The artful dodger

Have you ever been in the position where you had to grab your dog and you simply could not? You called and called and when you got the "nope" response your temper flared and you went for the physical grab? How hard can it be to catch your own dog? It can be very difficult; dogs are amazingly intelligent, agile and fast. Over the past oh 33 years or so I have been working with dogs of all breeds, sizes and personalities. I have also caught many a stray dog; let's discuss that first.

The latest capture was a stray on the street, a small black lab mix who was running from one sidewalk to the other. I had been in the midst of house hunting when we spotted her. With our hunting put on hold and the real estate agent left standing there we went into action. It is all in the body language; most stray dogs consider an approach from a stranger to be a bad one; they are usually pretty stressed out already. If you are intending to catch and send this dog back to their home then you need to outsmart them.

There are of course the dogs who love anyone and everyone; but I'm not talking about those. You need to use your body language to the best of your ability; you need to seem inviting, someone this dog can feel safe with. Being that you are a stranger you have a big role to play. Catching your own dogs is role playing but not to the degree that catching a stray is. You must immediately get down, bend down and turn sideways. Do not look directly at the dog but use you peripheral vision.

Threatening body language is a direct approach and a direct stare; you don't want to use these. I have had to completely turn my back on a dog or two to get them to come close to me. Once they approach use a very calm and soothing voice. Do not make any sudden movements and hopefully you have some treats on you. Of course you can't always have a treat when you are trying to catch a stray but make sure you have a leash type thing to hook up to the dog. My suv is full of leashes, all the time.

Once the dog is within grasping distance, slowly start to pet the dog to build trust. If they accept this without running then you are almost there. You want to slowly get a hold of the collar without letting the dog know that's where you are headed. Some dogs get very nervous once you have a hold of them so be careful. Hook a leash, belt or rope to them asap; this allows the dog to get some distance from you once you stand up.

Now how do you catch your own dog when they don't want to be caught? The first thing to do is monitor your body language; take a good hard look at what you are saying with your body. Even the best behaved, well trained dogs may bolt at the slight hint of anger. If I'm mad; typically my dogs scatter; it is in their nature to stay out of harms way and that might mean my way. Luke is my master body language reader, he is without a doubt the most sensitive dog I have ever worked with. Not a meltdown type sensitive but sensitive to signals I send.

There are times when I'm in a hurry; I'm probably running late and need to do a head count before leaving. I have walked into the kitchen where one dog stands only to see them move away from me. I am sending negative signals with my rushing around. If you get into an angry zone and approach your dog head on with direct eye contact I can pretty much guarantee they are going to leave your grabbing radius. Like a smack in the head it hits you that your body language is saying "I'm mad, get out of my way" But you really are just hurrying around. Once you realize this and adjust your body; everyone will calm as well.

You must never call your dog to you when you are angry; it teaches them to stay away from you. NEVER, NEVER DO IT. Teach your dog lots of different words for the meaning of come. Reward big time. Practice the "come" exercise often; give them a hug and kiss and let them be on their way. And if you are getting mad at your dog and you need to get them to come to you; an oscar winning performance is in order. Once you do get them, pull it together and praise them. Your dog should never hesitate coming to you when you want them to.

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