Our beloved pet dogs do come into conflict with western ringtail possums, sometimes causing injury or death. Predation of western ringtail possums by domestic dogs is listed in the threatening processes of the Western Ringtail Possum Recovery Plan. The plan puts the threat into perspective with the levels of dog ownership in Busselton being four to eight times greater per hectare than the average fox density in the south-west forests.
However, it is possible for dogs to coexist in harmony with possums. So what can we do as dog owners?
Sleeping indoors with the family pack
The best way to reduce the threat is to keep our dogs indoors while possums are foraging and moving through the landscape at night. Dogs can easily be trained to toilet before we go to bed and as we get up in the morning. There are other benefits to having your dog stay indoors as dogs do not have the superior ability for night-vision like cats do. If they cannot distinguish what something is at night-time they can resort to excessive barking and even develop anxiety issues. Dogs are pack animals and denning indoors with the family is the most natural sleeping situation for them.
While transitioning your dog to sleeping indoors, you may need to supervise their toileting. Go outside with them before bed to ensure they are focused on the task of toileting before sleep. We can help them stick to the task by rewarding positive recalls and rewarding toileting. By focusing attention to the owner and giving rewards, we can shift the focus away from any possum that may be present. You might call it possum aversion training.
Possum Friendly Fencing
If your dog needs to stay outdoors at night-time when possums are out and about, there are fencing options available that can help to protect possums. Click the link below for more information.