How can I stop this stray dog from destroying my property?
February 4, 2014 2:12 PM   Subscribe

A stray pit mix wandered up to my place a few days ago and has begun chewing on my car, destroying my brand new bumper and puncturing the sidewall of a tire. I called the Sheriff's office and a deputy was sent out to tell me that I can put the dog down myself but there's nothing they can do. I don't have the means to kill this dog, nor do I want to. What are my options?

I live in a very rural area and don't really know my neighbors. I drive a small car, so transporting the mutt anywhere is a no-go unless I enlist the help of a coworker with a truck. I'm outside of city limits, so while my town has Animal Control, they won't do anything for me. The Sheriff's Deputy, since I don't know the dog's owner (I'm pretty confident he was dumped, he was incredibly thin when he showed up at my house), won't do anything. On their second visit to my house yesterday, they told me I could "put him down on my own" but they can't do anything. I explained that I didn't have the means to do so and the Deputy just shrugged.

This morning I gave the dog a dose of benadryl with peanut butter, in hopes that I could change my tire and leave my house without the dog attacking my car again. The meds didn't do much, but I was able to get to work with my remaining tires still intact.

I'm getting really close to having a meltdown about this. The front end of my vehicle was repaired last week after it was hit and run, so my BRAND NEW expensive bumper now has a ridiculous amount of holes and chew marks on it. My tire was punctured on the sidewall, so I will be buying a new tire instead of repairing the one I have. I caught the dog going after one of my other tires this morning while I was putting my donut on. I yelled and he wandered off, but I wonder what tomorrow morning will be like. Please, please help. I'm not a dog person, don't have dog experience and don't know what to do.
posted by kpetrich to Pets & Animals (38 answers total)
Is there a pet supply store in your area? They sell a dog repellent spray. That should help keep your car safe and it's not bad for the dog in any way.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:15 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your county has a pound or animal shelter of some kind. Call them. This is not something that works on the level of "town". There is someone who covers where you live, on some level.

Frankly, even if the town shelter doesn't technically cover you, they should be able to advise in some way. Have you called and asked? Did they say "sorry we don't do anything in your area", or "oh man sorry but there are just too many aggressive pit bulls out there" or what?

Calling a local vet's office might not be a bad idea -- in rural areas local vets tend to go a little bit above and beyond in cases like this. They will also know the exact ins and outs of what to do in this situation, and the jurisdictional intricacies of it all, much better than the cops do.
posted by Sara C. at 2:18 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Many dog rescues are listed on You can find the nearest non-profit dog rescue, and then ask them for assistance. They often can help when your local town/county shelter cannot.
posted by apennington at 2:21 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I also say give the dog repellent spray a shot. You probably won't even have to do it every day; just enough times that the dog associates your bumper with the smell and taste.

Just be careful because they tend to be citrus-based (dogs generally hate the smell and taste of citrus) and citrus can be bad for metal. The pet store people should be able to advise you.
posted by griphus at 2:21 PM on February 4, 2014

The dog sounds destructive, not violent. I'm appalled by the death sentence suggestion. Please call a co-worker to help you transport the dog. Alternatively, see if there are any dog rescues in the area who would be willing to come get the dog. Dog lovers will often drive long distances to keep a dog from being killed.
posted by cecic at 2:24 PM on February 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

cecic makes a good point. It's also worth asking someone at the town shelter, vet's office, nearby rescue, pet store, or really ANY resource patronized by animal lovers if they would help you bring the animal in on their own time. There are a lot of assholes out there, so it's possible that everyone will refuse to help. But it doesn't hurt to ask.
posted by Sara C. at 2:26 PM on February 4, 2014

Nthing Rescue Group. Pit Bull Rescues if there is one close to you.
posted by Yorrick at 2:26 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Something that may keep the dog at bay, if you're outside at the same time, could be a simple spray from the garden hose (aimed at the haunches). It'll surprise the hell out of him and was a safe yet effective way to keep dogs off our property when my parents lived 'outside city limits' and no one would come pick up stray dogs causing destruction.

Of course, if the dog enjoys water, this won't work.

