Losing a pet can be one of the most stressful times in your life. Most pet owners these days treat their pets like children or at least consider them part of the family. Our best advice for a lost or stray dog is to LURE them back, DO NOT CHASE after them.
So, what does DO NOT CHASE mean exactly?
All too often when pets go missing or escape from their owners, the first instinct is to yell their name and run after them. Another technique used is to create a search party and go looking for them in cars, quads, ATV or UTV vehicles. All this falls under the DO NOT CHASE rule. Chasing a lost dog is simply any forward movement in the direction of the dog, even as little as one step could, in the dog’s mind, be considered chasing. Also, dogs can hear much better than we can, so anything with a motor will scare them before you even get near their location.
If you are a pet owner, police, or just someone trying to help the family of a lost dog and you are driving behind or following a dog around in your car, you are chasing the dog. You simply cannot speed around after a roaming dog and expect to capture it. The dog will run further and faster the harder you speed after it. Police do this to hunt down a criminal, but it does not work that way for lost or stray dogs.
How can you help in the right way?
The first thing you must do as an owner of a lost pet is to try and remain calm. We understand you are in panic mode, but so is your dog. They have just started an adventure out into a world they may not be familiar with and it is scary for them too. For lost dogs it is FIGHT or FLIGHT, most will choose flight. They are going to run, they do not take the time and say to themselves you’re their Mom or Dad, but to them at that moment, you are a PREDATOR. This is one of the hardest concepts to understand as a lost dog owner. Most in our experience must see their dog’s response of running away from them to finally understand this concept.
If your dog is still in sight after running away, please do the following:
- Slowly get low or lay flat on the ground
- Avoid eye contact
- Speak softly with a calm voice
- Do not reach for your dog, if it comes close let your dog touch you first, for some that are very skittish we will let them touch us multiple times. If you reach, the dog may run away.
Give your dog time to recognize your voice or your smell.
Secondly, you start LURING your dog back to you. It is important that you move slowly and use techniques like “Calming Signals”. Below is a video on Calming Signals, so you better understand what we mean.
Example of Child Using Calming Signals
Here is our most favorite story of how “calming signals” helped to recover a lost (skittish) dog. Feel free to share this video with dog owners when you’re trying to explain WHY they should use calming signals (why they should SIT DOWN) and why they should NOT STAND, LOOK AT, or CALL their lost dog!
**Video Courtesy of KSBW 8 News
“Calming signals” is a term coined by Norwegian dog trainer Turid Rugaas to group a large number of behavior patterns that she says dogs use to avoid conflict, to prevent aggression, to calm other dogs down and to communicate information to other dogs and to people. MAR trained individuals use calming signals to try and lure instead of chase a lost or panicked dog to safety.
To learn more about lost or panicked dogs visit our Lost Dog Behavior page.
If your dog runs away from you, let it. You need to give the impression they are not being chased. Dogs will find comfort in wooded areas and in most cases may gravitate near water during their journey. Next, you must immediately put out smelly, wet canned dog food or something with gravy. This type of food carries the most smell and will help lure the dog back home or back to your location. Other items that are smelly are Deli meats, Liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, canned cat food, fried chicken (please remove from bones).
Also, try putting out dirty laundry or dog beds, this will keep familiar scents outside your house or in the location they went missing for the dog to smell.
Contact your local and surrounding police departments, Animal Control Officers, local animal rescues and shelters.
Notifying Neighbors and Making Posters and Flyers
Once all the above has been done you want to start your advertising campaign for your lost dog. We usually start by making flyers to hand out to our neighbors. Once the flyer is designed, we like to shrink them so you can fit 4 on a single piece of paper. This way you can cover more people with one sheet of paper. After that, you want to start making big posters to be placed on poles around your neighborhood.
4 Sheet Example
For information on how to make BIG NEON POSTERS, please click the link below.
Also, keep in mind when creating your flyers and posters that less is more. Keep it simple, Lost dog, general location and phone number. Never be too specific that way when you do get sightings you can question the caller to make sure the information is legit. Unfortunately, you can get fake sighting callers. You also want to limit location information because some people trying to be helpful may drive to the area and scare your dog away not knowing your recovery plan and delaying your dog’s recovery. They mean well, but their interference could have a negative impact on the recovery.
Post your lost pet on social media, the same rule applies there as well add enough information, but do not be too specific. Social media can spread the word quickly and to many people. We want to make sure that all those people do not show up on location and cause an issue. Again, everyone means well, but the slightest impact on how your lost pet moves can delay the recovery.
One of the most important steps is to go door-to-door and tell your neighbors. We always tell lost pet owners, if you can see a house then make sure you tell them. Never assume everyone knows. We hear that all to often and when sightings dry up or we don’t get any, we will go door-to-door ourselves. Most of the time we find houses were missed and sometimes those people may have that one critical sighting that gets your lost pet home.
Please do not chase your lost dog, but lure them back to you with the proper techniques. If you need professional help in your area, please visit this link below to finds a trained individual or group.