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How To Catch A Stray Dog

My phone blows up almost every day with heartfelt pleas for help finding a beloved pet, often a dog. My heart goes out to those people whose canine companion has gone walkabout, so I went looking for some way to add to the thoughtful comments provided by readers on the Internet. I would just like to add that for me, it is so helpful to hear if the dog has been found or has returned home. It puts my mind at ease, and I am certain I am not the only one who looks hopefully for an updated post. When I happened on the Animal Rescue Blog Site I knew I had found what I was looking for. The following is a concise version of their most helpful advice.

It is a familiar scenario to many animal lovers: you come across a dog or cat that appears lost and frightened, and you want desperately to help, but you’re not sure how. Approaching a stray dog or cat can be tricky and even dangerous. Scared animals can be aggressive, especially if they are injured or sick. Even a small cat can inflict some nasty wounds if it feels cornered or trapped. So, how do you approach a stray and let it know you are there to help and not hurt it? Here are a few tips from the experts about what to do and what to avoid.


If you are a dog lover, you probably assume that all dogs are friendly, and in most cases you would be right. Most dogs are gentle, loving creatures who view humans with affection and respect. But a stray dog is out of its element, and may be hungry, thirsty, or even hurt. So even if your first instinct is to approach it quickly so it doesn’t run away, take your time, and assess the dog’s behavior first.

One important rule when deciding how to handle these situations is to never approach an aggressive dog. Signs of potential aggression include fur that stands up along the back of the neck, bared teeth, ears tipped forward, and a tail that’s standing straight up, explains the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The dog may stand in a stiff-legged position or crouch down as if it is getting ready to lunge. Barking, snarling, growling, or snapping may accompany this body language. Taken as a whole, these behaviors are an indication that the dog is uncertain about its safety and that it is warning you to stay away. For your own safety, it is wise to avoid interaction and place a call to the local Animal Control for assistance. If the dog seems scared but isn’t aggressive, try to gets its attention in a calm nonthreatening way. Petfinder suggests you not look at the dog directly, and don’t call it to come to you. These actions can scare the dog and make it flee. Instead, act calm and disinterested. Lick your lips, yawn, or crouch down and pretend to be eating something you found on the ground. This should defuse the dog’s anxiety and may capture its interest if it thinks you have a treat. Continue to approach the dog slowly and calmly, or let it come to you. If you have a leash or a piece of rope handy, put it on the dog as soon as possible, and then put the dog in a safe place, such as a garage or a fenced-in yard. Check for an ID tag. If the dog doesn’t have one, take it to your vet—they’ll be able to scan it for a microchip, which may lead you to the owner of the dog. If you can’t locate the dog’s owner, call your local animal shelter and file a “found dog” report. If no one claims the dog quickly, take it to the shelter, since that is the first place most owners who have lost their dogs look. If you simply can’t bring yourself to leave the dog at the shelter, keep the dog in your home, and post fliers around the neighborhood. A lost dog can roam a long way, so cast a wide net. Put fliers in dog parks, shopping areas, and vet’s offices within a two-mile radius of where you found the dog. Keep the description of the dog fairly general. Do not include a photograph, as some unscrupulous people use “found dog” notices to look for pets to sell online or to use in dog-fighting rings.

Somewhere in my summer-addled brain I know I have read or heard this advice many times before. However, it is nice to have a little refresher course so as to protect yourself and perhaps affect a reunion between a human companion and their beloved pet.

NEXT TIME: HOW TO CATCH A CAT ON THE LOOSE (MUCH harder! Who would have guessed?) A very happy end of summer to your and yours. Come and visit us at the Center and don’t forget to attend our 3rd Annual Mead and Cider Tasting and Silent Auction! Rumor has it that Cathy Peterson (MOKA/STARLIGHT) is providing the snackies.

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