Can a Hawk Pick Up a Dog?

Aerodynamically, it is impossible for any raptor to lift an animal outweighing it. Since an average hawk weighs merely 1-3 pounds. Therefore, hawks picking up dogs is quite a rare event. That said, hawks have been reported to uplift dogs of small stature. 

A hawk’s inability to pick up a dog does not guarantee the dog’s safety.


Because a hawk can still cause significant damage to a large dog. 

Here’s what you’re going to discover in this article

  • How do hawks attack dogs?
  • What size dog can a hawk pick up?
  • Why do hawks attack dogs?
  • Can you shoot a hawk attacking your dog?
  • How you can protect your dog from hawks?
  • Which hawks are most likely to attack a dog?

As you can see there’s plenty to talk about

So if you have a small dog and there are hawks in your area – you’re going to love this article!

Or if you’re a hawk lover or maybe just interested in hawks, then this article is for you too!

Sound good?

Let’s get started!

How Do Hawks Attack Dogs?

Normally, hawks prefer a surprised victim.

And so, a hawk would sneak up from above, bomb dive the victim, and grab it within its talons. If the victim is small enough, the hawk will squeeze the life out of it and fly away with dead prey. However, 

Most dogs are large enough to not get squashed merely by hawk talons.

So, a hawk will likely target the spine of a dog, making the victim paralyzed. Though, eating such a large prey on the crime scene would be an easier thing. 

However, a hawk does not like to take such risks. So, if the dog is:

  1. Small enough to be carried away, the hawk will take it somewhere safe to eat.
  2. Too large to be taken away, the hawk will tear open the dog’s stomach and eviscerate it. This significantly lowers the victim’s weight and may allow the hawk to fly away with it.

But if the removal of intestines does not lessen much weight, the hawk may have to devour its prize on the spot. Consequently, hawks get caught in the act and may not be able to eat their prey at all. Therefore, 

Most hawks avoid targeting dogs.

That said, hawks are opportunistic hunters. And if given a chance, they would not hesitate to take away a small dog. But,

What Size Dog Can a Hawk Pick Up?

Typically, no more than 2 pounds. 

A hawk is a medium-sized raptor with a 1-meter wingspan and roughly 2-pounds weight. However, even the fiercest of raptors cannot defy principles of physics. And so, it is impossible for a hawk to uplift a dog larger than itself. Since an average dog is about 10-15 pounds in weight. Therefore,

A hawk can pick up only the smallest of dogs. 

But even the small dogs, say adult chihuahuas are about 6-7 pounds in weight. Therefore, hawks usually target pups of 1-2 pounds. For instance, 8-week-old Terriers or Pomeranians. 

Additionally, hawks can consume several other types of animals such as rabbits, mice, snakes, toads, and lizards. Therefore,  

It is safe to assume that a hawk will not attack most dogs.

Still, hawks have been reported to attack dogs smaller than 20-pounds, typically eviscerating them or eating away their meaty portions. While most of such incidences are overly exaggerated and highlighted. 

However, one may wonder,

Why Do Hawks Attack Dogs?

Mostly to protect their offspring or to express territorial behavior

But sometimes out of sheer hunger

You see, hawks tend to avoid unnecessary fights, especially if they can potentially lose.

Therefore, most hawks don’t prey on larger mammals like dogs.

So, a hawk attacking dogs is quite unusual and may involve the following reasons: 

1. Protecting Offspring

Hawks, like other animals, are immensely protective of their young ones.

These raptors don’t hesitate to attack anyone approaching their established nests. 

Parent hawks can be so fierce that when a hawk is nesting nearby, even crows don’t fly around much.


A nesting hawk may even dive-bomb a human to protect its babies.

Therefore, a hawk may attack any dog to defend its babies. 

2. Territorial Behavior

During the breeding season, hawks experience a surge in hormones.

And so, they become more territorial than usual. 

Perhaps, hawks attack dogs to demonstrate their dominance.  

Besides, birds lose their sense of judgment with hormonal imbalance.

They take unnecessary fights, simply because they cannot decide if certain actions are risky or dangerous.

3. Hunger

Hawks can consume a variety of animals.

Therefore, most hawks don’t need to prey on dogs.

However, lack of resources may drive a hawk to attack dogs out of hunger. 

This is most common during winters or migratory seasons.

4. Habitat Destruction

With humans destroying natural habitats and ecosystems, wild animals are frequently coming into urban areas.  

Perhaps a hawk attacked a pet dog because he is stressed from changing surroundings.

Still, a hawk would still prefer eating chickens or cats than a dog. 

Now if you see a hawk attacking your dog, I’m sure you would want to protect it

Question is..

Can I Shoot a Hawk Attacking My Dog?

Absolutely not.

