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
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
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
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
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.
Using a slip leash: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHIY4UTjFjo
Using a slip leash Part II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARA7pVgmOq0
How to make a slip leash: http://fuzzychildren.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-to-make-slip-leash.html
Humane Trapping http://humanetrapping.webs.com/
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: http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/fundamental-attribution-error/
–Dumped, abandoned, stray: http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/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) http://amzn.to/NnFTsG
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: http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/bringing-home-a-shy-scared-skittish-or-abused-dogs/
Finding adoptive homes for feral dogs: http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/finding-adoptive-homes-for-feral-dogs/
Humane Trapping: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIOs7d_Qyo4&feature=plcp
Counter Conditioning and Desensitization – what you will use to get a slip leash on the dog http://blog.mysanantonio.com/latrenda/2012/06/desensitization-and-counter-conditioning/
Living with a shy dog: http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddtbr7bw_812hzh3m6df
Lost and Found – Rita - http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddtbr7bw_797dz5c3xft
Lost and Found – Scam Artists, Opportunists and Pranksters: http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddtbr7bw_802d8d9r3ft\
Lost and Found – Be careful when placing found pets http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddtbr7bw_803hfr35df3
Handling shyness – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AElTVoIPlOw
Working with a feral kitten (same concept with dogs) go here http://reachingtheanimalmind.com/chapter_07.html 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
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