Category Archives: Shy Lost Dog Strategies

Articles and tips on how to capture a shy lost dog.

Where Could They Be?

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As the year draws to a close we are going to ask you to click on this link and to look through our 2014 Missing Dogs Albums one more time. Although we have had an incredibly successful year (over 5,000 reunions so far) we have many dogs that we are still searching for.

Where are they? In this blog post we’ll take a wild stab at our best guess (based on what we have learned over the last four years).

A small percentage of the still missing dogs are probably sadly deceased. BUT, we do know that a body is usually found and we encourage all owners to not give up unless they have confirmed physical evidence that their dog is deceased.  By far and away, our largest single cause of death is dogs that have been hit by a car (usually when they are being called or chased by well-meaning but misinformed citizens who do not know that you should never chase or call a scared lost dog). Our next most common cause of death is being hit by a train. Scared lost dogs will use the path of least resistance, and railroad tracks often provide a convenient route of travel between their hiding places and food sources. Unfortunately, some dogs are killed when the train comes, but again, a body is almost always found.  Our third most common cause of death is drowning; either by falling through thin ice, or by making a poor decision and bolting towards a body of water.  Lost dogs that are not being chased, approached or pressured will make wise decisions and may survive indefinitely.  Dogs that are being pressured or pursued will make poor decisions and may meet an untimely end.

Many people fear that their dog has been eaten or killed by coyotes. We do not find this to be common and very few of our deceased dogs have evidence of being killed by a predator.  Is it impossible? No. But dog/coyote altercations are almost always territorial (the dog is defending his yard or his territory) and scared, lost dogs are not territorial. They will defer to a larger predator.  Lost dogs simply want to survive – so they need to do three things – they will hide from predators (including man) and they will spend their time sleeping and traveling between their food sources and hiding places.   If a dog is killed by a larger predator – the body will usually be found. Predators do not tend to eat other predators and all members of the canine family are predators.

Where are the other still missing dogs? Some are still “out there” as described above. Scared and living in “survival mode”, these dogs may be rarely seen because they have become so adept at hiding and may be mostly nocturnal.  Eventually they will start to hang around one or more reliable food sources (often a farm that is leaving food out for outdoor cats).  If they are left alone they will become more domesticated and may be seen during daylight hours or even attempting to play with neighborhood dogs or farm dogs.  This is why it is SO important to continue to flyer in an ever-increasing radius of where your dog went missing from. Somebody, somewhere WILL see your dog and they need to know who to call when they do.

Some of our still missing dogs wandered far beyond their “jurisdiction”, out of the flyered area, and end up in the maze of animal sheltering and animal control. They may have been adopted to a new family or put down when their 7 day stray hold was up. These are a heartbreaker for us because the simple of act of posting pictures on line of impounded found dogs would bring most of these dogs home.  Our dedicated volunteers and fans scour the internet watching for possible matches but they cannot do this when there are no pictures available. Many Illinois shelters still do not reliably post pictures of impounded found dogs. Please ask them to do so. It is perhaps the simplest way to save lives and free up shelter space for those dogs that truly need it.

The last component (and probably the largest) are lost dogs that have been picked up by a Good Samaritan who meant well but then kept or rehomed the dog without searching for the owner.  Of course, this is illegal in Illinois, but it happens all too frequently. The current “rescue” phenomenon that is sweeping our country has kind -hearted people making false assumptions about the owners of a dog they find. They speculate that the dog has been abused, neglected or “dumped” and needs a new home. We have great success when we can get the finder to file a report with us so that we can post a flyer online.  This serves to dispel the false notion that people that have lost their dog don’t deserve him/her back.  We ask all of our fans to please spread the word to their friends, family and neighbors – Lost dogs don’t need a new home.  They just need to go home. Do not assume that you can keep a dog that you find. He/she is somebody else’s personal property and keeping him/her is illegal.

Thank you for helping us. Please take a few moments, scroll through our missing dog albums, and maybe, just maybe we can help reunite a few more of these dogs in 2014.

