Post-capture instructions 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.
- 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 office), you can lift the trap door slightly and attempt to get the slip lead around the dog’s neck. 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. Note: If the trap fits in the room where you are keeping the dog, another 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.
- Have your crate nearby, ready to move the dog from the trap to the crate. Have food and water ready, but don’t be surprised if the dog does not eat or drink.
- Tag and collar the dog immediately: As soon as you can, put a collar with a tag on the dog. The collar should be a martingale collar. (A martingale collar has two loops; the larger loop is slipped onto the dogs neck and a leash is clipped to the smaller loop. When the dog tries to pull, the tension on the leash pulls the small loop taut, which makes the large loop smaller and tighter on the neck, preventing escape.) Petco/PetSmart have buckle martingale collars and are the easiest to use since you don’t have to slip them over the dog’s head. The tag should be purchased before capture and can simply say “I’m Lost” and have your cell phone number on it.
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 a week or so for the dog to feel calm and relaxed again.
- 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 touching the towel to the dog’s body, then move to under his/her neck, and then you can “pet” the dog with the towel on the head when the dog’s reaction to the towel is calm.
- 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 around your house so you know if your martingale collar is on securely. Better to find that out in the house than for the dog to escape!
- Use 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. Be sure to hold on tight if this happens—the best thing is to drop to the ground, move towards the dog (so he/she doesn’t strangle), and talk reassuringly to the dog.
- Avoid going near bushes or a deck as the dog may try to hide and then it could be difficult to extract them.
- Use the chain leash and the cable tie to keep the dog from escaping under or over a fence when outside. Be sure you are not close to a fence or on a patio where the dog might be able to hang itself by accident. The cable tie should not be the only way you keep the dog restrained and should be in conjunction with an outside pen. Note: we do not prefer keeping a recently captured street dog in an outside pen. However, if there are no other options, then we understand this could be used and want to advise on how to keep the dog from escaping)
- 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.
- Do not leave the new dog in the back yard unattended for at least two weeks, longer depending on how the dog acts. A GPS collar (such as Tagg) can give you extra peace of mind.
- 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.
- 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 dog and use the crate to carry the dog into and out of the vet office.
- Items to have on hand or be prepared to purchase to address anxiety or stress that your dog may have include: 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. One way to know when the dog is eating (this is important so you know when the dog needs to potty) is to put the food down in the morning and in 15 minutes remove it. In the evening, do the same thing. The dog may not eat for a day or two, but eventually he/she will eat when the food is offered.
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, and
- looking in many directions (repeated back and forth).
Your recently removed from the streets 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.