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Catch Me If You Can (Says the Dog on the Run)

Dawgbehavior Training for the normal pet owner
How to catch a dog
Published on April 3, 2010 : 10 comments

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Have you ever had a dog that took off out of the front door as soon as he saw the crack of day light? Have you ever had a dog that lived for jumping the fence every time it went outside? What about that dog that would dig its way under the fence anytime you weren’t around just so it could go explore the outside world.

We’ve all experienced this annoying and sometimes deadly behavior in one way or another. Especially true here in Omaha, now that the snow is melting and the dogs as well as the humans are getting some major cabin fever.

When a dog escapes, a person’s first instinct is to chase the dog and catch it before something awful happens. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what we should do.

A dog’s natural instinct when it’s being chased is to not get caught. Whether it’s to protect itself or just to play the canine version of tag.

Here are some examples of correct ways to catch a dog:

  1. Get the dogs attention then run in the opposite direction. This will change the direction of the “game” and he will feel it’s his turn to chase you.
  2. Use a key word (come, here boy, lets get treats, etc.). Use a happy, fun voice instead of an angry voice. A happy voice will tell your dog it’s play time and you’re in a good mood, and he could possibly get a belly rub if he does as he’s told. The angry voice tells the dog that if he does come to you, he’ll most likely get into big trouble so his goal is to avoid you at all costs.
  3. Try to cut the dog off from its flight path.You may need multiple people for this. Have someone stay by the house and have one or two other people try and get in front of the dog to coax it back towards the house or to safety. This would be kind of like herding cattle. Being careful not to make the dog feel threatened or it may run off again and possibly into oncoming traffic.
  4. Use the old Hansel and Gretel trick. If the dog is close enough, throw him a treat, then slowly lay a trail of treats back to the house or to where he can be picked up safely. Dogs are very smart, so don’t think laying two treats down will get him close enough. He is still watching you around the first and second treat, so the goal is to get him to focus on the long line of treats that lie in front of him instead of the fact that you are on the verge of grabbing him and cutting his exploring time down to zero.

Dog Training TipsDog Training TipsNothing is better than preventative training. Work with your dog 3 times a day for 5-10 minutes each time on basic commands, tricks, or constructive play. This will help build your bond as owner and dog and will also promote confidence in your dog, which will teach him that he can be a better friend if he listens to you.

I would like to dedicate this article to Kobe, a two year old Kerry Blue Terrier that was hit by a car and killed in front of my house. His family did the only thing they new how to catch him and keep him safe: they chased him! Unfortunately it was the wrong thing to do. My only wish is that I could have helped them before this happened.

Remember that Omaha is filled with tons of rescues and shelters that have hundreds of homeless dogs that would love to have a responsible owner to love. No matter where you get your dog, the key to a happy healthy relationship is “dawgbehavior” training!


Dog Training Guide

DogBhaviorCari Brown, ABCDT (Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer)


cpooschke says:

April 4, 2010 : 14 years 7 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

Great article! This is one of the best things I ever learned in puppy obedience class. So counter-intuitive, yet critical information!

Any advice for when you’re walking your dog and you are approached by a stray dog? This happened to me today, and I was caught QUITE off guard. Didn’t help that it was an intact male pit bull w/o a collar (and no owner in sight) and my Boxer is not too “dog friendly.” Luckily, a passerby finally stopped to assist us. Otherwise, I don’t know what I would’ve done…

Charlotte Coon (not verified) says:

April 5, 2010 : 14 years 7 weeks ago

Charlotte Coon's picture

Nice article. Should be helpful to a lot of people. Keep up the good work. We are proud of you!

Jody VanRooyan (not verified) says:

April 5, 2010 : 14 years 7 weeks ago

Jody VanRooyan's picture

Nice article Cari!! This will help so many people with this issue. You should put little tip articles like this in every week. “Training Tips by Cari” Nice job!

Melissa Duncan (not verified) says:

April 5, 2010 : 14 years 7 weeks ago

Melissa Duncan's picture

This is excellent information Cari! Way to go! Keep up the great work and I can say ‘I knew her when’… :)

Jessi Garlock (not verified) says:

April 5, 2010 : 14 years 6 weeks ago

Jessi Garlock's picture

Great article Cari! Thanks for all the info. and previous dog training.

Todd Coon (not verified) says:

April 5, 2010 : 14 years 6 weeks ago

Todd Coon's picture

Nice work Cari great information. I know I have inadvertently played this game with my dog. Lucky enough she was in the house running around with my dirty socks. It all ended when I was to tired to chase so I just walked away and she came right up to me with the sock in her mouth to let me know she wasn’t done playing yet. Four legged kids!

Nancy (not verified) says:

April 5, 2010 : 14 years 6 weeks ago

Nancy's picture

Great article Cari! I have a yellow lab that loves to eat things he is not suppose to eat. So every time I holler at him and run towards him, he runs the other way with it in his mouth. Now I know different. Boy is he in for a big surprise next time…lol.

Finch93 says:

April 6, 2010 : 14 years 6 weeks ago

Finch93's picture

Thank you for this Cari! I’d love to say “now I have this to share with clients” (and I will!) but mostly I am grateful because our Ebony Dog is a runner. It is such a helpless, scary feeling when she takes off - she LOVES to run. We have worked with her over the years, and restructured her life to have more time to run safely, and she is much better. And all of these things have been exactly what have helped us with her!

Stacey Watson (not verified) says:

April 6, 2010 : 14 years 6 weeks ago

Stacey Watson's picture

Cari, this is a wonderful article with great tips! I had a scare myself this week when Xena took off out of a partially opened gate. By the time I realized (no more than 5 minutes) there was no sight of her. Surely would have used this information if I could.

Oh..and Xena? Found inside my neighbor’s fenced in yard. Go figure! (there was a gap in their gate and I think she followed a squirrel or rabbit in). Gotta love them!

Anonymous (not verified) says:

April 8, 2010 : 14 years 6 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

I always used the “get the dogs attention and then start running the other way” approach. He always stopped in his tracks and ran after me!

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