Advice on Trapping a Runaway Dog

Shy or frightened dogs runaway dogs are difficult to recover.

Newly adopted dogs pose a special problem because they have not yet bonded with their new family or their new territory. It may be necessary to use a humane trap to recover such dogs.

The following advice is courtesy of Julia Gomez. You can also read about Julia’s own stupendous efforts to trap her newly adopted runaway dog, Addison. To obtain a humane trap for dogs, you may be able to borrow one from your local shelter or animal control.

The key to trapping is obviously knowing where the dog is. Dropping a trap in a location where you are not sure where the dog is will lead to a lot of time waiting and checking traps.
So, the important thing about knowing where to trap, is to create sightings. By getting large neon color signs and banners up immediately, will give you a sense of where the dog is hanging out. Details like times and direction of where dog was headed are crucial when there are sightings. Also making sure people don’t chase the dog is important as well . “SHY LOST DOG” and “DO NOT CHASE” are good words to use when getting information out. Walk around and talk to people and provide slips of paper with your information for them to keep with your contact info.

Dogs will stay in areas where there is food and water, shelter and safety. If they feel that those needs are met, then they won’t wander far from that location. When there is a sighting in an area, it’s important to get high value food and water (like chicken nuggets, plain cheeseburgers, Vienna sausage, hot dogs) out in that area to keep dog well fed and to keep them from roaming. Start setting out feeding stations. Using game cameras near feeding stations can help give evidence of who is eating the bait. Dogs tend to appear during dusk and at dawn. During the day, they may “hunker down” and stay out of sight. So, by having cameras, it will help you to see proof.

Once you create a routine of feeding the dog and you know for sure the dog is in the area, you set out a trap or a two. Make sure you have permission from property owner and lock trap to a tree so it does not get stolen. Put a sign on the trap so people know what it is and give your phone number. Make sure the trap is long enough for the dog and is the right size. Traps can be borrowed from rescue groups, or a warden can set one out. They can also be purchase online.

The key to luring the dog to the trap is using smelly food. rubbing the food on the bark of trees will give dog a scent, but won’t fill the dog up on the food where they will go into the trap because they are hungry. Taking juice from canned tuna or from Vienna sausage and drizzle it leading into trap so dog will follow scent.

Leave scatters of food in front of trap so dog will get a taste. You may also leave bits of food (on the wrapper so dog can see) inside of trap and then a large pile at the end beyond the trip plate.
This takes time and patience. Sometimes dogs are caught the first night, sometimes it takes weeks. The dog could be afraid to go into the trap. Keep up routine of leaving bait trail leading to pile in back of trap. You may catch animals like raccoons or opossums. So, monitoring the trap is important as well so as not to stress other animals and to keep trap free so that it is open to humanely trap your dog.

Some people like to put scented clothing in the trap. That could help. Some like to cover the trap with a tarp and tuck tarp under trap so it doesn’t blow. Some people cover entrance floor of trap with leaves so dog doesn’t feel the metal on their feet. These are various “techniques” that people use.
If you catch the dog in the trap, be sure to not open trap to get dog out until you are safely in a closed location like a garage or a house.

If you can’t lure dog into a trap and you have observed from the cameras that the dog refuses to go into trap, using calming techniques like laying on ground, not making eye contact, playing with another dog, using another dog as a “bait dog” to play with the lost dog, could lure the dog to you and you can get a slip leash on him. These are ways in which people have caught dogs as well, but could risk getting bit or could make a wrong move and scare the dog away.