What to Expect With Your Captured Street Dog
Post-capture guidelines are crucial, for the dog’s safety and yours.
It can take weeks or even months to catch a dog, but you can lose the dog in a matter of seconds if you don’t remain vigilant.
Please note we are volunteers and these are things we’ve learned over the years. If you have safety concerns regarding the dog you’re trying to help, please contact a professional trainer/behaviorist for guidance/assistance.
Keep the dog safe and secured:
Never take the dog out of the trap in an unsecured area. Even if the dog looks calm, it could be waiting for the right time to bolt.
Keep the dog and yourself safe:
Once you’re in a safe place indoors (enclosed garage, spare bedroom, inside the vet clinic, etc), you can work on getting the dog out of the trap.
Do not attempt this if the dog is barking, snarling, or doing anything else that looks scary. Instead, just leave the dog in the trap covered with a blanket, so that the dog can calm down. Do not risk getting attacked or bitten.
If the dog is being moved into a vet kennel or crate, open the door of the trap near the kennel/crate entrance and most dogs will choose to walk into the new location. Enticing food may help or you can try gradually tipping the trap to encourage the dog to start walking forward.
Some street dogs have a negative reaction to a leash so we do not recommend using a leash to pull them out of the trap. It’s better to be patient and give them time to come out.
If the trap fits in the room where you are keeping the dog, one option is to open the door of the trap and leave the room. This lets the dog decompress so he/she can come out when ready. Make sure this room is well-dog-proofed.
Decompression. Have food and water ready, but don’t be surprised if the dog does not eat, drink and/or potty for the first 24-48 hours as their world has been turned upside down and for some dogs it takes a bit of time before they realize that being rescued is a good thing.
Things to do once the dog is secured:
Gain the dog’s trust: When the dog is calm, talk soothingly and offer some irresistible treats to gain trust. Don’t be discouraged if the dog ignores you or acts aloof, they managed to remain uncaptured because of their wary nature. It may take some time for the dog to feel calm and relaxed again.
Tag and collar the dog: As soon as you can, put a collar with a tag on the dog. The tag should be purchased before capture and can simply say “I’m Lost” and have your cell phone number on it.
Get the dog used to using the leash inside the house: When you are confident the dog is not going to harm you, you can put the leash on the dog and try taking him/her for a walk inside your house so you can gauge their reaction to the leash as it’s better to find that out while in the house rather than for the dog to escape while outside!
We recommend the 6 foot Mendota brand slip leash as it fits over the dog’s head and tightens if they get spooked and try to pull away (compared to if the dog was wearing a regular collar and leash they could pull out of it and get loose).
Another option is to utilize a properly fitted martingale collar.
If you opt for a harness, we recommend using a slip leash too as a second layer of defense at least initially as some dogs can wiggle out of harnesses.
Pet carefully: You can use a small towel that is rolled up as a surrogate hand to gently pet the dog. This lets you see his reaction to touch without using your hand. Start by gently touching the towel to the dog’s body, then move to under his/her neck. Keep in mind that a former street dog might not enjoy being petted at least initially so don’t force or rush petting the dog.
Use a properly fitted martingale collar with a chain leash if the dog tries to chew a regular leash.
Consider using two leashes until you know for sure the dog is not going to try to escape. One leash should be a slip leash which makes it harder to pull out of.
Watch for “crocodile roll” or pulling away in fear when working with a dog that is not familiar with a leash.
Avoid going near bushes or a deck as the dog may try to hide and then it could be difficult to extract them.
We recommend having the dog on leash initially even while in a fenced backyard for two reasons:
Reduce the chances of them escaping by digging under or jumping over the fence
So you’re able to get them back inside the home
Do not leave the new dog in the back yard unattended. A GPS collar (such as Whistle) can give you extra peace of mind when working with a newly rescued dog.
Wait about a week before you introduce the new dog to your pets. Confine other pets when you take the new dog out for potty breaks. Keep cats away from the new dog. We recommend a vet exam, vaccinations and spay/neuter prior to mixing the new dog with your pets.
Take things slowly with a new dog. One way to build trust is to hand feed the dog. Sit down on the ground and talk softly as you offer food. Sit sideways instead of directly facing the dog and be mindful of eye contact as that can be intimidating to some dogs.
Put the dog in a crate in the home when you are not there. Zip-tie the edges so that it is more difficult to break out. Use a leash clasp or carabiner clip to secure the door used to open/close the crate.
Be aware that dogs with a high escape drive can try to exit from open windows, even if they are open just an inch. Keep all windows closed and the air conditioner/fans on instead.
Crates are essential for safety. Always use a crate when transporting a newly rescued dog and use the crate to carry the dog all the way into and out of the car, vet office and home.
Items to have on hand or be prepared to purchase to address anxiety or stress that your dog may have include: Adaptil collar, spray or plug-in; bones to chew, Kong (filled with frozen peanut butter), pet bed, blankets, stuffed toys, and a radio.
It’s not unusual for a stressed dog:
Not to potty for the first 24 – 48 hours after being caught if they are stressed.
Not to not to eat for a day or two. A lot of former street dogs are used to eating at night so if the dog isn’t eating when offered, then for the first few days you may want to leave food available overnight and once they begin eating, move them to a more typical feeding schedule.
Recognize signs of fear or anxiety in a dog. Dog show fear by:
licking their lips (when there is no food around)
panting (when it is not hot or they are not thirsty)
furrowing their brows with ears that are to the side
moving in slow motion
yawning (when they should not be tired)
moving away from you
suddenly won’t eat
looking in many directions (repeated back and forth)
Great video about dog body language: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bstvG_SUzMo
Your recently rescued street dog could be very scared in the first days. Remember to act calmly around the dog and use treats to win the dog over. If the fear persists for more than a week, reach out for guidance from a professional such as the wonderful folks at https://www.veterinarybehaviorsolutions.com/
This website also has a lot of great resources: http://fearfuldogs.com/