Putting leash on nervous dog
Cesar Millan's Leader of the Pack
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Cesar Millan's Leader of the Pack

Cesar Millan Demonstrates The Right Way To Win A Dog’s Trust

When encountering a stray dog, you have to be careful to win their trust before you can safely rescue the pup!

Every year, millions of dogs are euthanized in overcrowded animal shelters. When dogs show their anxiety or nervousness through aggression, as Brigadier does in the below clip, they are often deemed unadoptable and sentenced to death. Dog Expert Cesar Millan’s mission is to understand what these dogs really need and find the root of their behavior problems so they can be rehabilitated and eventually adopted. On this episode of “Cesar Millan’s Leader of the Pack,” Cesar demonstrates how to win the trust of Brigadier, a skeptical stray who is extremely wary of people. Check out Cesar’s tried and true process in the clip below! 

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Nervous stray dogs rely on people like Cesar Millan and patient rescuers who are willing to open their hearts while these dogs adjust to their new environment. As with all rescue dogs, it’s usually impossible to know what type of life they’ve known until now. It could have been filled with abuse, starvation, neglect, or fear, which may make them nervous around people. This nervousness could result in biting or aggressive outbursts, which can lead to serious injury or make these dogs prime candidates for euthanasia. These dogs won’t initially understand that good samaritans simply want to offer help. 

Whether you work in the animal industry like Cesar Millan or are simply willing to save a stray you happen to stumble upon, you have to rescue the animal in a way that is safe for you and your animal. Cesar Millan’s tried and true method makes earning the dog’s trust the number one priority. Sometimes it’s best to let the dog decide to come to you because then the animal is actively deciding to trust you. In order to encourage trust, Cesar Millan creates a relaxed environment for Brigadier by avoiding making direct eye contact with the dog, and not talking or touching the dog until he is ready. He also creates calmness with scent by casually walking by the Brigadier to allow him to learn his scent. Cesar only says a leash can be put around Brigadier’s neck once the dog’s body language shows he is ready. 

If you find a lost or stray dog and are willing to stop to help, you are the definition of kindness and you should be proud of your loving heart. That said, do not take it personally if the dog is scared of you and not overly accepting of your help right away. If you do not have the time or ability to slowly earn a stray dog’s trust, here are some additional tips to safely rescue the animal and keep you both out of harm’s way. 

Capture the animal carefully. 

Always approach the dog slowly and cautiously. Although Cesar Millan doesn’t advise speaking while earning trust, some dogs do find a calm and gentle voice soothing. Always watch the dog’s body language carefully to look for signs he may be about to lunge or bite. If a frightened dog is particularly wary of you approaching, try to offer dog-safe foods to coax him into a carrier or confined space where he will be safe. 

Restrain or confine the animal cautiously. 

Ideally, lost or stray dogs should be restrained using a leash, confined in a pet crate, or held in a safe, fenced-in yard where they can’t escape. In the perfect scenario, the dog will be receptive to a slip lead, which can be put around the dog’s neck and safely secured without attaching it to a collar. Since most people won’t be expecting to run into a stray, a belt or piece of rope can be used in an emergency situation as a temporary way to rescue the dog. It’s also a good idea to create some sort of barrier between yourself and the dog to protect yourself if you suspect his behavior may be unpredictable. Once the pet is safely contained, you will be able to determine next steps and if the dog needs immediate medical care. 

Determine if you’ve found a stray or lost dog. 

If the pet is lost, he will likely look well fed and cared for and may have a collar and ID tag. If so, you may be able to call the owner and immediately return the lost dog. If you can’t reach the owner right away, you can choose to hold onto the pet for a while until you can make contact and file a “found” report with your local animal shelter in case the owner goes there to look for the missing dog. You could also put fliers up in the area or take to social media to try to notify the owner you found the dog. 

If the dog doesn’t have an ID tag, you should still have him checked for a microchip at your local veterinarian's office or animal shelter. Using a database, the staff will be able to see if the pup is registered to an owner and access contact information to reunite the dog and his pet parent. While some people will want to hold onto the dog while his owner is searched for, the shelter may be the best place for the pup to receive proper care. In addition, the shetler is the most likely place for distraught pet parents to search so the dog will have the best chance of reuniting with his owner if he is there. 

If you’ve become attached to the dog you rescued, don’t worry too much. The shelter will likely put the dog under a hold to allow his owner time to find and reclaim him. During that hold, the dog can’t be adopted out and will be given the care he needs. You can keep tabs on the dog and be there to adopt him into your family if his owner does not return to reclaim him. Either way, the dog will end up safe and sound in a loving home. 

When all else fails, call in the authorities. 

If a dog is behaving particularly aggressively and you can’t safely approach, it’s best to call the police or animal control for backup. As much as you want to help, you shouldn’t risk getting bit or injured. In these situations, police and animal control can help rescue the animal in a safe way using tools you may not have access to as a civilian. Make sure to report the dog’s last known location if he escaped, or keep a watchful eye on the stray until authorities arrive if it’s safe and possible to do so. 

Once authorities capture the dog, he will likely be taken to an animal shelter to undergo medical and behavior assessments and to search for a possible owner. The dog will probably be put under a stray hold, where he cannot be adopted out while he waits for an owner to come claim him. When that hold is up, you may have the option to adopt or foster the dog yourself if you are interested. While he may have been scared and aggressive when he was found, the dog could transform into the happiest and sweetest pup once he knows he’s safe and loved. Many rescuers who find a stray do feel it was fate that brought them and their dog together and will keep tabs to try to adopt or foster the dog they found. 

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