Category Archives: Recovery Procedures

Lost a Dog While RV’ing? Here are Some Tips to Help

According to a recent study, about 85 million households in America have a pet, roughly 68%.  Cats and dogs are the most popular pets, with the number of dog households edging out cats by about 13 points (60.2% dogs vs. 47.1% cats).  RV’ing with your pets (whether full-time or part-time) is gaining popularity so I would like to offer some tips to help if the unthinkable happens and your dog goes missing from your RV or campground.

Our organization, Lost Dogs Illinois, has helped in the recovery of thousands of missing dogs from all types of situations. We are a network of pet-loving volunteers who have banded together to assist owners who are missing a pet.

Some of our state affiliates have been in existence since 2010 and we can now look back at our statistics and make some pretty good predictions about what may or may not have happened to your missing dog. The most important thing we have learned is that lost dogs (and pets of all types, although we focus our efforts on dogs) do not drop off the face of the earth. They are out there somewhere. But sometimes connecting the dots to get them home is counter-intuitive to what the owners may do in a panic.

We have learned to profile lost dogs (similar to what is done in missing person cases) to achieve the best possible chance of a successful recovery.  Dogs lost while travelling fit into our profile category Dogs Who Have Gone Missing From Somewhere Other Than Home. This category also includes dogs lost from boarding kennels, petsitters, vet clinics, groomers, animal shelters, foster homes, newly adopted homes and car accidents.  Today we will talk specifically about dogs lost while RV’ing.

Although preventative methods such as making sure your pet is wearing a collar with visible ID tags and is microchipped with up to date contact information are important, that is not what we want to discuss here.  It does no good for your dog to have a microchip or a collar if he can’t be caught!

A few things to consider which may be hurdles to these cases:

  • The owner may not know the geography of the area or even which county they are camping in.  Since most animal shelters and sheriff’s departments are administered by county governments, this can be an issue. Owners may also not know where the vet clinics are – another important first point of contact when your dog goes missing.
  • The owner may be on a time frame which requires him to leave the area before the dog is found.
  • Campgrounds often have summer time fireworks celebrations. Camping and fireworks can be a deadly combination for an older,  sensitive or fearful dog. Dogs who were not afraid of fireworks in their younger years may become sensitive to loud noises as they age. If your dog is afraid of loud noises, it may be prudent to check ahead with the campgrounds where you will be staying so that you can make alternate plans if necessary.
  • The owner may not have good wi-fi or cell service and a printer to quickly file a report and print and deliver flyers in the area where the dog went missing.  If the dog ends up at a nearby animal shelter and the owner hasn’t filed a lost dog report with the shelter, the shelter may adopt the dog out to a new home or put him down in as little as 24 hours depending on the stray hold ordinances in that municipality.  Police departments, vet clinics, animal shelters and stray holding facilities do not cross-communicate. You must contact each of the facilities separately if your pet is missing.

Although it may seem like a hopeless situation, the good news is that it isn’t! We’d like to share with you what we have learned.  Although we never say never please consider these tips:

If your dog has bolted, especially from a loud noise or other scary situation, he may go into survival mode quickly.  This means that he will revert to behavior similar to a wild animal and may be reluctant to approach any humans, even his owners.  

  • 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). Consider your campsite ground zero and keep it quiet. Do not allow people to congregate there. Many lost dogs will be drawn back by the familiar scent of their owner and vehicle but they will remain wary if there are too many strangers milling about.
  • 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.
  • Do not offer a reward for your dog. Rewards encourage people to chase your dog which could endanger his life if he is chased into traffic.  Rewards will also bring scammers out in full force which will distract you and waste your time chasing down false leads and sightings.
  • 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 (preferably upwind) and toss a few tasty treats (like small bits of hot dogs) out around you. Stay low and do not make eye contact.  A scared dog will not usually approach a group of people. Do this by yourself and ask others to leave the area. 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.  

How We Can Help:

If your pet goes missing, immediately file a report with our partner, Pet FBI at www.petfbi.org.   This is a FREE international database (Canada and the U.S) where your dog’s description and photo will be stored until he is safely home.  This enables our volunteers to watch for potential matches with found dog reports. Our volunteers will also create a free flyer and post it to our social media sites including Facebook and Twitter,  which have large, local followings. In some states we are also available for free consultations with more tips and advice especially if it becomes necessary to humane trap your scared lost dog. We have a series of articles on our website that explains the trapping process in detail.

Please read through our website articles for more tips and ideas which may help you in your search.

1/12/2021

Moving? Here are Some Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe

According to the U.S. Census the average American will move 12 times in their life. Moving is stressful for both two and four legged family members. Your dog’s health and behavior can be off during and after the move. Below are tips for moving with your dog to help alleviate some of the stress and keep your dog safe.

  • Ensure your dog is wearing a properly fitted collar with current information on the  ID tag.
  • Contact your dog’s microchip company to update your contact information.
  • During the move (both from old residence and new residence), confine your dog in one room with familiar bedding/toys.  If your dog is crate trained, use the crate.  Close the door and place a large sign stating, “Do Not Enter”.  If it is not possible to confine your dog to one room, then considering boarding him/her during the move. 
  • Keep your dog’s current vaccination records as well as a list of numbers for your local animal control, non-emergency police line and area vet clinics handy.  Keep a current photo of your pets either printed or handy on your phone or tablet.
  • If you are driving cross country for your move, be mindful of your dog darting out of car doors at gas stations, rest stops, hotels, etc.  Make sure your dog is attached to the leash before you open the door and you have a firm grip on the leash. 

