Please click on the tabs to go to a subject

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Catching a Scared Dog

Good Samaritans should exercise caution when approaching any dog – especially scared, shy or skittish dogs.  Scared dogs can bite out of self preservation.  Also if the dog is stray we don’t know his or her vaccination history.

It’s normally best to get the advice and assistance of a competent professional.
Some things a professional might advise:

First, some don’ts
The most dangerous thing you can do is corner the dog in order to catch her.
And since most humans cannot run as fast as dogs, chasing the dog is often futile and dangerous. Additionally, you will loose any trust that the dog might have and might even scare the dog from the location
Beware of people who want to help.  Having too many people around will scare the dog away.

Now for the do’s
The safest thing to use would be a humane trap. Good Samaritans can carry the trap by the handles and hopefully avoid being bitten.  Also if the dog can be trapped during a time when a vet is open, the dog can go straight to the vet in the trap for vaccinations and/or other treatments.
Actually it is best to have a plan in mind for when the dog is trapped. Map out the closest emergency vet and also the closest human emergency room or acute care center just in case there are any injuries.
People who use traps must be willing to monitor the trap at all times and should plan on a way to lift and transport the trap with the animal inside (a van or SUV might be necessary). Depending on the size of the dog, this might require more than one person
Be sure to use a gravity trap like the ones sold here . This site also has use instructions. Check your local humane societies, shelters, or animal control facilities to see if they will rent a trap to you.  Also check feed stores or home supply stores to see if they have any for sale or rent.
Do NOT use spring loaded traps. They are too dangerous. And even if they don’t hurt the dog, the spring action can scare a dog. Might scare the dog enough that he/she doesn’t return to the area.

Some dogs are trap savvy or trap leery so you might have to experiment:
- Try extra stinky or extra tasty food
– Raw green tripe (can’t be found in grocery stores)
– Sardines (salt free)
– Rotisserie chicken

Experiment with the size of the trap.  You might need one that is much bigger than the dog
Experiment with the location – a quiet, wooded area away from a road would be best
Experiment with camouflage – cover with branches so it looks more natural

You might have to put a towel or something on the floor of the trap. Use a towel that is the same coloring at the area where the trap is set (i.e. green or brown or cement colored, etc..)
Or if the dog is frequenting an area, set up some type of shelter for the dog – like a sturdy box or large dog house, with an opening the size of the opening of the trap. Once the dog is regularly using the shelter, then put the trap inside.

If trapping just doesn’t seem to work, you might try slowly relocating the dog until you can get her into an enclosed area.  This is much easier if the dog is hanging out close to your house or close to the house of someone willing to help.
Feed the dog daily at the same time.  Move the bowl a couple of inches each day. Eventually move it a couple of feet a day until hopefully you have the dog all the way into a backyard. Then close the gate. Then go from there – remember not to corner the dog even if he is safely in a yard.

If slowly moving the dog to a safe location is not an option, the next thing to try is to get the dog’s trust.
You will need a slip leash for this.
To gain her trust, do not look directly at her. Sit on the ground with your side or back to her while holding something really interesting – a weeny, sardines, etc.. It might even help to consume food in her presence.
Never walk towards her in a straight line.  Wait a while before approaching. See if you can get her to approach you.  If that doesn’t work, then you can try approaching in an arc – your side to her side.
You can try crying, whimpering, or moaning while sitting or lying down with your head in your hands.
Normally the smaller you look to the dog, the less threatening you will appear.  Some people like lying down. I’ve found better success with crunching up on my knees in a ball with my head in my hands.

You can also get on all fours and scratch at the ground while looking down. Like you are digging for something really interesting.
It wouldn’t hurt to try yawning – a doggie calming gesture.
If you can get the dog to eventually come to you and let you touch him/her (be aware this is dangerous), you might be able to get a slip leash over her head.

For some dogs, hanging out trying to make friends is just too much pressure.  For those dogs, you might just have to toss a tasty treat and walk off.  Continue to leave lower value food out for meals so the dog stays the same area but don’t hang around when the dog eats.

At first just toss one tasty treat (raw green tripe, sardines, etc..) and leave immediately.
Later you can try to toss a treat and leave, then come right back, toss another treat and leave. And continue from there.  This takes pressure off the dog.
Hopefully the dog will start to follow you. If it appears that the dog wants to follow, you might consider tossing a treat behind the dog to create more distance then walking off again.  This takes off more pressure – but be sure not to frighten the dog while tossing the food.

