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Loose Dog? Don’t chase! Stop, Drop and Lie Down

June 1, 2014 449 comments

StopDropLieDown Have you ever had a dog escape your arms or car or home? What is the first thing you do? If you’re like most people, you chase after them. They run and then you run. It seems almost instinctual, doesn’t it?

I’ve come to believe that it REALLY IS INSTINCT that takes over when we chase after our loose dog(s). It’s not just something we do when our own pets get loose, but something we do when a friend’s dog gets out of the house or when we see a stray dog running down the street or the highway. There is even a recent video showing police officers chasing after a dog on a highway in California. They never even had a chance of catching him. It was a losing proposition.

The problem with our first instinct (to chase) is that it rarely gets us closer to getting them. In fact, the more we run the more they run, and in most cases, they run even harder and faster. It must be pretty scary seeing a bunch of people chasing you. (Heck! It’s scary being a human and having a bunch of people chasing you! I would run too!)  I don’t imagine a dog is likely to stop and ask itself “Does that person mean me harm?” No. They’re probably thinking “I am in danger. I need to run!”

The truth is it can be pretty hard to go against the instinct to chase a loose dog, but we really must learn to so, because when we chase we risk putting ourselves and the loose pet in danger.

This past week, a lost dog was lost forever when a good samaritan gave chase. The person was only trying to help. They saw a lost dog and wanted to reunite him with his owners, but in giving chase, they put Marty in more danger and sadly, he was hit by a car and killed. I cannot imagine how the person chasing him must have felt. One never expects to do a good deed and end up feeling like they did the opposite. I feel badly for both Marty’s family and the good samaritan. How could the person chasing Marty know what would happen? He/She was doing what was instinctual.

But what is instinctual is exactly what is most likely to put the dog in more danger.

There are a great many things I learned while working at our local animal shelter, but among the most helpful were the tips we received on how to get a loose dog back once it has slipped its leash or collar. I thought it might be helpful to share them here in the hopes that it will prevent one more family and good samaritan from feeling the pain of what happened to Marty.  (Please note: These may not work with every dog, but they have worked with many.)

What to do if a dog gets loose:

  • Stop, drop and lie down – It might sound silly, but dogs find the behavior odd. When you don’t give chase and instead lie down and lie still, a dog will get curious and will often come back to see if you are okay or to see what you are doing.
  • Stop, drop, and curl into a ball – This is also a curious behavior for a dog. Because you are not moving and your hands are closely wrapped around your head, they see you as less of a threat and will come to check you out. This gives them a chance to sniff you and realize it’s you, their owner, or to allow you to pet them and grab their collar.
  • Run in the opposite direction – What? Run away from the dog? That’s right. Some dogs love a good chase. Instead of you chasing them, let them chase you. Even if the dog is not up for a good chase, he may be curious about your odd behavior and follow along until you can get him into a building or car or someplace where it is easier to corral him.
  • Sit down with your back  or side to the dog and wait – Again, dogs are thrown off by this odd behavior and will become curious and approach. The other advantage is that by sitting down with your side or back to them, you appear less threatening and they are more likely to approach. If you have good treats, place a few around you to draw them near.
  • Open a car door and ask the dog if she wants to go for a ride – It almost seems too simplistic and silly to be true, but many a dog has been fooled into hopping into a car because they were invited to go for a ride. It makes sense, especially if the dog has learned to associate the car with good things (e.g., the dog park).

Although it is no guarantee, I can tell you that I have seen nearly every one of these work with one of our shelter dogs. The key is to fight your instinct to chase the dog and do something that is not as instinctual.  Instead, do what seems counter-intuitive to both you and the dog.

Have you had luck catching a loose dog doing something counter-intuitive? Please share your own experience. I would love to learn from you too.

My condolences go out to Marty’s family and the person who tried to help. May what happened to Marty be a an inspiration and reminder to us all so we can help reunite other lost dogs and their owners in his name.

Note: If you are chasing down a dog that has been lost for a few days or more, then I would recommend your read my other post “Why your lost dog may not run back to you” for more tips on how to capture a lost dog.

