What NOT to do When You See a Loose Dog

Guest Post by Andrea Logan

You may have seen the post on social media about the two small dogs that were found running in the Tokul area of Snoqualmie last week.

Those two dogs are safe due to the work and expertise of two wonderful people: Susan Burk and Judy Cecil. Susan volunteers with Useless Bay Sanctuary, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that helps lost dogs.

The bonded pair of dogs, male and female chihuahua mixes, were spotted running in and out of the road, scared out of their minds.  Kind, well-meaning neighbors and passersby attempted to corral them with no luck. They were unknowingly making things harder for these terrified dogs by chasing them and trying to catch them. 

Susan got the call to help and came out with her humane traps.  It turns out these chihuahua mixes weren’t so small after all, and one of her traps wasn’t large enough!  Another rescuer, Judith, came to the rescue with her larger trap.  Because the good Samaritans were making things more chaotic with their presence, Susan and Judy asked that they let them take the rescue mission from there.  The chaos had gone on for hours at this point.

So how WERE these dogs on the lam finally caught? Judy lay on the ground near where the dogs were running around, and the female dog, the more confident of the two, felt brave enough to investigate.  Judy was able to put a slip leash on this frightened girl.  And the rotisserie chicken on hand didn’t hurt!  The female dog was then put in a trap next to a second empty trap.  Because the two were so bonded, and the male found comfort with the female dog, he entered the adjacent trap.  Whew, they were now out of harm’s way.

Judy was acting in a calming, non-threatening manner. Have you heard the term “calming signals” when working with animals? Some examples include avoiding eye contact with the dog, sitting on the ground near him or her, or tossing food or treats towards the dog and away from you while avoiding eye contact.  Yawning is also a calming signal.  

According to Susan, “Don’t stare at the dog, don’t call or whistle to the loose dog, and never chase him.”  If the dog approaches, don’t try to grab him; earn his trust slowly so you can gently put a leash on him.  For more information on calming signals and helping loose dogs, read here: http://www.uselessbaysanctuary.org/how-to-help-a-roaming-dog.html.

As a dog trainer, I frequently use calming signals when I work with client’s dogs especially if they are scared or protective. You can help these animals by doing your best to be calm and ignore them until they relax.

Always put safety first.  Some normally friendly dogs are so terrified when lost that they may act aggressively if they feel threatened.

What if you can safely leash up the dog and/or get him or her in your car? You can check with nearby neighbors and post online to see if someone is missing the lost dog.  This is one of the best uses for social media! You can also call Regional Animal Services of King County for help.

We’ll likely never know the story of these two dogs, but they are safe at Regional Animal Services of King County.  We are fortunate to have some rock star advocates for animals in this community, like Susan and Judy. But with the shelters and rescues full and many pet owners struggling financially, the animals need YOUR help.

If you would like to donate towards Useless Bay Sanctuary’s crucial work, here is a link: http://www.uselessbaysanctuary.org/donate.html

Stay tuned for part two of this story, which will give you more information about the current state of shelters and rescues and what you can do to help.

[Andrea Logan from Lead Dog has been active in animal welfare for over 20 years and currently focuses on rehabilitating challenging foster dogs and helping dog owners with training and behavioral issues.  Her passion is helping people build a better bond with their dogs.  For help with your dog, visit Lead Dog’s Facebook page]

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