Category Archives: Lost Dog Behavior Tips

Articles on how lost dogs behavior changes.

Patience, setting up a feeding station, creating a safe zone and luring Minnie to safety!

Minnie was what we call a “Kentucky Stray”.  She was transported from a high kill shelter in one of the states south of Illinois and brought up to a rescue.  Minnie went into a foster home but unfortunately escaped.  Dogs who are used to being out on their own take time and patience to get them comfortable with a home environment.
Flyers were posted when Minnie first went missing.  Calls were coming in and her foster mom would rush to the location but she would be long gone by the time anyone got there. Minnie was figuring out where to find her necessities; food, water and shelter.
After she was missing for about a week and a half, a group of volunteers offered to start mapping the sightings, doing more flyers, and doing “driveway drops” hear sighting locations.   She was very, very, close to her home but a busy street was between the area where she was living and her home.
With the flyers and drops, more sightings came in and a pattern of location and time started to emerge.  She seemed to travel at night, which is very common  for dogs in survival mode.  It keeps them safer from predators, including humans.  It’s quieter at night…
While looking at her pattern, we noticed a few houses on Caton Farm that had pole barns.  One of the volunteers knocked on a door and asked if she could look around the property.  The owners were eager to help and let us do whatever we needed.  The volunteer found a pole barn, with an opening in the back. She also found several canine prints that were Minnie’s size, along with some dog poop.  The home owners had dogs but said theirs did not go back to that part of the yard.  The back of the pole barn was alone a fence line, and on the other side of the fence was a subdivision of town homes where there had been sightings of Minnie.  She was definitely there.  We thought maybe staying in the pole barn for shelter.

Signs that a dog was living there.

Minnie’s safe place.

Using a crock pot of smelly food to keep Minnie in the area. It was very cold out.

Since the flyers were doing their job, the next step was food and a game camera.  A camera was put up on Friday and food was trailed into the subdivision and along the fence where we thought she was traveling. Saturday morning proved what we thought.  Minnie showed up the night before and was eating the food.  That night a trap was deployed, more food trailed and within a half hour of setting it all up she was back.  It took a short time for her to decided she wanted the yummy chicken legs in the back of the trap and she was safely caught!

Minnie checking out the trap

Minnie trapped safe!

After a week and a half of trying to catch a glimpse of her when the sightings were called in, more flyers went up on day 13, driveway drops done on day 14, sightings mapped on day 15, camera and feeding station on day 16 and safely trapped on day 17.  Following the advice of Lost Dogs Illinois and Helping Lost Pets make this a textbook rescue.  Minnie was eventually adopted by her foster family and is now known as Lucy and is loving life.

Minnie now called Lucy

Thank you, Elaine, for sharing Minnie’s story.

What Can Go Wrong And What Can Go Right In Capturing A Lost Dog.

Stella’s rescue is such an important story to tell.  Both the family and Buddha Dog Recovery and Rescue hope that her story can help other families know what to do and what not to do when their pet goes missing.

When Stella went missing on May 13th, a recovery group out of CT urged the family to hire a tracker out of Rhode Island. After paying $450, this tracker told them that Stella was cornered and picked up and taken by someone. Terrified and heart broken at thought of Stella being taken, her family posted signs that Stella was stolen. The truth was, Stella was never picked up, never stolen…she had never left the area as confirmed by countless sightings that started pouring in. The tracker could not have been more wrong. When confronted with the numerous sightings, both the tracker and recovery groups go to answer as always, was that whomever had Stella, let her go. Once again, this recovery group urged the owners to bring this same tracker back out to track Stella AGAIN and still sticking to same bogus story that she had been picked up. Stella was being sighted in a concentrated area, on the same streets over and over and over for a couple of weeks. Instead of setting up much needed traps for Stella, this recovery group had the family doing pointless bacon burns morning, noon and night for several days with the hopes that Stella would just come out of hiding and come out for the owner. Finally, after weeks of wasting precious time, resulting in Stella traveling further away, the recovery group set up a trap that was far too small for Stella. Not only was the trap too small but it was not set up properly and was left unmonitored, leaving a possum in the trap overnight and in to the next day which caused Stella to move from that area…again!