I also agree with others recommending that you contact a rescue group close by-- they might be able to help if the alternative is having the dog killed (per the Deputy).
posted by stubbehtail at 2:40 PM on February 4, 2014

If you can get to a pet store, TSC or similar you could try applying Grannick's Bitter Apple to your tires and bumpers rather than (or in combination with) dog repellent, which in my experience doesn't really work. I imagine you'll need to reapply it fairly regularly but once the dog gets the idea that your car tastes super bitter it'll probably find something else to chew.
posted by pullayup at 2:52 PM on February 4, 2014

Even if a shelter won't come out, they might loan you a cage trap (the humane kind). Bait it with peanut butter (or whatever), trap the dog, then put the cage on the seat and take him in.

I live out past the county line too and I agree with you about the hassles of no services being a pain in the butt.
posted by emjaybee at 2:53 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Until you get a shelter/pound/animal control solution for removing the stray, I wonder if hot peppers might help.

This is totally theory - I don't know anything about this and don't know if anyone does this, but what if you diced up a double handful of habaneros and put them in a jar filled with rubbing alcohol (capsaicin is apparently soluble in alcohol but not water) and let that sit for a while, then pour that into a spray bottle and spray on your tires and bumpers to deposit the capsaicin.

The dog comes by for his oral fix and gets a mouthful of bad burn for it for a good ten minutes. Humans survive that, so he'll be fine too, but he'll have a strong negative association after that.

I read somebody else's suggestion here about citrus-based dog repellent with the caveat that it's acidic and that you might not therefore want it on your car. Capsaicin on the other hand is basic. No idea what its effects on rubber or plastic might be, but lots of auto detailing sprays contain alcohol and most soaps and cleaners are basic, and auto detailers sometimes use isopropyl alcohol to remove sap or residue or whatnot, so I wouldn't think it would be harmful.
posted by Askr at 2:58 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

You could live trap him and drop him off at the shelter yourself.
posted by HotToddy at 3:09 PM on February 4, 2014

Spray pretty well requires that you be there when the dog is there, even in the middle of the night, or that you put it on your car with unknown results. (although I don't think much would happen) Plus you have to completely cover the whole bottom half of the car for it to work.

What about a physical barrier?

Your local feed store should have rolls of fencing in short lengths. Get yourself a roll of fence wire and four t-posts and put your car in a 'corral.' Keep the dog completely away from it.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:12 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dude, I think he's chewing on your bumper because he's starving!!! The dog is hungry!! If you get a 20lb bag of kibble from the grocery store for $12, and pour it in a bucket for him, I do not think he's going to chew on your bumper anymore. Forget all this complicated stuff he just wants some freaking food! That solves the immediate problem of him destroying your car while you figure out what else to do.
posted by cairdeas at 3:16 PM on February 4, 2014 [28 favorites]

Live-trapping him and getting someone to help you take him to the pound is your best bet. If he's frustrated from tearing up the car he'll just move on to destroying something else.
posted by winna at 3:16 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite] he hungry? I know you probably don't want to encourage him, but if he's not going away on his own then a big bag of cheap dog food dumped somewhere nearby might save your bumper until a rescue group can come and pick him up.
posted by theweasel at 3:17 PM on February 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would second finding a rescue. More often than not, animal control just keeps the dog and will kill the dog if they can't find a home within a certain time frame. A rescue operation will never kill the dog.

If you must -- your county has an animal control office. I would suggest contacting them, not the town office, and not the police. ("Put the dog down?" Really?)

The bitter apple spray suggested by a previous commenter may or may not work. I say this as I bought it to spray on furniture when our dogs were teething. (Same breed. Heck, both dogs have the same mother.) It worked with one of our dogs, but the other one continued to chew on the furniture regardless of the bad taste. That, and more often than not it somehow ended up on our hands or something and some way made it to our mouths. Trust me, it tastes terrible.
posted by tckma at 3:18 PM on February 4, 2014

He's not frustrated. He's not teething. He is a starving dog. He is hungry! Just hungry! You really don't have to do anything complicated.
posted by cairdeas at 3:19 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Your question has everything you need to know in it. This dog is starving to death, slowly, in front of you, and he's chewing on your car because of that. You can chase him away with sprays all you want, but until this poor creature gets enough food to eat, he's going to keep coming back.

