As I read about one more lost Sheltie last night, I could not help but be sad.
One more dog was running scared in a neighborhood she did not know.
One more owner was suffering the anguishing fears that every lost dog owner feels when their dog goes missing.
Fortunately, she was caught in one of our traps overnight, but it is not always this easy to catch a lost dog, especially a shy one.
When a dog is lost an owner must do everything they can to bring their dog back:
- Pass out flyers far and wide so that every person in that area can keep an eye out for her and call you when he/she get a sighting.
- Post signs on every possible high-traffic street area so people can be alerted to a lost dog while driving around the area.
- Post on Craigslist so anyone who should;d happen to find your dog can reunite you both as quickly as possible.
- Call all vet clinics, shelters and animal-related businesses to give them a heads up that there is a lost dog in the area.
- Rally the troops – family, friends, rescue groups – and spread the word.
- Set out clothing and familiar bedding that contains smells the dog is familiar with. Many dogs will return and lie down on them because it comforts them to have something that smells so familiar to them that nearby.
The last item is an important one because it has been successful in bringing back many a lost dog. I still remember the evening I received an urgent phone call from a friend who runs a rescue out east. She asked me if I would be willing to speak to one of her adopters, whose dog had gone missing in a heavily wooded area near her house. I said I would.
The owner told me that she suspected her dog was in the area, and may have even been watching her and her family from the woods, but she thought she might have been too scared to come out. I suggested several things to her (same as those listed above), but it was the dog bed she left outside on the front step that led to her safe return. The morning after she put her dog’s bed out on the front step, she found her lost dog sleeping on it. It was a happy reunion.
More recently, in September of thus year, a friend I had met on Instagram reported that her dog had gotten lost when she let her off leash for just a few minutes. She searched everywhere with no luck. She was quite worried and upset. I could totally relate. I left her a message telling her to take an article of clothing or a blanket or her dog’s bed out to the park and to leave it there and check it in the morning. Even though she thought it was a crazy idea and thought it would never work, she took her blanket out there anyways. She left it near she had last seen him. A couple of hours later, she went back out to the park, back to where she had left the blanket, and guess who was there? Her sweet, and very scared, lost dog. Boy was he happy to see his mom!
A familiar scent can be such a powerful piece in your search for your lost dog. Even in the middle of winter a scent article can be used to draw a lost dog home or into a trap.
A few years ago, we had a lost Sheltie who had been missing for several cold winter days. She was found after her owners left a scent article in the area she had last been sighted. It was a jacket her dad wore. The next morning, she was found, sleeping on the jacket.
Just leaving a scent article is a good idea when you’ve lost a dog, but I’ve learned a few things about how to handle scent articles during a couple of nose work classes Daisy, Jasper and I took this summer. Keeping the scent article free of other smells when you need to transport it to another location is important. When we went to class, we were asked to bring all our scent articles (socks, shirt, etc.) in a sealed plastic baggie so as to avoid contamination by other smells.
It turns out that this is not all that new in the search and rescue world. They try to keep scent articles free of other people’s scents too. This prevents the dog from being confused by other smells of other individuals, including those scents of dog handler herself!
You can read more about scent articles and the importance of not contaminating them here, but the most important piece I hope you take from this is this …
If you lose your dog or cat, don’t forget to place their bedding, your bedding, your pajamas, the dog’s blanket, or your blanket, outside. It could be the thing that brings them home.
Jasper and Cupcake, my four-pawed trick-or-treaters, decided they wanted to have a little Halloween fun too. So while I was away, they went shopping and came home with some costumes of their own.
So many pets get lost on Halloween because they get frightened by the scary costumes and strangers at the door. With doors opening and closing to hand out treats, the chances that a dog will bolt out the door and get lost increase.
Jasper and Cupcake, along with their friends Enya, Maxwell and Riley, ask that you please keep your pets safe by following these simple rules from Lost Shelties MN:
PLEASE…Know where your best friend is before you open any doors. Use a baby gate to block their any access to the door that will be used to pass out candy or put them in their kennels away from all the commotion.
Put locks on your yard gates. The goblins don’t always go up and down the street. Place a lock on your gates to avoid anyone from leaving them open. Then when the porch light goes off and you’re putting things away, you let your best friend out you won’t have to worry was a gate opened.
