How to Catch a Loose Dog

Feb 22, 2021   Tracey Aston   Pet Safety

Any pet parent will tell you, dogs are very intelligent. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean they always act in their own best interest. This is never truer than when a pet runs off after being scared, following their nose or chasing a small animal. For a pet parent, that scenario is the making of nightmares. Whether your pet has gotten away from you, or you come upon someone else's pet or a stray animal, there are important steps to take to catch a loose dog.

NEVER chase a loose dog! Even though it goes against our instincts to chase after what we want to catch, chasing a loose dog could have deadly results for the pet. If you run at a loose dog, odds are the dog will run faster in the opposite direction, which could lead to an injury, fall or even worse, the dog running into traffic! Realize, the dog is scared, may be in survival mode, and unless it's your personal pet, doesn't know you or your intentions! It's important to mention, even if it is your pet, if the dog has been loose for even 24 hours, it will be in survival mode and won't even recognize you at first!

Stand as still and be as non-threatening as possible and speak in an even, calm tone. Avoid yelling, whistling, making clicking sounds or slapping your leg, as the loud noise may startle an already frightened dog. If you're in an area that is safe do so, attempt crouching or sitting on the ground. Patience is key here.  Avoid getting up, moving closer and then sitting back down. Stay seated as long as it's possible and safe.  In some instances, depending on the dog and their experiences while loose, it could take over an hour before they feel comfortable enough to approach.

Staring at a dog will put them on guard. To keep an eye on them to watch for which direction they are going should they move, rely on your peripheral vision. Pretend to be doing something else, even if that something else is just looking at the grass. Food is a surefire way to get a dog's attention and if you are looking down, they won't see you as a threat. 

If you have food, you can toss it underhand towards either side of the dog. Do not toss at the dog as this could frighten them, but toss it nearby for them to go and investigate. This will get them interested in something other than watching your movements. Once dog is interested and eating you can start tossing it the food closer and closer to your position.

If the dog does become interested and moves closer to you, don't lunge or grab at them! Odds are their reaction time is better than yours and even if you do manage to grab ahold of them, you risk getting bitten by a scared and now defensive dog! In the instance that the loose dog is your pet, watch for signs of recognition, such as crying, whining or tail wagging. These signs show your pet has recognized you! If the dog isn't your pet, watch for signs of relaxed body language and posture.

Chances are if you went looking for your own pet, you brought along their leash and collar, but what if it's a stray dog you come across? If you have access to rope or belt, a slip lead can be made by tying a knot into one end and bringing the rope through the loop.  Once the dog gets close enough you can slip the loop over their head to secure them. If they seem to shy away you can lure their head through the loop with a treat.  If you don't have access to a rope, attempt to lure them with treats to a nearby safe area or fenced in yard to contain them until you call the police or animal control.

Sometimes, even if you're doing everything right and have the patience of a saint, a loose dog still won't come to you. In this case, it's best to try a humane trap. Many rescues or humane societies will let you borrow or rent a humane trap, and depending on the size of the dog, traps can be bought at local home improvement stores fairly inexpensively.  For a trap to work there must first be reliable sightings of the dog to know where to place the trap. For more information on how to obtain reliable sightings through flyers, apps and social media, visit our blog post Lost Pet.  A humane trap will not harm a pet if used properly and is certainly much safer than a pet running into traffic or getting into a fight with another animal. Humane traps are easy to set up and learn. One end of the trap is propped open and food is put at the opposite end. When the dog enters to get the food, the door closes. Humane traps should be checked often as a pet will be vulnerable to people, other animals and even elements if left too long.

If you happen to see a stray animal running loose and you can't safely approach or the pet attempts to run into danger when you approach, report the sight on social media and to the police and animal control. Canvas the area looking for lost posters and search on apps like pawboost or reported lost animals. As stated above, if someone is looking for their lost pet, sighting are crucial to knowing where to look or set up a trap.

A loose pet can be a danger to others and unfortunately, even itself. Knowing how to safely and securely catch a loose dog without injury to the pet or any rescuer is the most important step in reuniting a family with their beloved family member. 

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