Canine Training To Prevent Attacks On Sloths and Wildlife

Canine Training To Prevent Attacks On Sloths and Wildlife

Certain wild animals, such as our sweet sloths, are slow-moving and would not be able to hide quickly. They are no match for a fast-running dog. It is not the dog’s fault that they have this instinct, but it is entirely up to us as pet owners to ensure that our dogs are trained well and learn not to attack wildlife.


dog aggressive attack


No matter where you live in the world, you share a habitat with local wildlife. Dogs and wild animals may run into each other from time to time, and the results can be severe. We have to take steps to protect both our dogs and wildlife from these encounters so that both dogs and wild animals can coexist peacefully.


Teach The Command “Wait”

The command “wait” is the command you will most want to focus on first. Your dog doesn’t have to hold a particular position, like when you use the phrase “stay” after the dog lays down so that it continues to stay in that position. But using the “wait” command is a way to make sure your dog pauses before going any further.

The animal hospital Bond Vet – Garden City, NY advises that you should start training this command when your dog is still a puppy, even though older dogs do have the ability to learn this.

The easiest way to help your pup understand this command is to have them wait before eating and before going outdoors. Praise and treats are highly recommended as well to help encourage good behavior when your dog waits.


dog training


In order to do this accordingly, you might consider enrolling your dog in socialization classes or dog training programs to make sure that your dog understands your commands and will obey you, no matter the situation.

As your dog progresses in learning the “wait” command, you can begin to take it outdoors and practice on more considerable challenges, such as using a toy, and eventually, another animal.

Some dogs may be easier to train than others, with some being more susceptible to learning commands quickly. However, once you have a solid “wait” command instilled within your pup, you can work to prevent it from chasing and confronting wildlife.


dog attack wildlife

Training With A Barrier

If you want to work training your dog specifically with other animals, it is a good idea to start with a barrier between your dog and the animal. Then you can work to find that optimal distance where your dog will not react when spotting the other animal and work more on the “wait” command.

If you find that your dog is too anxious and wants to move towards the animal, continue to work away from the animal and see when your dog can focus more on you.

Once you have established contact and your dog is obeying the command, reward it with a treat. If you find that the dog can’t concentrate on the treat, you need to continue working on your distancing.

You can use alternative rewards for treats here as well, such as a simple pet or a favorite toy, so that your dog understands it is receiving an award for exercising the correct behavior.



Training with a Toy

If you want to start with a toy, leave it in the middle of the room and step away. Then when you see your dog come upon it, use your command “wait.” Make sure you work with your dog and only reward it when it obeys the order on the first go.

You can experiment with intentionally leaving the toy unattended and wait to see if your dog goes towards it, not thinking that you are watching. When the dog starts to sneak towards the toy, use the command and see how quickly your dog reacts.

If you continue to do this often, your dog will understand that you are, in a sense, always watching. Enforcing this command when your dog can’t see you will also help catch your dog in a situation where things can escalate so that you can jump right to the command to get your dog to obey fast.

You should also know that it is essential not to let the dog play with this toy since it is only to be used for training purposes, and you want the illusion for your dog to treat it as if it was a real, live animal.


dog toy trainning

Dogs and Sloths

Sloths are particularly vulnerable wild animals to dog attacks since they are unable to jump or run. Costa Rica has a vast dog problem when it comes to wildlife attacks and the Oh My Dog! initiative has been initiated to work and stop dog attacks.




People like to let their dogs roam freely outside, particularly in Costa Rica and other parts of the South Caribbean, and it is all too common for a dog to attack other people, dogs, and wildlife.

Our job as owners is to keep a close eye on our pets and have commands like “wait” at the ready to keep them from chasing after other animals.

After all, your dog also has the susceptibility to end up with an injury from attacking wildlife, not just the wildlife becoming injured.



