Capturing Dogs with Boxtraps, Part 2. Baiting the Trap

A new training video for how  to boxtrap dogs is now available!!!

– visit our website at GWR Products.

Once we have a good place chosen for placing our boxtrap, we then set it up in a way that it is stable and a welcome sight for the dog to enter! (See Part 1)

Now it’s time to bait the trap.

Baiting the trap is a strategy like playing a chess game.   You are not just placing something stinky in the trap so they walk in!   You want to use bait to guide them right down to how they trigger the trap.  Checkmate! Be sure the environment is set up so the dogs are hungry (How much garbage and food is around and where is it?), create ways to bring them to the trap and then into the trap, and then guide them to place their foot where it triggers the trap the best.

The Hungry Environment

Be sure your surrounding environment is not competing with your baits.

Street dog in Ladakh, India

When we were trapping dogs in the Caribbean, it was hard working around the resorts because of so much garbage and food scraps laying around.  Fortunately we often worked with resort managers who locked up the garbage and who told their staff to clean the grounds.  When working with island governments we had to ask them to improve their scheduled dumpster pick-ups.

Food in the surrounding area can also help you catch dogs.   Hopefully you are setting traps along the dog travel routes.   Or you can modify their travel routine by creating bait stations.  Bait stations are simply spots where you leave food every day to attract the dogs and soon they may be adding your feeding stations to their daily routine.  Once they are visiting alot, start reducing the food at the station and put bait in and around the nearby traps.

There are other ways of bringing the dogs to your traps.  When I am capturing black and grizzly bears, I use tricks to bring them in from long distances.  Sometimes we may tie a deer leg to a rope and drag it along a trail to the trap (be sure to walk quickly :o).    I would not recommend dragging a cow leg through town, but you can bring dogs in from the beach that way or when working in other remote areas.  I have also brought dogs from ½ mile away along abandoned roads using our famous  Jug O’ Juice!  We boil meat and spices, take out the chunks, then dribble bait from a plastic jug as we drive along the road.

Water, at times, can also be used to bring the dogs in the area of the traps.

So know what food is in your trapping area – is it helping or hurting?

Bringing Them In and Making the Catch

Bait is obviously used to bring the dog toward the trap and then into the trap.  This is a case of building confidence and motivation.  Remember, if your trap is five years old and smells like you’ve caught a hundred dogs and two badgers it will not help you!   Clean your trap often.  If your trap does not smell scary, then it is easier to build confidence and motivation.

NOTE: Understand that the type of bait and where we place the bait will depend on the layout of the land, the type of ground and vegetation, the attitude and number of dogs, and what your own preferences are.  These descriptions are simply a generalized approach for beginners.

Boxtrapping dogs in Shikri, India

I like to use small fragrant tidbits so the dog cannot take food out of the trap and eat it outside.  I put small scraps 5-6 feet in front of the door (or farther if we need to bring the dog in closer), then 6-12” in front of the door, 2-6” inside the door, 2-4” in front of the trigger pan, and some nice food under the trigger pan.

To make the catch,  motivate the dog to step into the trap, onto the trigger pan (plate), and guide the dog to set it’s foot where it will best trigger the door to close.

On the Tru Catch Trap, the trigger pan is hanging from a chain connected to the left edge.  The left half of the pan triggers better than the right half that has no chain.  Does this make sense? (I will add photos.  I want the dog to place its left foot up on the plate and put weight on it so I place the food  under, or on top of, the back left quarter of the trigger pan.

Dog in Tru Catch 48F Dog trap

The types of baits vary depending on what the dogs will like.   Dogs in the Caribbean were not attracted to raw meat!  We had to cook it with garlic and spices to bring them in.  We have also used scent collected from bitches in heat.   Collect their scent with tampons that are refrigerated until needed.

Do not put the bait too close to the back of the trap.  The dog may try to push the trap or dig to get to it and trigger the door closed.

Do not put tin cans of food in the trap or material such as carpet.  The captured dog can get injured from chewing or swallowing these things.  People at times have added chew bones so when the dog is caught it might chew on the chew bones and reduce mouth injuries.   Your choice.

Wire the trap open, first!

