What To Do When Your Pet Goes Missing
First, Remain Calm
Here are some valuable lost pet tips and links to resources with great information to help you find your missing pet or for you to better understand their behavior. We understand losing a pet can be overwhelming, we are here to help.
Do you have a lost dog or cat?
Lost Dog: First Steps
Place a bowl of canned wet dog food out for them. Dog food with gravy, like ALPO, is a great example. You want to use something that has a heavy scent. Other great options are smelly deli meats, liquid smoke, or barbecue sauce. It is also a good idea to place a scent item out that is familiar to the dog, like their bed or some of your dirty clothes that will still have your scent on them. If you have access to a trail camera, set the camera pointing at the food bowl, just in case the food is missing you will know if indeed it was your dog that ate the food.
Another option that can help is if you suspect your dog is in a certain area, set up a portable grill and cook something aromatic (Hamburgs, Hot Dogs, Bacon, etc.). Once the food is cooked make sure to leave that area. If your dog ran away from home you can use your own grill, but be quiet and check the food every couple of hours. Try not to look out your windows too often, as you can potentially scare your dog away. Just a reminder to always have a camera on the food bowl.
Lost Cat: First Steps
Place a bowl of canned wet cat food out for them. You want to use something that has a heavy scent. If you have a cardboard box, place a blanket in the box and put that out along with the food. If you have access to a trail camera, set the camera pointing at the food bowl, just in case the food is missing you will know if indeed it was your cat that ate the food.
Another great tip is if your cat got out an open door or window is to leave that door or window open for a while to see if your can comes back in the same way it got out.
If you can escaped at night or your cat isn’t home once it is dark, you can use a flashlight to search in and under things outside to see if your cat is hiding. You will see their eyes light up once you shine the light on them.
Here are some great articles to better understand lost pet behavior:
Spread the Word
- Alert your neighbors – It’s important to go door-to-door when looking for your lost pet. NEVER ASSUME EVERYONE KNOWS!!
- Utilize social media
- Window Tagging
- Intersection Alerts
- Refrain from making sightings public
When creating flyers or posters keep it simple. Too much text makes the important information harder to read.
Is Your Lost Pet Microchipped?
If your lost pet is microchipped, call the microchip company and make sure your information on file is up-to-date.
What You Need To Know About Microchips
Visit Local Stray Hold Facilities in Person
Never Rely on calling on the phone. Shelter workers are busy and may not see every pet that comes into the shelter.
Set Up Feeding Stations Near Lost Pet Sightings.
Feeding stations for both lost dogs and cats should have a bowl of wet food and a trail camera pointed in the direction of the food bowl. If the food has been eaten, is important to know what has eaten the food.
Helpful Links To Other Great Information.
Never Give Up Looking For Your Lost Pet!!
Lost Pets are resilient. Many pets are reunited after weeks, months, and even years. They are able to survive severe weather and typically keep themselves safe when not being chased. We have recovered lost dogs missing over 4 years and in temperatures below 0 degrees. Never lose hope, we are here to help…
Do Not Go Into The Woods – No Search Parties!!
We understand that there are a lot of good people out there wanting to help you get your lost pet back home. The issue with large search parties early on is they may scare your lost pet away from the point of escape or place where the pet was lost from. One area, in particular, to stay out of is wooded areas. Most lost dogs will gravitate to wooded areas because it provides them with cover or shelter from things it feels are a threat. Unfortunately, for lost dogs, it is fight or flight, and most of the time, they choose flight. They don’t take the time to say, “Hey you are my Mom or Dad”, they just run. When you enter the wooded area the stepping on leaves, brush and sticks make so much noise, it will scare them away before you even get near their location. Another bad way to search for a lost dog in the woods is by using anything with a motor, ATV, UTV, Quad, Side-By-Side, Dirt Bike, Etc. The sound from the motor will also scare them away before you get near them. The absolute only time to search the woods is when you know for a fact the lost dog is hurt, has been missing for a long time or you have been instructed to do so by a trained missing animal response individual or professional group.
What to do if you see your lost Dog?
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.
