I received this question a few days ago from someone who was concerned about reports she’d heard of raccoons climbing onto swimming dogs’ heads with the intention of drowning them.
In short, the answer to this question is no. A raccoon does not have a motivation to chase a large predator into water and climb on its head. They’re capable swimmers on their own, and most raccoons have a natural instinct to avoid dogs. However, I talked to a couple of game wardens to find out where this myth may have come from.
When a raccoon is cornered or frightened, such as when it is being hunted by a pack of coon dogs or chased by an improperly contained pet, it naturally flees to either trees or water, because these are places a raccoon can usually out-maneuver a predator. If the dog keeps chasing the raccoon and catches up to it in the water, the raccoon will try to survive by climbing on whatever part of the dog is most accessible, so it can fight back. This is not an act of aggression, but of self defense. I could find no cases of a dog actually drowning from these altercations.
It’s easy to see how a frightened pet owner might interpret a raccoon’s defensive instincts as an attempt to lure and drown their pet, but there is no malice in an animal’s attempts to flee from danger or to defend itself from a large predator.
It’s always important to keep your pets properly contained and separated from wildlife. Raccoons and dogs do sometimes end up in ugly altercations, particularly when the raccoon has been raised around dogs, when a dog is fed outdoors, or when dogs are willingly used to hunt raccoons for their fur. But most of the time, a dog is a much bigger risk to a raccoon than the other way around. A raccoon will not make an unprovoked effort to drown your dog.