 

 

Ten Things You Need to Know Before Hiring a Tracking Dog Service

1375911626rvuyxWe often get asked about tracking dog services for missing dogs.  Some of these services are good, some are not so good and some are out and out scams. They will cost many hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars depending on where they are located and the distance they have to travel. Most will also charge an initial phone consultation fee.  Some services will require that you purchase extra products like flyers and signs. Before you hire a tracking dog service to help find your missing dog, please do your homework.  Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Tracking dogs will not capture your dog. They may or may not be able to indicate whether your dog was in an area and the direction of travel. But you will still have to do the work of flyering the areamonitoring sightings,  establishing a feeding routine and trapping your dog.  Tracking dogs are not a magic pill.  If a service guarantees success, they are a scam.
  2. A tracking dog is kept on a long line and can only travel as fast as the handler travels. (consider the fitness level of the human on the other end of the leash). Rough terrain and extreme temperatures will be factors.  Most lost dogs will be able to easily outpace a tracking dog and handler.  Ask the tracking service if you can accompany them on the search with the handler and the dog. Be suspicious if they say no.
  3. Tracking dogs may be a poor choice for scared, lost dogs that are in survival mode. These dogs need to settle into an area and establish a feeding routine.  Tracking dogs may  pressure them out of the area that they may have settled in. You will then have to start all over in a new area with flyering and signs to generate sightings.
  4.  Be very skeptical of services that tell you they will have to keep coming back to “confirm” a scent. Each of these visits may cost you more money and you risk your dog being pressured again out of an area that he may have settled in. You will then have to start over using flyers and signs to generate new sightings.
  5.  There is no accredited school for training scent dogs for finding lost dogs.  Trackers often claim success when it was actually flyers or another method of generating sightings that brought the dog home. Check references and successes thoroughly. Personally check with at least five or six references via telephone. Do not rely on online “reviews”  or recommendations.
  6. Reputable tracking dog services will have a contract for you to review and sign and will take credit cards. Make sure you have a clear idea up front of what the total cost will be.  Never send cash or wire transfer money. 
  7. Tracking dogs have much greater success at finding lost cats (who hide when scared) than lost dogs (who run when being pressured).  Ask the tracking dog service what their success rate is.  If they guarantee they will find your dog, or quote an overly optimistic success rate, they are probably a scam.
  8.  Tracking success depends on many things: the weather, the length of time the dog was in the area, the terrain and environment.  The service should give you an honest assessment of what you are dealing with. The longer your dog has been missing the less likely the tracking dog will be able to pick up a scent
  9. Search and rescue dogs are certified for human recovery only and will not normally be  used for tracking missing pets. If someone tells you they will bring their search and rescue dog to look for your missing dog, be extremely skeptical. Ask to see their training records and their certification.
  10. Some tracking dog services, lost pet services and pet detectives prey on the distraught owner by making unsolicited contact with them from their missing dog flyers.  Be VERY careful. Many of these are scams, or at the very least – very expensive services that do what you can do yourself for a fraction of the cost.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stay calm, do your research and spend your money wisely.   Generating sightings is the key to a successful recovery. Consider how many flyers, signs, newspaper ads or even billboards  could be purchased with the money you would spend on a tracking dog service.  Your lost dog is depending on you to bring him safely home.

Our tips, ideas and articles are based on information gathered from thousands of successful lost dog recoveries. Any advice or suggestions made by Lost Dogs of Wisconsin/Lost Dogs Illinois is not paid-for professional advice and should be taken at owner’s discretion.

Place an Ad in Your Local Newspaper When Your Dog is Missing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the most overlooked ways to get the word out about your missing dog is placing an ad in your local newspaper or shopper. Social media has taken the world by storm, providing a cheap, easy way to spread the word; but you must always remember that there are still many people that don’t use computers or social media. It doesn’t do any good to have your dog posted only on Facebook if the person that has found your dog isn’t a Facebook user.  So it is really important to use as many different communication methods as possible including flyers, signs, social media, Craigslist, newspaper and radio ads.

The following is a list of Illinois newspapers per township.  Remember that lost dogs can travel far and wide. Don’t limit yourself to just one area. Cover surrounding counties as well.  Your dog is depending on you to bring him safely home.

Click here for a list of Illinois newspapers:

http://www.usnpl.com/ilnews.php

LadyBird, this is Haven1. Come in LadyBird.