It was at this point that Jenn and I were contacted by the family. New signs were made and the poster coverage was expanded miles out from her last known whereabouts. After almost a week of no sightings, we finally got the call we were waiting for, someone who saw Stella’s poster on facebook, saw her six and half miles away from where she was last seen. More posters went up and we began mapping her extensive travel and figuring out her travel patterns, which included running along and crossing dangerous route 84. We immediately set up traps and an enclosure in the woods alongside route 84, monitored with a wireless feed so that the area would remain undisturbed. We repeatedly got Stella on camera along with a host of her furry friends, which included a very unwelcome fisher cat, a fox, possum and three different cats. The traps were monitored around the clock and many sleepless nights in the car ensued, so that if any of these creatures set off the trap it would be immediately reset so as not to scare Stella off from the area. Not disclosing many of her sightings and the location of the traps were instrumental in Stella’s capture. Stella’s daily travel pattern was a ten mile straight line back and forth appearing at the trap every two to three days. One terrifying night we helplessly watched from a distance as she slept directly along side route 84 by the enclosure, one false move and she would run directly in to traffic. Finally, last night she appeared on camera for what would be her last time, I called Jenn who lived minutes from where our enclosure was set up and she was there momentarily to hear the door slam shut…Stella’s time on the run was finally over! I made the call to Stella’s family and through screams of joy they made their way to meet Jenn and be reunited with their sweet Stella. All the sleepless nights, the poison ivy and poison oak was worth it!!! If proper recovery steps had been taken in the beginning, Stella would never have been in such danger on route 84 and would have been home long ago. By sharing the full story of Stella’s rescue we hope to help other families.

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Thank you Buddha Dog Rescue and Recovery for giving us permission to print Stella’s Story.

Probability VS. Possibility

Probability VS. Possibility

Photo courtesy of ponsuwan/Freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of ponsuwan/Freedigitalphotos.net

At Lost Dogs Illinois, we never say never.  We have had too many surprises and unlikely scenarios play out in the last few years.  But, that being said, we have learned a few things from the thousands of successful reunions that our organization and those of our sister sites have been involved with.

An owner that focuses the majority of their effort on what “probably” happened to their dog; rather than worrying about what “possibly” happened, is far more likely to have a quicker, more successful recovery.

Consider the weather. Is it possible for it to snow on any given day of the year in Illinois? Yes.  Is it probable? No.  So you can probably safely leave your parka at home in August.

Some examples pertaining to dogs:

  • A dog lost from a car accident that is not being pursued will probably stay within a 1/2 mile radius of where the accident occurred.
  • A small friendly dog lost in a populated area has probably been picked up, often very close to where they went missing from.  They can be taken to a shelter, stray holding facility or rescue; or kept, or rehomed.
  • A shy, fearful dog is probably still “out there” learning to live on their own and avoiding people.
  • A “dandelion”; common dogs that all look alike (eg. labrador retrievers)  are easily lost in the animal control/shelter system.

We have broken down our website articles to try to help you quickly “profile” your dog so that you can focus your efforts on probability. First; determine whether your dog has the risk factors of an elusive dog or an opportunistic dog.

Then read the corresponding articles from the Shy or Friendly categories on our website. Click on the categories on the right side of our webpage.

Our most likely “prediction” – most dogs are recovered because somebody that saw or knows something, saw a flyer or sign for the missing dog. Go door to door in the area that your dog was last seen and ask everybody if they have seen your dog. Use intersection signs to attract the attention of passing motorists.

Don’t delay! Your lost dog is depending on YOU to bring him safely home.

Where Could Your Lost Dog Be?

Cover photo wo logoAlthough we never say never, about 90% of the dogs that are still missing will fall into one of these three categories. A great deal will depend on the breed, appearance and personality of the dog.  Is he large or small? Shy or friendly?  Common-looking or distinctive-looking?

