What to do if your dog gets lost . . .

This is by no means a definitive list of what to do, however, having lived through the fear of a lost pet, and having dealt with lost rescue dogs new to homes, I know having a check list in the middle of a crisis can help.

First things first:

Grill!

This sounds absolutely ridiculous but has been the best piece of advice I have ever received. Grilling meat can entice a dog home who is off on an adventure, or keep a scared and hungry dog close with the promise of food. Smell is so powerful to dogs and scent carries further then sound, and can certainly mean more to a dog who is new to a home/area and may not even know their name, or understand recall. Teaching and competing in scent work with dogs has driven this even further home for me – use their nose to your advantage! And if you do not have a grill, fry some bacon or baloney or hot dogs and take that hot pan outside and let the scent carry.

Get the word out!

Designing a Flyer – make sure the words LOST DOG stand out and are obvious, as is the phone number. While the dog’s name and location are important, the thing you want people to have glued in their memories is the phone number to call, and make it so it can be seen from a car. Ask people to save the flyer in the phone, or to save the number so it is easy to call.

lost dog - sample

Social media is your friend – create a lost dog flyer and save it as a JPG so you can post it on Facebook, make sure the words LOST DOG and the area the dog is lost from are obvious and at the start of the post, give the area they were lost from, and the time of the last sighting. Make sure it is a public post, and tag area rescues, vets, the news, whoever may help! Share with local pages, community pages, business pages – whoever you think might help. Many communities have pages for sharing lost pets. Ask friends to share, and remember to post updates, and keep discussion going on the post so Facebook keeps it in people’s feeds. Be mindful that sometimes people want to help so badly that they may pursue and scare a dog, so ask for people to call with sightings, and not to chase. You may also want to limit some of the info you give to prevent people from going out and creating a lot of activity that could drive a dog out of the area, give areas the dog has been seen in (like streets) versus exact locations. Here is a good example:

LOST DOG – Albany, NY – Fido got lost from his new home on Main Street, and was last seen on August 3, 2018 at 4pm. PLEASE CALL 555-555-5555 with any sightings, Fido is scared and may run if approached. Please do not chase.

As there are more sightings, or if the dog is found, remember to update that original post, and add a new comment so people helping know what is going on. For example:

LOST DOG – Albany, NY – Fido got lost from his new home on Main Street, and was last seen on August 3, 2018 at 4pm. PLEASE CALL 555-555-5555 with any sightings, Fido is scared and may run if approached. Please do not chase.

UPDATE: Possible sighting on 8/4 on Smith Street.

Posters – when posting flyers on the street, be mindful that cars are in motion, and put them at places where cars naturally stop – like traffic lights, stop signs, and turns. Make the letters BIG and BOLD – make it so the phone number is easily visible from the road, and from a moving car. Laminating or putting them in sleeve protectors (with the opening down) will keep them safe from bad weather and make them last longer. Mounting them on cardboard can help them stay stiff and make them easier to read. Put flyers at local businesses and leave a stack of smaller ones if they say it is okay. Gas stations, quick stops, vets offices, the post office, and coffee shops will reach a lot of people. Please remember where you put your flyers though so you can take them down once your dog is found. One person advised replacing them with FOUND flyers to let the community know the dog is found and they can stop looking, then taking those down in a few days.

Door to Door – A good suggestion from See Spot Grin in MD was to have business cards made with your pets picture, and phone number on them. They are affordable and quickly produced, and easy to hand out (if you are truly prepared you can even have them made ahead and keep on hand). You can also do full page flyers, or put your flyer four to a page and have them cut – but whatever you do getting the word out to your neighbors, and quickly, is crucial, and for those without social media handing out flyers may be the only want to reach them. If you talk to people, ask them to put the flyer by their phone, save the number in their phone, or take a picture so they have the contact info when they are out and about in case they see the dog. Ask them to check their sheds, garages, whatever places a dog may go for shade or warmth, to investigate if they hear their dogs barking at something, or with any small thing they notice. Sometimes what may not seem obvious to them can be a big clue to you. Go door to door and leave flyers under mailbox flags or in newspaper boxes, or on doorknobs. Remember it is illegal to put things in mailboxes, but you can put under the flags! Keep track of the streets you have done, and if you have family and friends helping, ask them to do the same.

