Handling and Control when Rescuing Dogs

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Knowledge of behavior and characteristics of a dog and breed if possible that he/she exhibits is essential to any one rescuing or assisting. Dogs in pain, in a strange environment or being handled by unfamiliar people may well demonstrate behavior that is out of character for the breed.

Before approaching a dog always observe their body language and go in pairs. This is a 2-person rescue not 1. The image below entails how:

a. Normal
b. Play bow: invitation to play – often seen in young dogs
c. Active submission: gaze averted, dog crouches down, ears back, tail lowered, may urinate
d. Passive submission: dog rolls on side, displaying inguinal region, may urinate
e. Dominance: dog meets gaze, ears forward, tail up, hairs on neck may be raised, lips forward, may growl or attempt to bite
f. Aggression: ears normal or forward, tail held high, body geared for action, usually growling or barking, hairs on back of neck may be raised
g. Arousal: ears normal or forward, tail either wagging or normal, body exhibiting interest – reaching forward, may raise one front leg (i.e. ‘point’)
h. Fear: ears back, tail curved between the back legs, body lowered and backing away (cringing), often trembling
i. Fearful aggression: ears back, body slightly lowered and backing away, growling or barking, tail level or lowered

Once you have assessed the dog, spend the next few minutes or hour (most of the time it’s more than an hour) coaxing him/her by talking, giving k. treats or food and please be patient. You do this to gain trust which is the most important step. Your partner uses the tool called The Dog-Catcher for nasty dogs but should always be removed as soon as some other means of restraint has been applied. The dog-catcher is an implement with an adjustable loop of the cable at the far end which is slipped over the dog’s head. The cable passes through an aluminum handle thus ensuring a safe distance between the handler and the dog. The loop is drawn tighter manually and can be locked in position by a single twist action There is a small fixed loop at the handler’s end of the tube which can be hitched over a hook or other tether to allow a muzzle and lead to be put on the dog.

There are times after catching the dog, he/she may growl or even snap as he/she is scared not knowing what’s happening. Below shows how a simple muzzle is done by using a ¾ inch wide bandage:

i. A simple tape muzzle can be created from 2cm (3/4 inch) wide bandage or tape: make a loop with a single knot and slip over the dog’s nose, pulling tight, and
ii. cross the free ends under the lower jaw and tie behind the back of the head. Use a quick-release bow to allow for emergency removal of the muzzle.

WARNING: A muzzled dog must never be left unattended. There is a risk of asphyxiation (deprived of oxygen) if vomiting occurs.

NB: It is difficult (or even impossible) to muzzle brachycephalic breeds such as boxers and bulldogs (basically flat-nose faces). They should never be restrained by the scruff of the neck because of the risk of prolapse (displacement of a structure) of the eyes, so a useful method of restraint is to wrap a rolled-up towel or blanket around the animal’s neck. This will prevent the dog from turning round to bite.

Lifting Large Dogs

When lifting animals, correct lifting techniques should always be followed. An example below:

Always remember when lifting animals, their weight load can suddenly shift. Large dogs should be lifted by two people of similar height (if possible as this balances the weight of the dog onto both humans). Small or medium-sized dogs may be lifted by one person.

Large breeds of dogs that cannot be lifted by two people should be examined on the floor.

Pack an Animal Emergency Kit

First aid treatment is based on three aims and four rules.

The three aims are:

1. To preserve life
2. To prevent suffering
3. To prevent the situation deteriorating

The Four rules are:

1. Don’t panic!
2. Maintain the airway of the animal (the passage of breathing)
3. Control the haemorrhage (blood loss)
4. Contact any veterinary surgeon you know

Saving a dog can happen at any time of the day and to not waste time looking for or scrambling for things, prepare a small emergency kit as standby. Keep it in the boot of your vehicle and check on expiry dates every few months.

The link of PETA below has a great DIY animal rescue kit. Log on to find out more.


Veterinary Nursing Second Edition – Edited by D.R. Lane & B.Cooper

This article is courtesy of MNAWF (Malaysia National Animal Welfare Foundation). For more pet care tips, visit