Would our Jack Russell Terrier challenge raccoons?
May 27, 2014 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Will our Jack Russell terrier challenge raccoons which might try to enter house through doggy door when we are gone on vacation?

We have a three year old, male, Jack Russell terrier-Queensland heeler mix. He is super-smart, very protective, and very brave. Tully weighs about 21 lbs. and is the height of a JRTerrier, so he's a fairly small dog. In June we'll be away from home for about a week, leaving him in the care of a friend who will come by to feed and pet him daily.
Lately he has been barking fiercely in the middle of the night for no clear reason, but I think he's barking at urban raccoons who may be trying to enter the house via his doggy door. We have had raccoons enter this way before, when we had an elderly Queensland heeler who chose to completely ignore them. (Discretion is the better part of valor.) So far, there has been no evidence that raccoons have come into the house, but I do strongly suspect that they are hanging around the doggy door.
I know that raccoons are known for their fearlessness, and that they can get vicious in a fight.
I'm concerned about his safety. If we put him into a kennel, he will be tremendously unhappy and may lapse into nervous chewing and other bad behaviors.
Please help me decide what to do. Thanks, everyone.
posted by ragtimepiano to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
We hire folks to house/pet sit. Gives me peace of mind about my kitties and my house.

Sounds like you want to shut the doggie door at night, and having a sleeping in the house sitter will allow you to do it.

Raccoons are fierce and sometimes rabid. They are NOT critters I'd want to tangle with and wouldn't want my pet to tangle with them either.

I found that one of our interns was more than willing to housesit. Cost me $100 and a full fridge. Money well spent.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:44 PM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I was a home and garden reporter, I interviewed a bunch of people about raccoons (humane society, exterminators, county vector control). I would never leave my house open (via doggy door) for a week. Those little beasts have hands! And your house has free dog food!

Seriously, I would find a place for the dog to go.
posted by purpleclover at 12:49 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about installing an RFID doggy door that only opens for your dog when he is wearing the corresponding ID collar? Depending on the length of your vacation, it might cost less than the kennel or a dogsitter.
posted by elizardbits at 12:55 PM on May 27, 2014 [8 favorites]

Raccoons are crazy. Especially ones that are bigger than your dog. Seriously find your dog a house sitter.
posted by radioamy at 1:02 PM on May 27, 2014

If I had raccoons I would use RFID locks on the dog door even when I was home, no question. And the dog would not be allowed free access at night whether I was home or not (in part because of the barking).

As adorable as the little shitweasels are, they get real bold in domestic areas where they feel entitled to food. They will gang up and attack an animal or a person even when they're not rabid, but they also get rabies. I know they can kill a cat, I suspect they could kill or badly wound a JRT.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:08 PM on May 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

A raccoon can kill a dog many times the size of a JRT and will do so to get at food or to protect its young. They can be very aggressive and uninhibited. You got very, very lucky with your Heeler. You are right to be nervous. Get a house sitter, lock the doggy door, and enjoy the resultant peace of mind during your vacation.
posted by quince at 1:16 PM on May 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

even if it isn't rabid, a raccoon is a formidable, nasty thing with nasty teeth and claws which could do major damage to a small dog which confronts it. a jack russell, particularly if it still has its balls, is game for the fight. seal the doggie door when you're away, have someone come by periodically to take it out for a walk and a poop.
posted by bruce at 1:17 PM on May 27, 2014

A few years back there was a friendly neighborhood cat on my street that lost part of an ear and sustained a bunch of other injuries in a raccoon fight - racoons fight with each other quite a bit and are generally not afraid to take on other animals; it would be a really good idea to keep your little buddy away from them as much as possible.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:25 PM on May 27, 2014

A raccoon has entered our house once via the dog door and they enter our yard (in an urban setting) about twice/month. My JRT goes ballistic. I would not leave him in a scenario like this.
posted by judith at 2:18 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Keep the dog food away from the doggy door. Move the garbage cans away from outside the doggy door. Buy some raccoon repellent and sprinkle it outside near your house.

A raccoon will almost certainly win in a fight with a Jack Russel and a Jack Russel will initiate the fight so keep them apart.
I disagree that raccoons are crazy. Raccoons are quite measured, intelligent and clever and will move along to an easier food source if the price is a fight. It ends up being similar to how you protect your car from being broken into - don't have anything available and worth the effort.
posted by vapidave at 2:38 PM on May 27, 2014

In addition to RFID doors, there are microchip pet doors which you can program to open only to your dog's microchip (assuming he is chipped. If not a vet can easily and quickly do it.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:53 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, your dog will go after the racoons and yes, they will come in through your dog door after his food. And they will also do it in broad daylight, not just at night. At least the racoons in Humboldt County will. We have had racoons in the kitchen, bathroom and even upstairs (open window). With you being gone the racoons could move in and it would be ugly.

I have a 23 lb cairn and he will not back down. He has killed numerous voles and countless gophers and will bark at anything that even looks at the fence. I shut the dog door down at night and sometimes during the day.

When I go out of town I board him with friends. I know he would be fine at home by himself for a few days with someone checking on him but the idea that those damn racoons could get in the house just freaks me out.
posted by cairnoflore at 5:17 PM on May 27, 2014

We have cats, and we have had raccoons enter the cat door on several occasions. They came in and snacked on cat food (of course). One night I woke up to this loud, persistent banging noise coming from the kitchen. It was a raccoon who had grabbed the cat feeder (not my cat, just to show the size of the feeder), and had dragged it through the kitchen and was trying to push it out the cat door.

One more night of that and it ended the nocturnal open cat door. Some months later, I decided to see if we could finally open back the cat door at night, and so I set up a night vision camera outside the cat door, sure enough, there was a raccoon just checking things out. They had not forgotten and were doing nightly rounds. A year later, they were still at it.

They are tenacious, and smart, and mostly try to avoid trouble. But it came down to imagining one of the cats corned in the house by a raccoon, and how ugly that could get. So, the cats don't get to go out at night now, or when we are gone over night.

Get a dog sitter. That would be my choice, but some dogs do very well at kennels and like the social atmosphere, so I wouldn't rule that out. Maybe do a trial visit at one and see how he does. Or find a professional dog sitter that will come a couple times a day and take him out for walks etc.
posted by nanook at 7:03 PM on May 27, 2014

As a lifelong terrier owner, there's no way I'd risk it -- terriers are tenacious scrappers, and given your personality description of your little guy, I'd bet money on Tully going right after a raccoon. The outcome would almost certainly be tragic.

Secure the dog door, and hire a professional sitter who can give him more time and attention than your friend may be able to. Alternatively, look into seeing if you can board him with a sitter in a setting with other dogs where he won't be confined to a cage -- that may help prevent nervousness, chewing, etc.
posted by scody at 12:16 AM on May 28, 2014

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