Alert the Authorities – make sure the people who should know, know.

  1. Call your local Animal Control Office/Police and let them know – get them a copy of your flyer. Contact the ACOs of surrounding areas as dogs are known to wander, especially if scared or following their nose.
  2. Contact the area vets/shelters/rescues – get them a flyer and ask them to help spread the word and keep an eye out.  Do not forget the Emergency Vets in case your dog is picked up in crisis and had to be taken there.
  3. If your pet is microchipped, contact the company and let them know, some have services that will help you make a flyer, and contact area shelters/vets.

Check Shelters

Calling the shelters is good, but, sometimes a message may not be passed along, or they may not recognize your dog from your description.  Visit your shelter and check the found dogs personally, regularly.

Make it easy to come home.

Leave the gate open so they can get back into their yard, if you have an enclosed porch or sunroom, leave that door open so they can come in. Use a trail cam to monitor your yard/home. Leave food out, and some people suggest leaving bedding that smells like them, or even their crate, although most dogs recognize home. If you have an invisible fence, know that your dog may associate crossing that line with being shocked, so they may be nearby but not sure how to get back into the yard. Try setting up a feeding station outside the invisible fencing and monitoring that. Keep it filled with enticing food. Trail cams help, it is impossible to always be watching, and with scared dogs they may actually be waiting for you to leave before coming out. We have had dogs appear 15 minutes after we left, they were hearing us, and seeing us, but scared to come out, but the Trail cam saw them and we were able to set a trap.

Keep Going!

If you have done one area, do another, go further and further, spread your reach.

Sightings

If you have a sighting, go the area and check it out. See if there is a home or business that might let you put out a feeding station and a trail cam so you can keep your dog in the area, and confirm it is your dog. If it is your dog (or if it is another lost dog) you may need to use a humane trap to catch it. Sometimes area rescues have ones your can borrow, and depending on the size of the dog, Tractor Supply will often have them in stock. For large dogs you will need to special order online or sometimes build your own.

Know if your dog is avoiding people, it is not because they do not love you. Dogs can get scared, and when scared fight or flight kicks in, some dogs when on the run revert to “feral” mode as a way to survive, avoiding people and even their family. This is why trail cams and humane traps are often helpful, and having people call with sightings.

Reward or no reward?

It is tempting to offer a reward, money motivates, but offering a reward can backfire. First, people may call trying to manipulate you into giving them money, or claim they have their dog when they do not. Second, it might drive people to look for the dog a little more intensely, having them chasing the dog, or driving them out of an area. I like to put my faith in the good people out there that will help because it is the right thing to do, and generally that faith is rewarded.

Dog Tracking

There are some companies that can come and help track a lost dog, they are expensive and sometimes the conditions need to be right, but they are worth reaching out to and can often provide valuable insight or advice.

Trapping a Dog

It seems like everyone has different advice for how and where to set up a live trap for a lost dog.  Some will say to start with a feeding station and the trap open, and feed the dog in the trap to get them used to it before setting it to catch them.  Some say to capitalize on their hunger and trap them as soon as you see them.  Some say to load it with warm food, some say to load it with fatty food.  Some say to wipe it down with Pam spray to mask the human scent.  Some say to cover it in a tarp or surround it with hay.  Here are some of the tips I have picked up.