Always, assume the dogs are smart and leery.  If you are right you will catch more dogs and not make mistakes.  If you want very good success and if you have the time, especially if you want a specific dog, wire the trap open so the door cannot close or move at all.   You must still visit every day to be sure the dog is not accidentally trapped.  Use these visits to see if there is activity and add  fresh bait.  You can even rake the sand or dirt in front of the trap to see who is visiting the trap.  Once the dog is commonly entering the trap to eat, take the wire off the trap and set the trap with a hair trigger.

Be sure to check the traps at least twice a day, depending on where you are working.

For directions on how to boxtrap dogs – visit our Free Training Library.

12 Responses

  1. I appreciate you writing this up and find it interesting, particularly having 2 dogs that were semi-feral, and 1 that was feral.

    Out of curiosity, how do are you collecting the scent from the females? Do shelters let you do this, or do you have another source?

    When I trapped/caught my feral dog, he had a very stressful reaction once he realized he’d been caught. I went to get a blanket to cover the crate (it was a typical wire dog crate that I’d rigged), and in just the few seconds it took me to return and put the blanket on the crate, he’d pulled a tooth out trying to free himself. I can’t imagine the damage and injury he could have caused if I hadn’t been there to put the blanket on the crate, which immediately calmed him down.

    How do you avoid animals hurting themselves when they are trapped in the boxtraps?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Thank you for your excellent questions.

      We collect scent from females on an as need basis or sometimes opportunistically. Programs conducting trap/neuter/release around the world sometimes have specific males to capture and so the workers put the word out to find a bitch in heat. The easiest method is to use tampons to collect the bitches blood from her vulva/vagina and keep it cool in a ziplock bag.

      You will read in my blog entry Setting Boxtraps that we scrape the ground to create a flat surface. Before setting the trap over the level spot I dig a shallow hole to place the tampon under the trigger pan (back left corner for the Tru Catch trap) and then lay the trap over it. This way no dog could eat or swallow the tampon.

      Boxtraps can often produce some trap injuries. Most are minor, but this depends alot on the personality of the dog. To minimize injuries, check the trap often, only set traps where it is a quiet place away from people, and you can leave a chew toy or leather chew in the trap which will help a little. The key is to check traps often.
      Thank you for the great questions! Mark

  2. I’ve just been reading this website and thought I’d submit a comment. I operate a free spay/neuter program entitled ‘SpayStreet,’ in Austin Texas. I’ve had to capture a number of feral female dogs lately – all trap resistant – and I’ve tried oral sedatives likes telazol, ace and dormitor. Nothing worked. Then we tried darting, but that just terrified the dog and she ran faster. Basically, nothing worked. Then we tried a sure thing…. Fatal Plus. Guesstimating body weight and then dosing at half the body weight, it safely sedated the most skiddish dog. (For example; a 60 lb dog received 3cc). We gave the drug orally in wet cat food and waited about 15 minutes (safely following the dog at a distance). The dog gradually stumbled and layed down. I threw a net over her, loaded her and she was spayed 30 minutes later and released the next day.

    • Dear Laura,
      Thank you for your valuable work and for your contribution to the Feral Dog Blog. Initially I had grave thoughts about giving an oral dose of a euthanasia agent, but I also wanted to be open to what is both effective and safe for the dog. So I contacted Vortech Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Fatal Plus. I learned that Fatal Plus comes in two forms: a pre-mixed solution of 390 mg/ml of sodium pentobarbital with a few other ingredients, and a powder form which can be mixed to the same solution intended for euthanasia. There are published doses for oral administration to produce sedation which I will find so you do not have to “guesstimate” after guessing the weight.

      –Barbiturates are not very forgiving. It is easy to overdose a dog. Thin animals (common with street dogs) and those with liver or kidney problems can have prolonged recoveries. They should not be used with dehydrated or anemic animals and do not use them with pregnant or nursing females. Barbiturates are rarely used any longer for anesthesia.

      –Barbiturates are Schedule II controlled substances with DEA here in the U.S. There is potential for theft and abuse. Security and accountability is often poor in veterinary clinics, animal shelters, and spay/neuter programs. Be sure there is proper record keeping and proper security storage.

