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Don’t Call Your Dog

This article is brought to you by the NZCAR Pet Detective Service.

Why You Should NOT Call A Stray / Loose Dog

donnotcall 500x335We know. It sound’s crazy-stupid to say “Don’t Call Your Dog!” after your dog has escaped and is running loose (or when you encounter a stray dog). You’re probably thinking “But he always comes to me when I call him” or “So HOW will I get the dog to come to me if I see him but I can’t call him?”

The answer is BY CALMING HIM and ATTRACTING HIM to come to you, and we will explain how to do that.

But first, we need to explain that CALLING A DOG CAN CAUSE IT TO RUN FROM YOU. Your instinct, when the dog runs, is then to chase after the dog and this is the WORST thing that you can do! Thus, when you hear or see the words “DO NOT CHASE YOUR DOG if it is lost” this includes DO NOT CALL your dog (since calling a dog can create chasing).

Here’s what we know. Some dogs that are scared off by fireworks, thunder, or other traumatic events will be so terrified that they will not even come to their owners. While some dogs will ultimately calm down and then approach people, other dogs will continue to run from everyone. Many dogs with fearful temperaments, like dogs that were not properly socialized, “puppy mill” dogs, and dogs that have been through a traumatic experience (i.e. escaped due to a car crash) are in the “fight or flight” mode and will be highly reactive to sounds and movement.

There’s a reason why one of the worst things that you can do is call out to a stray dog or panicked dog. The reason is that it’s likely that other people (who encountered the loose dog) have already tried to capture him and calling him has become a “trigger” that causes him to automatically bolt in fear when anyone, including his owner, calls him. In many cases, people have tried to call the dog as they looked directly at the dog and walked towards it, an action that is dominate and frightening to a dog that is in the fight or flight mode.

SING to Your Dog!

Sing to your dog We’ve been asked, “If I’m walking through the neighbourhood searching for my dog and I can’t call his name, can I whistle?” The answer is NO, because the chances are good that if other people encountered your dog and THEY whistled to him (which many people do because, everyone knows that dogs come when you whistle, right?) then whistling may also BE A TRIGGER to cause your dog to run. So will slapping your leg and patting your hands. These (calling out to the dog, clapping your hands, whistling) are all gestures and sounds that OTHER PEOPLE have likely used and if they were used when your dog was in the fight or flight mode, when your dog hears these noises he will once again feel a jolt of adrenaline and bolt in fear.

What we recommend is that instead, the only sound that you make is that YOU SING TO YOUR DOG. Pick any tune you like, and make up the words as you go, but singing to your dog will accomplish two things: (1) it will get your voice heard by your dog and (2) IT WILL SOUND DIFFERENT TO YOUR DOG THAN THE OTHER SOUNDS STANGERS WHO’VE TRIED TO GRAB YOUR DOG HAVE USED (calling out, hand clapping, whistling). Singing will also help YOU to calm down and hopefully your voice will reflect PEACE rather than FEAR that comes when you’re worried and calling your dog. You would be better off being silent as you search, especially if you know that your dog has a fearful temperament or took off because of a fearful incident. But if you insist on making noise when you are searching, then SING while you search!

If You See Your Dog, CALM HIM (But Don’t Call Your Dog!)

If during your search you encounter your dog, do NOT call out to him and don’t use a coaxing voice. If he is looking at you, IMMEDIATELY SIT DOWN! If you see him and he does not see you, starting singing and SIT DOWN. Then look away, which is a submissive gesture. Standing up is a dominate gesture but sitting down is critical to attracting a panicked dog to come to you. You should fake like you’re eating food on the ground–we suggest that you actually have a baggie of smelly treats like pieces of hotdog or liver treats with you. Potato chip bags are PERFECT to carry your treats in because they make loud, crinkly noises that DOGS ASSOCAITE WITH FOOD. You can watch your dog out of the corner of your eye without looking directly at him. Do anything other than staring straight at your dog while walking towards him! One of our volunteers captured a tiny terrier that ran from her when she called him but he came wiggling up to her once she laid flat on her back and patted her chest. Another of our volunteers captured a panicked dog by getting out of the car with a Frisbee and started tossed it back and forth with the dog owner as they both just ignored the dog. WHEN YOU FIXATE ALL OF YOUR ATTENTION ON THE DOG AND THE DOG IS IN A FIGHT OR FLIGHT MODE, HE WILL BECOME EVEN MORE TERRIFIED THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO CATCH HIM. Your body language should convey that YOU ARE EATING FOOD, DROPPING FOOD ON THE GROUND, and YOU ARE IGNORING OR HAVEN’T NOTICED THE DOG. This is the KEY to catching a loose dog—calming them down and attracting them to come to you.

You should also know that when dogs are in a full fight or flight mode and their adrenaline is flowing, the olfactory section of their brain closes down. That’s why sometimes when you try to feed a hotdog to a panicked dog it won’t eat it. So sometimes the food will work, sometimes it won’t. It depends on the dog and what level of panic he is in. Also, some dogs will immediately recognize their owner by their scent but other dogs won’t.

Many dog owners don’t believe that their own dog would not come to them and find out the hard way, even after they’ve been given this information. To be on the safe side, if you DO see your dog, instead of calling him, SIT DOWN on the ground, do not look directly at your dog, but start making lip-smacking “nummy, nummy, nummy” sounds as you drop treats on the ground, and slowly entice your dog to come to you.

How Can NZCAR Help?

If you would like more help discussing your dog type and how they are likely to react, you can book time with an NZCAR Pet Detective for a one-on-one personalised service. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


This page has been created by the NZCAR team based on advice written by Kat Albrecht, Network Director for the Missing Animal Response network and founder of the Missing Pet Partnership. Her website is missinganimalresponse.com. This article is one of a series of articles designed to help your lost pets get home. This page is copyrighted to the Missing Animal Response network and may not be reproduced without permission.

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