Feral, survival and flight mode are terms being used more and more by lost dog recovery specialists but the meaning of those terms is not clear to a lost dog owner or general public helping to find a lost dog.
Lost dogs, even the friendliest dog which has been missing for a period of time, will start using their natural instincts in order to survive. When dogs begin to use their natural instincts, their behavior towards humans changes and they become focused on three things; food/water, shelter and keeping themselves safe from perceived threats, which sadly can include his/her owner/good Samaritans.
Even when approached or called by an owner/good Samaritan the dog is instinctively fearful and runs away from the “threat” often leading to the person chasing the dog. Each time something like this happens it increases the dog’s level of fear towards people. When this behavior is being exhibited the dog is said to be in feral, survival or flight mode. The dog will do whatever it needs to do to escape the threat whether that be disappearing into the woods or frantically running into traffic. Unfortunately that is when they make poor choices.
So what can you do? Educate, educate, educate! Get the message out to the public verbally or on your flyer by describing the dog’s behavior in simple terms they can understand, such as, “Do not call, approach or chase the dog, he/she is extremely frightened and will run away from you.” Direct the person to instead call and report the sighting immediately.
For further reading please read our lost shy dog strategies on our website.