Capturing Dogs with Boxtraps, Part 1. How to Set the Trap

Capturing Street Dogs in Ladakh, India

For a detailed training video on on how to box trap dogs – visit our GWR Products page.

Sometimes the most efficient way to capture dogs is with a box trap.  In disaster response, the first dogs are caught by hand, but there gets a point when the fearful dogs cannot be approached.  Then box  traps will bring the dogs out of the rubble.  In animal control or dog rescue, people may need to capture specific dogs. Box traps can be placed along their travel route or favorite spots.  And in trap/neuter/release programs such as the work I did in India and Caribbean, box traps are an efficient way to gather many dogs.

But few people know how to successfully use box trap.  Attend to the details…..and here is one way to do it.

You can download a free handout on box trapping from Global Wildlife Resources by visiting our free Training Library.

Which type of boxtrap?

Without any doubt, my favorite trap is the Tru Catch 48F Folding Dog trap.  I have used them in Montana, New Orleans, the Caribbean and have even taken them to India (with great difficulty).    I like the Tru Catch 48F Folding Dog trap because it is very rugged, strong and lasts for years even with ocean salt..  It is compact so many traps can me moved together.   It is very versatile to use in many ways because both ends open so dogs can be shifted to a varikennel or to another trap.

The best source for purchasing the Tru Catch trap is to contact Wanda or her family at  Heart of the Earth Animal Equipment.

Setting the trap

1) Most important – choose a location that is cozy for the dog and hidden from the public.   Dogs have a denning instinct which can be used to our advantage.  And people and traps do not mix.  People will either steal the traps, release the dogs, or harm the dogs. Continue reading

Why Explore Types of Dominance with Dog Handling?

Thank you, Brad, and to everyone for the wonderful comments.  Wonderful exploration.  You all help me clarify several goals and hopes from this discussion.

First, I hope we will honor each person’s choice for how they wish to address this challenging concept of dominance.  Brad, your suggestions for other types of words such as respect and seniority are great.  Yes indeed use them!   (Can we practice as much compassion and respect for each other as we can towards our animals?)

Visit my website for more philosophy and discussion.

Continue reading

Honoring Animal Control Professionals

In this blog, I am continuously exploring and suggesting new approaches to capturing and handling dogs.  The most proficient individuals who do this are animal control officers and I wish to make it very clear that I honor their skills, knowledge, and experience.

Rescuing Dogs After Hurricane Katrina

It is common around the world for the village or city or regional animal control to hire the poorest, least educated dog catchers to do what is perceived as the dirty work.   There is no sense of humane treatment or animal protection.  And  in some countries, especially where rabies is endemic and dogs run the streets, there is a bounty for people to bring in as many dead dogs as they can.  I have seen photos of a motor scooter with 5 dead dogs piled across the front and back.

Here in North America, the National Animal Control Association and state ACAs have developed strong professional programs “to define and promote professionalism in the animal protection care and humane law enforcement field by providing quality services, education, training, and support.” (from NACA Mission Statement)  I believe they have developed the highest standards in the world and fortunately their achievements are improving the standards in other nations. Continue reading

Dog Handling is Not Just Physical (Part 2 Dogs)

In my previous blog entry I described having a connection with the wild animals I work with and how I saw zoo caretakers asking their animal to cooperate with procedures such as blood collection and nail trims.  This is not  physically forcing an animal to do anything.   There is give and take between the animal caretaker and the animal.

I have seen how skilled animal control officers understand and practice this with dogs. They work with the personality of that individual dog.  They work with it and entice it if they can.  And if the animal control officer is not sincere in his or her enticements (i.e.  “I am going to catch you whether you want to be caught or not” instead of “Yes, I really want to help you by getting you off the streets”) – if the handler is not sincere, the dog will feel it and the capture may not be successful and will likely NOT be as easy or calm as it could have been.

