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A woman looking for her lost dog in the forest

How do you rescue a lost dog?

If you've ever come across a stray dog in need of help, you know how heart-wrenching and challenging it can be to catch and rescue them. If you have asked yourself why the dog doesn't just run to the safety of a potential rescuer then read on.

From understanding the intricacies of a dog's survival instincts to employing effective strategies for capturing them safely, this article will equip you with the knowledge and skills to make a difference. Whether you're a concerned citizen or an animal welfare advocate, this guide will help you transform from a bystander to a savior.

We'll walk you through the process step by step, sharing insights from seasoned rescuers and experts in the field. You’ll discover invaluable tips, techniques, and resources to effectively catch and rescue dogs in survival mode. Together, we can create a safer, more compassionate world for our furry companions, one rescue at a time.


Understanding dogs in 'survival mode'

Many lost dogs can easily go into what is described as 'survival mode'.

Dogs in survival mode have typically endured traumatic experiences, which have triggered their instinctual fight or flight response. This survival instinct can make them wary of humans and resistant to human contact. Understanding their behavior and mindset is essential in successfully rescuing them.


Lost dogs act differently

Firstly, it's important to recognize the signs that indicate a dog is in survival mode. These may include extreme skittishness, avoidance behavior, constant vigilance, and an overall emaciated appearance. By recognizing these signs, you can better empathize with the dog's situation and tailor your approach accordingly.

Survival mode dogs often exhibit a heightened level of fear and anxiety, making them more prone to flee or act defensively. It's crucial to approach them with patience, calmness, and respect to gain their trust. Building a bond based on trust is key to successfully capturing and rescuing a dog in survival mode.


The importance of catching and rescuing dogs in survival mode

Dogs in survival mode often face various risks, including exposure to harsh weather conditions, starvation, and potential injuries. Additionally, their presence on the streets can lead to conflicts with other animals or humans, posing risks to public safety. Therefore, it is crucial to catch and rescue these dogs to prevent further suffering and potential harm.

Rescuing a dog in survival mode also offers them the opportunity for rehabilitation and socialization. With proper care and attention, these dogs can overcome their traumatic past and thrive in a loving and nurturing environment. Each successfully rescued dog is a testament to the power of compassion and the potential for transformation.


Preparing for the rescue mission

Before embarking on a rescue mission, it's essential to be well-prepared both mentally and physically. Rescuing a dog in survival mode can be emotionally draining and physically demanding, requiring careful planning and consideration.

One crucial step in preparation is gathering the necessary tools and equipment. These may include a leash, collar, treats, a secure carrier or crate, gloves, and a blanket. Having these items readily available will ensure you are equipped to handle any situation that may arise during the rescue process.

Additionally, it's important to educate yourself on local laws and regulations regarding stray dogs and rescues. Familiarize yourself with any relevant permits or licenses required, as well as any guidelines for handling and transporting animals. By staying informed, you can ensure that your rescue efforts align with legal and ethical standards.

Finally, preparing mentally involves understanding the potential challenges and risks involved in rescuing a dog in survival mode. It's important to be realistic about the time, effort, and resources required for a successful rescue. Mental resilience and determination are key attributes for anyone embarking on a rescue mission.


Tools and equipment needed for catching stray dogs

When it comes to catching stray dogs, having the right tools and equipment can significantly increase the chances of a successful rescue. These tools are designed to ensure the safety of both the rescuer and the dog, while minimizing stress and trauma for the animal.

A sturdy leash is an essential tool. Opt for a leash made of durable material, with a secure latch or clip. A leash with an extendable feature can provide flexibility in managing the dog's movements during the rescue process.

A properly fitting collar is also crucial for safely restraining the dog. Choose a collar that is comfortable and adjustable, but secure enough to prevent the dog from slipping out. Avoid using choke or prong collars, as they can cause unnecessary harm or distress.

Treats can be invaluable in gaining the dog's trust and cooperation. Use high-value treats that the dog finds irresistible, such as small pieces of cooked chicken or cheese. Treats can serve as positive reinforcement during the rescue, rewarding the dog for calm and cooperative behavior.


If you can, bring a crate

In addition to basic equipment, consider carrying a secure carrier or crate to transport the rescued dog. This provides a safe and contained space for the dog during transportation, minimizing the risk of escape or injury. Ensure the carrier is well-ventilated and large enough for the dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably.


Approaching and capturing a dog in survival mode

Approaching a dog in survival mode requires patience, gentleness, and a deep respect for their boundaries. Remember, these dogs have likely experienced trauma and may be fearful or defensive. Building trust is the foundation for a successful capture.

