I grew up in a house where taking in stray animals was the norm. It seemed we always had one relatively normal dog and one dog with some kind of dysfunction due to abuse or just too much time spent as a stray. As a result, I know firsthand the benefit of befriending stray dogs and either attempting to find homes for them or adopting them yourself. But approaching a skittish and lonely stray dog isn’t easy and can be dangerous if you don’t exercise caution. Here’s how to gain the trust of a stray dog:
Get The Dog’s Attention
The risks of startling or sneaking up on a dog are high, so you need to get the dog’s attention before you begin to approach. Speak in a calm, soothing voice; don’t make loud jarring noises. If the dog turns and looks at you, continue to make calm, soothing noises without approaching the dog. Give the dog the chance to approach you first.
Bribe the Dog With Treats
The quickest way to a dog’s heart- and especially the heart of a stray dog- is through the stomach. Try dropping a few treats, or even gently tossing them to the dog. It may take a few minutes, but if you have food available, the dog is more likely to warm up to you.
Only Approach if The Dog Is Receptive
Do not approach a stray dog who runs away or is staring you down. If the dog looks at you and seems interested or wags her tail, however, approach slowly, tossing treats and speaking calmly and sweetly.
If The Dog Runs
If the dog starts to run away, do not chase the dog. This will only frighten the dog and you will quickly lose whatever trust you have gained. Instead, stop moving and turn your back to the dog. This approach will help the dog to regain a sense of control and may even encourage the dog to approach you.
If The Dog Gets Aggressive
If the dog charges at your or shows any sign of aggression, do not run away. You can’t outrun a dog and this will only encourage the dog to chase you anyway, Instead, stand still, avoid making eye contact, and slowly back away. If the dog approaches you, allow the dog to sniff you and continue dropping treats. If you behave appropriately when the dog becomes aggressive, this may actually help you to gain the dog’s trust and help the dog!
One interaction with a stray dog is often not enough to gain the dog’s trust, so if you’re not making progress, walk away, and try again in a half hour or so. As the dog has more pleasant interactions with you, the dog will be more likely to approach you, thus enabling you to help the dog!