Generating compassion so the dog feels safe enough to submit (relax)

People have said that the Y pole is a waste of time and will not catch anything.  If those people use the Y pole as a stick just with physical force, then they are completely correct.   But many people understand that when a dog is terribly afraid and won’t allow anyone to touch it, calm mannerisms and conveying compassion can build enough tolerance or trust to allow you to pet the animal with the Y pole or handle it in other ways.    Once this has been successful, the animal has usually submitted or is relaxed enough for you to place the Y pole over the neck and a towel over the head.  Then usually it will relax even more. Continue reading

NEW FERAL DOG HANDLING COURSE IN MASSACHUSETTS, May 26-27

I am excited to announce that I will be teaching a two day humane feral dog handling course in Springfield, Massachusetts specifically for the animal control officer, shelter worker, and disaster responder.  This is the most extensive course in handling fearful dogs. This is an essential course for professionals addressing hoarding cases, responding to disasters, handling fearful dogs in shelters, assisting with trap/neuter/release programs, and rescuing dogs in general.

This course is a product of my experience handling over 2,000 feral dogs throughout the world including the Caribbean, India, tribal lands, and rescue operations after Hurricane Katrina.

O Connor dog course Announcement Here are details about the course.  The course is limited to 40 people. Visit our website Seminar Schedule for more information and for registering.   Either register on-line or by mail.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions  at mjohnson (at) wildliferesources (dot) org.

Please note:  I will also be teaching this humane feral dog capture course in Seattle in June, 2010. The specific dates and locations are yet to be determined.

Mark

Physical Restraint for Dogs. Part 1 The Scruff

Around the world, feral or street dogs are often handled strictly with equipment such as snare poles or nets.  In India, I once trained some great young men who were dog catchers for a spay/neuter program who had never touched a dog!  They had only caught and transported street dogs with nets. They were great at it!  But they only recognized one kind of dog – in their eyes every dog was the same  and they never attempted to use softer methods for capturing the friendlier dogs.

The body structure and behavior of the dog allows us to physically restrain them with our hands.  This is unlike cats which require equipment, equipment, equipment!  Physical restraint is a valuable tool for the dog handler.  When we get confident to safely and humanely handle dogs with our hands, it gives us options to first try softer capture methods such as catching with a leash when it is safe to do so.  It also gives us versatility for what we can do when the dog is in hand.  Good physical restraint requires a calm dominance.   Even when the dog is struggling in your hands, be calm and give compassion.   Dog handlers should be confident in applying several types  in order to be versatile in successfully and humanely capturing dogs.  These types of restraint include: the scruff, lateral restraint, and hobbling.   Part 1 talks about the scruff.

The Scruff

(DO NOT HANDLE ANY DOG UNLESS YOU FEEL IT IS SAFE TO DO SO.)

Here is how to properly scruff a dog. To safely control the dog you must control the head.  Many people do not think much about how to do a proper scruff and can compromise the safety of the dog and the handler.  Also read my previous blog entry about the Energy of Conflict.

Proper Two-Handed Scruff

The full scruff is a two-handed hold on the dog’s head.   Each ear of the dog should be in the notch of your thumb and the thumbs are parallel on the top of the dogs head pointing forward.  Stretch your fingers of each hand toward the corner of the mouth (be careful not to get bit) and curl your fingers to gather up the skin of his cheeks.  It should make him grin.

Keep the ears deep in the notch against your thumb to get the most control.  Do not let your fingers point to his neck.  If you do, you will gather his neck skin which can choke him.  People have a habit of shaking the dogs head as if to get a better grip.  Do not do this. Not even once. You are sending a message to the dog that you are it’s opponent and wishing to create a fight.  Compassionate animal handling is not only the right thing to do, it makes our work safer and easier!

Physical restraint should not be just physical.  And physical restraint should not be the same as fighting the animal. It should be combined with heart-felt compassion.  Think of using it as a strategy to kindly move the animal into a position you need to do your work.  Maybe you need to examine a surgical wound after sterilizing it or giving it antibiotics, or moving it into another pen without a crate. Continue reading

Feral Dog Capture and the Energy of Conflict

Proper Scruffing Technique

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 Continue reading