Here at HoundSong we believe in an open door. We have long proselytized the open sharing of what happens from day to day in our rescue. An easy thing when all is good and the stories we share are like handing out warm chocolate chip cookies. Not so easy a thing when we “screw the pooch”. Grab a coffee; kick up your feet, here comes the story of most ridiculous gaffe ever made in the search for lost dog.

ladybirdOn Wednesday, Febuary 5th 2014 LadyBird the Beagle went “missing” from her foster home. LadyBird is an odd cookie. Others have called her a puppy-mill dog. This is somewhat of a misnomer. She was a breeder dog, but not from a puppy mill environment. She does suffer some of the same malady’s common to puppy mill dogs. She is a timid, antisocial, brooding, sort of gal who is not particularly interested in interaction of any sort. She is a “duck and cover” gal. She can hide in plain sight…like a Ninja. LadyBird, the Beagle Ninja.
(…and thinking about it now, if she were a Black Ops Specialist, she even has a cool code name. Haven1, this is LadyBird.
This is Haven1, go ahead LadyBird
I have eyes on the package, are we ROE clear?
Red light! I say again, Red Light!  We are not ROE clear. Hold at Epsilon 1. Cover and observe.
Copy Haven1, hold and cover. Observe but do not engage. LadyBird out.)

LadyBird’s ninja like skills is why, at first, her foster mom did not panic when she seemed to be missing. It is not uncommon to go most of a day and not see, or only have a fleeting glimpse of, LadyBird. In what has become a practiced routine, her foster mom set about a search patrol of all LadyBird’s usual hidey holes. Behind the couch, under the computer desk, behind the toilet, under the bed. One by one these locations were searched and cleared. One by one these locations were empty. After about 4 hours since the last LadyBird sighting, frantic destruction of the entire house began. At 8 hours and a search of the house, yard, and neighborhood, it seemed LadyBird had gone off mission…
LadyBird had gone rogue.

We have been rescuing hounds for 18 years. In those 18 years, the wanderlust of the hound has afforded us a particular set of skills. We have searched for A LOT of dogs. Add to these the dogs for whom we have used the skilled nose of our Bluetick Coonhound, Ranger, to track and locate for other people, and we have spent more hours stooped over muddy prints in the rain and baiting feed stations than I care to count. My point being, we are not amateurs. We know how to get it done. Or so we thought…

posterpicWe spent the next week following our lost dog SOP(Standard Operating Procedure).
Phone calls to authorities – Check.
Fliers and posters – Check.
Boots on the ground (in snow up to our asses) and eyes on task – Check.
…and so on and so forth right down the list.
We followed the procedure, as we had SUCCESSFULLY done a hundred times. My wife, in her usual obsessive manner, drove off an entire oil change up and down every street and alley with her wide, panicked eyes peering into every shadow as though this could be the moment we found her. We tripped and tracked behind every print in the snow as though our hopeful steps would surely lead us to old LadyBird. We did, as we had always done on every search. Only this time nothing happened. Not even a sighting.
In 18 years we have never had that happen. We always had at least a sighting.

By the 5th day we were deeply worried.
On the 6th day, at 10:30PM, LadyBird was found pattering around in the backyard of her foster home as though she had never left.

…and she hadn’t.
She was in the backyard the whole time.

This is what we saw.

I want you to keep in mind we had searched everywhere in the house and yard for LadyBird. We had gone as far as poking snow drifts with a broom handle like we were searching for an avalanche victim.

The foyer to LadyBird's underground bunker

 

LadyBird had made herself an “underground” bunker with a hidden secret entrance that would make the designers of NORAD jealous.

 

Oh look, a hallway.

Peeking into the common use room.

 

She divided her bunker into three areas. A entry, a common area, and sleeping quarters, all joined by a short hallway at 90 degrees to the previous “room”.

 

The sleeping quarters.

 

Here, back far enough where not even the most harsh weather and strongest winds could not reach her, is the sleeping quarters. We found her choker collar here. So cozy a room had she made for herself, while it was about 10 degrees outside, the collar was warm to the touch.

