If he gets out of the yard or slips his collar when you are walking him, you need a firm plan before he strays too far, is overcome by panic, or is injured in traffic.
LOST DOG? FIND YOUR LOST DOG!
by Susan Bulanda, Canine and Feline Ethnologist
If you are traveling with your dog or he strays away from home, you need to act immediately EVEN if he has an identification tag on his collar – here’s why…
First, the collar should have an I.D. tag with the following information, in this order: Your dog's NAME, "If lost please call (phone number WITH AREA CODE) and an alternate or cell number.
Whether you are at home or traveling, immediately notify the Highway Patrol and the police. Give them your cell and home phone number. Also ask police dispatch for the Animal Control phone number for that area.
Cross your fingers that the person who finds your dog will call police or animal control. If you are traveling and you have a land line answering machine, know how to use your remote access. This way you can check your home number to see if anyone calls with information about your dog.
Do not rely on the license tag or rabies tag for contact identification. Veterinary or tag offices are not usually open after hours or on weekends.
Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you plan to travel with your dog, you can avoid loss by being sure that:
Your dog is restrained in your car either by a crate or seat belt for dogs. This will prevent him getting out of the car while you gas up or open the door to take him for a walk;
Put a temporary tag on your dog that lists the phone number of where you will be staying;
Your dog's collar and leash fit properly so that your dog cannot slip away or break a leash;
You never tie your dog up while you go swimming or partake in other summer activities. Instead, arrange to safely board your dog for a day or so while you picnic or swim or stay with friends.
Finding a Lost Dog
Losing a dog can be devastating. A person’s first reaction is usually fear, confusion and panic. Here are a few simple points to consider when looking for a lost dog:
If you organize a group of people to look for the dog, use all safety precautions so that the searchers do not become lost as well. Stay in touch using cell phones or hand-held radios. Two-way radios can be purchased for a nominal fee at any store that sells outdoor equipment. Radios will work in areas where cell phones don't have signal but they have a limited range so be sure that a chain of people can relay messages over distance. Also, establish radio protocol so that one person does not tie up the frequency preventing communication with others. Communication is essential to let the other searchers know what is going on, if the search is being suspended, or the dog has been found.
If you have friends or neighbors who have well-behaved dogs, they can bring them along. Their dog might smell or hear your dog or vice-versa, causing you dog to be assured and 'come join the party'.
Be sure that searchers wear the appropriate clothing, (long pants and long sleeves), hats and substantial footwear. They should have a snack, water and a flashlight. Flashlights are necessary during the day to check dark places.
Each searcher should have a zip bag or jar of boiled liver or canned cat food with strong aroma with which to lure the dog. Small packets of cat food work well because they can be carried easily. Searchers should always work in pairs for their own safety and in the event two people are needed when the dog is found. A meeting area and time should be established in case communications break down. No one should leave until everyone has reassembled and are accounted for.
A dog that is frightened will bolt in any direction but usually to the least noisy, darkest area. Given the choice of an open field or woods, the dog will go for the woods. If the dog is lost in the city or suburbs, the dog will look for a dark, quite spot to hide after it realizes it is lost.
Therefore, try to estimate how far the dog will run (this varies with the dog’s size and condition) and add a mile to that. Get maps of the area and mark where you last saw the dog as the center of a circle and draw a perimeter around that point, based on the furthest point where the dog could be. The circle will encompass the area to start looking for the dog. If you saw the dog run, you can focus in that direction.
Be sure to check small dark areas: under porches, stairs, garages, sheds, etc. If you have a number of people helping to look, have some start at the perimeter of the circle and some from the center. The dog may be frightened so DO NOT ASSUME that the dog will come when called.
If a dog runs away, they usually run into the wind. That means that the wind will be blowing toward the dog, into the dog's face. Check with a local airport to see what the wind direction was when the dog ran away. Then start looking into the wind from the point where the dog was last seen. Dogs who wander away will usually meander along unless they find something to chase or something that interests them. This means that the search area will be smaller.
If searching in the woods or a park, look for a game trail and look for fresh dog tracks to see if the dog went that way. If you do find tracks, you will not be able to tell for certain if they are from your dog, so do not give up searching the rest of the area. If you are searching in an urban or suburban area, listen carefully if neighborhood dogs are barking. Often they will bark at a stray dog. If you hear a lot of barking in one direction, check that area first.
When searching for a dog, travel slowly and make frequent five minute-long stops. Many people will drive around in a vehicle, calling to the dog. Unless the dog is within a few seconds of your location, he will not be able to find you if you move too quickly. Keep in mind that a dog can hear you calling from quite a distance away. They need time to determine the direction of the sound and then get to it. Wind and other environmental elements can distort the direction of sound (tall buildings, large hills, etc.) making it difficult for the dog to find the source of the sound.
By stopping and continuing to call for about five minutes, the dog will have time to find you.
When you sight the dog, do not act excited and/or run toward the dog. Sit down or stand still and let the dog approach you, even if it is your dog. Sometimes a dog can become so frightened, hurt or weary that their survival instincts take over, making them more cautious than they would be at home. Depending upon the direction of the wind, you could be downwind and the dog may not recognize you right away. Give the dog time to feel safe. Running to the dog may make him run away from you and lose what little trust in humans that he has left.
If you feel it will work, you can, at a distance, slowly move so that you are upwind of the dog, and then open the can of cat food, but still let the dog come to you. DO NOT try to grab the dog. Let the dog stay there and relax. Slowly pet the dog until you can attach a leash without frightening the dog.
If the dog does not approach you, do not give up. Stay in that area and/or return to that area. You can leave food etc. but do not try to catch the dog.
If you leave food for the dog, do not assume that because the food was eaten that it was eaten by the dog. Other critters may eat the food, so continue to search the area. If you can, spread sand around any food that you leave so that you can check for footprints to determine if a dog ate the food. If sand is not available, loose soil will work as well.
If you have to search for the dog over a period of time, keep a log of the weather and the location of water sources. A dog will generally head into the wind and seek water.
Never forget to advertise. Use every means possible to let the people in the area know that there is a lost dog. Always have an up-to-date photo of your dog. If the dog is a mixed-breed, find a similar picture or one of a purebred that he resembles. You can't describe him as well as showing a searcher a picture. Put up posters, send photo to TV stations and advertise everywhere within at least five miles from the point where you last saw your dog.
Lastly, never give up. Dogs have been found months after they disappear. And yes, dogs have an uncanny ability to find their way back to a loving home.
See what to do if you FOUND A LOST DOG? How to safely approach and transport it, locate the owner, etc.
Our thanks to Susan Bulanda. For lots more information on Training, Search and Rescue, and general care, be sure to visit her website at: www.sbulanda.com
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