Lost Dog _Marty

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Favorite Video Friday – Lost Pet Reunions

August 30, 2012 9 comments

Update: Early this morning, Aug. 30th,  Cappy was sighted near home. Miracle of miracles, he is home safe now!

Tonight we got a bit of good news. Cappy was sighted not too far from home. A trap is on it’s way to his last known location tonight in hopes we can catch him. Please say some prayers that he is soon home where he will be safe.

I know that his parents, Kris and Doug, are very much hoping that this will be the case. I can imagine how worried and scared they are for him. Was it only 10 months ago I was experiencing the same worries and fears?

Maybe that’s why this video so resonated with me. It’s a wonderful message of hope for those who lose their pets, hoping one day they come home safely to them. The people who have been the recipients of Granite State Dog Recovery’s good efforts are indeed lucky people. God bless them and those who are helping to find Cappy. Thank you Minnesota Sheltie Rescue, Lost Shelties MN and LostDogs-MN for all your hard work to help bring lost dogs home.

You can see more videos by Granite State Dog Recovery, and the work they do, on their YouTube channel, helpfindhope1.

Have a wonderful Friday everyone.

Come home Cappy. Come home.

An Insightful study into Lost Cats and Dogs

June 25, 2012 15 comments

Once you have lost a dog – for any length of time, you start to look at life with a whole new set of lenses.

  • You start to notice how many more lost dog signs there are in your community than you had ever notice before.
  • You start to pay more attention to those dogs you see wandering around unaccompanied by a human.
  • You become motivated to help others with lost pets – whether it be through support, encouragement or advice.

I have found myself doing all of these things and more since Lady was lost and found.

When someone posted this piece on Facebook recently,  What You Don’t Know About Lost Pets Can Hurt Them (by Kat Albrecht on the Maddie’s Fund website) I knew I wanted to read more. I couldn’t help but wonder if the study would mirror what I had already learned in the past seven months. It did. But it also contained some new information I had not known before.

I encourage you to read the whole study, there’s a lot of great information that can be gleaned from what Missing Pet Partnership has gathered here, but here are some of the more interesting bits of information covered in the report:

Lost Cats

Sick, Injured, and Panicked Cats Hide in Silence. They will not meow.

Displaced cats will behave differently when displaced. Their temperaments can determine how they will act.

One of the primary methods recommended to recover displaced cats is the use of digital wildlife cameras and baited humane traps.

Lost Dogs

Gregarious dogs are more likely to go to the first person who calls to them. They are also more likely to be “adopted” by their rescuer who fears the dog will be “put to sleep” if dropped off at a shelter.

Dogs that are wary of strangers are reluctant to approach them until they are able to overcome their fear enough to approach, usually when they become hungry. They are also more likely to be lost for weeks or months. People often assume they have been abused because they will “cower” in fear.

Skittish dogs are more inclined to travel farther and are at a higher risk of being hit by cars. They will also cower in fear making people think they may have been abused.

Pet Owners

Some pet owners develop “tunnel vision” and fail to find their pet because they focus on wrong theories. They assume their dog was “stolen and sold to research” when in fact their dog might have been rescued and put up for adoption through a local adoption event.

Cat caregivers are often discouraged by others who tell them “your cat was probably killed by a coyote,” when their cat may actually be hiding close by, like under a neighbor’s deck.

The study concludes with some great tips to rescuers and pet owners on how to go about finding a lost or missing pet. I have shared some of those in a previous post, but I encourage you to read some of the suggestions provided. Sometimes what works for one dog or cat doesn’t work for another. The more tools you have in your toolbox the better prepared you will be.

A few additional suggestions of my own?

  • Have a support network to help support you when you do lose a pet. Surrounding yourself with people who have experience in looking for lost dogs can make all the difference and help to keep you focused on continuing your search.
  • Share your pet’s picture, story and last known location on Facebook, Twitter and in email to friends and family. Ask them to share.
  • Call all the local shelters, rescue groups, animal control agencies and police stations so they can alert you if your pet is brought in.
  • If you find a lost pet, don’t assume they were abused or abandoned. They were most likely lost and every attempt should be made to find the owner. Stop thinking stray and start thinking “lost.”