      -Any time animals are chemical immobilized their physiology is compromised. Anesthetics and sedatives are toxins. Always monitor their temperature, pulse, respiration, color of the gums, and capillary refill time. Any time you are working with chemical capture, it must be under veterinary supervision.

      –Remember that animals drugged with a sedative are still responsive and may not be safe. Always take precautions against a sudden wake-up. Stay connected to the animal and ensure that it cannot escape. Maximize human safety.

      The spay/neuter and trap/neuter/release communities are in need of options for oral chemical capture when all other methods of capture are not working. So it is good to learn about an option such as this, as long as human and animal safety are priority.

  3. Hello Dr. Mark ,

    I have been going through your blog/web site with great interest . I am an individual who lives in rural Arizona . I reside on 4 acres which I took upon myself to turn into something of a wildlife sanctuary . It was reclaimed farmland so I started with a virtually bare slate of land . Some pains were taken in revegating with native trees, shrubs , etc . Consulting with Arizona Native Plant Society , wildlife rehabbers and so on . Working with a bird raptor rescue got guidance in building habitat for burrowing owls , planting cholla for habitat for roadrunners , herps and many other creatures .

    Pleased with the success I was achieving , I also found that this success also attracted in attracting feral/stray dogs and cats . Which both take a toll on what was trying to be achieved . I started working with the local animal control . With the occassional loan of one of thier box traps , I have trapped some 80 dogs over 4 years or so . The problem never disappears , I never cacth all the dogs or cats . After a while they seem to become trap leary . Having caught thier cohorts I surmised that some signal was being given off to warn others away . Scents, urine or something was given off to warn that the trap was a BAD place .

    Some other reading I was doing spoke of a product called Feliway spray which is claimed to be a artifical pheromone which calms cats luring them to feeling that this (a trap) is a safe place . Apparently a number a TNR groups claim success with this product . Is/would there be a similar product for dogs .

    I have also been reading/looking at a bait attractant for cannids called FeralMone made by Animal Control Technologies in Austrailia . It is supposed to be non toxic .

    Not meaning to be a pest I was also curious about a product made in the U.S. called the Collarum trap . Supposed to be a very humane cable snare type trap . Unusual in that it is thrown up over the head/neck and acts much like a choke collar . Several studies that I have seen on it indicates that it is much less harmful that leg holds or other snare designs . Any thoughts/comments ?

    I am reading through the rest of your site bwith great interest and intend to pass the location of your blog/web site on to the animal control officers I work with .

    If I could ask though , where would I locate part one of the above article ; Capturing dogs with box traps . And did you ever post part three ?

    Thank you , Doug

    • Doug,
      I am glad the Feral Dog Blog has been helpful. You are doing a great service by coordinating with the local animal control officers and striving to find humane solutions. I also really like the creative options you are asking about.
      I know of many people who are very pleased with how effective Feliway is for cats, but I do not know of any similar products for dogs. My teachers have always stressed to clean your traps on a regular basis and for dogs who are wary, wire the trap open and offer food near the door of the trap. As I was taught, with enough time, and trying many different food baits, female scent, etc. there will eventually be a bait to catch most dogs. Some will be trap shy no matter what you use.

      I do not know about FeralMone to attract canids, but professional trapping companies sell a wide variety of very smelly and effective lures for canids. And the dog and cat food companies have spent millions of dollars finding smelly foods that a dog rarely resists. I really like to use the gravy like cat food in small pouches to attract dogs.

      I have not had any experience about the Collorum snare. It is likely that they have designed a very effective neck snare that can hold a canid safely most of the time, but with every neck snare I know, they may be modified to safely hold a canid, but when it goes bad it can result in death of the animal. It is an all or nothing thing.
      Thank you for the wonderful questions. I will be done traveling around the new year and will update and write to all three boxtrapping articles are up.
      Best wishes, Dr.Mark

  4. we have trapped hundreds of dogs with a box trap. our bait of choice was either wet cat food or fried chicken.
    right now, we are attempting to trap a dog that got away from his owner and is on the loose. he will not come to anyone and will not go into a trap.
    can you give me some ideas, tips, on bait that you have used. he is a boxer weighing 50-60 lbs. he is not neutered. we are looking at the “dog in heat” scent also.
    thank you.

