Contrary to myth, porcupines can't shoot their quills at a target. This is why it is rare for a leashed to dog to get quills in them. Dog's get stuck with the painful quills when their curiosity brings them in too close to the animals for a sniff or a tentative bite. Then, the porcupine's defense mechanism lodges in the poor dog's muzzle. The quills detach from the small mammal and stay in the dog. The following tips can help you both minimize your dog's porcupine injury risk, while also providing information on what to do if your pup does get quilled.
Tip #1: Porcupine proof your yard
For many dogs, the one place where they roam free is in the yard. Fencing in your yard with fencing that goes down to the ground can help keep porcupines out, although it isn't foolproof since porcupines can hide. It's also a good idea to keep brush piles to a minimum, since these can provide cover for a foraging porcupine. If these animals are an issue in your area, get in the habit of checking the yard before letting your dog out. Porcupines are generally nocturnal, and they make a heavy wheezing noise, so a quick listen may be all you need to do after dark.
Tip #2: Monitor the trees
Porcupines nest in trees during the day. Take a few minutes to look up into your tree canopies for any dark shapes on large branches or against the trunk. If you see one, you may have a porcupine setting up home in your yard. Call in an animal control company to have it removed before your dog has an unfortunate run-in with the animal.
Tip #3: Stop the pawing
If your dog is quilled, your first job is to prevent them from pawing at their face and pushing the quills in further. Wrap your dog in a towel or put a cone-shaped collar on them immediately. Check your dog carefully. If any quills are in the mouth or eyes, pushed under the skin, or if there are more than just a few quills, take your dog into the vet immediately. The vet will likely anesthetize your pup so they can remove the quills and treat any injuries without further pain.
Tip #4: Pull them out yourself
If there are only a few quills in non-major areas, such as the paws or muzzle, you can pull them out yourself. Using pliers, grasp a quill as close to the skin as possible and pull straight out. You will need to make sure every quill is removed, though, otherwise they can work in deeper and cause major injury. This is why it is a good idea to schedule a vet visit as soon as you are able. The vet may also want to prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection, or an antihistamine if your dog is showing signs of irritation.