Depending on where you live, you may often come across stray or lost dogs, especially for those of us who live outside of cities. The dog lover inside of us always wants to help, somehow.
But you must weigh whether it is safe to do so. If you do meet a stray dog, it’s essential to call the dog warden to seek further advice. They may encourage you to gather information to establish whether this dog is truly a stray or simply lost. Either way, if you need to approach the dog, there are some important Do’s and Don’ts to keep both you and the dog safe. Forget trying to call their name, or making a loud noise, read our list of three tips to safely approach and catch them.
Watch The Dog From Afar
Before you even attempt to approach a lost or stray dog, spend some time watching their behaviour. Are they wary or nervous or quite confident? See if they have a pattern of behaviour – do they walk certain routes or are they staying close to one particular area?
This will help you decide where best to approach, if safe to do so.
If you are going to attempt to catch the dog, you don’t want it becoming scared and running into oncoming traffic. Look for escape routes; holes in fences, walls etc.
If you are going to struggle to catch them, but they are safe, it may be best to wait for further support from the dog warden.
Look At Their Body Language
A dog will tell you everything you need to know from how it behaves and what it does with its body.
It’s likely that the stray or lost dog will be nervous; you don’t know what experience they’ve had of humans so far.
They may be reluctant to come towards you. Luckily, food and treats can often tempt them. But be mindful, if you notice lip licking, yawning or turning away, they could be getting stressed. Their eyes may become wide. Just keep your movements slow and calm.
If they are still not sure of you, they may curl their lip or snarl. This is often a warning. Retreat to a safe place.
You may want to throw some food in their general direction to help them accept you, but be patient.
This can be a great way to keep a dog in a particular area if you are waiting for additional support.
They Must Come To You
A successful catch is when the dog comes to you. You aren’t a professional dog catcher. Be patient, tempt them with soft words and food.
Move slowly and be predictable. If they aren’t happy coming to you, then seek further advice and support.
It’s easy to think that cornering a dog will make it easy to catch, but they will just feel threatened. If they can escape, they will, and end up in a potentially unsafe situation.
If you manage to catch a dog, remain calm and again, monitor their behaviour.
Watch for any signs of stress. If they are suddenly attached to a leash, their behaviour may change. If it becomes unsafe to keep a hold of the dog, then unclip them and call the dog warden.
It’s essential to identify the dog where possible – they may simply be lost.
Local veterinarians, animal shelters and the dog warden are all sources of support when finding a lost or stray dog.