Comprehensive Guide for Finding a Lost Dog
Be careful with search parties. In some cases the noise and yelling of a search party may frighten the pet. If you're going to use a search party, have the plan to drive the pet back toward home not further away.
Research reputable Search and Rescue Dog teams that have extra training in finding pets. (more below)
Behavior: One must understand all dogs go into survival mode almost immediately they become more "wolf" like. They will not be the same as when at home with you. They are frightened, unsure, hungry, exhausted and on constant alert. In many cases, they are fending for their lives. While they live in this state the less likely they are to recognize their owner on sight or sound, and they are less likely to stick around and wait to see if the person approaching them is their owner. A dog works off of its nose in that he must settle down enough to smell the owner and recognize him or her. This is the defining moment. Most dogs still cannot drop the survival/flight mode and turn and run. If this happens then they need to be trapped.
Lost dogs can wander far distances and eventually set up a repeating path. This is what we work to have happen by using scent and feeding stations, then a trap, if chased the cycle will start all over again. Note some dogs are just runners and may be very hard to get into an area but its not impossible.
Get permission from your neighbors to look around their yards. Going onto someone’s land my start and argument that could scare your dog away. It is important to understand that you should not chase or yell at your dog if you find them. Remember the survival mode. What to do when you spot your dog will be explained below.
Tracking: Hire a good dog tracking team, for example Dogs Finding Dogs.
(DO NOT hire any team that will chase the dog or won’t let you come with the team). Once the tracking team has located the area your pet is in set up a feeding stations traps and cameras to get your dog on a repeating path in the area.
Social media: Post in PawBoost, nextdoor, UPSDogs and every missing pet page on facebook.
Use the daytime to post flyers make calls and engage others to help search. Enlist help of Neighbors and people walking dogs, the more eyes the better. File missing pet reports with all the animal control agencies in your area. Post fliers with contact info at Vets offices and everywhere within three miles in any direction. Call/go to shelters and Vets daily. Do not give your address or amount of reward; this will protect you a bit from scammers. Never give/send money without seeing your pet. Also leave a flyer with your Mailman, UPS, FedEx, Amazon and any other delivery drivers you can find.
Post fliers on dog walking paths in your area. Bus Drivers, Ice Cream trucks, local patrol cops, fire stations. Garbage and recycling guys too.
Fliers – make sure of the laws of your city when posting fliers to prevent issues with the county.
If the animal is black, white, brown, tan, grey etc, then black and white flyers are fine and use brightly colored duct tape to put them up with. The duct tape attracts the eye and not printing in color is less expensive. All flyers should be put up in clear plastic sheet protectors. Flyers should be simple… Lost Dog, Picture Phone number and reward. They must be able to be read from a car. Beware that if you put up large posters or large signs in the ground, you will need to get a permit for each and everyone one of them to be insured that you are not fined by local counties. This also pertains to small 8x10 flyers but you can usually get away with the small flyers by not posting on major streets and keeping to exit points of neighborhoods and also inside neighborhoods. The only way around putting the large posters or signs up is to have them on private property, of course, permission needs to be gotten from the property owner. No flyers in or on mailboxes... it's illegal, this is true of the community mailboxes.
Scent Strips and baiting: Cut up some scent strips out of your old cloths or bed sheets etc. (one inch by three-inch strips) place them on the ground (I wore a shirt for 5 days to make it smell as strong.) The smell can last 3-5 days. Then make the scent strip and “Dog Chum” (Described below) trails back in the most direct and safe way to your house and/or feeding stations/traps. Dog Chum: Mix a gallon of water with 1-2 cans pate style cat food. Do not use anything that is of chunky or shredded nature as this will give your pet something to eat and could fill it up thus causing it to not follow the smell to the feeding station or trap. Make straight lines of chum to the trap/house. You can and should use Scent strips and Dog Chum at the same time. Keep the two at least 3 feet apart when laying down scent lines concentrate it near the opening of the trap and run it in a straight-line way from the trap/feeding stations/home.
Feeding stations: This is a large piece of cardboard with a thick layer of flour placed on top. In the center of the flower place food. Lay down feeding stations in several places to get your pet on a repeating path and keep them in the area. Check the stations often and look for foot prints and signs that the food has been eaten. Once the dog is coming back to the feeding stations you are ready to start trapping.
Trapping: If trapping ask Neighbors to only put out water not food. Let your dog find food in the traps. Inform everyone not to chase your pet.
Get large humane traps even for small dogs. Dogs must feel unconfined to go into a trap. (Google hunting supply stores). (Larger than raccoon traps)
For larger dogs (Great Dane, Newfoundland even Pit Bulls) use a large deer trap or an enclosure trap.... kennel run with automatic door on it.
(Sardines, tuna, smelly cat food). Place the food outside the trap a few feet away eventually bringing it closer and closer before putting food in the trap.
Lay small chunks of food and food oil to a large portion of food at the back so the dog can trip the plate.
Do not put food and water in a bowl as a dog can move the bowl. Simply place small portions to the large portions in the back behind the trip plate to get the dog to trip the trap.
Cover the trap in natural coverings. You can also use something that smells like you to help guide the dog. Place at least one trap near your home in the event that your dog has been coming to the house when you are away or asleep.
It is imperative that you Do NOT chase your dog.
If you hear or see them REMAIN CALM and SIT DOWN they maybe in flight mode still. Get your emotions under control. 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, yell, scream. Wait patiently for the dog to approach you. Don’t make any sudden movements, but continue to toss treats. Only at this point Speak softly, but if they back away, stop talking and just continue to toss treats until they trust you enough to come closer. Don’t grab the dog when they get close, but wait patiently and build trust. Do NOT chase your dog. You will only drive them further away. Stay on paths and open areas if you must go in. Stay on the tree lines - Chum/scent and trap along the tree line. Hide your traps just inside the tree line to keep them disguised for your pet and from people who may take them.
It can take some time for your dog to feel secure enough to come out of hiding. I am not going to lie and tell you this is a quick process, in some cases up to a year. Stay strong and positive when tracking. Have your breakdowns and crying moments during the day in your house. NEVER while you are tracking. Dogs are looking for home keep that in mind. They need you to help them get past their instincts to help them get home. Never Give Up they need your help to find home.