Dog Contact with Wildlife

Even if you have a dog with impeccable training, there is always the possibility that your dog will act on instinct first and not listen to your command. Minimizing your dog’s contact with any wildlife is part of ensuring that both your dog and other wildlife are safe.

Some steps you can take to keep your dog from encountering wildlife:

  • Don’t leave food outside that might bring about other animals.
  • Don’t hike with your dog far into the woods, especially right at dawn or sunset, when more wild animals are active.
  • If you want to hike and have your dog come with you, it is safer to hike in a group so that other wild animals will keep their distance.
  • Keep your dog on a leash when outdoors, especially if hiking or in a location where there might be wild animals.

dog running trainning


Your dog’s urge to chase will be a strong one, but if you take the time to practice and work closely and frequently with your dog, it can overcome its urge. If your dog learns to look to you for permission and commands, it strengthens your bond and prevents your dog from acting solely on its instinctive responses.


Nicole McCray-


Oh My Dog Advances!

Oh My Dog Advances!

This month we want to share with you some exciting updates about one of our favourite sloth conservation initiatives: the ‘Oh My Dog!’ project. 

While dogs may be man’s “best friend”, they are also becoming a big problem for wildlife. In fact, with an estimated 1 billion dogs worldwide, our canine companions are predicted to become one of the biggest causes of animal extinctions in the future.

We already know that dog attacks are the second leading cause of death for wild sloths. But what can we do about it?


spay dog

The Challenge

If you visit Costa Rica, you will see dogs everywhere. While some of these animals are strays, the majority do actually have owners. There is a cultural tendency towards people allowing their dogs to roam freely during the day, and these unsupervised dogs are attacking people, other dogs, and wildlife (including sloths). Many of these dogs have also not been spayed or neutered, which results in lots of unwanted puppies further aggravating the situation. 

For the past year, we have been working with local organizations Puerto Viejo Dogs & Clinica Arroyo y Solano to spay and neuter dogs in the South Caribbean region, but we knew we had to do more to really have an impact.


Did you know that a single female dog can have on average 14 puppies per year?/Photo by Brett Cole

Organizing castration clinics in low-income areas

This year we are organizing several major castration clinics in which approximately 90 dogs will be sterilized. These clinics will take place in low-income and indigenous areas, and we aim to run a minimum of 4 per year – perhaps even more if we are able to generate additional funding. 

In order to make this happen, we arranged a meeting last week with the Mayor of Talamanca, Puerto Viejo Dogs, and the regional heads of SENASA (who are in control of domestic animals in Costa Rica). It was an incredibly important and productive meeting and is a huge step in the right direction to fulfilling this goal. 


Sarah Kennedy and Cecilia Pamich from SloCo, and Monica Moscarella from Puerto Viejo Dogs

Helping Sloths and Sea Turtles

Tortuguero is a town, and a national park, in the North Caribbean region of Costa Rica and it is also a high-risk area with a lot of unsupervised dogs. This location is a prime nesting spot for endangered sea turtles which lay their eggs on the beach every year.

There are more dogs than people in Tortuguero and the majority are free-roaming. These dogs are attacking and killing the endangered sea turtles, and also digging up the nests to eat the eggs.

Together with the local authorities, SINAC, Asociación de Voluntarios para áreas protegidas (ASVO), and the Sea Turtle Conservancy, we are working together to sterilize as many dogs in that area as possible, whilst also educating the local community.


sea turtle conservancy

The ‘Oh My Dog!’ Academy

We are also incredibly excited to have launched our first ‘Oh My Dog! Academy’ last week! We brought in professional dog trainers from San Jose to help us educate local dog owners and to prevent future attacks on wildlife. 

There is no dog training available in the South Caribbean region and as a lot of people have dogs with a high prey drive, working dogs, or large breeds, it is difficult for people to properly train these animals. 