If you have a lost dog, I like this tip from Lost Cats MN. Make up 1/2 sheet flyers, post cards or business cards for your Lost Cat and hand them out to all the Trick or Treaters that come by! Most Lost Cats do not wander very far and are usually found within a few blocks of home, so this is another good way to get the word out to your neighborhood again. Also, always keep a sign up in your yard so that anyone going by will see it and if they do notice your cat they will know that it is LOST and it’s not just out roaming around. (Insert “dog” for “cat”
Please…Please…Please – know where they are when the door is opening. So many Shelties bolt out an opening door. Don’t have the next one be yours. It really is preventable.
When you’re out with your kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids & friends please think of all the missing Shelties and keep an eye out for them if you are in their areas. These beautiful Shelties are still missing from 2013. If you click on the link to missing Shelties it will show you the ones still missing from previous years also.
Other links to check out. Please look at all of them. Each containing some VERY good information.
Jasper and Cupcake wish you all a safe and happy Halloween!
October 15th is Blog the Change for Animals Day. It’s a day when bloggers unite to bring attention back to an animal cause they care deeply about. It’s also a day in which you, our friends and readers, can also do something small to make the difference in the life of an animal.
Today I am continuing the theme from the last Blog the Change, by asking for your help to spread the word about:
1. A little lost Sheltie in Minnesota, and
2. Another missing dog from your own area.
Two years ago next month, I lost my own Sheltie, Cupcake, when she slipped her collar after being frightened. For 11 days I lived in fear that she might be hit by a car, harmed by coyotes, or simply disappear forever, never to be found again. Fortunately, I was surrounded by people who cared enough to share Cupcake’s story and made sure that word got out about her. People I didn’t even know spread the word and because of them (because of many of you), Cupcake was brought home safely. It was a miracle I will never forget. It’s a miracle I wish for every owner of a lost dog.
Now there is another lost Sheltie that needs our help. His name is Tucker and he has been missing since August 23 of this year. He went missing while away from home and in the care of someone else.
He is very much missed by his family, who has done everything to find him, including handing out flyers, making signs, spreading the word online, traveling to the town he went missing in every weekend, and speaking with animal communicators to try to find him. What makes finding Tucker so much more important is that he also serves as a support dog and friend for the young man in his home. He misses him deeply.
We know Tucker is out there. We just need to find him.
Tucker has been sighted most recently sighted in Jordan, MN on October 10th.
How can you help?
- Go to the Lost Shelties MN page and share Tucker’s picture and information on Facebook. Ask your friends to spread the word.
- Share this post or Tucker’s flyer (above) on Twitter or tweet “Lost
#Sheltie in #Jordan #Minnesota. Support Dog. Brown and white. Do NOT chase. Contact https://www.facebook.com/LostSheltiesMN if seen.”
- Keep him in your thoughts and prayers and send him mental messages asking him to seek help from a person. Ask him to let himself be sighted so we can help find him.
Help another dog in need closer to home
So many dogs and cats go missing each year. Many in your own state or in ones near you. Below I have posted several of the well-known Facebook groups responsible for reuniting lost dogs with their owners. Help make a difference for someone else in need:
- Take a moment to click on any one of the lost dog links below and share another lost dog on Facebook and Twitter.
- “Like” the page and help spread the word on other lost dogs in your own area.
- Offer an encouraging word to someone who’s dog is lost. You’d be surprised at how much it can help buoy their spirits. I know first hand how much these kind words helped me to not give up hope.
It might seem like a small thing to ask, but every share you do of a lost dog actually does make a difference:
- Because someone shared Cupcake’s story, I met people who helped me bring her home.
- Because I snapped a photo of a lost dog and shared it online, another lost foster dog made it back home. (I still have their thank you note to remind me why I want to continue to help others.)
- Because someone shared, a lost dog someone found was reunited with his owner this past week.
Sharing makes a difference.
Please Be The Change that makes a difference today.
Click on any one of the links below and share a lost dog picture or story on Facebook or Twitter.