Once moved:

  • For at least the first few days place baby gates in front of all exterior doors even to the door leading to the garage.
  • If your new home has a fenced yard, perform a safety check; look for holes both in and under the fence, loose boards, broken gate latches, etc. Continue to be diligent – watch your dog’s behavior for the next few weeks in the fenced yard,  he/she could find the weak link to escape out of the fenced yard.
  • Familiarize yourself with your new community by getting to know where your shelters, animal control facilities, vet clinics, police departments and town offices are. You will want to have this information handy in case your dog goes missing. 

If your dog does get loose/lost please immediately file a report with our partner, Pet FBI at www.petfbi.org to create a free flyer and social media links. One of our volunteers will post your listing to the appropriate state or provincial Facebook page. Then check out this article from our website: Tips For Dogs Who Are Lost From Somewhere Other Than Home. 

1-5-2021

Six Things to Consider Before Using a Drone in Your Lost Dog Search

A few weeks ago a major news network ran a very heartwarming story about a lost dog named Meadow who was found by a commercial drone operator.  It caused a flurry of discussion and brought renewed hope to lost dog owners who thought using a drone was going to be the answer to finding their dog.  Although drones may be a useful tool in a few exceptional cases (like Meadow’s) they are less likely to  produce sightings and leads than the good old fashioned flyers and signswhich we still recommend first and foremost.  

Hand delivering flyers is the number one way lost dogs are found.   The best chance of success is to have as many sets of eyes looking for your dog over the largest area possible. A drone operator is one set of eyes within a very limited area. 

There are a few things that we would like you to consider before you rush out to buy/borrow a drone or hire a drone operator. 

  1. Is the dog friendly or shy?  Meadow, from the story, was a friendly dog who immediately went up to the drone operator when he went to the location.  Shy dogs would probably flee and may even panic and run into danger such as onto a busy highway or into a lake or river. Even if the drone spots your  dog you may still require a lengthy process to capture him.  Be prepared to set up a feeding station and a humane trap
  2. What color and size is the dog?  Meadow was a large white dog.  She was fairly easy to spot against the dark fallen leaves on the ground. A smaller or darker colored dog would have been easily missed. Meadow may have been missed if there was snow on the ground. 
  3. What is the vegetation like? Lost dogs usually prefer to use evergreen trees for cover.  Meadow was lost in a deciduous forest in the fall after the leaves had fallen which made her easier to spot.  During the spring or summer she would not have been seen.  If it was a mixed forest (evergreens and deciduous trees) it is highly unlikely she would have been seen. And of course, dogs hiding under likely spots – under old machinery, boats and cars, in sheds, under porches and decks would not be seen by the drone. 
  4. Is the drone operator experienced with the proper licensing, permits and training?  Make sure you know the regulations in your area. You may face hefty fines for flying a drone over private property, over national parks or in FAA controlled space.   Get the landowner’s permission before flying over private property. Drones hovering for any length of time or flying at a low altitude may be considered an invasion of privacy in some municipalities. 
  5. Is the quality of the drone good enough to do the job that you need it to do? Cheaper recreational drones may be a waste of time, money and effort.  That money and effort could have been spent on flyers and signs which are much more likely to produce results. 
  6. Is the drone operator experienced in lost dog behavior? We would like to point out that the drone operator who went out to search for Meadow did so on his own accord after seeing her story on the internet. Although his intentions were good, this could have ended very differently if Meadow had been scared by either the drone or the operator. Make sure that you, the owner, stay in control of the situation. Never post an exact sighting location on the internet and ask people to contact you first if they want to help.  Encourage them to assist with flyering and signs instead of searching, either on foot or by drone without your permission. 

Carefully consider your budget and your situation before placing all of your eggs in the drone basket.  Spend your money and your efforts where you are the most likely to get the sighting or lead of your missing dog. You can print a lot of flyers, make signs and run newspaper ads for less than you may spend on a drone.  Remember, your dog is relying on YOU and your good choices to help bring him safely home. 

12/08/2020

Change Your Voicemail When Your Dog is Lost

We thought we’d take a moment to tell you how important it is to change your welcome messages on your voicemail and answering machines if your pet goes missing. Even though this is a task that many owners of lost dogs overlook, the importance of changing your messages to reflect your dog’s status as “missing” cannot be overstated.Voicemail

Because most people cannot always answer their phone, it is important for you to realize that your recorded greeting is what will make a first impression on someone who is trying to share information about your lost pet when you are not available to take a call. If your message does not indicate that your dog is lost and you are trying to recover your pet, but are simply unable to answer the phone at that exact moment, the caller may decide you don’t really want your dog back. Or the person may think you don’t deserve to get your dog back since you didn’t have a moment to pick up the phone.

Right or wrong, people can be justifiably or unduly judgmental. So it’s vital that your message communicate that your dog is currently missing, you are eager to have your pet returned to you because you love and care for him or her, and that you will respond to any caller who leaves a message for you as quickly as possible, as the following exemplary message does:

“Wait! Please don’t hang up! I have a lost dog. If you are calling because you think you saw my dog, please leave a message. I’ll return your call as soon as I possibly can. Thank you for your help!”

Look at it this way. If one of your family members was missing, any caller could be trying to contact you to share information necessary for your loved one to make it back home. And since many of us view our pets as children, the circumstances are very similar, meaning every caller could provide information that helps you get your dog back.

So it is imperative that you change your voicemail and answering machine greetings to messages that will encourage, not dissuade people to leave messages for you. Simply changing your messages can be the difference between someone choosing to leave a helpful message for you or not. It could mean the difference between your dog being returned to you or not, in other words.

To create your free flyer and social media links to help you generate sightings of your missing dog please file a report with our partner, Pet FBI at www.petfbi.org.  One of our volunteers will post your dog’s listing to the appropriate state or provincial page.

1/12/2021