How to Catch a Feral Dog

Leslie’s story

UPDATE:  I was VERY lucky to be able to catch Leslie so easily.  This is not often the case and you have to be Patient to avoid tragedy.  There is a great Facebook group based in the Phoenix, Arizona, area, with a lot of experience in catching loose dogs.  Sometimes you have to build a huge pen in order to lure a scared dog.  I recommend that anyone trying to capture a loose dog join the group and ask for their advice and assistance.  HARTT (AZ trapping) Community Group


I am agonizing over this letter.. but yesterday Leslie escaped.. we chased her and caught up with her, but as you know, she wasn’t about to come up to us.. she found an open field with bunnies and chased them.. I found her about 2 hours later and went to walk up to her.. but she went into these people’s yard and their dogs chased her.. no one has seen her.. he had 6 fenced in acres and has my number.. I put up signs everywhere
even offering a reward.. people saw her yesterday, but couldn’t get close to her.. please tell me the best way to find her.. I should have known better than to let her off the leash in the backyard.. Please write me back
with some advice..


The area is one of our new developments that borders the national forest, which in Tucson means mesquite trees, shrub brush and lots of cholla cactus. It is a young neighborhood, so there are lots of kids and dogs and joggers and walkers. Hopefully, Leslie’s love of other dogs will outweigh her fear of people and keep her close to civilization. There are lots of horse properties in the area with water troughs, so I am hoping that the smarts that allowed her to survive for a month in the wild will serve her well now.

Last night, I took Blackie & Nina out to the area she was last seen, hoping she might scent them. We have papered the area with posters showing how she looks now as well as how she will look when her hair grows out.  She was wearing a bright pink collar and my Airedale Rescue i.d. tag and she is microchipped.

I was out this evening handing out more fliers (the lovely Homeowner’s Association had torn down all we posted).

One of the guys I talked to is part of the K-9 unit and took a whole bunch of fliers, which he will hand out to all the cops who patrol the area.

When I got home, someone I had just handed a flier to had called on my machine and says he is sure that he spotted Leslie just shortly after I gave him the flier. She was in one of the neighborhoods, which is fantastic news because coyotes are my greatest fear. She was hugging the houses, but not running . . . just sniffing around. She wouldn’t let him get close to her, naturally. The neighborhood is only
ten city blocks from where she lives. I called Stephanie and she & Jake (Golden Retriever) are out in the area now and maybe Jake can lure her home. As soon as I get the guys fed, we will all head
back out there.

Keep that Zen flowing . . . I know it is what has drawn Leslie toward home.



Stephanie & Jake had a lovely conversation with Leslie last night. She was quite delighted to see them, but she would NOT be caught. She is running around happily in the area where they are building new homes, probably snacking on left-overs from the construction crew. I thought **maybe** I saw her little head peeping over someone’s back fence as we went back to the car this morning. I didn’t feel like I could beat on their door at 6:00 a.m., but Stephanie will go down later this morning to see if it might be her.

Later …

Stephanie looked in the back yard where I thought I saw Leslie and there was no dog. No one was home, but we really doubt that if it was Leslie, they would have been able to get her into the house. They do have a copy of the flier.

Stephanie and Hap (husband) and Jake (golden retriever) will go back out at dusk, which is when these dogs wake up and start
moving around. They spend the hot day holed up sleeping, so it is really useless to try to do anything then. Now that Stephanie and Hap realize just how fast Leslie can move, they feel they are better prepared to try to catch her.

If they don’t have any luck by midnight, I’ll go out again.

I feel better now that I know Leslie is hanging around civilization rather than out in the desert trying to fend off the coyotes and she is in an area of quiet winding streets where lots of kids play in the streets (i.e., no speeding cars to mow her down), but the knot in my stomach isn’t going to loosen until she is back home.



I spotted Leslie twice tonight. Once as I drove up to the construction area where she has been spotted before, and where I left some boiled chicken and water last night, and once as I was leaving,
trotting along the neighborhood street.

