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By the time you are reading this article, most likely you have been looking for your lost dog for 24 hours or more. You have walked, and then driven your neighbourhood. You have been to the local animal shelter and registered your dog as missing. You have lost a lot of sleep.
You are reading because you feel the odds are strong that you will recover your dog. In the vast majority of instances, your instincts will prove true.
Losing your dog is a scary time. However, you are more likely than not to find your lost dog again. It is especially important to remain calm, so you can look for your pet without anxiety clouding your judgment. Take a deep breath, and use this article to help you find your furry friend.
Firstly, we need to examine the reasons why dogs leave the owner’s house.
- The opportunistic journey is when a gate or door is accidentally left open. While some dogs will remain in their yards or at their homes, most simply can’t refuse the temptation to explore when presented the opportunity. Although these dogs might not actively attempt to leave, their noses just lead them on a journey that can take them blocks or even miles away from home.
- Wanderlust is a common problem in intact male dogs of any breed as well as certain breeds like hounds. These dogs will actively attempt to escape by climbing, digging, or wiggling to escape their yards. They will also bolt out a door or pull to get away from their handler if the opportunity presents itself. Wanderlust is responsible for the displacement of many dogs and a major contributing factor to the stray populations in our shelters.
- Blind panic is a situation in which the “flight” instinct (from the hardwired “fight or flight” response to stimuli) kicks in and a dog runs in what we call a blind panic. This can happen for three reasons: xenophobic (skittish) temperament, loud noises (thunder, gunfire), or traumatic incident (involved in car accident, explosion, etc.). These lost dogs are the most difficult to catch since they will travel far, travel fast, and avoid human contact, even with their family members!
Now that you know what could have been the possible situations which would have made your dog leave let’s discuss some to do’s
- Search your neighbourhood both on foot and by car. Dogs are crepuscular, meaning they’re most active at dawn and dusk. Search at other times as well, but focus on those two time periods. Cover the paths where you normally walk your dog, as well as surrounding areas. Draw a circle on a map with your home at the centre. Extend the radius out a few miles so that you can cover the area in a comprehensive, methodical way.
- Grab a leash, and take along some stinky, yummy food you know your dog will love. If your dog has a favourite toy, bring that along as well. Toys that make noise, such as ones that squeak or jingle, are best. Whether you’re walking or driving, go slowly and shout out your dog’s name in a happy voice. If you’re in a vehicle, having someone else drive, so you’re free to shout out the window is advised. Assuming your dog is familiar with the phrase, “Wanna go for a ride?” say your dog’s name followed the phrase, uttered in the same tone you’d normally use. If your dog is trained to come when called, try calling their name and then giving the recall cue, also using the tone you’d normally use for the exercise.
- If you have another dog or have access to another dog yours is friends with, take that dog along on searches. Dogs can be of great help while looking for other lost dogs.
- Bring a photo with you, and show it to everyone you pass. (If your dog is not currently lost, be sure to have a photo handy on your cell phone or printed out, just in case. You might also need it to claim your dog if he’s ever impounded at a shelter or humane society.). Be sure all of your neighbours are aware of the situation. If you feel it’s safe, knock on doors in your area, explain the situation, and leave people with a flyer
- Spread the virtual word! Share your information on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to include a photo. A lot of lost dogs have been found through the medium of social media.
Your dog has left paw prints on your heart, which won’t make you give up! Think positive. Visualise your dog home safe and sound. I know of a few cases where there was a lost dog, and someone took the dog in for a few months and then gave it up to a shelter. Keep looking; organisation, hope, and perseverance are the most valuable tools you have. Here’s to your lost dog getting home safe and sound.