Finally…

  • Don’t EVER tell the owner of a missing pet that their dog or cat was likely eaten by a coyote. It is probably the most disheartening and discouraging things someone can say to the owner of a missing pet (I should know, I heard it several times), and it may lead someone to give up their search just when their pet needs them most. Think it if you must, but just don’t say it.

There but for the grace of…

January 22, 2012 9 comments

This past week Minnesota Sheltie Rescue alerted us to another missing dog in my neck of the woods. This dog was also shy and a foster dog, but with another local rescue group, RAGOM – Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota. I couldn’t help but be worried about him. Unlike Lady, Kekoa didn’t appear to have as thick a coat as her and temperatures this week have been below zero.

I had planned to help hand out flyers today, but yesterday Kekoa was found. Unfortunately, he was not found in the way any of us had hoped. Kekoa’s story does not have such a happy ending. His body was discovered yesterday. He had been hit by a car after getting through the fencing along a highway.

I can’t help but feel deeply saddened by this outcome. I felt so connected to Kekoa’s story. He got away from his foster mom too.

What Lady and I and her rescue volunteers went through is still so fresh in my mind. My memories of how she was found and the joy I felt knowing I no longer had to worry where she was and whether was she in danger. I just wasn’t prepared for an outcome that didn’t end have another happy reunion ending with tears of joy.

Why did Lady come home safely and not Kekoa? I mean she was lost on one side of a very busy highway and was found on the other side of it. Certainly she had to have crossed over it somehow.

When we were out searching for her those twelve long days, I noticed a huge gap in the fencing right along a new bridge that had just been completed this past summer. The bridge crosses over the same highway Lady had to cross and ends fairly close to where she was eventually found. So if she did cross there, why did she not run through the gap in the fence? Why did she not head down the embankment and onto the highway? I can’t help but wonder why Kekoa and not her?

I often hear people say “There but for the grace of God go I,” and I admit that last night I thought that very thing for one brief moment – that it was God’s grace that brought Lady through it all. But then where does that leave Kekoa and the people who searched so diligently for him? Surely he had God’s grace looking upon him too? I know there were prayers said for him, just like they were for Lady. So what made his outcome so different?

I don’t suppose anyone will ever really know the answer to that question, but what I do know is that right now I feel even more thankful tonight as I reflect on the pain and sorrow that Kekoa’s family and caretakers are feeling right now. They did all the same things that were done to help find Lady, and yet, they do not have the happy ending they and Kekoa so deserved. I am so deeply sorry for their loss. Rest in peace dear Kekoa.

Little Lady Lost – A sense of peace

November 29, 2011 21 comments

Looking back on these past 11 days I can honestly say that I feel a distinct sense of before and after. There was my life before Lady was lost and then there is my life after.

That one night, Friday night, November 18th, seems sort of like a dream now (or maybe a nigtmare), but it also feels like a pivotal moment in my life. My life before I lost Lady was a routine. I followed the same schedule, did the same things, but it was fun. I loved spending time with my dogs – taking them for walks, working on obedience training, cuddling with them on the couch, etc. My life after has been so very different. It’s been chaotic and crazy and stressful and emotional. Every day has been filled with the search for Lady – handing out fliers, putting up signs, setting up and checking live traps, searching through woods and tall grass, moving live traps, driving around hoping to see her, racing to the location of the latest sighting… my life has been consumed with the never ending search for her.

That’s why going to work yesterday, the first time since Lady disappeared, was such a strange experience. For eleven days, my life has been consumed with the search for Lady and now here I was going off to work with her still missing. As I said in my previous post, part of me was relieved to get back to work. I craved the routine that would take me away from continuously worrying and wondering about her. Being busy is sometimes the best medicine to grief and worry. It’s an escape. But yesterday there was also a part of me that had a hard time letting go of the search. All day I wondered if there were any sightings or if the fliers were still being distributed (they were) or if she had had been caught in a live trap (sadly, she was not). Then yesterday afternoon, I felt a sense of peace overcome me and I just let it all go. I had the sense that everything would be okay. I don’t know why. I don’t even know what what it means, if it means anything at all, but it has erased all of the tension and worry and fear that I have felt every day since Lady disappeared. Maybe I’m truly letting go for the first time and just letting whatever is meant to be unfold as it is designed to do. Either way, I go to work today knowing that Lady is out there somewhere and that she is okay. We may not find her today or tomorrow, but we will find her. It’s just a matter of time.

