Should We Catch the Dog?

It is such a pleasure getting comments and questions from my readers.  It helps me understand what issues and challenges people are facing when trying to catch feral dogs and owned animals who have decided to run free.  I often design my blog articles based on your questions and comments and am designing a future training website as well.

On the first day of this year, 2o14, Joyce M sent me an important question about catching a particular feral dog.  I have already responded to Joyce, but this question is so important that I have copied it as an article for the blog.  I would love have to have all of your comments and input about this as well.

Submitted on 2014/01/03 at 5:31 pm  from Joyce M.

“I live in a community where a group of people are banding together to capture a stray dog. Though their intentions are good my main thought is that of the animal. This dog has been on its own in the same area for going on 4 years. It does not trust humans in anyway. Everyone that has encountered this dog and had fed it has said that it will take the bowl and eat the food elsewhere. It has avoided all types of capture with its smarts and shows no interest to be with humans. My main concern is that after/ IF the dog is captured what will happen to its spirite? Will it go into defens mood and become violent? Is there a possibility of it being rehomed?”   

Dear Joyce,
Thank you for your question. It is such an important question that I will make this an article for my blog. You are so correct about looking after the welfare of the dog. If he/she has been living in the same area for 4 years then there may be many reasons to let the animal remain free. Once caught just think how much it will lose it’s sense of freedom and open space. And with it’s deep fear of people, life in captivity will likey be very stressful and traumatic.  And he/she could indeed become defense aggressive and unadoptable.

It would be healthy if the group of people with good intentions who wish to catch the dog would meet and discuss this important issue. There are many reasons why it might be important to catch the animal if it was injured or threatening people. And yes if he/she is adding feral puppies to the area it can be of concern, but even then a capture/neuter and release can be a very humane solution in the right locations and Capture/Neuter/Vaccinate/Release is considered the most humane method for managing feral dog around the world.

Another concern I have is how most people try to catch a dog. It is usually with high energy and often involves chasing the animal. If they use boxtraps, most people do not set it properly to attract and entice the dog and do not wire it open to build confidence. It sounds that with this very fearful dog, a box trap may not be successful which could result in many people chasing it around and becoming less sociable.

I agree with your most pointed question?  What will happen to its spirit when he/she is captured and confined even if kept by the most loving people. We humans do not always think about what is best for the animal even when we have good intentions, so the decision to capture this dog is worthy of more discussion among your neighbors and community.

I would love to hear comments from other readers to give Joyce some help with this difficult question.

Do you think they should catch this dog?


9 Responses

  1. This would need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, IMO. Around here (rural Minnesota), free running dogs present a threat to livestock which, in turn, presents a significant risk to the dog of being killed by the stock owner. Dogs running free during deer hunting season also run a large risk of being shot.

    On the other hand, feral dogs can be tamed but it is a huge amount of work and not something most people are well equipped (either by skill or by containment resources) to do.

    • SmartDogs,
      Absolutely this has to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Depradation on livestock and wildlife is indeed another consideration.

      As you know, each dog is different as well and not all can be tamed. In the U.S., it is difficult for most people to think of loose dogs as appropriate, just as in many countries around the world people cannot imagine taming a dog or walking it on a leash. Dr. Mark

  2. nice post.. thanks for sharing..

    • Thank you, Jenny. It is so helpful to hear from my subscribers. I am excited to see what strengths will unfold for each of us in 2015.
      Best wishes in your valuable work. Mark

  3. I managed to successfully live trap an am Eskimo tiny dog seen by many for 4 years, most of his life in interior harsh ALaska. I got him in 2011 before his 4th winter outside. he is ABSOLUTELY NOT WILD. in fact, he is glued to me almost like superglue and have trouble writing, because he is on top of me, as ever. he did have to wear a soft male band indoors (was already neutered) so that he would learn to not mark territory indoors. first year, had to put up additional roll plastic fencing very high, because he could climb up tiny squares of chicken wire fencing, to try to bark at another dog or squirrel. NEVER to escape, I never give him a chance, he is lightening fast, but since treated with the love and food he never received for so long, cooperates with me calling him on a dime. his sighs of peaceful rest make it all worthwhile, his enjoyment of dog massages providing relief too from his troubles on his own. his voice has an hysteria in it, unlike any others, so I know he has gone through his personal hell. he was itchy, dirty, so bony, has some old injuries, but survived. he us very healthy, all of my rescues who survived outside seem to be very healthy, which I have been happy and surprised to discover. I too wondered if he should be removed from running free in a very beautiful place with a river and people threw food, but I stayed out overnight, so very cold, unsafe, extremely uncomfortable. they are domesticated animals. they do not belong out there. he has never tried to bite me ever. he is jealous of the other dogs, esp bigger dog, getting any attention from me, he wants it all, and kisses me with true affection. he was terribly starved and constantly itching from not being clean, but had no bad anything, his his was terribly matted and knots hurt him. he is extremely surprisingly beautiful. if a dog is not happy after live humane trapping, could find some kind of farm or sanctuary situation, see Leo Grillo, for example, can a safe place. but please, don’t say they are wild. my vet says they are wild while out there in complete instinctive mode for survival, and amazing how they find a way, please feed them, but after they are returned to “domestic” life, live that life as before again, the lovely lady at lost dog search has said they are not wild after you get them and Chsnge their world. don’t give up on them, it is hard to get them sometimes, but so worth it, so rewardingly worth it, when you realize and can tell how much they have suffered and now safe with you.

    • Mary, What a lovely story. I’m so glad you rescued him from a life of misery and privation and am not surprised that he has turned out to be a love bug. It has been my experience that how animals behave when operating in instinctive flight mode is not necessarily predictive of how they act once captured. I really do not think it’s appropriate in a First World country to have feral dogs and very much agree with Mary that they should be caught.

  4. one more story for understanding:

  5. I agree with Capture but agree with training the neighborhood on how best to do it. I live in a neighborhood with heavy traffic nearby and would fear for the life of the dog if kept running free. It sounds like the dog is quite a survivor, but that doesn’t mean it won’t encounter traffic…or the feeders won’t stop putting food out.

    I sure wouldn’t have thought of Capture/Release though. Perhaps there is a way to ask an Animal Behaviorist (through a vet or local animal shelter) to help assess future success of domestication (or if it was domesticated). They may not want to assist, though, if they think Release is possible.

    I know this is an old post. I really hope things worked out for the dog and for the neighborhood. Thanks for opening my eyes to the issues and possibilities.

    • Dear smj34,
      Thank you for your comments. The use of capture/neuter/vaccinate/release is essentially not used here in the U.S. but it is the humane management tool of choice in many other countries. And yes, there are animal behaviorists in many/most animal shelters who have effective protocols for assessing the adoptability of each dog in the shelter. There are many reasons NOT to capture/neuter/vaccinate/release street dogs here in the US – primarily because of cultural attitudes. Yet there are many US cities with vast numbers of dogs. It would be good to keep this option in mind when programs are striving to humanely manage any dog overpopulation. Dr. Mark

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