Many dog lovers have a dog preference, a certain breed, a certain look, a certain size dog – there is always something about a particular dog that we find ourselves attracted to when we seek our a dog.
For me, it was always the shy dogs. It didn’t matter what breed or size or look they had. The dogs who were fearful and scared, and cowering at the back of a kennel; these were the dogs I always gravitated towards. I still do.
When I was a volunteer at Minnesota Valley Humane Society, you would often find me sitting sideways in front of a kennel in the impound room, using calming signals to help draw a dog out of his/her kennel. The dogs in this room were often more scared than most because these were the ones who had just been surrendered or who were just found roaming the streets and had been brought in to be held until their owner was found. They were overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and smells of the shelter, and as you can imagine, terrified, scared and afraid of everyone. The last thing they wanted to do was come to you and go for a walk outside.
When I saw one of these scared dogs, I would sit in front of their kennel door and use calming signals to draw them out – lip-licking, bowed head, averted gaze, a sideways profile, these were all behaviors I employed when working with a shy or scared dog. They are the very same signals I used with Cupcake when she was running around that abandoned truck loading dock after being lost for 12 days.
Knowing and using calming signals can be so helpful when working with a fearful dog. They can also be helpful in trying to capture a lost dog. When you use them, you are speaking in a language that most dogs understand. What could be more reassuring than seeing someone speak to you in your own language?
A friend recently shared this video with me. It’s about using calming signals to capture a lost dog or to calm a panicked dog (and what lost dog isn’t panicked?). It’s not very long but it is definitely worth watching. Maybe you don’t have a lost dog, but some day you may have one. Or you may come across one. Knowing what to do when you do is so important. Please watch and then pass it on. The more people that know the more chances we have to reunite lost dogs with their owners.
Remember, most dogs on the run are LOST, not stray.
For those of you who follow me on my Facebook page or follow the Lost Shelties MN page, you already know the good news. Sunny, the Sheltie lost in Maple Grove, Minnesota, is now safely home in Ohio. After 96 days and 23 miles, he was reunited with his dad on Friday evening. It was a very special moment and one I am sure Sunny’s dad and family won’t forget.
For those of you who don’t know the story, I think you will find this worth reading. It is a good example of how important it is to get the word out… AND just how to do it.
Before I share Sunny’s story from beginning to end (My thanks to Cindy from Lost Shelties MN and Mary McTie for letting me share this!), I would like to thank all of the people who helped in his successful return. I would love to name each and every one of you here, but there were so many of you that I am afraid I would forget someone!
Instead, let me just share some of the things you did to bring Sunny home:
- Offered support to Sunny’s family and coordinated the handing out of flyers (including updating the flyer map on numerous occasions so we knew where to go next).
- Updated the missing dog flyers so the latest information could be handed out in neighborhoods and posted in store windows.
- Placed, checked and moved traps in the frigid cold and deep snow – more times than we even know. (Trust me when I say this is hard work.)
- Managed the incoming calls with sightings of Sunny and handled inquiries from the general public (both on Facebook and over the phone).
- Made calls to local shelters, police departments and city managers in cities where Sunny was sighted.
- Monitored all the places that help lost dogs – AHS website, Lost Dogs – MN, Craigslist, in case Sunny was brought in as a stray.
- Called radio stations to ask them to ask the public to keep an eye out for Sunny.
- Handed out flyers over and over and over again – and then did it once again (many times in frigid cold).
- Contacted local newspapers and online news media outlets to alert them to Sunny’s story and the search for him.
- Placed ads in newspapers and posted info on Craigslist.
- Made signs to be placed in areas he was sighted.
- Kept all of the volunteers motivated week after week after week (you know who you are!).
- Shared Sunny’s picture and story on Facebook and asked friends to share.
- Prayed, sent good thoughts and hoped that Sunny would be reunited with his family.
- Called and reported each and every sighting, no matter when that sighting occurred.
A very special thanks to Patti and her husband for reporting that one final set of sightings that brought Sunny home and to Cindy from Lost Shelties MN who handled so much more than we know with absolute grace and charm.
So, without further ado, here is Sunny’s story as it was shared on the Lost Shelties MN Facebook page in Sunday. It still brings tears to my eyes.