    • Traci,
      There is no great and awesome bait. Rather than getting focused on the right bait, use your imagination for different kinds of baits. I have learned from mentors that there is one kind of bait the dog will not be able to resist, just be persistent. Remember to wire the trap open as you get the dog confident to enter the trap and only try to trap him when he is readily eating the bait.

      There are also baits which are not food such as the scat from their mate or best friend or urine from a bitch in heat.

      Good luck.

  5. Hi Dr. mark,

    I work for an animal welfare organisation in South Africa and have been having difficulty with a feral dog.

    He was caught in a snare roughly 5 months ago which is now embedded in his neck but I have been trying to catch him for the last 2 months.
    He is extremely street wise. I have tried darting (he ran off and couldnt get close), drugging on 3 different occassions with two different drugs, amd he only got groggy. None have worked.
    His movements are also erratic, sometimes he is there, other times disappears for days on end.

    He gets his food from the local rivers and so is not food motivated.
    We do have a box trap but im not sure he will take to it, by far the cleverest dog ive ever come across.

    His weight is fine suprising that he is a street dog, there is no infection that has set in yet and he doesnt seem to be in pain.
    He is friendly but wary and just goes about his days as normal.
    At this stage we are not sure about wether to have him destroyed or let him live and supply him with food and antibiotics?

    Any thoughts or input? I am having sleepless nights about him.

    Thanks and regards,


    • Dear Lisa,
      Please excuse this very late reply. I would be very interested in receiving an update on this street dog with the neck snare. Can you tell us how he is doing? I will respond to your questions in a late fashion with the chance that it may still be helpful or will help others to learn from your situation and questions.

      First of all, I see no reason for euthanasia until you see that he is sufferring or losing significant weight. It would be good to give him every chance he can get.

      There will always be dogs extremely difficult to catch and some which we will never catch. But here are the steps I would take. They are not easy. Catching these dogs requires HUGE amounts of patience and persistence which you have been practicing. The idea for catching these dogs is conditioning them to a location where they are comfortable to visit and eat, then conditioning them to a trap (without ever setting the trap).

      When conditioning a dog to routinely visit an area, NEVER chase them including darting them unless you are sure you will be successful. There is far too much involved for me to teach darting and drugging at this time. When you chase dogs, even just walking toward them calling their name it is threatening and they will remember your scent and know where you walk, know it is you leaving food, and they will know it is your box trap and be lest trusting. Always have a nonchallant and neutral relationship when you see them. Neither walk toward them or run away to avoid scaring them. Just ease away casually so you are non-threatening.

      If the dog is feeding from the river it may be a lot of work for him. Create a bait station – a place where food is left every day, preferrably at the same time of day because dogs like routine. Create the bait station where you can eventually set a trap away from people so the trap is not disturbed There is always one or more types of food which the dog cannot resist so keep trying different baits.

      You can place a trap near the bait station immediately or after the dog is routinely coming to the food. Wire the trap open – do not set it and make sure the check the trap everyday to avoid accidential captures. Once the dog is used to eating the bait, slowly move food closer to the trap and place some of the best food in front of the trap – read my entries about box trapping and you can buy my video Humane Box Trapping of Dogs from my website. You may have to do this for weeks until the dog is Some people have access to remote cameras to monitor the bait station and trap and these are excellent to learn the dog’s behavior and routine.

      This is difficult work, but I hope these suggestions may be helpful. It wish you great success in helping the dog.
      Dr. Mark

  6. Just wanted to say thank you for putting this resource up online. We’re also in the process of trying to catch a feral dog. He’s been on his own in public land in Eastern Oregon for many months now, and we’ve had no luck. The idea for using in-heat female urine as bait is a great one, and we’ll probably try that next, as soon as we find somewhere to rent a box trap.

    • Thank you for your comments. It is alway helpful to hear from my blog visitors and I am very glad the information is helpful. Please note that I have an excellent training DVD on Humane Box Trapping of Dogs for sale on my website. It covers far more details and many different ways of using the box trap. The DVD is only sold on my website GWRProducts Page.

      Best wishes in your efforts to catch the Oregon dog.
      Dr. Mark

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