 

Opening holes to the common area and sleeping quarters.

 

What was left after we nuked her bunker.

 

So…
You can laugh at us if you like.
Feel free to call us stupid. You can even accuse us of being irresponsible or remark how unbelievable it is that we left her there…in some of the worst weather “the region” has seen in years…to shiver and suffer in the cold.
Truth is, we have no excuses.
It seems unfathomable that we did not find her hiding, in the snow, under decorative grasses, just 35 feet from the backdoor of her foster home. It seems unfathomable and inexcusable. However, our mistakes are not the moral of this story.

The moral of this story is multifaceted.
1. When searching for a lost dog, never rely on what you “know”. Our experience blinded us. We had searched the yard for LadyBird. Not seeing any tracks or visible sign of her presence (and having poked to death the snow drifts with a broom handle)we wrote it off a possibility. We went about our search thinking like people, rather than like a dog. We approached this search as we had approached a hundred others, seeing it through the eyes of all our previous searches…when we should have tried to approach it using LadyBird’s eyes.
2. Double Check and Triple check. Even if you have searched an area, search it again. Even if your dogs is not hiding under a bush in your own yard, he/she may return near home from time to time.
3. Do not give up. In severe weather (or severe experiences like tornado’s or floods)people have a tendency to assume “Fluffy could just not have lived through that.”  In temperatures as low as -30 degrees, inches upon inches of snow stacking up all over the area, and without a single sighting of her, we were just a day or two from assuming the worst for LadyBird. Nagging in a dark corner of our minds was the thought that LadyBird had been hit by a plow and was buried somewhere under one of the mountainous piles of snow along the roadway.  We were very close to calling it hopeless….for you and I it would have been hopeless. For our animals though…well…when it comes to staying alive they are just smarter.

We post this in the hope that others may learn from our mistake.
Never assume…always look with unfettered eyes…and always know that, in terms of survival, you are not smarter than your dog.

Thank you Darin Lee of RodDar Houndsong Rescue for your honest account of LadyBird’s adventure.

http://www.houndsong.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Houndsong

Tips For Dogs That Are Lost From Somewhere Other Than Home

Lenny escaped from a transport in southern IL.  He was being transported  from a Missouri puppy mill to Chicago.  Luckily a Good Samaritan and the local ACO kept food/water/shelter out in the area for Lenny after he escaped.  60 days later Lenny was captured very near to where he escaped.

Lenny escaped from a transport in southern IL (being transported from a Missouri puppy mill to Chicago). Luckily a Good Samaritan and the local ACO volunteered to take over the search for the Chicago family. They kept food/water/shelter out in the area where Lenny went missing. 60 days later they were able to capture Lenny very near where he escaped.

It is not uncommon for a dog to go missing from a location other than home. These situations  can include but are not limited to dogs that go missing from a:

  • Vacation or camping trip
  • Pet sitter
  • Vet clinic
  • Groomer
  • Animal Shelter
  • Foster home
  • Rescue transport
  • Car Accident

This sounds horrifying, but with a good plan of action these dogs are usually quite predictable in their actions and can be successfully recovered.

We’d like to share with you what we have learned.  Although we never say never please consider these tips:

  • These dogs do not generally travel very far – often staying VERY close to the spot where they went missing from.  They generally do not head for home or set off on long journeys (unless they are chased).
  • The MOST important thing you can do is to spread the word to everyone that is helping you to NOT call, whistle, approach or pursue your dog. The dog needs to be lured back to the spot it went missing from, as if you were trying to lure a scared cat or tame a wild animal like a squirrel or chipmunk.
  • Using scent articles (the dog’s bed, toys, and dirty articles of clothing or bed sheets from the person most bonded with the dog) will help keep the dog in the area.  Place them somewhere safe (well away from roadways) along with smelly, tasty food and water. When hunters lose a dog while hunting they leave their coat out on the ground at the place they last saw their dog. The dog is often lying on it when the hunter returns the next day.
  • If you see your dog, immediately sit down on the ground and toss a few tasty treats out around you.  It may take a few minutes, or a few hours, but your dog might approach you.  He may circle around and approach you from behind.  Be patient and speak softly or not at all.
  • Flyer the area heavily and use intersection signs to alert passing motorists about your missing dog.  Again, remember to stress “Do NOT Chase” on your flyers and signs. The greatest risk to a shy lost dog is that he will be chased into traffic and killed.
  • Be patient.  Dogs lost from somewhere other than home may hunker down for a day or two and then creep back out to where they went missing from – lured by the tasty food and scent items you left.