Hi Everyone…This is long…I apologize…but it’s been a long journey for Sunny, his family and the rest of us. This is a story worth telling. Thank you all for EVERYTHING you have done to help this precious boy. A lot of hard work by all…but so very rewarding. Grab some coffee and enjoy. And please share this also, as I’m sure through the 96 days that Sunny was gone, there were a lot of people who have seen your likes & shares. Thank you…from the bottom of my heart.
(First, how Sunny was finally caught.) On March 20th, Sunny’s owner called to tell us he got a call from a lady who had seen Sunny. Her name is Patti and she lives in Vadnais Heights. Patti feeds stray cats and she and her husband have a live feed video camera near the bowls. They started to see a Sheltie come around about 11pm, he had been eating at the bowls at least eight times in the last week and a half. Patti checked Craigslist and was sure that dog was Sunny. We were cautiously optimistic. Almost 23 miles (via Interstate 694) from where Sunny went missing on Christmas Eve. If this was Sunny…he was heading for Ohio!
Minnesota Sheltie Rescue (MNSR) volunteers brought a live trap over that night. Patti had a huge bowl of cut up hot dogs, another big bowl of chicken, along with cat kibble and a heated bowl for milk. We set up the trap with the chicken and hot dogs inside. We left the kibble and milk outside – usually we don’t want to leave food outside the trap but a big tomcat was watching the whole time and we figured we would probably catch him multiple times if we didn’t leave something out for him.
The first night, Patti’s husband stayed up til 2 a.m. watching the video…no dog! We set up a motion-activated camera. We thought if we at least saw him come around again, then we would put the word out for flyers in the area. But the dog stopped coming by (or at least he did not appear on the love camera or when anyone was watching the live feed). More days passed and no dog. We started thinking it must have been a neighbor dog, who was sometimes let out to stroll late at night. It started to seem like nothing was going to happen here.
March 28th – Patti called to say they caught a raccoon in the trap! Not good, but there’s always the thought that you have to catch something else before you catch the dog.
6:30 a.m. on March 29th – Patti calls to say they have the dog in the trap! What dog…must be a neighbor dog…some other dog that needs our help? Could it possibly be Sunny? Patti and her husband knew not to open the trap but they offered to bring it inside their garage until our volunteer Pat (another MNSR volunteer) could get there.
Pat and her granddaughter arrived, along with Sunny’s owners’ in-laws. The markings looked right, the size looked right, but there was that tiny bit of doubt that it was another Sheltie that looked a lot like Sunny. The dog sort of wagged his tail at the father-in-law. He was matted and full of burrs, but otherwise didn’t look too bad. They sent pictures to Sunny’s owner in Ohio, and he was on the road by mid-morning.
Sunny went to Karen’s for the day. Pat’s granddaughter spent some time picking burrs out of his coat and he was amazingly relaxed. He got a good nap for the rest of the morning.
At noon on Friday, March 29th, Sunny went to MNSR’s vet, he was checked out and overall opinion was that he is in pretty good shape (blood work results will take a day or two), not thin but obviously he was tired.
Sunny had to meet some more MNSR volunteers later in the afternoon, and he was quite calm for that too. He didn’t approach us, but he didn’t hide or cower. Maybe still somewhat in shock and maybe relief that he didn’t have to run anymore.
Friday evening about 7:00 p.m., Sunny’s owner, Dick, arrives at Karen’s. Sunny looked at him, walked over and sniffed him, and then his tail started to wag a little. He never left Dick after that. Dick sat on the step and talked and Sunny looked at him and listened. Dick would say familiar words and his ears would perk up. He relaxed and laid down at his feet for a while. We could tell that all was well in Sunny’s world again.
Sunny left Karen’s equipped with a Minnesota Sheltie Rescue (MNSR collar), a harness and was double leashed! After all that, Dick carried him out to the car anyway. Sunny and Dick are driving back to Ohio Saturday morning and should be back home by evening. (Update: Sunny is now home and his overall blood work was good.)
Thank you to everyone who helped in this 96 day search to get Sunny back home. The flyers, the Craigslist ads, the Maple Grove Patch and the City of Brooklyn Park, the sharing on Facebook, twitter and other social media. Thank you to Patti and her husband for feeding such good food to stray cats and a lost Sheltie from Ohio.
