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.

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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.
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When the Perfect Dog is not the Perfect Fit

We all have a dream dog, that dog we envision in our lives.  Maybe it is based on a dog we had growing up, or a dog we saw in the movies.  Or a dog we once met and loved – but it is there in your mind and you hope someday you will meet and you will have that amazing bond and everything will just be perfect.

I grew up with a German Shepherd, my first dog as an adult was a German Shepherd mix, and until Shadow the Ultimate Elkhound all my dogs were part German Shepherd.  While I admit to having a few dream dogs when it comes to different breeds, I have always wanted to have another German Shepherd in my life.  But more importantly I dream of a dog that can work with me, and compete with me, and snuggle with me, and join us in the Adirondacks, and help evaluate other dogs, and welcome foster dogs in the home, and just be, well, perfect.  So when I met a 3 year old German Shepherd named Savannah, who liked to swim, who lived with kids, who liked other dogs, and was sweet and smart and beautiful, I had hopes my perfect dog arrived.

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So we brought her home.  In anticipation I stocked up on treats, I got some new toys, I brought out the biggest dog bed we had, and I dreamed.  I saw us winning ribbons, I saw us walking in the woods, I saw us running errands and meeting dogs and working together every day.  And she arrived and she was wonderful, she was smart, she walked like a dream, she learned so fast, and she was so, so sweet.  But things were not easy.

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The cats rebelled, Tabby was overwhelmed, and Savannah was frustrated that Tabby would not play.  Savannah had gotten used to a canine playmate, and in our house no one would join in her games, so she started looking for things to do.  I was happy to offer scent games, puzzle toys, walks and rounds of fetch, but, what Savannah wanted to do most was find the demon that haunted our home.  You see, there was a demon that lived under the coffee table and would come out and hiss at her, sometimes it would even swat at her, and oh, how awesome it was when it ran.  We tried to convince her that it was in fact one of the cats, the cat she had even sat next to and interacted with even, but, no, she did not believe us, we were wrong, there was a demon in the home and we needed to be protected.  And the demon was not just under the coffee table, sometimes it was under the chair, or the dining room table, once it was near the dryer – Savannah was bound and determined to find it.  She would pace and circle and sniff and search and when she found it she would bark until it made fun noises and ran, and that was so much more fun then anything I could offer her to do.

Still we tried, we redirected, we rewarded her for calm behavior around the cats, we gave her a lot to do, we managed the cats and we managed the dogs and we had ups and we had downs.  It was not hopeless, but it also was not easy, and I started to get tired.  Five nights in I came home, sat down and started at this gorgeous girl who could do oh so much, and I re-examined my dream.  While Savannah was a perfect dog, we were not a perfect fit, and I asked myself if it was fair to her to keep trying to make it work?

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Savannah was not at risk, Savannah was not a hard dog to find a home for.  She was young, pretty, sweet and healthy, and she also had been perfectly happy in her foster home with a young active male dog to play with, and most importantly, no cats!   I could work to make her happy, but was it fair to her when there was a home where she just was happy without the work?  I could force the fit, or I could graciously accept she was not the dog we were meant to have.

And so we parted, I said good-bye to my perfect dog, and her foster home said hello once again to theirs.  Because they have realized that while they thought she wanted more, it seemed like what she really wanted was them, and so she is staying with them.

PirateMeanwhile I have opened my home to another foster dog.  And do not think I do not recognize the irony in the fact that a min pin with neurological issues, shaky house training skills and fear of the leash walked in and was a perfect fit with my crew.  Sigh.  I fear we are not destined for normal, and I would not have it any other way.

 

 

 

Farewell Louie . . .

Saying good-bye today to a very special dog and client. Louie came to class a senior dog with health issues that impacted his mobility and stamina, but that did not stop him from having a blast and rocking the Low Impact Agility course.  Sure, he couldn’t fit in the tunnel but we just let him skip that one (and the teeter) – he didn’t let that stop him from having fun.

Louie taught me a lot and I am going to miss him, and his snuggles.

 

Much love to his family, thank you for sharing him with me, he was truly one of a kind.

Daisie!

Daisie came into our lives when her life turned upside down, and we were happy to have a spot for her.  Daisie arrived a little stressed and unsure, which translated into an easily excitable dog, which meant there were lots and lots of walks that first day helping her burn some of that excitement off.  And after a few days she and Tabby got to hang out a little, although Tabby was not so sure about a new dog . . .

Thankfully Daisie was a good walker, and a quick learner.  She knew the basics (although her recall seemed to require some negotiation), and what she needed most was time and understanding as she found her way.

Daisie was not perfect but she was pretty close, house trained, pretty good on the leash, trustworthy in the house and social with other dogs.  We did have to work on her interest in the cats but calling her name and giving her treats when she caught sight of one reminded her it was more fun NOT to chase.  She also was a bit of a jumper when she got excited, and a demand barking so helping her remember that she was going to get more attention when she was sitting or standing with four on the floor helped.  The demand barking . . . well, dogs are allowed to get excited when it was time for a walk right?

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But poor Daisie lived with a dog trainer so we did have to work on some skills, we practiced sitting to be leashed, we practiced sitting and waiting for her food dish, we practiced check-ins and look backs and lots and lots of recall work.  After she settled in I took her a few places to practice meeting people politely and see how she did with her dog/dog introductions.  I prepped for the long-haul and as fate would have it not even two weeks in I received an application for her.  A nice family with two kids, and a dog savvy cat.  I was not sure how Daisie did with kids but agreed to a home visit with her, and as the kids came out of the house I saw her get far more wiggly and excited to see them then she ever was to see me.  She clearly enjoyed the meet and greet and I was thrilled when they asked if they could take her on trial placement.