Do Not Reach for Your Dog, your dog has to become comfortable with you all over again and realize you are not a threat. Our general rule is that the dog must touch you first more than once before you can try and put a lead on them. Some recovery technicians may spend hours sitting or laying down with a lost dog just to make sure the dog will allow them the moment to capture them. This process cannot be rushed and really should be performed by a trained Missing Animal Response Technician.
When it is time to set a trap for a lost dog or cat? When you have already done the following:
- You have placed a familiar scent article near the place of escape.
- You have set up a food station with a trail camera. Then you have confirmed your dog or cat was there eating the food.
- If not on your property you have asked permission to trap on said property or location.
Why you don’t just throw a trap up for lost or stray dog:
- There is no guarantee the dog will come back to that location.
- When setting a trap all the food, straw if used, batteries for cameras and data plans for WIFI cameras cost money and the food specifically doesn’t last long and must be thrown out. Those that volunteer their time or even those charging for their services cannot afford to waste supplies by not being sure they have the best spot to start trapping your lost pet.
- The dog will not travel long distances just because you set a trap in a specific place. The location of a trap must be carefully thought out based on the behavior and where you can get the dog eating.
- You also must be aware of other animals and dangers, such as highways and high traffic roads. It is not a good idea to lure a dog near a road unless you have ABSOLUTELY no other choice. No other choice meaning that is the only spot you can get the dog to eat.
Traps Should Always be Monitored
It is critical that all humane traps be monitored in some way to assure that an animal does not become overly stressed or injured when trapped. Traps can occasionally malfunction, so being nearby to prevent any accident is important. Monitoring can be accomplished either by visually watching the trap from a safe distance (i.e. while sitting inside a parked car), by monitoring the trap while using a sound monitoring device (i.e. a driveway alarm that audibly beeps when something enters the trap), or by using a cellular game camera that texts you a photograph of the trap in real-time. You should always be able to arrive at the triggered trap within minutes of the trap being triggered or assign this to a volunteer or even a neighbor who lives near the trapping location.
How Often Should I Check My Trap?
Traps should be checked every 1-3 hours if you are not placing a wireless camera to watch the trap remotely. Now if you are using a wireless game camera that sends you images or videos you don’t have to be at the trap as often, but you still want to be nearby if something goes into the trap. Ideally, you don’t want any animal in a trap for over 30 minutes if possible. Keeping the animals calm and getting them out of the trap safely as soon as possible is key.
When To Tie The Trap Open?
If you cannot stay and monitor the trap overnight, for example, we recommend refreshing the smelly food in the trap and then tying the door with a bungee cord or rope. This will allow the lost pet to get some food and to see the trap is less threatening for when it is set to go off again.
Never Open a Trap In the Field To Remove a Lost Pet
There are a number of things that can go wrong, but the main thing is we don’t want that pet to escape. We recommend taking the whole trap into a garage, enclosed area, or vehicle if the trap is small enough and remove the pet then so they cannot escape before getting them secured. If you are using a kennel trap or missy trap, make sure to have someone hold the door shut until you have the lost dog on a leash or in a transport kennel. We know how much work goes into rescuing lost pets, so we would hate to see the pet escape after being successfully trapped.
Once You Get Your Lost Pet Back
- PLEASE take your lost pet to the vet to get them checked out. They may have got into something while on their journey.
- Give your lost pet time to relax. It is never a good idea to have a lot of people over right after your pet comes home from being lost. Their time away from home was really stressful and now they need time to decompress.
- Fix the reason as to why they got out or got away in the first place. Never leave your dog out unsupervised, never have them off-leash in an unfenced area. Collar and harness should fit snugly. Check your fence for gaps and make sure the gate is locked. If you are able, for the days following your pet being back home, try and use an exit that is double-doored. For example, exiting through a garage area where there is an interior door to the garage and then the garage door or exit door that also has a locking storm door. That was even if your dog or cat tries to escape again when you open the first door the other door is there to stop your dog or cat from getting out.
- Update or delete online let pet posts, so people know your pet is home and remove flyers from businesses and poles.