Eventually, you can drop treats behind you as you walk off to encourage more following.
Hopefully, eventually, you can just sit and the dog will try to hang out in the same area where you are.

If so, next is getting the dog used to the slip leash
Try a clicker for this.  Use a quiet clicker like the iclick and click behind your back or click while the clicker is in your pocket. Don’t point the clicker at the dog like it’s a remote control.  Click once and toss a treat to see if the clicker scares the dog. If it does, don’t use it. If it doesn’t frighten the dog, then proceed
Leave the leash on the ground. If the dog looks at it, click/treat
If the dog approaches, c/t
If the dog sniffs, c/t
If the dog touches, c/t
Next hold the leash up, c/t, put the leash down. Do this several times
Next hold the lash up, move it closer to the dog, c/t treat, put it back down
Don’t move to the next step until you can tell that the dog is happy about the last step. Don’t keep going if the dog is scared.
Eventually, you can touch the dog with the leash, c/t
Do this several times then try putting it over the dog’s head. Be aware of the danger of biting.
This process could take several days, several weeks, or several months. It depends on the dog.
Then use treats dropped on the ground to lead the dog to your residence or your vehicle. Don’t tug on the slip leash.

Have a plan in mind to get he slip leash off the dog. A slip leash should never be left on an unattended dog. See slip leash details below.
Even though this dog might appear to be feral, she might have a family looking for her. So be  sure to look for the original owners and scan the dog for a microchip.
If you are leaving food out but you are not sure if the dog is eating it or not:
- Wet the dirt around the food bowl
- Put down some flour or other power
Then check for foot prints – sometimes you might find only bird tracks
Be sure whatever method you use doesn’t make the dog scared to approach the food bowl.

If ants are getting into the food,
Try making a small moat around the food bowl. Or put the bowl inside a wide pan that has water.
Also be sure to leave water out for the dog to drink

Other methods
Some people like to try tranquilizers. I don’t advise this method because
1. You won’t know the right dosage if you don’t have the dog’s weight
2. You won’t know if the dog has other medical conditions or is on other medication that might interact badly with the tranquilizer
3. Scared dogs who are chemically restrained can become aggressive
4. It takes a while for the tranquilizer to take effect. If the dog takes off out of site, then is chemically restrained, the dog won’t be able to defend herself if she is attacked or she might pass out in the middle of a road and can’t get away from moving cars.

Some people use darting. Exercise extreme caution.
Darting can cause all of the problems listed above plus there could be injury to the dog if the dart hits the wrong body part. And the dart could frighten the dog so badly that he won’t return to the area.

Related Information
Using a slip leash:
Using a slip leash Part II:
How to make a slip leash:
Humane Trapping
Where to purchase raw green tripe – check local pet stores who have frozen sections. If they don’t have it, see if they can order it.
If they can’t order it,  you might have to order online yourself.
Or if you know of anyone who raw feeds their dog, they might have some to share.

Do not assume that a scared dog came from a bad home:
–Fundamental attribution error:
–Dumped, abandoned, stray:

Read Turid Rugaas’s Calming Signals so you will know when a dog is scared (like when you are working with the slip leash)

My Rescuing Document (still in work) contains info on how to gain trust of a scared dog, how to use a humane trap, where to get a humane trap, how to look for a found dog’s family, lists of shelters and/or rescues to contact, what to do once a shy dog is in your home, how to place the dog yourself (adoption screening), etc..

Bringing home a shy dog:
Finding adoptive homes for feral dogs:
Humane Trapping:
Counter Conditioning and Desensitization – what you will use to get a slip leash on the dog
Living with a shy dog:
Lost and Found – Rita -
Lost and Found – Scam Artists, Opportunists and Pranksters:\
Lost and Found – Be careful when placing found pets
Handling shyness –
Working with a feral kitten (same concept with dogs) go here and click on “feral kitten” under “Watch”

Share with us any special tips or tricks you have used to catch a scared dog, cat or other animal
Email questions or comments to
Replies might be shared on this blog but names will be changed or left out.

No comments:

Post a Comment