Category Archives: Friendly Lost Dog Strategies

Tips and articles on how to capture a friendly dog.

Where Could Your Lost Dog Be? 2016

As the year draws to a close we are going to ask you to click on this link and to look through our 2016 Missing Dogs Albums one more time. or Helping Lost Pets.  Although we have had an incredibly successful year (over 5,500 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 six 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 2016.

Fireworks and Reuniting Lost Dogs with Their Families

aspcafireworks

Last year we were honored to present a free webinar for ASPCA Pro that included a lot of helpful information for shelters and owners for dogs that go missing after the fireworks on the 4th of July. Please feel free to share this link.
“In preparation for July 4, experts from Lost Dogs Illinois and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin will give you practical advice to offer support, resources, and tips to worried families searching for their lost dogs. Teaching people how to find their lost pets and avoid common mistakes can avoid heartbreak for many people and animals.
This free, 60-minute webinar will benefit staff and volunteers from any animal welfare agency.”

Click this link to view the webinar slides and access the webinar recording: http://www.aspcapro.org/webinar/2014-06-18/fireworks-rto

When NOT to Use a Tracking Dog to Find a Lost Dog

Photo courtesy of K McPherson

Photo courtesy of K McPherson

The idea of using a tracking dog to find a lost dog is very compelling, but most people who pursue this option do not have a good understanding of how a tracking (or trailing) dog works.  In some cases a tracking dog CAN provide useful information for locating a lost dog such as confirming sightings or establishing a direction of travel.  However, very few lost dogs are actually found and captured during the search (i.e. a “walk-up find”), which is what most people are hoping for when they hire a tracking dog team.

What many people do not consider is that there are actually some cases when you should NOT try to use a tracking dog to find a lost dog.  In these situations a tracking dog is not only a waste of money, but they can actually be detrimental to finding and catching the lost dog.  The situations where you should not use a tracking dog to find a lost dog include most cases where there are multiple sightings of the lost dog in a general area, and the dog is running in fear from everyone.  This most often occurs with newly adopted dogs and skittish lost dogs.  However, even an otherwise friendly dog can enter what is known as “survival mode” (where they run from all people including those that they know) if they are lost in a frightening situation (such as a car crash) or if they are on the run for several days, especially if people attempt to chase or capture them.  Sometimes these lost dogs will run for several miles (1-5 is common and 10 or more miles is not unheard of), but in most cases the lost dog will eventually settle down in a place where they feel safe.  Generally this safe place is somewhere with food, water, shelter, and (very importantly) where people are not attempting to approach or catch them.  In some cases the lost dog will actually circle around and come back to close to where they went missing.

If you you get multiple sighting (even 2-3) of the lost dog in a general area (hopefully less than 1 mile apart), then the lost dog has likely found a safe place to hide out.  The last thing that you want to do in this situation is chase the dog out of his newly found haven.  If you use a tracking dog, they may help you find out where your dog has been taking shelter and getting food, but in the process you may scare your dog out of the safe place.  Likewise, it is a very bad idea to have human search teams go into this area and look for the lost dog, especially if it is a wooded area.  Even if they see the dog, they are most likely going to scare him out of the area.  In either of these situations, the lost dog may feel pressured to leave the area and find a new safe place, perhaps miles away.

In these types of cases, it is very important to leave the dog alone and encourage others to report sightings, but not to approach or attempt to catch the dog.  Most of these dogs are ultimately caught using lure and capture techniques such as feeding stations, calming signals, surveillance cameras and/or humane traps.

Thank you Danielle of Lost Pet Research and Recovery for giving us permission to use her article.

Where Could They Be?

LDI-Logo_Final_Outlined copy

 

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.

 

 

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

Our Response to Media Hype about “Dog Flipping and Dog Thefts”

dogstreetIn the last two and a half years, Lost Dogs Illinois and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin have reunited almost 10,000 dogs with their owners. The vast majority of these dogs are either simply lost; or they have been picked up by a Good Samaritan.

A picked up dog is one that was lost or perceived to be lost and a Good Samaritan took the dog to keep it out of harm’s way. The Good Samaritan means well but human behavior comes in to play and several false assumptions may be made. They often assume the dog has been “dumped” because it appears matted, dirty or hungry (all of which can be attributed to being lost, even for a very short time). The Good Samaritan may then take one of these courses of action:

1. They become emotionally attached to the dog and keep or rehome the dog themselves.
2. They take the dog to a shelter or vet clinic that is not the official stray holding facility for the area – either because they don’t know which is the correct facility or they have heard rumors that it is not a good facility and they want to take the dog somewhere “better”.
3. They play the “wait and see game” to see if flyers and signs are posted; because this convinces them that the owner truly wants their dog back.

Dog theft is something entirely different because the motivation is different. Stealing involves a person who commits a crime of intent by illegally entering your house, yard or vehicle and taking your dog. “Stolen” dogs make headlines which makes it appear that it happens more often than it does. But when the dog is recovered, and it wasn’t stolen; the outcome doesn’t get the same media attention. So the public only remembers that the dog was “stolen” when it may have simply been lost or picked up. The media loves to over-sensationalize the story of a stolen dog or “dog flipping”.

At LDI/LDOW we focus on “probability” vs. “possibility”. We never say never, but when we look at the results of our 9000 plus successful reunions, we see some pretty clear patterns. In our experience very few dogs are actually stolen for profit or bad intentions. And of those that are stolen, many of those have been taken by somebody that is known to the family:

1. A disgruntled spouse or family member

2. A disgruntled employee, contractor or debtor

3. An unhappy neighbor or animal welfare advocate who disagrees with how the dog is cared for.

The American Kennel Club press release that stated that “dog theft was on the rise” was based on figures that stated they had an increase in “stolen” dog reports from 432 pet thefts in 2011, compared to 255 thefts in 2010.   This is an increase of  177 dogs but of course they expressed that as a percentage and the headlines screamed: “Dognapping Cases Are Up By Almost 70 Percent!”   Now compare those figures to how many dogs are owned in the USA – almost 80 million dogs.

The current stories circulating about “dog flipping” are based on a few incidences and  are not indicative of a new pattern or “trend”.

Instead of over-sensationalizing dog theft and “dog flipping”; at LDI/LDOW we focus our efforts on educating owners how to successfully find their dogs no matter what the circumstances; and teaching Good Samaritans how to correctly reunite found dogs with their owners.

Thank you for helping us in our mission. Together we can help more lost dogs get home!

If you truly believe your dog has been stolen please read this article for further inform

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

Previous article https://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  https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-4/

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