Search update: There were no sightings of Lady yesterday. The live traps were empty as well. If she continues to stick to the general pattern she seems to have established for herself, I would expect a sighting today. But, I won’t hold onto that as a given. We just don’t know when she will appear again, or where. More wonderful people handed out fliers yesterday and new ones were made up (thank you Julie). I continue to watch for her and to hand out fliers when I can. Come home Lady.

You can read more about the search for Lady and how she was found in the posts listed below.

Post #1: The search for Lady, my foster dog. How you can help.

Post #2:Foster Dog Lady – Still Missing

Post #3: Little Lady Lost – The Latest

Post #4: Thanksgiving Gratitude Despite Little Lady Still Being Lost

Post #5: Little Lady Lost – Chasing the Wrong Things

Post #6: A Sunbeam of Hope? The Latest on Little Lady Lost

Post #7: Little Lady Lost – The Saturday Update

Post #8: Little Lady Lost – Latest Update & Do’s and Don’ts

Post #9 (This Post): Little Lady Lost – A sense of peace

Post #10: Little Lady Lost – HOME AT LAST!

Post #11: Little Lady Lost and How She Made It Home Again

Little Lady Lost – Latest Update & Do’s and Don’ts

November 28, 2011 24 comments

I found it hard to write much of anything in the way of updates earlier this Sunday night. It’s been a very exhausting weekend.

As always, there have been a lot of ups and downs in the search for Lady. Unlike Saturday, there have been no sightings today, but I think now that this is not such a bad thing. It means Lady is hunkering down and staying quiet… and staying away from highways.

I’m beginning to see a pattern in her behavior. Every time she gets spooked she hunkers down for a day or two before coming out once again to search for food. The problem is how to prevent her from being spooked. There are cars and loud noises and well-meaning people for her to contend with each time she leaves the safety of her hiding spot. While many dogs might run to a stranger for food or attention, a fearful dog, like Lady, will avoid people and places that scare them – AT ALL COSTS. People approaching her, while well-intentioned I am sure, is leading her further and further away from me and deeper and deeper into hiding. It is frustrating.

And now I must go back to work, leaving the search for Lady to my morning and evening hours and to those who have the time to search. To be honest, part of me is relieved. I crave the every day normalcy of every day life. Routine is so much less stressful than spending every waking hour thinking about and searching for Lady. It also means that I feel some guilt at not being within easy reach if there is another sighting. However, what I do know now is that a sighting is unlikely to lead to a capture. Lady is too skittish now, too easily spooked. What I know now is that we need more sightings. Sightings that establish a pattern of behavior. A pattern of behavior can tell us so much about where she is moving, what is spooking her, what draws her out of hiding, and how we can best utilize this information to capture her.

If we can keep focused on handing out fliers and asking people to report their sightings of Lady, we will have a much better chance of bringing her home. But, this only works if she is not spooked – if people don’t go out chasing her down in the woods or calling out to her in areas where she was last sighted. I cannot stress this enough, chasing her down is the worst thing that anyone can do now. I know it seems so antithetical to what most people know about dogs, but everything most people know about dogs must be thrown out the window when it comes to fearful dogs. They do not act like most dogs.

If I could make a wishlist of Do’s and Don’ts for people in the search area, it would be as follows:

DO’s

DO watch for Lady and report any sightings of her.
DO program Minnesota Sheltie Rescue’s phone number, 612-616-7477, into your phone so you can report your sighting immediately.
DO take a picture of her if you have the time or the ability to do so.
DO continue to hand out fliers and share Lady’s story with your friends and family. The more eyes and ears we have out there the better.
DO drive the areas, if you have the time, and call in any sightings you may have.
DO report any behavior patterns that you notice – Examples: she comes through your yard at the same time every day, she sleeps in this location every day, etc.
DO consider leaving your fence gate open for Lady to enter. That way if she does enter your yard, you can shut it behind her, allowing us a much better chance of catching her.

