Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 30, 2016

Skunks in Suburbia

Posted at 12:44PM - Comments: (5)

One dog owner's musings on repelling bold neighborhood skunks.

Not long after my husband and I bought our house in 2006, we were introduced to another couple who, unbeknownst to us, shared our home address: a pair of skunks. They had a den under the house, and emerged shortly after dusk to wander through the neighborhood, foraging for fallen fruit from ornamental and backyard fruit trees, digging for grubs and worms in freshly watered lawns, and helping themselves to cat food on various porches where some people feed cats (feral and otherwise).

We attempted to seal them out from under the house, but they kept digging under the foundation. I bought one of those motion-activated sprinklers, that would kick on if anything crossed its path, and mostly managed to wet my husband or myself, when we went to take out the trash and forgot it was on. We consulted with a “pest” service that would trap and kill them, but didn’t like anything about that solution and declined. I actually used a cat trap and trapped one, illegally (and without incident, by the way) releasing it in the wildlife area a few miles away. But I kept saying to my husband, “They aren’t going to move away until we get a dog!”

When we first moved here, we were dogless. My “heart dog” Rupert had passed away a couple years before, and I had just turned over a long-haired Chihuahua, inherited from one sister, to our other sister, who has a thing for little dogs. I wanted another dog, badly, but I had to have my husband’s buy-in, since I was commuting a long distance and wasn’t home a lot. He really didn’t want to be responsible for a dog when I wasn’t home, so we were at an impasse for some time. Our second summer here, though, the digging the skunks did in the lawn and garden escalated. My husband finally agreed that it was time to get a dog to help encourage the skunks to relocate.

We got Otto in the summer of 2008. He was eager to join our anti-skunk campaign – that is, until he got skunked twice. And to this day, when he sees skunks, he will bark, but he will NOT advance on them.

I think this is a sign of his superior intellect. Some dogs get skunked again and again and again, and never seem to connect that stinging sensation in their eyes and nose and throat (nor all those baths) with that funny-looking cat that doesn’t run. Otto got the spray in his eyes and face the first time, and just a glancing mist the second time, and he has retained that knowledge to this day: he doesn’t mess with skunks at all anymore.

The skunks finally did move out from under the house. Maybe it was because I had broken up their family by removing the dad or mom (whomever it was, he or she was a big, mature skunk). Or maybe having a dog patrolling around the yard, even at a safe distance, was enough to get them to move down the street to someone else’s house. They definitely are still around though, and on mornings like this, when the breeze that accompanies the sunrise carries a strong skunk odor from somewhere on our block, Otto will invariably come inside the house and approach our bedside, whining with concern about the nearby skunks. I understand that Otto is simply letting us know that a skunk is out there; but my husband cracks jokes. “Don’t worry, Otto, we’ll protect you from those scary skunks!” However, he can’t deny there aren’t any more holes in the lawn, and I haven’t had to use the magic skunk-scent-erasing formula to bathe Otto since that first summer. So it’s all worked out. 

Comments (5)

I had an ultra smart Super Dog who came back to the farm smelling of skunk. Washed her in tomato juice then let her outside to dry off. 20 minutes later she smelled of skunk again. So I bathed her in more tomato juice and stayed outside with her while she dried a second time. 10 minutes later she reeked of skunk again and she hadn't even disappeared into the woods. I investigated and found the tiniest bit of skunk carcass that she'd rolled in on purpose. Had no idea my dog would prefer eau de skunk to tomato juice.
In Vancouver BC there are skunks downtown. When I walk my brother's dog at night people always let dog walkers know if there's a skunk up ahead. Can't imagine bringing a skunky dog into a condo elevator.

Posted by: SundogsHawaii | July 16, 2014 12:23 PM    Report this comment

My mom had skunks living under her porch. Started by poking a ammonia soaked rag in his hole. He would push it out right away. So instead of in the hole, we put a container that could hold 3-4 inches of ammonia. Simple as this sounds it worked. If it rained, you replaced it so not diluted. Sometimes simple is best.

Posted by: Skunkslovwe | July 15, 2014 7:53 PM    Report this comment

My friend had her dog skunked over the weekend. While groomers might be a solution, I would love to pass on another option, aside from bathing the 4- and 2-legged residents and cleaning floors and carpets with hydrogen peroxide. Let's hope Brodie learn to leave them alone after this one incident. But, just in case.....would you please share your magic skunk-scent-erasing formula you used to bathe Otto?
Since we live with a Toller or 2 and camp regularly, we might not be spared the stinky mess ourselves and would gladly keep it handy.....just in case!
Thanks in advance.

Posted by: KarinC | July 15, 2014 2:49 PM    Report this comment

Oh that is a great story about saving the skunk with a jar on his/her head.....yes Karma for sure. We live in the country in a large lot subdivision and my neighbor who only has one dog......and two horses......regularly reports to me that she has seen a skunk. We have not seen one on our property yet.....we do have two secure fenced in yards attached to the house so the dogs usually view wildlife from the safety of the yard. Paws crossed a skunk does not dig into our yard.

Posted by: Olivia | July 15, 2014 1:47 PM    Report this comment

We have them in our neighborhood, too, and my dogs, instead of learning to leave them alone, became obsessed with getting them first! We had several spraying incidents every spring and summer for years, until the following event. I had fallen asleep in my recliner, the dogs on top of me, and woke suddenly to an odd sound just outside. It was as though someone was walking around the carport tapping on the trailer with a hammer. Then it went away, only to be heard moments later on the other side of the house. I went out on the deck to investigate, and soon saw a small skunk stagger out from under my car, with a jar on its head. I went down to see if I could get it off. Not finding any tool handy for holding him down while I pulled the jar off, I just used my left hand, holding his shoulders and doing Ttouches to calm him. He didn't seem terribly upset -- but the jar was on so tight I couldn't budge it. I expect he was oxygen-deprived by that point. But he sat back and used his "hands" to push as I pulled and twisted, and finally it came off. We were almost nose-to-nose, and I said, please don't spray! And he didn't, just walked away. That was 4 years ago, and my dogs haven't been sprayed since, even though the skunks are still there. Karma?

Posted by: LaurieR | July 15, 2014 10:02 AM    Report this comment

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