Please read through the rest of our articles on Shy Lost Dog Strategies. Never give up! Your lost dog is counting on you to bring him safely home.

That Dog is in Feral, Survival or Flight Mode! What in the World does that mean?

scared dogFeral, survival and flight mode are terms being used more and more by lost dog recovery specialists but the meaning of those terms is not clear to a lost dog owner or general public helping to find a lost dog.

Lost dogs, even the friendliest dog which has been missing for a period of time, will start using their natural instincts in order to survive.  When dogs begin to use their natural instincts, their behavior towards humans changes and they become focused on three things; food/water, shelter and keeping themselves safe from perceived threats, which sadly can include his/her owner/good Samaritans.

Even when approached or called by an owner/good Samaritan the dog is instinctively fearful and runs away from the “threat” often leading to the person chasing the dog.   Each time something like this happens it increases the dog’s level of fear towards people.  When this behavior is being exhibited the dog is said to be in feral, survival or flight mode.  The dog will do whatever it needs to do to escape the threat whether that be disappearing into the woods or frantically running into traffic.  Unfortunately that is when they make poor choices.

So what can you do?  Educate, educate, educate!  Get the message out to the public verbally or on your flyer by describing the dog’s behavior in simple terms they can understand, such as, “Do not call, approach or chase the dog, he/she is extremely frightened and will run away from  you.”  Direct the person to instead call and report the sighting immediately.

For further reading please read our lost shy dog strategies on our website.

Beware of Scammers!

Photo credit: angel_shark / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: angel_shark / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Even though most people are good-hearted and honest, there is the possibility that you will be contacted by dishonest reward-seekers and scammers when your dog is missing. Just last week, an owner of a lost dog emailed Lost Dogs Illinois (LDI) saying someone had contacted them from out of state, using a disposable calling card, leaving no address or name and ask to be paid a reward.  The owner was distraught.  Did we think they had their dog?  What can they do? Losing a dog is a heartbreaking and we, at LDI, cannot understand why people would be so cruel to defraud lost dog owners.  In an article last year, Better Business Bureau (BBB) published the most common scans and how to prevent them.

The Pay-Me-First Scam: The lost pet owner receives a phone call from a person claiming that they have the lost pet in their possession. This person asks that the reward money be sent to them before they return the pet. If the pet owner refuses, they will often threaten to hurt the pet in order to pressure the pet owner into sending money. Once the scammer receives the money, they are never heard from again.

The Truck Driver Scam: Someone claiming to be a long-haul truck driver tells you that he came across your pet while on his route. He then asks you to send him money so that he can send your pet back to you, or he may ask you to wire him money to board your pet until he can send your pet back with another truck driver who’s heading your way.

The Tag Team Scam: You receive a call from someone who says that they think they have your pet. After talking to you for a while and getting information about your pet, they apologize and say that they’re sorry, but it turns out that it’s not your pet after all. They then give all the information about your pet to a partner. This is a set-up — in a short time, the scammer uses the information received about your pet only to have a second person call and claim to have found your pet who will try collect any reward money in advance..

The Airline Ticket Scam: Someone calls and claims that your pet somehow ended up in another state. They ask you to send money for a kennel and an airline ticket in order for them to ship your pet back to you. Once the pet owner sends the money, the scammer walks away with it, leaving the owner without their pet and with less money in their bank account.

BBB provides the following tips to keep from falling victim to a pet loss scam:

1. If you get a call from someone who claims to be out-of-state, ask them for a phone number where you can call them back.

2. If a caller claims to have your pet in their possession, ask them to describe something about the pet that wouldn’t be visible in pictures which may have been posted.

3. Never wire money to anyone you don’t know.

4.  Report the scam to your local police.

So, we bet  you are wondering if the family found their dog?  Yes, they did.  A Good Samaritan had picked their dog up.  Because of the family’s heavy flyering in the area, they were reunited with their dog.   A Very Happy Reunion!

