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Turtles And Dogs

Turtles and dogs can live together, but care needs to be taken. For starters, dogs have huge teeth and strong jaws that can crack open a turtle’s shell with ease.

While dogs are humans’ best friends, the same cannot be said for turtles. A  curious dog can easily injure and even kill a turtle. While most domestic dogs won’t attack a turtle, dog attacks on turtles are still very common.

Even a tame dog may be tempted to chew on a turtle. Dogs and turtles don’t mix. If you are to safely keep a dog and a turtle in the same household then you need to protect the turtle from the dog and never leave the two in a room unsupervised.

Dogs and turtles

Do Dogs Get Along With Turtles & Tortoises?

Chihuahua and two tortoises
Chihuahua and two tortoises

Dogs are excitable creatures and we love them for that. However, this behavior can be detrimental to other small animals. A dog that has never seen a turtle may be overly excited to meet one.

The curious dog may try to pick up the turtle or even chew on it which would be bad for the turtle. While dogs can be trained to cohabitate with turtles, this takes time and patience.

And even if the dog seems to be okay with the turtle, you still need to keep a close eye on both of them. Also, as already mentioned never leave a dog and a turtle alone unsupervised. Never.

Large turtles such as snapping turtles can also attack and harm small dogs.

Do Dogs Eat Turtles?

Dogs, even well-fed ones have been known to hunt reptiles and small rodents. It may be tempted to do the same to a turtle. The shells may be strong, but dogs can crack them.

I know you’re probably thinking, but I saw an alligator trying to eat one and it survived fine. The truth is it did survive, but had some injuries after.

While there is little evidence to suggest that dogs eat turtles, they have been known to chew on turtles. These dogs may have assumed that the pet turtles are chew toys.

Even if the dog doesn’t injure the turtle, its presence can be very stressful for the chelonian. While dogs don’t eat turtles, they have been known to chew on the turtle’s shell.

Signs That Your Dog May Attack Your Turtle

Fox terrier puppy on top of a hermann's tortoise
Fox terrier puppy on top of a Hermann’s tortoise

Before we get into this section, I’d like to remind you that even dogs that do not exhibit any of the following behaviors can still attack the turtle.

  • Barking
  • Growling
  • Chewing on the turtle or attempting to chew on the turtle
  • Crouching
  • Anxious behavior
  • Stalking

Any aggressive sign should be taken as a bad sign. Before you even consider introducing your turtle or tortoise to your dog, it is essential to know your dog’s temperament. And when in doubt just keep them away from one another.

Dog-Proofing A Turtle Tank

Dogs can knock over a turtle tank. The best and only way to truly dog-proof an indoor turtle aquarium is to deny the dog access to the room within which the turtle tank is kept. The tank must not be accessible to the dog.

Turtles Kept Outdoors And Dogs

Poodle on top of tortoise
Poodle on top of tortoise

Turtles kept in outdoor enclosures have a lot of predators to deal with. These include raccoons, coyotes, possums, foxes, rodents, and of course dogs (including strays).

Outdoor enclosures need to protect your turtles from wild predators and dogs as well. Here is what you need to do, if you want to ensure that the turtle is safely protected from dogs – that is to say ‘a dog-proof enclosure’.

Outdoor Turtle/Tortoise Pen

The Foundation

The trench for the walls around the enclosure needs to be deep. This prevents the turtle or tortoise from digging themselves out and stops other animals from digging under the wall. The trench needs to be about a foot or more deep.


The walls need to be at least 2 ft tall or twice the height of the turtle (choose the higher measurement). The height of the wall is to prevent the turtle from escaping.

Just having a high wall isn’t always enough as turtles have been known to stack up and climb over walls. Smooth walls (ex. wood panels) have proven effective at keeping turtles in.

Wire Mesh Lids

A wire mesh over the pen is a must. Wire mesh protects the turtles while allowing sunlight into the enclosure. Exposure to sunlight is essential, especially for turtles kept outdoors.

Since wire mesh is a lightweight material, it is easy to work with. A wire mesh cover should be easy to construct. The cover should allow access to the pen and should also act as the door of the pen.

The main disadvantage to this wire mesh lid is the type of plants you can grow within the enclosure. A shrub that grows to over 2 ft tall is out of the question.

In all a wire-mesh lid is the easiest way to protect your turtle from dogs.

Electric Fence

For large outdoor enclosures such as a turtle pond, a wire mesh lid won’t work. One way to predator-proof the enclosure is by installing electric fences around the perimeter.

This will help keep strays as well as neighboring dogs from the enclosure. When installing an electric fence, ensure you have a professional to help you. While not expensive, installation can be difficult.

Introducing The Turtle To The Dog

Fox terrier puppy sniffing a hermann's tortoise
Fox terrier puppy sniffing a Hermann’s tortoise

Even if you train the dog to be welcoming to the turtle, you still can’t leave them alone unsupervised.

Introducing puppies to turtles usually yields the best results. That way, the puppy grows up knowing the turtle is part of the family.

However, this isn’t always the case. If you wish to introduce a sub-adult or an adult dog to a turtle, the dog should be one that responds to basic commands positively, commands such as ‘stay’, ‘sit’, and ‘leave it’.

This ensures that you can safely control the dog during the initial introduction.

When you first introduce the dog to the turtle, the dog must be leashed. Look out for aggressive or excitable behavior.

Behaviors such as constantly sniffing, following, barking, pawing, and popping out at the turtle are bad signs. These behaviors stress out turtles.


Reptiles such as turtles carry salmonella. If a dog licks the turtle, it is in danger of transferring salmonella into its system.

Salmonella isn’t dangerous to only humans, dogs can also suffer from salmonella infection, also known as salmonellosis.

Some symptoms of salmonellosis include dehydration, depression, diarrhea, fever, increased heart rate, lethargy, refusal to eat, shock, skin disease, swollen lymph nodes, and vomiting.

While most dogs’ immune systems are strong enough to fight off the salmonella bacteria, older dogs and puppies are more susceptible to salmonellosis.

Dogs on antibiotics are also susceptible to salmonellosis. Dogs can spread the salmonella bacteria through saliva and fecal matter.


Dogs and other canids such as foxes and coyotes have very strong bites. As you may already know, dogs can crush most bones. With such bite force, a dog can crack a turtle’s shell in no time.

If for reasons unknown, your dog decides that your turtle is its new chew toy, then the turtle is in for a world of pain. Many dog parents mean well and many of us (not excluding me) humanize our dogs to the extent that we forget they still have their basal instincts.

While most dogs won’t attack a turtle, and both pets can live together for years without any problems, all it takes is one incident. Dogs aren’t perfectly harmless and it is our responsibility to keep dogs away from our turtles, and this includes any other predators.

If you have any questions or information, feel free to leave a comment below.

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