  1. Know if the dog is trap savvy – if a dog has been trapped before, or dislikes crates, know that it might take a lot for them to go into one.  They might need to be very hungry to go in, and they may need time to get used to the new, weird thing that appeared.
  2. Check it often, but from a distance.  If a dog is wary or in survival mode a lot of human activity may keep them in hiding.  But, if it is cold or hot leaving an animal in the trap can be dangerous.  In extreme weather checking every two hours may be necessary, depending how sheltered the trap is.  You may need help with monitoring and sometimes finding a kindly neighbor is crucial.
  3. Squirrels are assholes.  Seriously.  They are going to be in and out of your trap, they are going to be eating the food, and, they are big enough to set off most sensors but small enough to fit back out of the bars.  Skunks however cannot fit through the bars, and you may get some of them too.  If you have a skunk in your trap, or any other wildlife, use a blanket as you approach so they cannot see you, and keep the blanket between you and them.  If they cannot see you they will stay calmer, and often scurry off when you open the trap.  And if it is a skunk and you do get sprayed, the blanket will take the hit, not you.
  4. Trail cams let you know what is going on when you are not there.  We have had dogs check out the trap for days before going in, and using trail cams lets us see when they come, how often they come, and even what food they are enjoying.
  5. Things like straw and blankets can keep a trap warm, but may inhibit the mechanism.  Be mindful!
  6. How sheltered?  So, a lot of people compare crates (and traps are like crates) to dens, but, dogs only den when they are raising pups, so, the idea that a close, hidden space will be more appealing may not be the case.  It might protect a dog from the weather, and it might appeal to some dogs, but some dogs may be nervous going into a place that makes them feel trapped, or limits where they can see.  Again, know your dog.
  7. What to put in?  What does the dog like?  A favorite of mine is canned sardines with the oil, but some swear by KFC or rotisserie chickens.  I have seen tracking companies put a lighter under some bacon in some foil and toss that in too.  Think something warm and stinky.

Setting up a Feeding Station

Find a spot that is out of the way, and safe for a dog to linger around.  Not too much activity, and near where you have seen the dogs.  Make sure you leave food out at regular times, something warm but also kibble, in plentiful amounts in case others decide to share the mean (see earlier note about squirrels).  Use a trail cam to monitor it, and if your dog likes their crate, leaving their crate there may help them stay or feel secure.

Lost Dog Checklist

  • Things to do at home
    • Grill
    • Set up a feeding station
    • Set up trail cams
    • Put out a familiar smell, bedding, crate, etc.
    • Minimize activity in case the dog is scared and hiding, focus on making it enticing to come home
    • Leave open a garage or porch or protected area and monitor to see if your pet is using it
  • Outreach
    • Social Media – post and keep posts updated, share to rescues, community groups, vets, shelters, etc.
    • Posters – make sure the phone number is obvious and clear, post them in spots cars will naturally stop, and make sure they are protected from the weather
    • Community – go door to door with flyers or business cards identifying the pet and giving a number to call, talk to as many people as you can and try to engage the community, make sure they know not to chase and to call with sightings. Alert the coffee shops, gas stations, schools and other high traffic areas and ask them to hang up a flyer.
    • People to call:
      • Microchip company
      • Animal Control, your local one and the ones from surrounding areas
      • Vets offices in your immediate area, including Emergency Vet
      • Local shelters
      • Local rescues
    • Things to have
      • Trail Cams and bike locks to secure them.
      • Locate a Humane Trap in case it is needed (Animal Control can often help).
      • Supplies for posters and poster hanging – cardboard, zip ties, packing tape, page protectors, box cutter, scissors and even rope.
      • If you are going to use a tracker, take something that smells of your dog and put it in a Ziploc bag to preserve the scent.
      • Extra crate, it can help to put one near a feeding station.
      • Enticing, warm food – rotisserie chickens, sardines, bacon, cat food, hot dogs, anything that you can smell from a distance your dog can smell even further away.

Things to do Before your Dog is Lost

  1. Have a current picture.
  2. Know who your local Animal Control Officer is, who the nearest vets are, and where strays from your area would be taken if picked up.
  3. Get your dog microchipped.
  4. If you have a tracking company nearby, and think you would use them, take a cloth and wipe it over your dog, and store it in a Ziploc bag.  Refresh it monthly.
  5. Teach recall!  Whistle recall can also help, as a whistle is a unique sound that can travel distances.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close