What that means as a practical matter for you may be that you a) call a shelter/pit bull rescue and ask them to come rescue a dying dog; b) find, as almost certainly exists, whatever animal control covers your part of the county; or c) just feed the dog yourself. Drugging him and letting him continue to starve isn't likely to solve your problem, at least until he actually dies of hunger.
posted by MeadowlarkMaude at 3:19 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Can you tell us the county you are in? Even if the city animal control is no use there should be a humane society in the county or nearby.
posted by cairdeas at 3:22 PM on February 4, 2014

My last comment. If he keeps eating non-food items out of sheer hunger, whether it's your tire or something else lying around, rocks or whatever, there is a good chance he will die a slow and terrible death, on your property. I 100% sympathize with you to have this problem that you totally didn't ask for and is not your fault, and I absolutely understand why someone would not want to feed a stray animal, even if only temporarily. I just think if you don't, what happens may be much more unpleasant, not less.
posted by cairdeas at 3:24 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best dog I ever had was the neighborhood stray. 80 lbs. of starving Newfie/something mix. He also had a very rough start, personality/behavior-wise. Still, he turned into the Best Dog Ever.

Starvation is a slow, miserable death. Do you have any interest in owning a dog? If absolutely not, then of course you shouldn't take him in. You could go on and do a search for animal rescues in your area (like, your tri-state area). You may find someone who can help.

But, seriously, if you're able and interested, consider taking this destructive but non-aggressive dog into your home (or just your backyard). (Best dog ever...)
posted by tllaya at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have connections at a vet school in TX. It's a big state but please email me your county/town and if my connection is close enough, we can help.
posted by cooker girl at 3:31 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Please please please find a pit bull specific rescue if you can. Many animal control/shelter/pound type places do not even give pit bull types a CHANCE at adoption. They go straight to the back room, and then the crematorium, regardless of age (yes even puppehs!) or history (family dog? fighting dog? bumper eating dog?)--they don't care.

Here is a list of rescues and no-kill and regular shelters who will adopt out pits. Try contacting one or seeing if they have a Facebook page (a lot of times volunteers run one for the shelter) where you can ask for someone to come pick this fella up.
posted by lily_bart at 4:26 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry, I am anti-killing of dogs and love pitbulls, but just because this dog is likely hungry doesn't mean that it's not also destructive. Why on earth would he/she chew on tires out of sheer hunger when there are undoubtedly squirrels, birds, and other edible small animals around (not to mention garbage cans and dumpsters.) They're intelligent dogs.

kpetrich, sorry to say that the best option is probably to contact every rescue within an hour or two drive and leave urgent messages for them via email and phone. If you can manage to snap some photos of the dog, that would be great, so that rescue groups can boost the signal via Facebook and mailing lists.
posted by desuetude at 5:46 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

He's not frustrated.

I didn't mean the dog was frustrated, but that frustrating him from chewing the car by coating it with something noxious would not solve the problem. And no, the dog might be hungry but it is not attacking a car out of hunger. I don't advocate leaving him there - he needs to be either surrendered to a rescue or a shelter - but I am certain he's not trying to eat the bumper because he's confused it with food.

Being put to sleep is far better than being hit by a car or poisoned or any of the other fates that can befall a stray dog wandering in a rural area.

I say this as someone who love dogs. I've volunteered for years at a rescue. But I am realistic about the fact that you can't save all of them. If the OP wanted a dog, it would not be my recommendation to start that journey as a new dog owner with a dog so destructive it successfully damages cars.

Unfortunately, OP, if your house is at a common dumping point you will have to figure out how to deal with this on an ongoing basis.
posted by winna at 6:22 PM on February 4, 2014

Any reason you can't throw down a can of Mutt Chow every night and throw some old towels or buckets or bits of rope out there for him to play with? Or a nice big ham bone? Have a game of tug of war with him? Maybe he could be your buddy!
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:07 PM on February 4, 2014

A few great answers in here, thanks and keep them coming!

Some clarification and more info:
I've tried bitter apple spray on the car. It is sorta a deterrent if the car is parked and I'm not hanging around it. It hasn't stopped him when I am headed to the car to leave for work.

