Story: Dogs vs. Groundhog

This summer we’ve had a lot of wildlife visitors. More than usual. All the youngsters who were born in the spring are now going through the animal kingdom’s version of being a teenager. As in:

  • They expect Mom and Dad to feed them. I hear fully fledged birds squawking to harried parents all day long. The youngsters sit inches away from the bird feeders, flapping their wings and opening their mouths like featherless nestlings, while mom–and dad–fill their kids’ beaks over and over and over again.
  • They explore their world, testing their independence. Dozens of young critters come to my yard–where there’s plenty to eat, lots of safe hiding spots, and friends to hang out with.
  • They think they’re invincible. A young dumb bunny let my son (and the three dogs attached to him ) get within ten feet before she decided to hop away.

Our visitors this year include squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and at least a dozen species of birds. And now a groundhog.

The result is at any one time my yard is filled with the young and the stupid. Or to my dogs, the fun and the squeaky. When they’re outside, Lilah, Jasper and Tucker know that a fully animated an eminently chaseable toy may appear at any given time. Such a fun surprise!

Protecting a yard full of wildlife

Before I let my dogs into my fenced in yard–every time–I perform a clearance maneuver, pushing my way through the lilacs, checking behind the rhododendrons and singing “Run away little squirrel” (to the tune of Go Away,Little Girl“–hey it amuses me and probably keeps the neighbors away) in the hopes of scaring away the foolish youngsters. 

I head back inside, leash my dogs and tour the yard with the pups, which should clear out anybody who I missed in my private patrol. The dogs are rewarded with treats every time we flush something out of the bushes and they don’t pull or bark. (You can find more info on how to protect backyard creatures in my post Keeping Wildlife Safe from Your Dogs.)

Usually within about ten minutes, I can call the yard clear and let the pups off their leashes–one  at a time. Even that is done in a strategic order : Tucker first because, while he is often the first to run after critters, he’ll stop in his tracks if neither of the other dogs follow. Then Lilah because she rarely chases anything; she leaves that silliness to the boys. And then Jasper. By the time Jasper is unleashed, Tucker may have forgotten what he was supposed to chase (oh look, a distraction!) and all three dogs will wander off.

My turn to meet the groundhog

Young Mr. G. Hog showed up one morning during my pre-dog rounds. I had my camera and took some pictures. He was busy munching clover. I don’t believe in a monoculture, picture-perfect lawn and don’t use weed killers, so there are lots of other plants mixed in with our grass.

The tubby furball didn’t notice me at first, so focused was he on nomming down on the tasty greens. Then his head popped up. His beady nearsighted eyes tried to focus on me as he decided if he needed to react.

Groundhog by my fence


Decision made, he waddled quite speedily to safety under my shed.


Groundhog runs under shed.

Running for cover

There he peered out at me, grumbling about rude humans interrupting his second breakfast.

Groundhog looks out from under shed.

But I wasn’t done yet!

When I brought Jasper, Lilah and Tucker outside a few minutes later, it was very obvious that they could smell Eau de Groundhogue. They followed every step Mr. Hog had taken, snorting up great gulps of groundhog smell. 

Three dogs share a sniff by the fence.

He was here. Right here! There’s enough sniff for everyone!


Jasper the dogs checks under the shed.

Ah, the smell of fresh groundhog in the morning.

When they got to the shed, Tucker did everything he could to smallen himself to squeeze underneath.

Dog tries to get under shed.

Maybe if I scrunch down, I can get under there.

Mr. Hog has shown up nearly every day since then. After a week or so, I thought he had learned to run when I showed up or he heard the tell-tale jingle of dog collars.

Let me introduce the dogs

But I guess he must have taken extra stupid pills Saturday morning because that foolish creature came waddling into the yard while I was sitting out back in the shade garden working on my blog. The dogs were loose.

The first I knew anything was amiss was when the dogs exploded away from their normal positions orbiting me. That’s when I saw Mr. Hog munching away at the clover, oblivious to the horde of mongrels charging his way.

We were all lucky that day. I had armed myself with a hose because I was tired of the dogs chasing some of the tinier critters that ventured out of their hidey holes. At numerous times throughout the day, the pups crashed through my azaleas, tromped on my hydrangeas and stomped on my hostas in hot pursuit. The hose–with appropriate spray nozzle attached and expertly aimed–not only discouraged the dogs from stampeding through my garden at strategic moments, but it also watered my plants.

Seeing the three dogs descending upon the groundhog, I yelled, “Leave it!” grabbed the hose and ran toward the fray–because by now the dogs and the hog had met up and I didn’t want to deal with the consequences of the impending altercation. It would not end well; this much I knew.

So there I was running through the yard, spraying water and yelling “Leave it!” at the top of my lungs.  Brave Mr. Hog stood his ground even with 70 pounds of Jasper trying to pounce him. Lilah watched from a safe distance. Tucker had seen the heavy artillery (the hose) heading his way, and made for the hills ( or at least the other side of the yard)

Calling in air support

Mr. Hog saw me coming. “Cover me!” he yelled and scrambled for the safety of the trenches…er…the shed. Jasper didn’t follow as there was a wall of water between him and the groundhog.

The dogs stuck their noses under the shed, hoping to get one last whiff of the portly intruder.

Three dogs sniff under the shed.

We know you’re in there!

Lilah headed back to her shady spot under the rhododendrons. Tucker took up watch by the maple trees. And Jasper lay down with a sign on his dog bed on the deck.

All was quiet on the western front. Until tomorrow.

Three dogs sitting by hosta

Ever vigilant, the dogs stand (sit?) watch.


Have your pets had interesting encounters with wildlife? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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9 Comments on "Story: Dogs vs. Groundhog"

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  1. There was a very stupid chipmunk munching away at a Cheeto on a trail we were on. Mr. N was about three feet away and getting ready to pounce when I held him back.

  2. MIley says:

    Oh Boy! I speak from experience, stay away from that groundhog!! Just last month one “tried” to have a play date with me and lets just say it didn’t end well. Now I just stick with the chipmunks, they keep me very busy!! BOL!

  3. Bongo says:

    I never seem to catch anything because it either escapes my yard or my leash runs short. But I’d rather catch the water anyway, so you can spray all the water you want on me.

  4. “Cover me!” Too funny! Rita has only had encounters with a bird. Sadly, it didn’t end well for the bird…

    Oh… and there was the mouse incident as well. Luckily nothing as big as a groundhog though!

  5. slimdoggy says:

    What a great story…I have to admit I love these kinds of stories. I have plenty of them, mostly with our dog Tino who lived by his wits for awhile before we rescued him. He was a proficient hunter and I was not as diligent as you about clearing our yard of critters. He scored rabbits, lizards, birds and even a possum, who you guessed it turned out to not really be dead – fun times.

  6. Wow! I thought we had it bad with our moles tunneling up our backyard! The boys and I would all three pass out if we saw a groundhog!

  7. Ann Staub says:

    I swear my yard is practically a zoo! Rabbits, possums, raccoons, skunk, armadillos, snakes, lizards… I probably missed something there. Shiner likes to chase things and has gotten into it with some creatures. Mr. Groundhog is adorable! That is definitely one creature we don’t have here! Also, congrats on the Petties. We are both in the same category 🙂 Good luck to you! I hope one of the two of us wins it.

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