Sunny – you captured our hearts. Safe travels home, Sunny and Dick!
* * * * * *
Chronology of the search for Sunny
December 24 – Sunny, a Sheltie visiting with his family from Ohio, goes missing.
December 26th – Volunteers hit the streets of Maple Grove flyering the neighborhoods.
January 5th – Sunny sighting south of 85th, by Fleet Farm. Other Sunny sightings. (Major snowstorm January 4th.)
January 13th – Sunny sighting on the west side of the Coon Rapids Dam. Volunteers look on both sides of the dam, the area is heavily flyered.
January 15th – Three Rivers Park (Coon Rapids) police report seeing Sunny near West River Road and chase him into the park. MNSR live traps are set, something is eating the food out of the traps, but nothing is ever caught.
Mid- January – We get a couple reports of a Sheltie near highway 610 and also in Coon Rapids. (Temps the week of January 21st ranged from -30 to -20 degrees with -30 to -40 degree windchill.)
January 26th – A Sheltie is reported in Ham Lake near Constance and Urbank. Volunteers place signs in the area. The traps at the dam are still being checked.
Early February – We start to get multiple sightings in Blaine. Volunteers flyer the Blaine neighborhoods. People see us posting signs and tell us they got the flyer and are watching.
February 13th – Sighting back in Brooklyn Park at 104th and Douglas Drive. Volunteers are back distributing flyers in that neighborhood.
February 14th – 16th – Multiple reports of a Sheltie near Bunker Hills Golf Course. Volunteers flyer a large area in Blaine and Coon Rapids.
February 18th – A woman in Blaine catches the Sheltie in a garage. He is extremely underweight, tired and scared. He’s not Sunny, but he definitely needed us.
February 24th – A man calls to say he saw a flyer but that he saw the dog laying on the side of northbound highway 169. It was at least 2 weeks after he had the sighting. Karen from MNSR drives and walks the area, looking for the dog. Mary goes out March 2 to take one more look before the next big snowstorm. No sign of a dog.
March 11 – Another report of a sighting at 93rd and Noble in Brooklyn Park. Volunteers flyer the area.
March 19th – A sighting in Andover. A live trap is set in the backyard. (Major snowstorm March 18th.)
March 20th – A sighting in Vadnais Heights. A live trap is set next to the house.
March 27th – A report about a dead animal in Blaine. Started thinking the Vadnais Heights dog wasn’t Sunny.
March 28th – A racoon is caught in the Vadnais Heights trap.
March 29th – A dog is in the Vadnais Heights trap. A happy ending to a 96 day search for a lost Sheltie from Ohio.
Two more updates: Rumor has it that Sunny’s story may be featured on the John Williams radio show on WCCO on Monday between 3-6 p.m. and he is once again featured on the Maple Grove Patch (the first time was when he was still missing).
However, it’s not just the dog owner who needs to know what to do when a dog goes missing. Those who want to help in the search need to know what to do as well. Often the most well-meaning dog searcher can hinder a search by what they do and say. Some have even caused a dog to go missing longer because they were trying to “help” and inadvertently ended up hurting the search.
I thought I would put together a list DO’s and DON’Ts for both owners and those who want to help them. Please feel free to share.
Owner of a Lost Dog
- Tell everyone you know that your dog is missing. Call all local shelters, animal control facilities, vet clinics and local police to let them know.
- Make a flyer with the most pertinent information – dog’s picture, coloring and weight, where lost, contact information (i.e., phone number). If you have a shy dog, make sure you also add DO NOT CHASE to the flyer.
- Place flyers at all local vet clinics, animal shelters, stores and local businesses. Also, start canvasing the area your dog was lost and handing the flyers out to people walking their dogs.
- Leave a flyer in each residence’s newspaper box (It is illegal to place in mailboxes.) or inside their screen door.
- Place an ad on Craigslist.
- Ask for help from friends and family. Ask them to help spread the word or pass out flyers.
- Share information on Facebook and Twitter – If you have a Lost Dogs Facebook group for your state, share there. There are quite a few that have been created, including ones in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Texas, Minnesota and Illinois.