Daisie has been with them for two days now and so far so good.  Peppertree Rescue who I foster for places dogs on a two week trial so dogs get a chance to settle into a home and show their true personality.  We still have some time and she is still settling and getting to know them, and they are getting to know her, but I am hopeful for her that she may have found her forever home.

Quarry Quest

Wag It Games’ Quarry Quest is something I did not get the chance to try with my own dog so when I started to teach it I don’t think I realized how much fun it was, now I am a total convert and I think it may be one of my favorite scent classes!  Best of all the dogs seem to really be loving it too.

While I enjoy all the scent games, particularly the Wag it Games scent games, there is a light bulb moment that seems to come with Quarry Quest that never fails to make me smile.  When it clicks you can see it in the dogs, you can see it in the handlers, and it is so much fun.  The dogs start exploring more, they start picking up speed, and their enjoyment is infectious.

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We just finished up our last round of classes and this time I remembered to take some video!   Which is good because people have been asking me what goes on in class.  The basics are that a course is created, with ins and outs and overs and unders, different surfaces and different heights.  Then we take some containers and hide them.  Some have wool, some have poly-fill, and the dogs have to identify which one has the wool.

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Ally, Bonnie (who was not able to make the last class), Jack and Stella had been working for six weeks and they rocked at Quarry Quest – they were exploring, using their noses and working!  And also having fun.  So proud of this group.

You know it is a good class when it ends with tired, happy dogs.

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Saying farewell . . .

Our world is a little quieter, and our carpets are a little less furry, as Shadow, also known as Yaddo, has left us.

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It started with an episode in the middle of the night where he became distressed and listless, a trip to the Emergency Vet revealed fluid around his heart and while a cause could not be determined it was most likely caused by a tumor.  We brought him home to spoil him rotten, hoping for the best but preparing for good-byes.

Good-byes came just a few days later, same circumstances, same trip to the vet, although this trip had a brief stop for cheeseburgers.  When you offer an Elkhound a cheeseburger and they do not take it, you know it is their time.  It was his time, who knew a heart as big as his could give out.  It was not an easy March for us, but we are healing.

When you adopt a senior you know time is limited, and I have learned that you just have to embrace every day.  It is easy to get caught up on keeping them healthy, or keeping them safe, but you cannot forget the fun, the love and the laughter.  With a senior dog, with all dogs really, it is about quality, not quantity, and I am proud to say we made every day we had count.  Shadow had lots of walks, lots of cookies, lots of cuddles, and lots and lots of laughter for three glorious years.  Could he have been trimmer?  Yes.  Better behaved?   Undoubtedly.  Could I have done more medically?  Probably.  But could he have been happier?  No, I don’t think he could of.  Well, no, he would have been much happier if we left him raid the recycling bin and eat the cat food whenever he wanted to, but there are limits, this is not anarchy.

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Shadow was a constant reminder to stay humble, be creative, and laugh.  Because if you did not laugh at his antics your other option was to yell, or to cry, and laughing was so much better.  He would generally laugh along with you, Shadow never took himself too seriously either.

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I have no words of wisdom on handling grief, no poems, not even flowery prose.  I just encourage everyone to hug their dogs a little bit longer, to feed them that extra piece of cheese, and try to find the humor in even their naughtiest behavior.

 

The Heart of a Champion

Tilly is fourteen years old, and has been a much loved family pet for years.  Until now Tilly did not go to class because Tilly did not need class, she has basic obedience down and is generally a mellow girl.  But the family thought that Low Impact Agility looked like fun, and that maybe Tilly might want to try it.  And that is when we realized that inside Tilly beat the heart of a competitor . . .

Tilly is a Low Impact Agility Super Star!  She used to take a minute to run through a course but now she can do it in 30 seconds, and her tail is wagging the whole time.

Best of all her family says Tilly seems to be more relaxed and confident in their home.  When you say “school” she gets excited and runs to the door.  While I love working with all the dogs, dogs like Tilly touch my heart in a special way.  I love seeing these “Elder Dogs” have fun and use their brains and get out and just have fun and all the benefits that come from that.

Allow me to brag . . .

When your 14 year old dog earns his second Wag It Games Sniff It Title you are supposed to brag right?  Shadow earned his fifth qualification in Search last night getting him his Search Wag It Games 1 Title.

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So proud of this boy!  He has only been working for a little over a year and a half and did not start until he was 12 years old, but he took to Sniff It and does it with joy and focus (mostly).  When we were posing for our picture he wanted to go back and look in the tents some more which made me smile – even though he was totally ignoring his recall and doing what he wanted, what he wanted to do was work.  That’s my boy!

And a private victory is Shadow did it while being polite among the other dogs, no barking or staring or kicking up a fuss, Shadow was there and ready to work and relaxed (mostly) around the other dogs.  Time and patience do so much, and yes, old dogs clearly can learn new tricks.

Katy Bug the Brave . . .

What does a beagle do when they come to scent class?  They put their nose to the ground and they get to work!

This video is extra special because just a few months ago Katy was living in a lab being used for pharmaceutical testing and research.  In December she found a home and now she making up for lost time, getting out into the world and experiencing lots of new things.

It has been a pleasure to be a part of helping her learn and build confidence, and watching her and her mom become a team.   I have loved seeing her go from the shy dog, quietly entering class to the dog pulling on the leash excited to use her nose!  When Katy is working she is on a mission and her tail is up, her nose is down, and she knows just what to do.

Happy Birthday Jackson!

When you are taking Beginning Scent Work on your birthday, sometimes the finds are a little extra special!

 

Happy Birthday Jackson, aka Bubs, aka The Cheese Thief!  And thank you for bringing treats to share with your friends.

And great work to all the dogs in class, I’ll be posting more videos soon – you all worked so hard and had such fun it was wonderful working with you.