I took Grace with me, hoping that perhaps sisterly love would bring Leslie in, but her fear of humans was too great. It was heartbreaking. Grace and I tromped all over the area where we first spotted
Leslie to leave a good scent pad for her to return to. I couldn’t resist waiting around for a couple of hours, hoping that she would come back to eat while I was there, but I finally gave up.

I talked to a man today whose business is trapping nuisance dogs. He said that my biggest weapon was patience. Because she is hanging around the same area, we are to stop trying to go out and catch her.
It would be pure luck to trap her anywhere that we could catch her and we chance chasing her out of the relatively safe area she is now.

What I have to do is establish a place where she comes back each night to eat and drink. If I hadn’t spotted Leslie when I first drove up tonight, I would have had a lot less faith that this would work.
There is no way to tell whether she is eating the food or whether it is the coyotes, but since she was right where I left the food and water last night, I am going to continue doing so. On his suggestion,
I am using the stinkiest canned cat food I can find. He says that wafts on the breeze for a long, long way and dogs love it.

I will do this for three nights and then take out a live trap. I will put the food in front of that for a couple of nights and gradually move it inside.

The food in the crate that Stephanie and Hap have right outside their front door was eaten last night. This is about a quarter mile away from where the neighborhood where I spotted Leslie tonight, but she could easily be traveling that far in making her nightly rounds, so if that continues, we will try the live trap there first.

Keep little Leslie in your thoughts tonight.



I couldn’t resist renting a humane trap at noon yesterday and took it out last night and set it up. I was depressed to find that the food and water I had left had not been touched. Neither had the food
next to the foster home, so I decided to go ahead and set up where I had last seen Leslie. I put food and water out near the trap, but I decided to go ahead and set up the trap and bait it because Leslie really likes her crate and I thought maybe she would feel it was a safe place to hide.

The expert I talked to said I had to cover the trap and make it as cave-like as possible, so I threw an old tarp over it. I taped a sign on the tarp explaining to people what I was doing and hoped that no one would mess with it. It was still daylight because I wanted to get it set up and then get out of there before the time I saw Leslie the other night, in hopes that I wouldn’t scare her away.

Coyote Trap with Tarp

I have to admit that I was crying all the way home and repeating over and over “Please, Leslie, please … ”

I didn’t sleep much last night, worrying that Leslie had left the area, worrying that I was pushing things too fast and she would spring the trap prematurely and it would scare her away and I would never be able to catch her. This morning when the alarm went off at 4 o’clock, I dragged myself out of bed and kept almost nodding off as I drove the 20 miles out to Dove Mountain. I kept running scenarios through my head. Well, the best thing, of course, would be if she were in the trap. But, the next best thing would be if she had eaten the food I left out. No, the next best thing would be if I saw her eating the food I had left out. The next best thing would be if I spotted her on the streets of the neighborhood. The next best thing would be if the food were eaten, but then I wouldn’t know if she had eaten it or a coyote, or a cat, or another dog. Over and over again.

I drove up the street to where the trap was and when my headlights hit it …. THERE SHE WAS!! IN THE TRAP!!

I burst into tears!

The tarp had been pulled off the trap and I imagine she did that trying to get to the cat food that was in the trap. I am so grateful that she is crate trained because I don’t think she would have gone into the trap otherwise. It is a pretty intimidating looking thing. I have to admit that at the time I found her I didn’t have the presence of mind to take photos, but I tried to recreate the scene when I got home.

I didn’t want to chance her escaping by trying to get her out of the trap, so I used the tarp to haul the thing over to my van and got it up into the van with Leslie in it. She was a little scared, but not really upset.  I kept babbling to her about how happy I was to see her.

Trap in the Van

When I brought her home and opened the van and she saw all the dogs waiting, she started wiggling all over.  I let her out and they mobbed her and sniffed her from one end to the other. She was very, very thirsty and very, very hungry and has a few burrs stuck here and there, but otherwise seems to be in fine shape.

The Pack Together Again
Jack, Leslie, Grace, Blackie

Thank you, everyone, for your Zen and emotional support. There is no doubt in my mind that is what brought Leslie back safely.

Leslie’s foster family are in no way to blame for Leslie’s escape, but we decided that they just have too much going on in their lives
to be able to give this needy child the attention she needs.