- Create signs that you can place in strategic locations so drivers can see them as they drive past. Keep the sign simple (e.g., Lost Sheltie and a phone number) so people can read it quickly.
- Pay attention to where your dog is sighted. Generally, a dog will establish a pattern of places they visit or hang out. Once you have a pattern, set up feeding stations so he/she stays in the area. When you are certain that they have gotten used to feeding at these stations, set up a trap or traps at those locations and move the food inside the trap.
- Consider utilizing one of the many services out there to help spread the word – like FindToto.com, etc.
- Send positive thoughts to your dog. Tell them to go into the trap or to seek out a person for help. It may seem silly, but it does work.
- Place an article of your clothing or your dog’s bedding in a crate or trap near the location they were lost so they are drawn in by the scent. If your dog went missing from your home, place it in your backyard or in an area they could enter it.
- Carry smelly treats with you that you can toss to your dog if sighted. Make sure you sit down facing away from your dog or sideways to them and sit quietly with your head down. Don’t speak right away. Just toss the treats towards your dog. (Cupcake was lost for 12 days and by the time I found her she was in survival mode. She didn’t recognize me by sight or sound. It was only when I sat down and allowed her to safely approach me that she was able to smell me. That is when she recognized me.)
- Give up hope. Dogs and cats are much more resilient than we think. They can and do find food and shelter. Princessa’s Story is good example of how dogs can survive the cold of winter.
- Assume your dog will run right up to you. Chances are they won’t. I wrote about this a couple of months ago – Why your lost dog may not run back to you.
- Share trap locations with more than a couple of people you trust. The more people who know about the trap locations, the more the risk you will have too many people monitoring the traps and this could scare your dog away. Make a plan for who will know the trap locations and who will check them and when.
- Drive around assuming you will see your lost dog somewhere. Utilize flyers and get more eyes looking for your dog immediately.
Lost Dog Searchers
- Offer to hand out flyers and spread the word. (It was a stranger who offered to hand out flyers that led to me getting Cupcake back. Flyers really do work.)
- Offer encouragement and hope to the owner of the lost pet. One of the reasons a lost pet is not found is because the owner gives up hope. Help to keep that hope going.
- Share the lost dog’s story and information on Facebook and Twitter. Most people don’t share because they assume that people don’t live in the area and don’t care, but this is not the case. (When my Cupcake was missing people shared across the globe. One of the people to see her story lived in New York. His parents just happened to live a few blocks from me. They became instrumental in my search for Cupcake and her eventual capture. People know people who live near where the dog was lost. Never assume they don’t. It can make all the difference.)
- Call in sightings to the owner ASAP.
- If you see the lost dog, sit down facing away from them or sideways to them and bow your head and toss tasty treats their way. Don’t talk to them, but do call the owner immediately. The objective is to keep them there until the owner can come to get them.
- Send positive thoughts to the missing dog and encourage them to enter the trap or seek help from a human. Negative thoughts do not help the dog or owner.
- Add to a lost pet owner’s fears by talking about the chance their dog could be killed by coyotes or cars or cold weather. They already know this and your sharing this information is not helpful.
- Try to catch the lost dog yourself. Most dogs go into survival mode and will run away from all people, including their owner, because they are afraid. I wrote about this a couple of months ago. Please read it – Why your lost dog may not run back to you.
- Chase the lost dog. You only risk scaring them further away from the location. We want them to STAY in the area.
- Ask the owner to call you when the dog is found. (I had many a well-meaning person contact me to find out if Cupcake had been found. When informed she had not, most of them asked that I call them back after she was found. I am sorry, but the last thing on a lost pet owner’s mind is keeping you informed on the status of the missing dog. They are too busy looking for their lost dog.)
- Assume that the owner hasn’t tried everything to get their lost dog back or make derogatory remarks about how they lost their dog. Under the right circumstances, every single one of us could face this situation with our own dogs. To assume your dog could never get lost goes against all the statistics that say otherwise.
- Assume that you will be the one to find the lost dog. Offer to help where you can, but realize that what really finds lost dogs is not someone chasing the dog down. What works is getting flyers and signs out there so more eyes are watching for the dog and an call the owner as soon as there is a sighting.
