By Fran Buell, APDT
Bare Paw Dog Obedience
A lost dog is a traumatic event for the owner and dog. If young children are involved, it is even more traumatic because the children do not understand why the dog is lost. How to go about finding a lost dog can be a daunting and emotional task. First of all, dog owners should make sure Muffin is kept secure and safe to prevent losing her. She should be in an escape proof yard or kennel and should always be taken for walks on a leash or if very well trained, under voice or hand control. Also make sure Muffin has identification tags, rabies tag or micro chip.
As we all know, there are those little lapses of attention to Muffin and what she is doing off leash, which allows her to run off to explore or chase. The first thing the owner should do is get something with a familiar smell(your coat or jacket) or Muffin's bed and place it on the ground near where Muffin was last seen. A dog will usually come back to the place where its master was before she decided to do a bit of exploring on her own. Because your coat or her bed has a familiar smell, it gives Muffin a place to lie down, rest and wait for you to return.
With this done, you can start your physical search for Muffin. Walk around calling her name. If you have friends helping in the search, give them something of yours to attract Muffin to them as she may not approach someone she thinks is a stranger.
If Muffin hasn't been found in two to three hours, go back to where she became lost to check if she has returned to find you. Keep doing this for as long as Muffin is lost. Many a hunting dog who has run off chasing something he should not have been has been found curled up on his masters' jacket several days after being lost.
After 12 to 24 hours and Muffin is still not found, contact the local shelter and give Muffin's description and your phone number. Shelters usually keep a stray dog three days or more before putting them up for adoption. You also should contact your local radio station and ask them to do a free Public Service Announcement. Give them Muffin's description, your phone number and where she was last seen. It is also time for you to put out some flyers around the area where she was lost and your neighborhood. Muffin may try to find her way home and could be spotted along her route as she tries to find her way home. Contacting your local veterinarians with Muffin's description and your phone number will help in case she was involved in an accident. If you haven't found Muffin in 36 hours, consider purchasing ad space in your local paper. Many times the lost-and-found section offers free ad space for lost pets.
If you finally get a call from someone who has seen your runaway, ask them to keep watch as to where she is or where she goes. Ask them not to try and approach her as it may scare her and make her run some more. Muffin is not just a runaway dog now. She is a frightened, hungry lost dog. She may not even come to you at this point. Out of fear and uncertainty, she has shut out all communication. This is where it is time to go to Muffin's primary sensor - her nose. When you arrive at the place she is found and she does not respond to your call, put down a coat, towel or item with your odor on it then leave the area. Muffin will be drawn to that odor that previously meant love, care and assurance. When she has settled down by the item, approach her and tell her how happy you are to see her, praise her for coming to you. Never, never scold a runaway dog as it teaches them not to come to you.
If, by chance, Muffin approached her unknown rescuer and allowed the rescuer to catch her, luck is with you. Ask the caller to please keep her at that location and immediately go retrieve her. A reward is always appreciated, but not necessary.
Lost dogs do not always get returned to their owners. Some are struck by vehicles and left by the roadside, some are thought to be strays and kept by those who find them ,and some are actually kidnapped on purpose to be used for pets or sold for financial gain by the kidnapper.
Your best protection from losing your canine companion is proper control, proper containment and proper identification.
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