Category Archives: Tracking Dog Services

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.

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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.

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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.

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