Jump Starting Your Search For the Long-Lost Dog

Jump start

Your lost dog has been missing now for several weeks (or months) and your sightings and leads have fizzled out. Don’t despair.  It is never too late to jump-start the search for a long-lost dog.

This article is designed to give you some ideas for reigniting your search to give you a place to pick up again. Hopefully, you have read our other articles on shy lost dog search strategies and friendly lost dog search strategies. If not, please check the categories at the right that link to many more articles.  We also hope you have mapped all the sightings on a map, either a web-based map like Google Maps or a large-scale paper map.

Now, imagine you are a detective working on a cold case.  You may talk to 99 people who have not seen or heard anything.  You are looking for the ONE person who has.  Someone, somewhere has seen or knows something.   Be persistent and don’t give up. Even if they haven’t seen your dog, they may see your dog tomorrow. Putting a flyer in their hands ensures they will know who to call when they see him.

Look at your map and draw a circle in a one mile radius around the last confirmed sighting. Go back to the last confirmed place that your dog was seen and flyer heavily in a one mile radius. Don’t let false assumptions or geographic barriers deter you.  Don’t assume that your dog would NEVER have crossed the highway or the river or the lake. False assumptions will make you miss possible sightings and leads.

Talk to everybody! Put a flyer in their hands and ask them if they have seen your dog or if they think a dog may have been hanging around their house or farm. Did they see dog tracks under their bird feeder? Was their dog poop in their yard when it shouldn’t be there? Was their outdoor cat food disappearing faster than normal?

Visit EVERY place that serves food in the one mile radius. Don’t forget convenience stores and gas stations! Talk with the kitchen staff and management. Did anybody see a dog hanging out near the dumpsters? Did anybody notice dog tracks near the dumpsters in the winter? Did any restaurant patrons mention a dog hanging out in the parking lot? Did anybody see a similar looking dog being walked in their neighborhood?

Think about the demographics of the neighborhoods in the one mile radius.  Maybe you need to print some flyers in Spanish or another language? Or, maybe there are some older residents who don’t get out much to see signs and flyers but may have taken pity on your dog and fed him over the winter?  Think about the people that may not have seen or understood your first round of flyering.

Now is a great time to refresh your posters and intersection signs.  You may want to change the heading to STILL MISSING – so that people know that the search is still on. Think outside the box. Ask every business in the one mile radius if you can hang a flyer in their window and employee break room. Maybe your dog approached workers on their lunch break. Or maybe they saw him when they were driving to or from work.

If you don’t get any new leads in the one mile radius; you will need to expand your area. You may want to consider using  USPS Every Door Direct Mail.    Beware of some of the other lost pet mailing services that you will see advertised. Some of them are scams and do not reach the number of homes that they promise.

Refresh the memories of the animal control facilities, shelters, police departments, vet clinics and municipal offices in your county and surrounding counties. Send them fresh flyers.

Give a new flyer to postal workers, delivery drivers, school bus drivers and garbage truck drivers. Don’t forget pizza and sandwich delivery drivers also! They are out and about  in the evening, when your dog may be moving around, looking for food.

Check with your local Department of Transportation. Have they found any deceased dogs alongside the road? Or has a dog been spotted eating on a deer or other wildlife carcass?

Repost your dog on Craigslist and your local online classifieds. Consider taking out a print newspaper ad also. There are still many people without computers or the internet!

Remember, Never Give Up!  Re-energize and jump start the search for your missing dog.  Your dog is depending on you to bring him home.

Our tips, ideas and articles are based on information gathered from thousands of successful lost dog recoveries. Any advice or suggestions made by Lost Dogs of Wisconsin/Lost Dogs Illinois is not paid-for professional advice and should be taken at owner’s discretion.

Harnessing the Energy – Part 4

feeding station

Your team of volunteers has worked hard at flyering and posting signs and now you’re getting some sightings! This article will cover what we have found to be the best method for handling these.

The point person should keep a sighting  journal. It is hard to remember all of the details from a phone call. Something that may seem insignificant at first may become very significant as time goes on.  So most importantly, get the name and phone number of the caller, so that you can call back with any extra questions!