Approach the dog slowly, avert your eyes and maintain your head in a bowed position so as to look as non-threatening as possible. Avoid direct eye contact, which can be perceived as a threat. Speak softly and use a calm, reassuring tone of voice. Toss treats such as hot dog sausages or cheese (bite size) several feet to the side of you or behind you to establish a positive association and encourage the dog to come closer. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises that may startle or agitate the dog.

If the dog remains wary and unapproachable, consider setting up a feeding station in the area. Place food and water in a secure and quiet location, gradually moving closer to the dog over time. This allows the dog to associate your presence with positive experiences and builds trust at their own pace.

When the dog shows signs of comfort and trust, you can attempt to secure a leash around their neck. Be mindful of the dog's body language and reactions. If the dog becomes agitated or fearful, take a step back and reassess the situation. Take the time to build trust. Do not make a grab for them straight away. It may take multiple attempts before successfully capturing the dog.

Once the leash is secured, gently and slowly guide the dog towards a secure carrier or crate. Offer treats and comforting words to reassure the dog during the transition. If the dog is too fearful to enter the carrier willingly, consider using a slip lead or gently lifting them into the carrier.


Handling and transporting the rescued dog safely

Handling and transporting a rescued dog safely is crucial for their well-being and the safety of those involved. It's important to prioritize the dog's comfort and minimize stress during this process.

When handling the dog, use a calm and gentle approach. Avoid sudden movements or forceful handling, as this can escalate fear or anxiety. Speak softly and provide reassurance through comforting words and gentle touches.

During transportation, secure the carrier or crate in a manner that prevents excessive movement or tipping. Ensure proper ventilation and climate control to maintain a comfortable environment for the dog. If the journey is long, provide regular breaks for the dog to stretch their legs and relieve themselves.


Consider using a muzzle

If the dog is showing signs of extreme fear or aggression, consider using a muzzle to prevent any potential biting incidents. Muzzles should be properly fitted and allow the dog to breathe and pant comfortably. A muzzle should never be used as a form of punishment or to restrict the dog's ability to express themselves.


Providing initial care and medical attention

Upon successfully rescuing a dog in survival mode, it's important to provide immediate care and seek medical attention if needed. Stray dogs often require medical intervention due to neglect, malnutrition, or injuries sustained during their time on the streets.

Firstly, assess the dog's overall health and well-being. Look for any visible injuries, signs of illness, or malnutrition. If the dog appears sick or injured, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. They can provide a comprehensive examination and recommend appropriate treatment options.

In addition to medical care, ensure the dog has access to clean water and nutritious food. Gradually introduce a balanced diet to avoid overwhelming their digestive system. A high-quality dog food formulated for rescue or rehabilitation may be recommended by a veterinarian.

Create a safe and comfortable space for the dog to rest and recover. Provide a soft bed or blankets in a quiet area of your home, away from excessive noise or activity. This allows the dog to rest and regain their strength in a calm environment.


What if my own dog is lost?

  • Look in places familiar to your dog. You know where your dog likes to be and the walks you both frequent, it's likely that he will be in one of those spots.
  • Leave an item of clothing belonging to the owner in the general area where the dog was last seen, especially if your dog is a spaniel or other hound. Your dog should pick up the scent and return to that area, which means you can narrow down your search. Several owners who did this were delighted to find on returning to the item of clothing that their dog was there sitting on it!
  • Contact your local dog rescues, humane societies and veterinary centers. If someone has found your dog there is a high possibility that he has already been taken to a local rescue or veterinary center. Contact them all with a detailed description of your dog including any distinctive markings or mannerisms that may help identify him.


How to avoid losing your dog

  • Secure your yard. If you have a yard, check that it is completely fenced off and without holes or spaces where your dog can escape. Carry out regular inspections to make sure the fence is in good repair.
  • Keep your dog on leash when walking. Always walk your dog on a strong and secure leash to prevent him from running away. If you want your dog to be able to explore and run freely while you keep him on a leash, we recommend using a recall leash for extra security.
  • Train your dog in recall and basic obedience. Make sure that your dog responds to basic commands, such as ‘come’ or ‘here’. Proper training strengthens the bond between you and your dog and can help keep your dog safe. Our article how to teach your dog to come when called will help you with basic recall. This is especially important if your dog has a tendency to chase animals or objects.
  • Use an ID collar. Make sure your dog wears an ID tag on his collar that includes his name and your phone number. It will make it easier for someone to contact you quickly if he is found.
  • Get your dog microchipped. We can’t emphasise this enough. A microchip is a small device implanted under your dog's skin containing your contact information which can be scanned by a local vet or rescue.


Main photo by Siim Lukka on Unsplash


Have you ever lost your dog? Did you find them or did they make their way home? Tell us below.

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