DON’Ts

DON’T approach Lady or chase her down. If you do, you will likely ruin any chance we have of catching her in the future or cause her to run out into busy traffic and get hit by a car.
DON’T call out to Lady and try to get her to come to you (she won’t). A fearful dog is not a typical dog. Even the people Lady knows quite well cannot approach her without her pulling back in fear. You are a complete stranger to her. She is not going to stick around long enough to let you approach.
DON’T visit or share the locations of any live traps. We have found that the more people that know where they are, the more activity we have with people checking them on a constant basis, and that diminishes the chance that Lady will ever come near it.
DON’T go searching the woods and fields, or the Minnesota River valley, for Lady. Not only will this cause Lady to go further and further into wooded areas or into the river valley, it also puts her in greater danger from coyotes.

I welcome any other do’s and don’ts from those who have searched for a fearful missing dog before or who have led similar searches. What would you add to this list?

You can read more about fearful dogs at my friend Debbie’s website Fearfuldogs.com or on her blog, Fearfuldogs’s blog.com.

Over the past 10 days I have met some amazing people. People who have been there every single day to hand out fliers, post signs, drive around and watch for Lady, spread the word by mouth and to just sit and watch for her. My many, many thanks to Estelle, Meaghan, Karen M, Jeff P, Karen C-H, Barb, Nancy and Dennis, Emily, Angela, Vicki, Stephen, Dena, Cindy, Mickey and Brian, Dan, Karen, Jeff and Francine, Pamela D and Wendy. for your help this weekend.

Videos of Lady:

You can read more about the search for Lady and how she was found in the posts listed below.

Post #1: The search for Lady, my foster dog. How you can help.

Post #2:Foster Dog Lady – Still Missing

Post #3: Little Lady Lost – The Latest

Post #4: Thanksgiving Gratitude Despite Little Lady Still Being Lost

Post #5: Little Lady Lost – Chasing the Wrong Things

Post #6: A Sunbeam of Hope? The Latest on Little Lady Lost

Post #7: Little Lady Lost – The Saturday Update

Post #8 (This Post): Little Lady Lost – Latest Update & Do’s and Don’ts

Post #9: Little Lady Lost – A sense of peace

Post #10: Little Lady Lost – HOME AT LAST!

Post #11: Little Lady Lost and How She Made It Home Again

Little Lady Lost – The Saturday Update

November 26, 2011 22 comments

Little Lady

Sorry for the abbreviated post for today, but we had three sightings of our little Lady on Saturday, and they were all in the same area!

I have been busy coordinating a stakeout along the route she was sighted today. If she will come to me, I will be bringing her home. If not, we will use a live trap once we have a better idea of her route. We are asking people who are not part of the stakeout crew to stay away for now. As tempting as it might be to drive by and look for her, the chances you will see her are pretty slim. She’s a smart little cookie and very good at hiding. On top of that, more traffic in that area could very well result in her being hit by a car. I want to avoid that if at all possible.

My biggest concern right now is that someone will call out to her and spook her causing her to go further into hiding – one of the dangers of having a fearful dog, they don’t act like normal dogs.

My thanks to the crew that will be out tomorrow watching for her and/or handing out fliers. It was because of the fliers we handed out on Saturday that we had so many sightings today. Thank you to everyone who came to help!!!!

I will post an update whatever the result. If you pray, please pray for Lady’s safe return and if you believe in sending good thoughts out into the universe I sure could use them now. Thank you!

You can read more about the search for Lady and how she was found in the posts listed below.
Post #1: The search for Lady, my foster dog. How you can help.

Post #2:Foster Dog Lady – Still Missing

Post #3: Little Lady Lost – The Latest

Post #4: Thanksgiving Gratitude Despite Little Lady Still Being Lost

Post #5: Little Lady Lost – Chasing the Wrong Things

Post #6: A Sunbeam of Hope? The Latest on Little Lady Lost

Post #7 (This Post): Little Lady Lost – The Saturday Update

Post #8: Little Lady Lost – Latest Update & Do’s and Don’ts

Post #9: Little Lady Lost – A sense of peace

Post #10: Little Lady Lost – HOME AT LAST!

Post #11: Little Lady Lost and How She Made It Home Again

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