Yes... I bought a 55lb bag of chow for the guy, so I highly doubt he's chomping on my car because of hunger. He didn't chew it the first couple of days he was around, and that's when he was skinniest. I also bought him a KONG chew toy after he demolished an old dog toy I had laying around. Throwing more food at him won't solve this, probably just make him sick.

No... I don't want a dog right now. I'm not home often enough to actually care for or train it.

I have contacted a couple of rescues and vets that are "local". I should have given my location initially - I'm in between Seminole, TX and Hobbs, NM, still on the TX side in Gaines County. The best suggestion from them is to get the dog into town and drop it at the pound. This would be ideal, but my vehicle is too small for that. One lady with a rescue said she might be able to help transport him tomorrow night when her husband is home, so if I'm still struggling with this tomorrow I will try to enlist her. I've also got a co-worker who "might" help me tomorrow, but they haven't committed so I'm not holding my breath. I've also posted asking for advice on a few places on Reddit. I've also emailed the user who may have a vet contact. Tomorrow I will keep calling rescues in the area, seeing as that is my best bet for now.

I'm still very, very open to advice. I LOVED the idea of fencing my car in, but that won't deter him when I'm driving away.
posted by kpetrich at 7:30 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well, that's weird as hell. I know dogs chew on stuff but it seems weird that he should fixate on your car so much. Chewing is a symptom of boredom but it can also manifest when an animal has a serious nutritional deficiency...but I can't think of what nutrients a tyre or bumper would contain. Essential petroleum-derived flavinoids? Is this herding instinct? Was it given a tyre to play with before it was dumped? Mental problem?

I guess you could try putting some kind of homemade hot sauce spray on everything, or vinegar or garlic or whatever.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:54 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hes biting the car because you're leaving in it, leaving him alone. It's seperation anxiety and the only thing of yours he can access is the car. That's kinda sad. Can you just let him ride in the passenger seat into town with you? Or is he untrustworthy?
posted by fshgrl at 7:55 PM on February 4, 2014

Or try feeding him something awesome when you leave, so that he has a distraction. That's how I get my stupid dog not to destroy my stuff when I go places without her.
posted by fshgrl at 7:56 PM on February 4, 2014

[OP has said the dog doesn't fit into the car.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:58 PM on February 4, 2014

[One comment deleted; OP is specifically not looking for solutions that harm the dog.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:11 PM on February 4, 2014

Hes biting the car because you're leaving in it, leaving him alone. It's seperation anxiety and the only thing of yours he can access is the car.

Oh god I just realised that. He's already been dumped once :-(

I really hope a rescue group comes through for you kpetrich. If one does, please MeMail me their name (or post it in the thread) so I (we?) can send them a few dollars.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:18 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

OP, good on you for feeding the dog. Is it friendly? Could you get a collar and a lead on the dog and tie him up away from your car?

Normally I would never suggest doing that but it might be a temporary solution until you get help. A chain lead, not a cloth one in this case. Give it food and water and check on the dog often.

There has GOT to be a rescue org that will help you. I am so glad that you care and are trying. Sorta the same thing happened to me but I kept him. I didn't want to at all. Nope. Wasn't going to. No way. And now he's my best buddy. I do understand that it is not an option for you though. I will keep thinking of more ideas.

Knowing the dog's demeanor would help though...
posted by futz at 10:19 PM on February 4, 2014

Can you fence the dog in somehow? Making a pen costs money though whether you pen your car or the dog.
posted by futz at 10:24 PM on February 4, 2014

Thank you for feeding him. It's a deeply kind and decent thing to do. Unfortunately, it's probably making the problem worse in some sense, likely in part for the separation anxiety reasons others have mentioned, but also simply because you are feeding him. A hungry dog isn't going to leave food and the giver of food freely. Please keep reaching out to rescues and shelters. If you aren't willing to take him in (which is fine), finding someone who can is the only solution that doesn't involve hurting him, either by letting him starve again or other means.
posted by MeadowlarkMaude at 7:22 AM on February 5, 2014

Thanks again for all of the helpful suggestions. Twenty dollars later and I was able to coerce a coworker with a pickup into helping me get him to the local animal shelter. Definitely one of the better solutions. Thank you!
posted by kpetrich at 4:38 PM on February 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

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