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Open your heart, your mind, your home to a Kerry Blue Terrier

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Capturing a Spooked or Skittish Dog


© 2006 Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation


  • If the dog likes riding in the car, leave the car door open overnight: you may have a surprise waiting for you in the morning.
  • Leave the dog's own bedding in places where he's been sighted or was last seen, near a bowl of food. He may connect the bedding and food with home, and stay close to the area.

When you or your volunteers see the dog:

  • Remain quiet and still. Do not make any loud noises - that means do not scream to fellow searchers that you have located the dog.
  • Do not chase or follow him. Make him/her think you have no interest in him. Turn away.
    Avoid eye contact with the dog (this is a challenge in dog language and will frighten your dog more)
  • Do make any sudden movements.
  • Be sure you have no electronic equipment on that may make an unfamiliar noise that will frighten the dog (i.e. walkie talkies, cell phone, pager)
  • Stand sideways in relation to the dog,
  • Keep at an ample distance from the dog.
  • Let the dog initiate contact and approach ONLY when he feels ready.
  • Crouch down or sit on the floor/ground, if the situation is appropriate lie down on the ground - in order to be perceived as non-threatening
  • Avoid reaching out to touch the dog, even if he appears to be friendly, as the dog may interpret this as a threat. Remember let the dog come to you.
  • Lick your lips and yawn a lot, these are "calming signals" (the book "Calming Signals" by Turid Rugass is recommended by Greyhound people (who seem to have a real problem with runaways and spooked dogs) as a good primer on the use of non threatening signals for stressed dogs)
  • Do not tease the dog in anyway.
  • Have some small tasty high-value treats. Some animal control people highly recommend sardines to lure shy animals but you can use anything that would be an extraordinary treat (i.e. not just a Milkbone) with an irresistible strong aroma - like bait used by handlers at dog shows.
  • Unless the dog has a special relationship with a specific dog, volunteers bringing their own dogs along as decoys on the search may present more of a threat to a spooked dog. If you bring a decoy dog make sure it is friendly with appropriately approachable body language.

If the dog seems interested in you, offer him/her a treat:

  • The best way to do this is to hold it in your open palm and sit quietly, waiting for the dog to approach. If the dog still seems reluctant to approach, try offering the treat from behind your back.
  • Michael McCann, the greyhound searcher extraordinaire, has had success in luring a dog closer, by feeding his decoy dog. Some searchers say that seeing another dog eat is a more tempting sight, than having a treat offered directly to them.
  • If the dog approaches to take the treat do not try to grab the dog.
  • Study the body language of the dog carefully, praising each indication of interest and curiosity (positive reinforcement) with a high pitched, but quiet and gentle voice. Ignore fearful reactions (extinguishing a behavior). Be sensitive and try to determine if/when he/she has had enough contact and to break off the encounter.
  • As you coaxing with food starts to work and the dogs develops a trust with a searcher, avoid touching or petting in the area of the head or the neck - this is often construed as a threat by a shy dog. The best place to initiate touch contact would be on the shoulders or back.
  • Have looped leash (like a large slip collar) handy to slip over the dogs head. Do this slowly and calmly, speaking gently and quietly to the dog.

If the animal continues to be spotted at a distance:

  • If the dog is seen in one area, and seems indifferent to people (by that I mean not visibly afraid but will not approach people) you should you can begin feeding him/her to gain his/her trust.
  • Have the same person appear at that same location every day at the same time. It will take time, days and maybe weeks, and will require everyday visual contact. As the dog begins to trust you, he'll come closer. Never reach out to grab him it may set back the dog's progress with people.
  • Once the dog is eating comfortably, you can begin feeding him in a humane dog trap, which will eventually be used to catch him.
  • If he won't approach anyone, and is fond of his crate, set up a feeding station. Bring the crate to the location and set it up. Put his food in the crate and feed him there. Get him used to eating like he did at home.
  • For very difficult cases where the dog continues to be spotted in and around one area, but at a great distance, you may have to set up a feeding station in a fenced area with a gate. Closing a gate behind a dog is a lot easier than trying to get him to come to you.
  • Remember, Animal Control is skilled at surrounding dogs and using specialized equipment to catch fearful or aggressive animals.

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Today is November 21, 2019

On this day in 1910:

The first recipient of an AKC championship certificate was issues to a beagle by the name of "Sir Novice."

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The Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation is a nonprofit charity dedicated to promoting the welfare of the Kerry Blue Terrier breed in the areas of education, rescue and health & genetics. Learn More.


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