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.
Make sure you have listed your dog with our partner, Pet FBI at www.petfbit.org so that his or information is maintained in a centralized, national database. 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?
Check with your local railroad companies to see if they have any reports of deceased dogs along the railroad tracks. Lost dogs often use railroad tracks as a path of travel between their hiding places and food sources. Deceased wildlife hit by trains also make a good food source for hungry lost dogs.
Repost your dog on Craigslist, Next-door 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.
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.
Previous Article https://www.lostdogsillinois.org/harnessing-the-energy-part-2/
There are more lost dogs now than there have ever been. Pet ownership is up and we, as a nation, are saving more dogs, with many more people choosing adoption as their option. This is a great thing but it comes with its 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.
Searching for a shy lost dog is expensive and time-consuming. Most shelters and rescues are obliged to help search for a dog that has gone missing from a newly adopted home, a foster home, their transport or their facility. Here is a list of the potential costs associated with a lost dog search:
- Printing flyers, possibly thousands of them
- Printing and making intersection signs
- Newspaper and radio advertising
- Automated calling services
- Trap rental or purchase
- Lost wages
- Shelter/rescue staff and volunteer time that go towards the search instead of their regular duties
When you take all of this into consideration it is very apparent that it is in the best interest of everyone to make sure your team of volunteers knows the most efficient and productive way to conduct a lost dog search. Your rescue or shelter does have a team, don’t they? A well-trained team that can quickly mobilize when a dog goes missing will save your rescue time, money and possibly the dog’s life.
Since their inception, Lost Dogs Illinois and Lost Dogs of Wisconsin have helped reunited over 60,000 dogs. Most of these were found safely, some ended in heartbreak. Many of these were from rescues, shelters, transports, or were in foster homes or newly adopted homes. We would like to share with you what we have learned in this next series of articles.