Ask the right questions and make detailed notes.

1. Where did you see the dog? Ask them to please be specific. For example: the dog was going north on Ash street toward the Bay City Mall.  On the other side of the street was Walmart.

2. When did you see the dog? What was the weather like? Again, ask for specifics. Example: The dog was seen at 10 a.m. on Monday, August 5th.  It was raining at the time.

3. Can you describe the dog? Was he wearing a collar? What color was the collar? Did he seem okay?

4. What was he doing? Was he trotting, running, darting in and out of traffic, sleeping, playing with other dogs, walking calmly, etc?

5. How was he carrying his body and tail? Was he low to the ground, almost crawling? Was his tail up or down or waggin?

Record all of these details in your journal and then post the sightings to a  map. You can use an old-fashioned paper map or you can use an interactive google or Mapquest map that you can share with your volunteers.   We recommend that you NEVER share this or any sighting information  with the public.

The number one cause of death of lost dogs is that they panic and run into traffic and are killed by a car. When you post sighting locations – you are encouraging reward seekers, wanna be heroes, and overzealous people from rushing to the location and frightening the dog.

Remember, the whole goal now is to let the scared lost dog settle in the area. Then you can implement a plan to catch him (trapping, luring, etc.). But if you are constantly pressuring the dog, he will keep moving, and you will always be behind him. You will have to keep flyering more and more areas and this will be draining on your volunteers. Remember that most of your volunteers have full time jobs, and their own families and dogs to look after. You will need to respect their time and maximize their efforts.

Make sure that your volunteers understand that the goal is to allow the dog to settle in an area. They must change their mindset from “searching” to “luring”.  You wouldn’t try to chase and catch a feral cat. You start feeding a cat in one location and then you trap them. You will use this same approach for a scared, missing dog.

After you get off the phone with the caller, immediately gather the necessary supplies and head to the location. The person most bonded to the dog (if it isn’t you) should also go. But you do not want a large group. You will need:

  • smelly treats (think hotdogs, liverwurst, canned cat food)
  • water and bowls
  • slip lead, regular leash and collar
  • flyers
  • trail camera (or fireplace ashes or cornstarch)

When you arrive at the sighting location:

  • Don’t slam the car door!
  • Stay calm – the dog will feel your nervous energy and may take off again. He could be in hiding watching you.
  • If you see the dog (possible but not probable):
  • The person who is most bonded with the dog should sit or lie down by themselves and scatter tasty treats around themselves and WAIT. It may take minutes or hours for the dog to creep slowly towards them. The dog may circle around and approach from behind. Put your phone on silent and don’t talk on it. Everybody else should leave the area.

If you do not see the dog:

Don’t waste time driving around.

Immediately go door to door and flyer – speaking with everyone. Call in more volunteers to help with this.

If no one is home – leave a flyer that you have handwritten on: SEEN! 4 p.m. May 31 at the edge of your property or corner of this block or across from the Walgreens.  Be specific so the home owner knows to keep a look out. Make sure your flyers clearly state the nobody should call or chase the dog. Just call with sightings.

Before leaving the sighting area:

Leave food and water! Anything except dry kibble (which doesn’t have an odor). Again, think smelly, scrumptious food. If you have a trail camera set it up facing the food so that you can see if the dog is approaching and eating when you aren’t there. . If you don’t have a trail camera, sprinkle fireplace ashes or cornstarch around the bowls so that you can examine the area for tracks when you return.

Remember, when the lost dog’s needs are being met:

He will start to let down his guard.

He will start to trust people and return to a domesticated state of mind.

Your chances of safely capturing him are greatly increased.

Don’t be too quick to dismiss a sighting.  Most sightings are legitimate. People describe dogs differently so don’t dismiss a sighting because the description does not match exactly.  Remember, that the public may not know dog breeds or sizes like you do. They may call an American Eskimo Dog a Samoyed.  Or a shepherd mix a husky. Assume that every sighting is legitimate, unless absolutely proven otherwise,  and mark it on the map. Dogs can travel great distances very fast, especially if they have been pursued. They may be using shortcuts that you aren’t aware of. Don’t assume that a sighting is too far away to be your dog. You will be able to use your map to give you clues to your dog’s paths and patterns.