I understand that you are worried about the safety of your beloved pet.

But, raptors are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Under this law, it is illegal to injure, trap, kill, torture, shoot or poison hawks.

The violation of this law can result in up to a $30,000 fine or up to 6-months in jail. 

Besides, a hawk is an innocent raptor that is only following its natural instincts.

It does not attack out of spite, rather from its very nature.

 A hawk rarely attacks a dog.

So if you can’t attack a hawk

How can you protect your dog from them?

Let’s find out..

How Can I Protect My Small Dog From Hawks?

Well, ask the hawk to cross its heart and promise not to attack your dog.


I do wish it worked like that. 

Jokes aside, protecting your dog from hawks is pretty simple. You can do so by,

1. Supervising

Hawks understand that they cannot take on a human.

Therefore, your presence around your dog will discourage prospective hawk attacks. 

I suggest you:

  1. Always accompany them outside.
  2. Give them food indoors as lowering their necks can make them more vulnerable.
  3. Take all your dogs out together.
  4. Do not let your dog roam freely

2. Sheltering

Since hawks tend to observe their prey and then swoop down from above.

Therefore, blocking their view will significantly reduce danger to a small dog.

I recommend:

  1. Getting kennels with the wired roof.
  2. Allowing your dogs to sit under some shed or covering.
  3. Netting the surroundings with a 4-inch meshwork. 

This will also hinder other dog predators such as bears, foxes, coyotes, feral dogs.

3. Hawk-Proofing

You may do so by,

  1. Removing perching areas in surroundings.
  2. Installing roosting spikes on your walls.
  3. Putting life-sized owl statues around your place to scare away the hawk. But to make it look convincing, you may need to change their location every other day.
  4. Hanging reflective tape, old CDs, optical rods, or even aluminum foil. This will make your place seem odd to a hawk, making him avoid it altogether.

4. Removing Food Resources

If your lawn is a home to pests and small birds, then a hawk will love coming to your place.

Therefore, I suggest you,

  1. Remove bird feeders or shelter them enough. 
  2. Don’t encourage birds eating on the ground such as doves, roadrunners, grouse, and quails.
  3. Get rid of mice, voles, hamsters, and lizards around your place
  4. Reduce insects.
  5. Not feed the pets outside. The leftovers will attract numerous other animals.

5. Others

You can manage hawk visits around your place by:

  1. Shooing them with a flashlight.
  2. Changing your pet’s schedules, thereby, surprising the hawk.
  3. Getting reflective or talon-proof vests for your dog.
  4. Calling in wildlife services.

That said, owls are the most common dog attacking raptors.

You can easily discourage them by keeping your dog indoors during the night. 

Even eagles as majestic as golden eagles, cannot lift a dog weighing more than 7 pounds. 

And so, hawks don’t and won’t normally attack dogs.

Therefore, you may still do well without most of these precautions.

But if you are wondering,

Which Hawks Are Most likely to Attack a Dog?

Again, hawks prefer not to attack dogs. 

But if a hawk can lift a dog, it will leave no opportunity to hunt it. 

A raptor’s weigh picking capacity is roughly around its own weight.

Based on how much weight a hawk can pick up, the following hawks are most likely to attack a dog.

Habitat Usual Prey Weightlifting Capacity
Ferruginous Hawk Largest hawk in North America Jackrabbits, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, cottontails, pocket gophers. 3-4 lbs.
Northern Goshawk Coniferous, Deciduous, Dense Forests Squirrels, rabbits, lizards, snakes, grouse, insects. 0.8-2.6 lbs.
Red-Tailed Hawk Adaptable to all places. Thrives in deserts, Tundra, grassland forests, sub-urban area. Squirrels, rodents, snakes, rabbits, chipmunks, lizards, turtles, insects. 1.5-3 lbs.
Cooper’s Hawk Open woodlands to mixed forests Robins, jays, flickers, reptiles, squirrels. 1-1.2 lbs.
Sharp-shined Hawks Forested areas Chickens, rodents, insects 0.5 lbs.

Related articles you may be interested in

How long do hawks stay in one area?

Why do hawks circle?

When do hawks hunt chicken?

Do hawks eat crows?

Do hawks eat owls?

Do hawks eat lizards?

Do hawks eat rabbits?

Wrapping Up 

Hawks cannot lift animals outweighing them.

So, unless a dog is unusually small a hawk cannot grab and fly away with it.

And so, a hawk attacking a dog is quite a rare event.

However, a nesting or hungry hawk may still attack a dog.

They can become very territorial of their nests!

If you are concerned about your dog, you can discourage hawks around your place by following simple precautions.

Whatever you do, don’t ever shoot hawks. 

This is illegal and can land you with heavy fines or even in jail!


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