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. Continue reading

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

A Double Standard in How We View Aggressive Dogs. – Part 2

A Friendly Dog Curious About the Camera

So what kind of double standard is their in how we view dogs?  Just think about the warm cuddly Cockapoo or the goofy black lab with a tail that knocks everything over in the house.  It is easy to have compassion for them.  If we see them suffering we quickly wish to help them and are sad for that animal’s suffering.  The compassion is a reflex.

But what are we thinking or how are we reacting when a dog in a kennel suddenly becomes very aggressive or a dog in a pen from a hoarding case growls when you approach the pen? How often are we sad for that animal?  And how often do we really try to figure out why that animal is showing “aggression”.  Instead it is common to see those snarling teeth and those raised lips with attitude as we tense up, then we try to figure out how we are going to win with this conflict.  “How can you have sympathy for  a dog who doesn’t even want to cooperate.”   “If it thinks it can win, it is fooling itself because I am going to win.”   Such words are common.

I once helped coordinate caring for a hoarding case where almost 100 dogs were confiscated from an owner trying to transport them in a school bus (without chairs) and trailer.  I was not there when they took the dogs out of the bus but I was told it was total craziness with people trying to grab many of the dogs chained in the bus and several people getting bit.  It certainly wasn’t pretty trying to get those dogs out and into holding pens.

So are dogs which show aggression truly aggressive?  They certainly can be.  And it is definitely a potentially dangerous situation so we have to always address human safety.  But it does not have to be a fight.  It may not be a fight if we try softer, slower techniques first and realize how OUR energy, emotions, thoughts and actions dramatically influence how the dog reacts to you.  And if we cannot feel compassion for that snarling dog the way we have compassion for that goofy black lab, then the dog will feel that as well and trust us less.

A Soft Approach with the Y Pole

So when we are faced with aggressive acting dogs, let’s understand that most dogs show aggression because they are simply defending themselves because they are deeply afraid and we can use that as a tool by softening their fear making them easier to work with.  We can relax and move slow and at times not move at all.  We may choose to use the Y pole to protect ourselves while using it simply as an extension of our hand to pet the dog – first by mouth to let it bite then later on the head and neck.  We can strive to create the calmest, most compassionate environment for the dog, then use tools with a “quieter energy” such as the Y pole.  If the dog accepts we will have diverted a fight.  If the dog refuses to give up it’s fear and cooperate or if it is truly an aggressive dog who thinks he is alpha, then we have to use stronger methods.

I have always taught, “The crazier the animal is, the calmer we can be”.  The self awareness that is required for this approach and the practice of being calm and compassionate is the foundation for successfully working with fractious dogs.



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.


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


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 attacks and rabies are as bad as ever worldwide.

It is surprising how few people are aware of the suffering caused by feral dogs in the U.S. and throughout the world and how much feral dogs suffer through starvation, abuse, and disease.   In the U.S. the feral dog situation is actually increasing acording to National Geograpshic News at: .  I have taken three trips to India to teach humane capture and handling for spay neuter programs.   The World Health Organization (WHO)  estimates that India accounts for 60% o f the rabies cases with 22,000 human rabies cases each year caused primarily by feral dogs.  During my last trip to India I handled 2 rabid dogs myself.  (Yes, I am vaccinated!)

The proven solution for areas overwhelmed by feral dogs is to conduct extensive trap neuter release programs, but few organizations know how to successfully, safely, and humanely capture and handle feral dogs. Our non-profit, GWR, continues to work on videos, The Feral Dog Library, and publications to make this information available worldwide.

To raise awareness we are gathering photos, videos, and published information on dogs attacking humans and on feral dog rabies.  Please contact us if you have such educational material.   We also seek tax-deductable donations to fund these important projects including:  website development,  training videos, and publications.   Visit our website at: to learn more and email me at if you have an interest in helping us.  Help us make a difference around the world.

Mark R. Johnson DVM

Wildlife Veterinarian