The three categories are:

1. The lost dog is still out there. These are the lost, confused, shy dogs that are living on their own. They may live out indefinitely. Or they may end up at a farm or eventually be captured and kept; rehomed or taken to a shelter or animal control facility; perhaps months or even years after they went missing. They may be very close to where they went missing from or they may have travelled far and wide, looking for food.

2. The lost dog was picked up by an animal control officer or Good Samaritan and taken to an animal control facility, shelter or rescue. They may have been adopted out or euthanized after the official stray hold period has passed.

3. The lost dog has been kept or rehomed by a Good Samaritan who either did not know that it is illegal to keep an animal you have found; or were reluctant to take the dog to a shelter. These people may have initially tried to find the owner on their own.

Knowing these three outcomes can help you tailor your search, although you always want to make sure you have covered all the bases. If your dog was a friendly small dog; it is very likely that he has fallen into the third category.  If he is a friendly large dog; you may want to concentrate your efforts on number two. If he was a shy or wary dog, he is probably in category one, evading people and using all of his instincts to find food and shelter to stay alive.

Regardless of which category your lost dog falls into, theses two elements will greatly increase your chance for success:

1. generating sightings through flyers and signs;

2. the determination of the owner or guardian to find their dog

Never give up hope. Lost dogs can be recovered weeks, months and even years after they have gone missing. Your dog is depending on you to find him.

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.

Are There More Lost Dogs Now?

Puppy mill dogs and rescued dogs are often shy, undersocialized and wary of strangers. Photo credit: Frank Schemberger

People are always amazed at how many lost dogs there are posted on our Facebook page. We commonly get the question “Are there more lost dogs now? Why?”

Here is our answer:  YES! There are more lost dogs now. As a nation we are saving more dogs than ever, with many more people choosing adoption as their option. This is a great thing but it comes with it’s challenges. For many people this is their first experience owning a shy, rescued dog. These dogs are often high flight risks and can quickly escape through a door or wiggle out of an ill-fitting collar, harness or slip lead.

These high flight risk,  shy puppy mill and rescued dogs have many vulnerable moments while they are making their way through the re-homing system. Dogs are lost from transports, foster homes and  animal shelters or can be lost from their newly-adoptive homes.

There are also more under-socialized pet store dogs than before. Pet store puppies are often taken from their mothers and litter mates far too early, to make it to the pet store market while they are still irresistibly cute and cuddly. But this deprives the puppies of an important socialization period and can result in a shy, fearful personality.

Shy dogs are also being lost from shelters, vet clinics, groomers, pet sitters and kennels in record numbers. Education is the key! Educating people on how to prevent escapes and how to catch a shy, lost dog (don’t chase or call him) will help more of these dogs get home safely. Thank you for spreading the word and helping us!

 

Risk Factors for The Elusive Lost Dog

These are the indicating factors that will predispose a dog to shyness or elusiveness.

1) Demeanor: A shy or wary personality. Is the dog wary of strangers or men, or people wearing hats? Is he slow to warm up to new people?

2) Origin: Dogs rescued from abusive situations, puppy mills or purchased at a very young age (6 weeks or younger) are more likely to be predisposed to shyness. They may lack socialization skills or missed the early socialization period with their mother and littermates by being taken away from the litter too young.

3) Breed: Some breeds seem predisposed to becoming shy and wary very quickly when they are lost. They are: Herding breeds such as Shelties, Australian Shepherds, Border ColliesSighthounds such as Greyhounds, Italian Greyhounds, Whippet,s Chihuahuas, Rat Terriers and other small sensitive breeds Boxers

4) Dogs lost from a location other than home such as: Boarding kennel, training facility, doggy day care, Pet sitter, Vet clinic, Groomers, Animal shelter, Foster home, Rescue transport, Newly adopted or purchased,, Family or friends’ home

5) Dogs lost from a stressful situation which may or may not include loud noises such as: Thunderstorms, Fireworks, Parades, Gunfire, Cars backfiring, Airbrakes, Car accidents, House fires, Natural disasters

Any one or a combination of the above will predispose the dog to being an elusive dog to catch.

