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Question:  I’m trying to catch a scared dog, what do I do?

Thank you so much for trying to save the dog.  There are so many strays in our city. Saving just this one can go a long way towards helping with this problem.  And it will make a world of difference for this dog.

Catching a Scared Dog

Exercise extreme caution.  Any dog can bite and a scared dog is just as likely to bite as an aggressive dog.  Since this dog is a stray, you have no way of knowing what diseases she might be carrying  - including rabies.

The most dangerous thing you can do is corner the dog in order to catch her.  If you are not going to use a trap, a slip leash is a must.

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 presence.

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.

A trap is the safest way to go. Even if you can get a slip leash on her, then you will have to figure out how to get her into your car.

Speaking of your car, if you are able to trap this dog, you will need a way to transport the dog in the trap. Once the dog is in the trap, she will have to stay there until you can get her to a vet or to your house. If this dog isn’t tiny, then you will mostly likely need a van or SUV.

Be aware that you might trap other animals in the trap.  More info on that in my Rescuing Document .

Even though this dog might appear to be feral, she might have a family looking for her.

Also be aware that it’s going to be extremely hard to place this dog.  Because San Antonio has such a huge stray problem, most shelters are always full; and I believe the larger ones do temperament tests before taking in an animal.  This dog might not “pass” the test.

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..

I don’t know of any place in town that sells humane gravity traps. I advise against spring loaded traps (which can be found at feed stores, home supply stores), they can seriously injure and the spring action can scare a dog away. The Animal Defense League has a very limited supply of dog sized humane traps for rent.  You can also purchase humane traps online. All of this info is in my Rescuing Document

Feeding her is a great start.  If you live close by, you can slowly and systematically move the food bowl a little closer to your house every couple of days until the food bowl is in your back yard.  Eventually you might be able to close your gate on her.

Some other articles that might be useful.  Note that these are in work

Living with a shy dog:

Lost and Found - Rita -

Lost and Found - Scam Artists, Opportunists and Pranksters:\

Lost and Found - Be careful when placing found pets


Using a slip leash:

Using a slip leash Part II:

How to make a slip leash:

Humane Trapping