Feral dog capture and handling is challenging and often intimidating. TNR (Trap/Neuter/Release) programs around the world struggle with this. A vast number of these programs dedicated to animal welfare, with good intentions, actually create more suffering from their capture, handling, and transport methods.
While sometimes the struggle with the dogs is unintentional, some animal control cultures revel in antagonistic relationships with the dogs they catch. In the United States I have often heard animal control officers talking about the S.O. B. who got away and their tales are like war stories about who was winning or loosing.
Look very closely at the potential conflict or struggle when a street dog is captured or when a dog in a shelter is looking too dangerous to handle. You will see that the conflict is almost always created by the dog catcher. Except for the rare alpha male or female, the dogs are simply afraid and focusing on escaping or protecting themselves. The most “aggressive” dogs during our capture are simply trying vigorously to protect themselves. For some animal control officers the intention of the dog does not matter and they will be glad to battle with any animal.
For conscientious dog handlers, truly understanding the dog and the source of conflict allows us to handle dogs more humanely and safely and in a caring and respectful manner in line with our heart-felt purpose. With this attitude, the quieter approaches are tried first and the dogs will be more likely to comply with your requests.
When working in Buddhist communities in Ladakh, India, I did not have to remind them to seek the quieter alternatives. Compassion and minimizing conflict is their conscious way of life and a natural way for them to relate to the animals and each other. As we were working dogs we noticed when our determination got too strong and our energy too intense. We would stop, reflect and create a better strategy for catching the dog even if it was just using the same strategy in a calmer manner.
This space is too small to cover all methods to minimize the energy of conflict, but here are some first tips for how to begin:
1) Truly recognize, understand, and utilize the dog behavior
2) Make a choice not to fight with the dogs. There will still be struggles as the dog rebels with your efforts, but what are your thoughts and intentions and where is your heart?
3) When you can, give it time. With good techniques and attitudes, most dogs will soften with time.
There is a need to change how we approach dog handling. If we work more compassionately, without the energy of conflict:
1) We will improve our success.
2) We will be more accepted by the public.
3) We will invigorate the participating animal handlers and their programs and make them healthier.
4) We will be more in sync with the animal welfare goals of the program.
The Energy of Conflict and other perspectives are on my website Perspective Page if you wish to read more.