Next, we will discuss common pitfalls and mistakes that are often made when a rescue is searching for one of their foster or newly adopted dogs. We will try to give you some advice to avoid these pitfalls.

See part 5  http://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-5-common-pitfalls/

Previous article http://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-3/

Harnessing The Energy – Part 3

Two Illinois based rescues joined together to facilitate Ellie, shy foster dog, return. 30 days later Ellie was trapped.

Effectively coordinating your volunteers in the search for a lost dog is what we call “harnessing the energy”.  When everybody is on the same team and pulling in the same direction, great things can happen.  When the efforts are scattered and fragmented, volunteers will get frustrated and the search can end badly.

This article will focus on the steps to help your rescue or shelter’s volunteers work effectively as a team to generate sightings of the missing dog.

First and foremost – please make sure that you have done the Five Things to Do If You Have Lost Your Dog. Putting scent items and food at the spot where the dog went missing from will help keep him in the area – even if he is unfamiliar with the location.

1. Assign one “point person”.  Preferably this is the person that is most bonded with the lost dog (the owner or foster parent) and with the biggest emotional committment to the process. The point person must be a responsible individual with the time required to be able to answer EVERY phone call and go to every sighting location.  The point person must be dedicated to the process for the days, weeks or months that it might require to successfully catch the dog.

2. Use a phone number on the flyer that will be answered promptly. Do not use a shelter phone number that won’t be answered during closed hours. Do not use an automated voice system or answering service. Many people who see your dog won’t call again. They will try ONCE. If you miss the opportunity to speak with them, you may never get another chance and you might miss valuable information about your dog’s location. Do not rely on texting. Callers need to hear your voice and your emotional commitment to the dog. This will encourage them to keep helping you.

3. Change the message on your phone to include a message about the missing dog. If the caller reaches an ordinary voice message, he may hang up and not try again. The caller must know they’ve reached the correct number to report a sighting.

4. Do NOT offer a reward for the missing dog.  In our experience, this is almost always a bad idea. Rewards encourage people to chase the dog, possibly into oncoming traffic. A dog that is being pursued for a reward will not settle and will become more and more elusive and possibly move out of the area altogether. Then you will have to start all over in a new location.  You want sightings of the dog so that you can implement a plan to catch him safely. Rewards are counterproductive to this effort because you will not be able to pay a reward for each sighting.

5. In the early hours of the dog going missing; rescue volunteers may panic and want to rush to a sighting location to “search”.  This is almost always a bad idea. Their energy should be used for quickly flyering the area – going door to door and trying to speak to as many people as possible and leaving a flyer in their hands.  Searching for a shy lost dog will chase the dog out of the area and possibly into the path of traffic.  Or the dog may go into hiding, reducing sightings and prolonging the search. Your goal is to let the shy lost dog settle, without the pressure of being pursued. You will have a much greater chance of catching him.

6. The point person should be organized and ready to distribute maps and flyers to the volunteers.  Use a Rubbermaid tub in a central location to store flyers, maps and supplies. Then anyone with some time to spare can do some flyering without duplicating efforts.

7.  Don’t congregate noisily in an area to flyer. Don’t slam car doors. The dog may be hidden somewhere nearby watching you. Too much activity may frighten him into leaving the area.  Flyer in groups of two for safety, but be quiet and calm.

8. Pace your volunteers. Make sure they understand that this could take weeks or months. Volunteers will be needed to flyer after every sighting, to make and move signs, to update Craigslist, radio, and  newspaper ads and to keep notifying vet clinics, shelters, etc.

9. Try to keep everyone “in the loop” so they feel useful and engaged. Consider using a closed Facebook group for the volunteers to keep everyone informed. Stay positive. Negativity won’t help and will probably prolong the search. Don’t waste any time in assigning blame for how or why the dog went missing. This does nothing to help find the dog and will decrease the morale of the team.

Next, we’ll focus on the best way to respond when you get your sighting calls.

Part 4  http://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-4/

Previous Article http://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-2/