Where Could Your Lost Dog Be?

Although we never say never, about 90% of the dogs that are still missing will fall into one of these three categories. A great deal will depend on the breed, appearance and personality of the dog.  Is he large or small? Shy or friendly?  Common-looking or distinctive-looking?

The three categories are:

1. The lost dog is still out there. These are the lost, confused, shy dogs that are living on their own. They may live out indefinitely. Or they may end up at a farm or eventually be captured and kept; rehomed or taken to a shelter or animal control facility; perhaps months or even years after they went missing. They may be very close to where they went missing from or they may have travelled far and wide, looking for food.

2. The lost dog was picked up by an animal control officer or Good Samaritan and taken to an animal control facility, shelter or rescue. They may have been adopted out or euthanized after the official stray hold period has passed.

3. The lost dog has been kept or rehomed by a Good Samaritan who either did not know that it is illegal to keep an animal you have found; or were reluctant to take the dog to a shelter. These people may have initially tried to find the owner on their own.

Knowing these three outcomes can help you tailor your search, although you always want to make sure you have covered all the bases. If your dog was a friendly small dog; it is very likely that he has fallen into the third category.  If he is a friendly large dog; you may want to concentrate your efforts on number two.

If he was a shy or wary dog, he is probably in category one, evading people and using all of his instincts to find food and shelter to stay alive.

Regardless of which category your lost dog falls into, theses two elements will greatly increase your chance for success:

1. generating sightings through flyers and signs;

2. the determination of the owner or guardian to find their dog

Never give up hope. Lost dogs can be recovered weeks, months and even years after they have gone missing. Your dog is depending on you to find him.

What Do Lost Dogs Eat?

bird feederMany owners worry that their lost dog will not find enough to eat. A couple of things to remember: dogs (like people) are omnivores; not carnivores (like cats). Dogs can survive without meat (of course they would prefer meat, but they don’t need it).

When you are looking for your missing dog, keep in mind that these readily available food sources are where your lost dog could be eating:

  • outdoor cat food (someone feeding barn or feral cats)
  • spilled grain around feed bins at farms
  • bird seed from bird feeders
  • corn fields
  • vegetable gardens and fruit trees
  • restaurant dumpsters and cooking oil dumpsters
  • convenience and grocery store dumpsters
  • trash cans at picnic areas, rest stops, parks and campgrounds
  • fire pits at campgrounds
  • nuts, berries, grass, horse poop (and other sources of animal waste)
  • barbecue  grills (they lick the drippings under the grill)
  • mice and rabbits, eggs in waterfowl nests, chicken eggs and chickens
  • road kill, hunting remains, fish guts and heads
  • food processing plants or pet food processing plants
  • feed mills
  • June bugs, earthworms, grasshoppers

Use your nose! If you can smell it, your dog definitely can. Even though he may not be getting food from the nearest fast food restaurant or steak house; he will keep checking in there, lured by the smell; to see if any tidbits have been dropped. Leave a flyer and talk to the restaurant staff at every restaurant in a 10 mile radius of where your dog was last seen.

Don’t give up! Your dog has the instinctive ability to survive for weeks, months and even years on his own.

 

How To Approach Your Dog When He/She Is Lost..

Even though your dog, Snickers, has only been missing for three days, you are worried you’ll never see her again. You promise yourself you’ll never get another dog because, obviously, you can’t be trusted. You are wondering why, WHY DID YOU ASK THE NEIGHBOR’S TEENAGER TO WALK SNICKERS WHILE YOU WERE ON VACATION? And why, why did the kid decide to go jogging with Snickers without putting her leash on? You are worried about the kid’s generation being able to lead the country while you are in your retirement years when you suddenly see a familiar shape three yards over from yours. You recognize her instantly – it’s Snickers!

