I found these tracks in the front yard of my parent’s house. The grass was freshly mown, and there was exposed mud. The yard was very saturated due to all the rainfall in the month of April. I also found some fresh, wet tracks on the front deck.
The animals that I narrowed down to making these tracks were something in the dog or cat family. Because my family owns both as pets, I then narrowed the tracks down by size. I could noticeably tell these were dog tracks. I obviously know that my family owns 3 dogs, and they are loose in the yard all the time, but besides that I was able to identify them. The first tracks I found were in the mud. I could discern a difference between tracks of those in the dog family, and those of the cat family. I could also clearly see 4 defined toes, and a heel pad. Nails were also present in the track.
The tracks on the deck were a bit more blurry and hard to define linearly. But, again I was able to narrow down what left the tracks. These tracks also led up a set of stairs from those in the mud, so I can only assume the same pet dog left them. (He did, I watched him J!)
Natural History: A way to tell a difference between cat and dog tracks is not only size, but the setup or layout of toes and heel pad. On a dog track you can draw an X between the toes and around the heel pad. On a cat, the X would cut into the heel pad.
Also, according to Stokes track pattern of the domestic dogs is rarely perfect. Their hind feet don’t often fall in the place of the front feet, but off to the side. If I were able to observe a long set of tracks, even just 6-10 feet long, I might have been able to see this pattern. Also, domestic dogs tend to drag their feet, and the drag mark can show. Had these tracks been in the snow or packed sand or even mud, I might have been able to see this characteristic. Lastly, the domestic dog track is rarely in a straight line. It can be a meandering trail, which their wild cousins can’t afford. A fox or coyote usually have a purpose for getting from A to B, not taking a walk around the yard. I think the tracks I found were of this effect- and curious puppy took a walk, and led him through the mud (this is his first spring!), and up the stairs and across the deck.
For future study: Why do domestic dogs drag their feet when walking? I’ve observed this when taking my dog for a walk on cement or pavement; I can hear the nail drags. Is it pure laziness that has been bred into the Canis familiaris? Do they not need to “worry” about that drag? Also, why do wild dogs not typically afford themselves the luxury of a meandering stroll? I know their lives are all about existing long enough to reproduce, and that means they’re often busy with young, breeding, or finding food….but you’d think there would be more often meanderings than the Stokes are giving credit for!
The culprit: Ziggy!
For more expert information than my own, John Van Niel's blog.