With the help of local businesses Statshu’s Con Fusion and Casa Verde Lodge who provided us with the spaces for the course, we taught over 30 dogs last week (…and humans, because really it is the humans who need the training, not the dogs)! We will be hosting frequent academy courses throughout the year and we are confident that this is going to really help to reduce the number of dogs that are attacking sloths in the region. 

I truly believe that by working together like this we can instigate real, positive change. We are so incredibly grateful to all of those people who took the time out of their busy schedules to bring their dogs for training, and to all of our supporters who make it possible for us to run our projects every day. We couldn’t do it without you!



-Sarah Kennedy

Director of Education and Outreach

Oh My Dog! Manager



Why Sloths Celebrate Spay Day

Why Sloths Celebrate Spay Day

Today we are celebrating World Spay Day, and we have some very exciting news to share with you!

Where we live and work, in the South Caribbean of Costa Rica, dogs are steadily becoming one of the biggest problems that wild sloths face. In fact, dogs are now the second leading cause of death for wild sloths. A big part of this stems from the fact that dogs are often left to roam unsupervised around the areas where sloths live. Not only are these dogs attacking sloths as they move between trees on the ground, but they are also creating another big problem – unwanted street puppies. If dogs are allowed to roam freely and they are also not spayed or neutered – this only continues to exacerbate the problem.


spay dog sloth
                                                                   Photo: PetBase



For the last year, we have been working closely with dog rescue organization Puerto Viejo Dogs and the veterinary clinic Arroyo & Solano to help spay & neuter dogs in the local community. Together we spayed and neutered over 120 dogs in 2020… but we want to do more!


dog sloth spay
One of the dogs we spayed last year!


Surveying the community

This year we are determined to reach more dogs, help more people and to make the South Caribbean a safer place for wildlife. 

To do this we are carrying out surveys in the local community to gain a deeper understanding of the differences in attitudes towards dog ownership and the role that dogs play (we can’t expect to fix a problem without properly understanding it first!).

One of the most important things that we want to learn is what local residents think the biggest problems with dogs are in their area. 


dog survey spay


As you can see from our results so far, the biggest problems people report are:

  1. Owners not being responsible with their pets
  2. Attacks on wildlife
  3. Dogs not being on a leash
  4. Stray dogs.



dog survey spay

When we look at what people think is the best solution, the top 2 answers we receive are: more castration campaigns (that are free or cheaper) and dog training courses. So this year, we are implementing both!


Spay and Neuter campaigns to reach every dog

Our aim this year is to run 4 major castration campaigns, particularly in low-income areas and indigenous communities. These campaigns will all be free or subsidized for the local people. 

We will also be running a castration campaign in Tortuguero; a remote town located in the North Caribbean of Costa Rica. This area is one of the top places for turtle nesting, particularly for the endangered green sea turtle.


Tortuguero Beach ©Adrian Hepworth


In Tortugero dogs are causing a big problem for local wildlife by attacking not only sloths, but also turtles and their eggs. We are working with local organizations in Tortuguero to spay and neuter 90 dogs this year!

Training our dogs to help sloths

Starting in March, we will be hosting the first dog training courses in the South Caribbean.

We are going to bring professional dog trainers into our community and we will specifically focus on large dogs, dog breeds that have a high prey drive, and dogs that have already attacked wildlife.

We hope that by giving people the right tools, access to training and castrations, we will be able to substantially reduce the number of dog attacks on wildlife in the region. 


When sloths are on the ground they are very vulnerable to dog attacks, and they can´t defend themselves against this.


Let’s celebrate Spay Day together!

While it may seem a bit strange for us to be celebrating Spay Day, helping dogs also means helping sloths! Through this project we are hopeful that we can further enhance the peaceful coexistence of humans and wildlife in Costa Rica, and ultimately create a safer world for sloths. 

If you would like to learn more about this project, you can find more information here


spay dog


Thank you so much for your continued support of all of our work, we couldn’t do it without you! 


-Sarah Kennedy

Director of Education & Outreach

Oh My Dog! Coordinator