So on my evening walk with the Tribble tonight, we helped catch a loose dog. It was very lucky we caught him so quickly, because his owners did not know the tricks for catching loose dogs and he was very scared and upset, and also right now it’s dark out and cars don’t see loose dogs very well. (He was also not a white dog, which would not have helped him.) It’s a good thing we caught him so quickly.
It occurs to me that not everyone grew up with dogs who were both a) escape artists and b) had a general attitude of “if I feel like it” to recalls the way I did, and so not everyone might know how to catch a loose dog instead of making a dog run away faster. Obviously, the best solution is not to have a loose dog in the first place, and after that the best solution is to have a dog that comes reliably when you call them, but sometimes accidents happen or dogs get scared or you need to catch a stray. So it’s good to know how to do this for emergency situations. Some tips:
1. Do not ever chase the dog or run in the dog’s direction. If the dog is running because she is scared, you chasing her may scare her more (which happened in this case) and she may run faster and farther. If the dog is running because WHOO FREEDOM, he may interpret you chasing him as a great game and run faster because that’s how you play the game! Almost every dog I have ever known, with the possible exception of the very small and the very fat, can outrun a human enough to evade capture. You are probably not going to be able to catch a dog anyway by chasing her, so don’t even try.
2. Do not ever shout at the dog or yell angrily at the dog. This will either scare the dog more or, at the very least, not entice the dog to come anywhere near you. Instead, make happy noises near the top of your vocal register. Tell the dog how great he is, and how much you would love it if he came over to you. He will not understand you, but saying positive things to him will help you achieve happy tone, and happy tone is everything. You need to make yourself the most AWESOME thing to come up and visit right now so the dog will come running towards you instead of away from you. Get as high-pitched and sing-song as you can. Even if you are boiling with rage or scared out of your wits, it is very important to be saying things to the dog in a happy, playful voice.
3. It sometimes helps to squat down and make yourself small. If you are trying to catch a scared dog, definitely use this one, but it also works on playful dogs if they like you enough. You can play dead for a playful dog or just squat down and try to sound as nice as you can. Often, scared dogs will see a small squatting down person and hear your happy happy awesome voice and come up to you, because you’re not scary. Sometimes just seeing someone like that will distract them from the scariness of whatever they’re running from. (This is how I caught the loose dog—he heard me making happy sounds and also wanted to meet the Tribble, who was being non-threatening and friendly because she likes meeting strange dogs.)
4. It can also help to run away from the dog. This may not be a good tactic to use on a scared dog, because a scared dog may not be focusing enough on you to notice that you are going somewhere away from you. However, it’s a great tactic for playful dogs, because what you are doing is playing the game—but in such a way that you are now it, and now the dog should be chasing you. Most playful dogs will notice and come racing right up to you to body-slam you or veer really close to you, and you can grab them then.
5. Along this vein of thought, if you have something that you can pretend is a seriously awesome toy or a delicious thing, pretend that you are playing with it or eating it VERY LOUDLY AND HAPPILY. Act like you are teasing your most obnoxious cousin or younger sibling because you have the BEST THING and they don’t. Dogs also like this game, and many dogs (especially dogs who are not scared) will come up to see how cool your Awesome Thing is and maybe see if they can steal it from you to play with it. You can grab them if they do.
6. Always, always, always reward the dog for coming to you. Even if all you have that’s awesome is the ability to make a huge happy fuss over the no-longer-loose dog. I do not care if the dog has just been a horrible, obnoxious little shit for the past four hours. You always reward a dog for coming to you, and you never ever punish her after her has come up to you. I do not care how awful she has been. Remember, you want her to come back to you in the future! If you punish her for “not coming” after she does come back, she is going to go “oh, fuck that, doing my thing over here is way better.”
If you were using the Awesome Thing trick, give the dog the awesome thing and play with it with them! Rewards don’t have to be food. Act like the dog has just performed some amazing feat of genius, like performing cold fusion. There is no better dog in the world than yours right now. Above all else, communicate how happy you are with the dog for coming to you. Slip the leash on the dog first, though.
I hope these are helpful to people to hear!