Updated: Jul 31, 2020
A medium-sized tan dog with no collar is running down an empty rural road. He is visibly stressed with a tight mouth, ears pinned, tail tucked, and spine curved. Had myself quite the adventure today. My neighbor’s recently rescued dog somehow got out of the yard while she was gone (her dad was home). I have only done a single training session with her and the dog. The dog was rescued from a hoarding situation and is extremely fearful of men, so the owner’s dad (of whom he is also afraid) came over to ask if I could help him get the dog out of the other neighbor’s yard, knowing the dog would never let him catch him. I had someone watch my car, which I had to leave running with AC for my dog as I was just about to leave my mom’s after teaching my classes when he came and got me, and I walked down the street with slip lead and treats in hand.
As we get to the other neighbor’s yard, he comes out the gate telling us the dog has just hopped the picket fence and was running down Fairview Road (a very busy street, with the freeway exits right around the corner from us)….. At first we’re walking REALLY fast as we don’t want to spook him into crossing the street if he is just around the corner, but a couple in a truck see me with the leash and tell us he’s run up the hill and he’s heading toward the freeway!
At this point, I nearly shove my neighbor out of the way and I take off running. When I get to the top of the hill, the light is red and the dog is in the middle of the street. I slow down. Cars are opening their doors trying to lure him in before he runs down the freeway on-ramp. The light turns green and everyone stay put – except for one lane! I had to yell and wave and finally got them to stop. A man has decided to try to help me catch the dog, but no matter how much I yell “HE’S AFRAID OF MEN! PLEASE STAY BACK!” he keeps coming. I toss treats at the dog and I JUST brush my hand against the dog’s collar, but the man keeps approaching and the dog takes off again, nearly turning down the off ramp (thank DOG no one was there). DARN!
I try running away from him, calling his name to no avail. He’s quite panicked. Several cars pull over trying to coax him in and he slows down, but he keeps going. Finally, he is getting too hot and he trots down an embankment to rest/hide under a tree. I wave to everyone to stay back and I slowly sidle up to him and I have never pulled a slip lead so tight so fast. I was NOT losing him again! I couldn’t get him to budge, but a woman came over with water for the dog and he stepped forward to drink it. That got him moving and the couple in the truck had flipped a U-turn and pulled over and had us get in the back to drive us home (it was about 1/2 mile walk, uphill and then down, and neither of us were up to walking so I was SO thankful).
Dad was just short of tears when I brought him back. I locked him in the back of the house until “mom” comes home (where he couldn’t get out again) and I brought him water. He promised they will be continuing with private lessons after that harrowing ordeal!
So, if there is ever a loose dog, if it is at all possible for me to catch him, I will. If that makes me late to a client, so be it. I will of course extend the session to the full scheduled amount of time and gladly pro-rate the session for the time they had to wait, if requested. This is the 4th loose dog I have caught in just the past 2 years, and I have caught plenty before that. Animal welfare is, and always will be, my top priority. Tips for if your dog gets out (or if you are trying to help someone catch their dog):
If your dog is an escape artist, keep a slip lead at your front door as well as a bag of smelly treats.
Try your best not to chase the dog. Walk if at all possible, and if you need to run to catch up, slow down the second your dog sees you.
Turn your body away from the dog. Try running away from the dog, making kissy noises, patting your thigh, and/or clapping.
Take a wide berth around the dog and see if you can slowly corner him, either between a crowd of people that are there to help, or into an actual corner. Just be aware that some dogs may act defensively when cornered!
If you are not in a busy street, and particularly if the dog is just out to have fun, try throwing yourself on the ground and then make kissy noises. When they approach to figure out why you are lying on the ground, pet them and praise them, and slowly make your way to the collar and/or slip the lead over their head. Sounds silly, but I’ve caught a couple of dogs this way.
If you are able to get close, curve your path as you walk very slowly, and approach from the side so as not to threaten them. With the slip lead very loose, put the loop over the dog’s head from the side, not from the front (don’t lean over them; lean away).
NEVER scold a dog for getting out, because then they won’t let you catch them again. Make a big deal that they let you catch them, throw a little party, and then make sure he doesn’t get out again through checking fences/gates, and training the WAIT, STOP, and COME cues.
Finally, if the person who has a leash and is calling the dog’s name is yelling “STAY BACK!” please do! If they want help catching the dog, they will ask for it, and if they don’t want help, the dog is either fearful or aggressive, so STAY BACK!