You are tempted to run out of the door and call her to you, but you resist that temptation when you see her run from the neighbor’s children…children Snickers has always loved playing with. What if she runs from you, too? Could she have forgotten the family, the community that loves her after only three days? Now what?

Well, if your dog is lost and you see her, you are 100% right to pause, collect yourself, and, above all, calm yourself down. You’ll be excited to see your dog, of course, but your dog may be equally anxious to protect herself from what she perceives to be threats, including you. And, she may run as far away from you as possible.

If she does, make sure you are prepared for the next time you see your pet. Load your car with non-perishable goodies and toys she normally enjoys so you can use them to lure your dog to you the next time you see her. Make sure you have enough goodies…it may take quite a few treats to convince your dog to come to you. Make sure you always have a leash at your disposal and a spare collar as well in case your dog has lost hers during her travels.
When you arrive at the scene of where your dog was most recently seen, remain calm…and quiet. Don’t honk your car’s horn, slam its doors, or start yelling your dog’s name. Simply arrive and let your dog get used to you being in the vicinity of her. Talk to her quietly, using words and phrases that remind her of the comfort and happiness you’ve given her throughout her life. Say things like, “Wanna go for a walk?” Or, “It’s dinnertime!”

Remember to be patient as you literally inch closer and closer to your dog and pay close attention to the clues your pet is giving you about your approach. If your dog braces as if she’s preparing to run away, stop moving and lower yourself to the ground. When your dog is calm again, try to get a bit closer to her by walking slowly in a sideways direction with your arms at your sides. Use your lips to smile, not your teeth, so your dog doesn’t think you are growling at her. Also, don’t look directly at your dog or stare at her as a predator would.

As you are getting close enough to your dog to use the treats you brought to lure her to you, assume a submissive position by getting as close to the ground as possible as you continue your advance – consider crawling, if necessary. By doing this and using positive tones when you speak to your pet, you will demonstrate that you are not a threat to her well-being. When you’re within throwing distance, your pet will be able to see and smell the food you’ve brought for her.

Gently and slowly toss some treats off to the side of your dog without hitting her. Hold your eyes closed and move your head down and off to the side to show your dog that you are not going to challenge her for the food. Do this repeatedly until your dog is comfortable with your proximity to her.

When your dog has finished the first round of treats, throw a few more, but make sure they land farther from her and closer to you. Give your dog praise with every step she takes closer to you, even if it’s only to get some food. Pretend you are eating some of the treats you still have at the ready, too. Lick your lips and tell your dog how good the treats are…and ask her if she wants some more.

When your dog is finally close enough to you for you to grab, you will have to make a choice about how to secure your pet. You can offer more treats in one hand while attaching a leash to your dog’s collar with your other one. Or, you can grab your pet’s collar, quickly taking in any slack. Or, you can rub your dog’s muzzle while attaching her leash to her collar.

If your dog’s collar is no longer around her neck, put the end of her leash through the wrist loop at the top, and loop the end of the leach around your wrist several times while holding it securely in your hand. The leash will act as a slip lead and tighten once it’s around your dog’s neck.

If you’re dog hasn’t been seen, but you know where your dog is likely to be while she is lost, find a spot in the vicinity where you can wait with some treats and her favorite toys. When you hear your dog coming, put out some treats that will lead her to you.

If you have people who are helping you find your dog, make sure they don’t distract her while you are trying to lure her to you. Your dog should be focused on you and you alone. Instruct your helpers to assume discreet positions that will enable them to see where your dog was going in case she runs away from you. Make sure you give your friends and family members enough treats for them to try to lure your pet to them in case she gets close enough to their positions.

If a dog is new to your family, whether you’ve just taken in a foster or adopted an unfamiliar dog, help your new pet to start trusting you and to learn your unique scent by putting food and water out in the same location every single day she is lost. Talk to the dog, address her by name even if it’s a new one. Try to bond with your dog even if you can’t see her. If you are consistent with your efforts, it’s likely your dog will eventually get close enough to you for you to bring her back to the home she may only be seeing for the first time!

Our tips, ideas and articles are based on information gathered from over 3000 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.