Rescuers frequently hear “the dog is very scared” or “the dog runs away” or “I think it is feral”. Yet, most capture missions are successful, using a simple trap or a net. How are seasoned rescuers able to do this? More to the point, how can you do it? Assuming you’ve developed a plan and a back-up plan, here’s the key: Establish a regular feeding pattern.
This is how to build trust between you and the dog, and it is the most important part of your capture strategy.
- Establish a scheduled time to visit and feed the dog. Consistency is key, so if you need people to help you, ask for help. Be sure everyone knows the schedule. Make sure everyone lets you know if they see the dog, and what happens during their feeding attempts. Keep a log of what happens at each feeding attempt.
- If you can’t do all the feeding, then talk with trusted friends and colleagues to line up a reliable feeding plan. The dog will have to be fed at the same time(s) and the same place every day.
- Talk with neighbors around the capture area to let them know you are planning a humane capture and you need their help. Don’t forget businesses as well as residences. Give them your contact information so they can let you know when and where they see the dog. (Dates, times, exact locations.) Also, ask them not to feed the dog. Explain that controlling the food source and having a schedule is key to catching the dog.
- Create a handout with your contact information and a picture of the dog so you can distribute it to neighbors and businesses.
- Ask everyone you see if they have seen the dog before. If they have, ask if they have tried catching the dog or if the dog will approach them. The people who answer yes may be able to help you catch the dog.
- If anyone you talk with is unfriendly or unsupportive of your plan, be pleasant anyway. They may come around when they see you are acting in the best interest of the dog. You may also need access to their property, so it may be helpful to position your plan as a benefit to the neighborhood.
- Feed the dog in a safe place. If the current feeding spot is unsafe, then transition to a safer place by moving the bowl each day a few feet closer to where you eventually will trap the dog.
- Any type of food is ok to use. Inexpensive but smelly, tasty food is perfect for feeding street dogs.
- You may want to make a consistent sound or noise when you set out the food. This helps the dog recognize you and it may be useful on capture day.
- Look all around. Make sure the location is easily accessible. On trap day, we want it to be easy to carry the dog in the trap.
- Make experiences with you and the other feeders positive for the dog. Don’t try to catch the dog while you are building trust. Dogs like Vienna sausages or hot dogs, so you might try to gently toss the dog some of these treats during this trust-building phase. Just let the dog eat the sausages without worrying that you are trying to catch it. This can require a lot of patience, but if you scare the dog, you will have to start building trust from the beginning. Be patient!