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My Dog has Escaped! Help!

My worst nightmare happened to me just the other day.

While driving I see a dog running into traffic right in front of me.

The dog escaped from its car and is running away from her person, who is frantically chasing it and calling the dog to come back. Of course, I slam on my brakes, while other motorists just keep driving by, most not even slowing down even after activating my emergency lights and pulling onto the shoulder. This is a recipe for disaster.

Here are some tips that may well save the dog's life:

  1. Don't chase the dog!!!! This can lead to the dog running into traffic. Even if they know you, this is a game dogs play (keep away) or you may just outright scare them!

  2. Instead, run away to where you want the dog to go! Make a fuss and run in the direction you want the dog to come.

  3. If you have it, sprinkle food down to calm the dog (and yourself) once you are away from imminent danger and be generous!

  4. Stay calm and work the dog towards you (not you towards the dog). If you have food, slowly toss it closer to yourself.

  5. Try not to face the dog head-on, but turn sideways. This reduces the conflict of having to approach.

  6. Show interest in something on the ground, pick up a pinecone and play with it. Toss a treat up and down.

Dogs that are in a heightened state of arousal, regardless if it is fear or excitement induced, are not able to think very well. Our goal is to slow down their brains so they can start to think and make better choices. Calm body motions and voice versus erratic panic display, and the use of food, will certainly increase your chances of securing the dog and keeping them around you.

Once the dog is calming, here are some options to help secure and grab the dog:

  1. Reach a hand down low, towards the chest (well under the chin) don't touch the dog, just keep feeding, drop food on the ground, or toss towards the dog if the dog is too fearful or hesitant to take it from the hand. You can even place your hand on the ground and scatter some treats around it.

  2. Once eating and within reach, calmly extend your hand and touch but don't grab, and do not stop feeding. Ideally, you would touch a few times or let the dog bump into you. If this is accepted, try some little scratches or pets. The dog may step away then reduce the motion and let them come back and try again.

  3. Once they accept touch you can slide fingers along the body to secure the dog's collar/harness and keep feeding.

  4. Breathe!!!!

This can take many minutes, and it may feel like an eternity!

If the dog does NOT want to come closer:

  • Maybe the dog can hop into your car, and opening the car door may well help them access a space they like or consider safe, you can offer this option as most dogs are familiar with riding in a car (even if it's not your dog!)

  • If the dog cannot eat but is calming down a bit you can offer to play with a toy! Some dogs will instantly come racing over to play! Make it easy for the dog and tie the toy to a leash to make it more enticing! Dogs love to chase bunnies, and most dogs will enjoy chasing a toy on a string or rope. If no toy is readily available many dogs love to play with a sock. At the very least they will take a moment to sniff it out!

  • Lower your body down, make yourself smaller, but don't encroach on the dog's space, almost ignore them and pretend to have fun, make them curious as to what you are doing!

  • Make a treat trail to where you want the dog to go, then move well aside so you are not too close to scare the dog away.

  • Grab another on leash dog to provide the social connection and help the dog move to safety by following the other dog. Or they can help create interest by feeding the dog, playing with it etc.

  • Grab a bag or other item that crinkles like a food bag.

  • Move slowly, stop often, lower yourself to prevent scaring the dog. Even try sitting or lying down casually on the ground.

Once the dog is secured and returned to his person, it is time to rethink RECALL STRATEGIES as well as your EMERGENCY STOP and work on perfecting your skills and those of your dog in a situation that is not urgent, dangerous or quite so stressful! Remember to PRACTISE FOR THE SITUATION, NOT IN THE SITUATION.

Best Paw Forward and DAWG offers both "Recall" and "Emergency Stop" training options at the training centre or in real life!

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