How To Cat...

How To Catch A Shy Lost Dog

By Andrea Quarracino | October 5, 2021

Just like people, every dog has a personality, and how that pet behaves in and interacts with the world can impact how they find their way back home when they've gotten lost. If you're looking for a shy, scared, lost dog, it helps to know where to look and how to best approach them so they aren't triggered to run away.

How Can I Tell if a Dog Is Skittish?

According to pet detective Kat Albrecht, a lost, scared, or shy dog may avert their gaze↗, flatten their ears, tuck their tail, cower, or walk and run in a way that looks nervous and unsure. 

If you've spotted a lost, scared dog, try to take a picture — even if you have to zoom in from a distance — then visit Petco Love Lost and report the found dog. Posting the pet to our database will help connect the lost dog to a vast network of lost and found pets across the nation.  

You'll also want to give your local animal shelter or animal control office a call to report the sighting. "Sometimes the best help you can provide is an accurate location, the direction of travel, and description of the lost pet so responders can quickly contain them," says Amy-Jo Sites, director for Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control↗.  

Best Way To Catch a Scared Dog

  1. Don’t approach the dog too quickly.

  2. Entice the dog to come to you.

  3. Don’t make loud noises or call out to the dog.

  4. Remain calm and use submissive body language.

  5. Avoid direct eye contact.

  6. Try Albrecht's , using a crinkly food bag (like a potato chip packet) and a soft, tempting treat. This may work to lure the dog to you or help get them into your car.

Where To Find a Lost, Scared Dog

You'll likely notice a lost dog around the edges of your community, not too far from a source of food or water. If a dog is scared or shy, Kathy Pobloskie of Lost Dogs of America says that you can often find them on hiking trails↗, slightly off the beaten path (they may have sore feet from running), and they will often hide in areas like:  

  • Houses that back onto wooded areas or parks

  • Tall grass or marshy areas

  • Cemeteries

  • Golf courses

  • Campgrounds and picnic areas

  • Sporting fields

  • Industrial parks and abandoned factories

  • Quiet cul de sacs

  • Decks, old cars, old machinery, boats – especially with overgrown grass

  • Junkyards

  • Untidy yards and farmyards

  • Abandoned barns and sheds

  • Wooded areas behind restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and convenience stores – anywhere food is sold or served

  • Anywhere that outdoor cats are being fed

How To Catch a Dog That Ran Away

When you're helping to catch a lost dog, Sites says safety should always be the top priority. "While you may have a dog at home, it's important to understand that dogs are individuals, and how you handle your dog may not be how to handle the dog you come across."

Be sure to educate yourself on how to catch a lost dog, including the warning signs of fear and aggression in dogs so that you can keep yourself safe. "Never push an animal beyond their threshold," says Sites. "It's okay to step back and call for help."  

If you're out looking for a lost and scared dog, try not to go in a big group of people. "We understand that people want to help, but their efforts should be used for flyering, not searching," Pobloskie says. "Don't be the reason a dog is pressured out of their safe area, or worse yet, into traffic."

Setting a Humane Trap

Trapping a dog can be an effective way to catch a skittish or scared lost dog. But it's essential to fully understand how to trap a dog before you get started. "You want to select the proper location, set the trap up correctly, and bait it properly," says Danielle Robertson of Lost Pet Research & Recovery↗. "Most importantly, you want to make sure that you monitor the trap adequately."  

You'll need a humane trap that is large enough that the dog's whole body can fit inside before the trap shuts. If the trap injures the dog or allows it to escape, it'll be harder for them to go into another trap again. According to Robertson, failure to take these critical steps can reduce the chances of catching a dog, and worst case could result in seriously injuring the pet. Get on-site assistance from an experienced animal rescuer if you're unsure how to proceed.


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