- Go looking for the traps after they have been placed. The owner’s scent should be the one that is near the trap not yours. You could inadvertently scare a dog away from the trap by hanging out near it or traipsing around in the area surrounding it and end up leaving your scent behind instead of the owner’s.
Losing a dog is such a heartbreaking and terrifying experience, but knowing what to do can make all the difference. Those who help them need to know what to do too. I hope this helps.
I was reminded once again this past weekend how much we dog owners don’t know about missing pets. That’s not a judgement in any way, just an observation. So few of us really know or understand what happens to a pet when they become lost.
This past weekend someone asked me why any lost dog would not just go to their owner once they saw them. It’s a good question. I think most of us just assume that our own dogs would come running to us as soon as they saw us. After all, we’ve cared for them, fed them, cuddled with them and loved them. But, sadly that is not the case for every lost dog – even your lost dog.
I first read this story (“Dog Lost for Four Months Recognizes Family by Whistle“) on Life With Dogs back in October. It’s a good example of how a lost dog can become confused and disoriented when they are lost for several days or months. Luna, the dog in the story, was missing for four months. When her family finally found her again, she didn’t recognize them, and even walked away from them when they arrived to be reunited with her. It took two days, six visits and a distinctive whistle by the owner, for her to realize it was them. What had been a puzzling circumstance finally resulted in a happy reunion for all.
As many of us already know, not all dogs are created equal (if they were our lives would be pretty boring!). Some dogs are happy-go-lucky, love people and other dogs, while others are much more wary and unsure. Puppy mill dogs are especially wary of strangers. They’re also more skittish. They are less likely to stick around and see if the human approaching them is “their” human or someone intending to harm them. As a result, they are much harder to catch and usually have to be trapped.
But a dog does not have to be a puppy mill dog to react this way. Many lost dogs tend to go into “survival mode”. They are frightened, unsure, hungry, tired (exhausted) and on constant alert. In many cases, they are fending for their lives. The longer they live in this state the less likely they are to recognize their owner on sight – and in fact, they are less likely to stick around and wait to see if the person approaching them is their owner.
A year ago this week, my foster dog, Cupcake, was missing. As a lost dog and owner, Cupcake and I had a lot going against us finding one another again – she was a puppy mill dog, had only been with me a little over a month, and was frightened of strangers. She was dodging traffic, coyotes and people in the twelve days she was missing. Talk about being in survival mode – she was definitely in it.
When we finally were able to see each other again it was at a warehouse loading dock. Even as people blocked all her avenues of escape, she continued to run back and forth, trying to find a way out. I was standing right there and she didn’t even recognize me. I called her name and she kept running. I asked if she wanted to go home to see Daisy and Jasper (my other two dogs) and she stopped for a second, then kept running – she was in survival mode, searching for a way out.
It wasn’t until I sat down with my body turned sideways from her, with my head bowed down and avoided eye contact with her, that she came close enough to smell me. I still remember the moment she started to realize it was me. She lifted her nose to the air and sniffed me. Then she moved closer and sniffed again. When she finally got close enough to really sniff me, and to hear my voice, she sighed. It was at that very moment she realized it was me. She leaned into me. She finally knew she was safe.
All lost dogs act differently. As owners, we need to know that before our pet goes missing.
We need to know that chasing a lost dog is one of the worst things we can do. It only reaffirms to the dog that people should be avoided.
So what should you do when you encounter a lost dog or your own lost dog?
- Sit down.
- Turn your body so your back or side is to the dog.
- Keep your eyes averted and bow your head so as to look non-threatening.
- Toss tasty treats (hot dogs, chicken, smelly cheese, etc.) behind you or to the side of you.
- Don’t talk.
- Wait patiently for the dog to approach you. Don’t make any sudden movements, but continue to toss treats.
- Don’t grab the dog when they get close, but wait patiently and build trust.
- Speak softly, but if they back away, stop talking and just continue to toss treats until they trust you enough to come closer.
As a dog owner, it pays to know what to do if your dog becomes lost. Below are some sites with some great tips on what to do. I really encourage you to check them out.
Lost Dog Tips