treats, try a stationary toy — and then try throwing the toy and telling them to leave it. Up the difficulty every time they perfect something, by adding in distractions such as people, other animals, and anything they might encounter in the real world.
Practicing this for five minutes every day means that eventually, when your dog is outside and starts to go after something, they’ll listen to, “leave it.”
Perhaps even more useful than “leave it” is practicing recall, where your dog not only turns away from something but comes right back to you.
Like the above verbal cue, this will take a long time to become reliable, but it’s worth practicing. While you can use their name or a simple “come” command, it’s actually better to pick a word that they don’t hear often. Start with short distances with no distractions and build up to long ones where they have a lot to think about.
You can also use a Dog whistle to train them to recall.
The main thing to remember with recall is that it should always be worth it for your dog to come back to you. Reward them with high-value treats (cheese or small pieces of boiled chicken are ideal) that are reserved just for recall. They’ll soon want those treats so bad that recall will be easy, even when they have the lure of a hedgehog distracting them!
3. Don’t Encourage Hedgehogs To Your Yard
Many people have hedgehog houses set up in their yard and feeding stations, encouraging hedgehogs to come to their yard. They then get upset when their dog or cat attacks them.
Although it may seem hard, it’s being cruel to be kind if you take these things away and don’t encourage the hedgehogs to come to your yard. If you have a dog that you know is attracted to chasing them and grabbing them, take away things in your yard that may make it appealing to a hedgehog — especially if it’s somewhere they can sleep.
You can go even further than just ensuring you aren’t luring hedgehogs to your yard by actively deterring them from entering. Hedgehogs can get through gaps as small as 13cm by 13cm, so make sure your fence is completely secure and they can’t get under it. If you take the time to do this, you won’t have to worry about hedgehogs being there at all, and your dog won’t have the chance to get to them!
5. Let Your Dog Out During The Day Only
Dogs need potty breaks after it gets dark and that’s only natural. However, consider leashing them to take them out at night and make sure they get all of their free-roam time in the yard during the day.
Hedgehogs are very unlikely to be out during the day. In fact, if a hedgehog is out during the day, they’re likely sick and you should take them to a wildlife rescue if possible. They’re nocturnal creatures who flourish in the darkness, so keeping your dog on a leash after the sun goes down can be very helpful.
6. Warn The Hedgehogs
Maybe it’s impossible to keep your dog on a leash after dark. Maybe you work all day and when you get home, it’s dark, and your dog needs that time to run around.
What you can do in this instance is to warn the hedgehogs. Hedgehogs will generally shy away from bright lights, so turn on the porch light or shine a flashlight all around the garden a minute before you let your dog out. Doing this will encourage hedgehogs to leave, giving them the space to exit before your dog is set loose.
7. A Long Leash
If you have an exceptionally large space for your dog to run around in or it’s a public space where your dog keeps finding these hedgehogs, consider putting them on a long leash rather than giving them complete freedom. This also helps keep your dog safe.
The only thing to beware of with a long leash is that dogs can build up a lot of momentum running only to sharply meet the end of the leash. Make sure you use a harness rather than a collar, as the latter can be dangerous in this situation.
A long leash, if used right, helps you get ahold of your dog so they can’t go after something. It’s usually easy to tell when your dog has locked onto something, and you can firmly grip the leash to stop them from grabbing the hedgehog.
In terms of physical barriers, you may also hear people recommending e-collars (otherwise known as “shock collars”) and prong collars. It’s important to know that the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has revised its statement on aversive methods to state that they are never necessary and can be dangerous.
This is particularly true in this case. If you shock a dog every time they see a hedgehog (or they pull and feel the discomfort of the prong), they’re going to associate that feeling with the hedgehog, which could become extremely problematic later.
Stick with gentle physical tools, such as the long leash and harness.