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Home > Dogs > Can a Hawk Pick Up a Dog? Facts & Safety Tips

Can a Hawk Pick Up a Dog? Facts & Safety Tips

hawk flying

Small dogs face many dangers when they are outside, including larger dogs and wild animals like coyotes and bears. One strange thing you might have heard of is that a hawk can carry them away. While unlikely, it’s true that hawks could pick up small dogs. These powerful birds of prey are capable of amazing feats, including carrying off a small dog. Keep reading as we discuss how often this happens and what you can do to keep your pet safe.

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Birds of Prey

Birds of prey are several species of predatory birds that hunt other animals for food using their keen eyesight, powerful talons, and sharp beaks. Included in this family are hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls.

Sparrow hawk standing over its prey
Image Credit: Thorsten1970, Pixabay

Prey Preferences of Hawks

Hawks have specific food preferences, primarily focusing on small to medium-sized animals. Their diet may include rodents, birds, reptiles, and occasionally, small mammals like squirrels and rabbits. A small dog is much larger than these animals but can become a target if food is scarce and the perfect opportunity arises.

The Hawk’s Talons

The primary tool of the hawk is its powerful talons. These sharp, curved claws vary in size depending on the species of hawk, but regardless, they can latch onto a victim with amazing force, overpowering many animals, including small dogs.

close up of a hawk about to attack
Image Credit: Ronnie Howard, Shutterstock

The Hawk’s Size

The size and weight of a hawk compared to a dog are crucial factors in assessing the plausibility of one carrying off your dog. Fortunately, hawks are generally not large enough to lift heavy animals like dogs and rely on their agility and speed to surprise and catch their prey instead of taking them away in flight. There are several species of hawk in the United States, with the Red-Tailed Hawk being the most widespread. Most have a 2–5-foot wingspan and weigh 5 pounds or less. The Ferruginous Hawk in the deserts and prairies of the western United States is the largest and can carry off small prairie dogs.

Flight Adaptations of Hawks

Hawks have amazing soaring abilities, effortlessly gliding through the skies and searching for food at speeds up to 120 miles per hour. Their wings are specially adapted for aerial maneuvering, enabling them to make swift turns and sudden dives to catch their prey. However, despite their incredible flight skills, carrying a large dog while flying would be an immense challenge for any hawk, and they wouldn’t be able to go far.

Red tailed Hawk flying overhead
Image Credit: DC Wildlife Photography, Shutterstock

Hawks vs. Other Birds of Prey

While hawks are powerful predators in their own right, some other birds of prey are bigger and stronger. For example, eagles are known for their ability to hunt larger prey than themselves and have been documented lifting small animals and fish. However, even the largest eagles would find lifting a dog difficult.

Is My Dog in Danger?

Fortunately, a hawk carrying off a dog is extremely rare and usually only occurs with small puppies and tiny breeds like the Pomeranian, Chihuahua, and toy breeds. They are more likely to attack them on the ground than attempt to carry them off, which could result in serious injury or even death, especially if the dog is out in the yard alone. In many cases, the hawk cannot lift animals weighing more than 5 pounds.

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The 6 Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe

1. Supervise Outdoor Activities

When your dog is outside, always keep a close eye on them. Avoid leaving them unattended in open areas, especially at dawn and dusk when hawks are more active.

belgian malinois dog playing with young girl
Image credit: Toma Stepunina, Shutterstock

2. Use a Leash or Stay in an Enclosed Area

Keep your dog on a leash when outside, or use a securely fenced area to play in to prevent them from wandering too far and reduce the risk of encountering a hawk.


3. Make Noise

If you spot a hawk nearby while walking your dog, clap your hands, make noise, or use a whistle to scare it away.

a woman clapping her hands
Image Credit: Veja, Shutterstock

4. Avoid Attracting Prey

Hawks are attracted to small animals like birds and rodents. Minimize feeding wild birds or providing food sources that might attract potential prey, which could inadvertently attract hawks.


5. Use Deterrents

Install hawk deterrents near your property, such as reflective objects, scarecrows, or noise-making devices, to discourage hawks from coming too close.

Scarecrow in the garden
Image Credit: John Collins, Pixabay

6. Seek Shelter

If you notice a hawk circling or flying nearby and are worried about your dog’s safety, seek shelter indoors until the hawk leaves the area.

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Summary

Unfortunately, a large hawk may attack and even attempt to carry off your small dog if it gets hungry enough, and it can do quite a bit of damage with its powerful talons. However, a hawk’s standard diet consists mainly of other birds and small rodents like moles, rats, squirrels, and rabbits, so they rarely go after a dog. Make noise by clapping your hands if you see one around, or use a deterrent to discourage hawks from getting too close. Using a leash will help keep your pet close so they’re less likely to be attacked, and if you see a hawk circling the property, seek shelter indoors until they move on.


Featured Image Credit: Radovan Zierik, Pixabay

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