— Diane Turner, President, NGWPR
Gut-wrenching panic most always follows the discovery of an open gate and the sudden realization that your most-loved GWP is missing. Despite all your instincts to go frantically running down the street calling the dog -STOP.
Now is not the time for fear and hysteria, it’s the time for clear thinking and calculated action.
“There is a golden hour between life and death.” Crowley Shock Trauma Center University of Maryland.
The Golden Hour
The “golden” or first hour after an animal has left home is as important in finding a lost pet as the golden hour is to a traumatic injury.
Use the “golden” hour wisely.
If you feel certain the dog escaped the yard, do a quick but deliberate search of the immediate area. If nothing results then move inside and complete a thorough search of your home. It is amazing how often after the troops have been called out and folks are on their way to help search that an owner finds the dog has accidentally been in a closed guest room, a closet, a garage or another place the dog never frequents.
Once the immediate area and the house have been painstakingly checked — that means every room, every closet and every outside place that could trap a dog, quickly enlist any family members who are at home or ask a good neighbor to help make a search of the surrounding area and the neighborhood.
Remember to carry your cell phone at all times.
If possible leave a person at the house in case the dog returns. If no one is available to stay make certain that access to the yard or garage is available so if the dog returns he/she can get in. Leave the doggie door unblocked and if you can safely leave a door that is usually used for entry or exit open do so.
If you have help then send one or more searchers out on foot and send one out to check the area using the car or bicycle. Alert any neighbors you see along the way. Talk to everyone you can. If you are alone now is the time to use the car or bicycle. You can cover the area more quickly. If you take a vehicle drive slowly with windows down. Stop and listen for barking dogs then follow the noise and check the area. Drive the routes you use when you and your dog take walks and remember to check any dog parks or any areas stray dogs frequent.
If you live close to a busy road or highway check that area first then work back towards your home. If this initial search is unsuccessful it’s time to to sound the alert and call for additional help and organize a search plan.
According to ASPCA statistics 93% of dogs will be reunited with their families within the first 24 hours but that percentage drops to 60% after the first day.
The First 24 Hours
One of the most important assets in your search will be flyers — so quickly print 25–50 colorful eye-catching and concise flyers. Use a good full-body photo with accurate color in the flyer. List two phone numbers if possible — that way if you are unable to take the call another number is there. Put the dog’s call name under the photo.
If you live in an urban, suburban or rural area the goal is the same — get those flyers out! Go door to door and leave flyers with every neighbor you can. Place flyers where the information will be seen by as many people as possible — on poles, trees, in parks at local convenience stores.
Make a personal contact and leave a flyer with those individuals who are constantly traveling in your area — police officers or deputies on patrol, mail people and local delivery folks such pizza delivery, Grubhub, FedEx and UPS drivers. These are the individuals who are constantly moving throughout the area and have a good chance of seeing your dog.
As you make personal contacts tell something about the dog — he’s a therapy dog or he’s an amazing hunting dog or show dog or your four year-old’s best friend. Knowing something about the dog helps keep your conversation fresh in the memory of those you speak with.
While flyers are being distributed make certain someone is on-line putting out lost dog information on any of the local neighborhood apps. Make certain the the apps in the surrounding areas also have the information.
There are professional on-line search apps designed to help with on-line contacts such as Facebook posts, Nextdoor posts and alerts to animal shelters. Prices for the services range between $25-$200. All the apps researched for this article have those followers who are extremely happy with their services and those people who believe it’s a scam. Most of these businesses do have complaints including Better Business Bureau complaints. Included are Pet Amber Alerts, TheBark.com, Paw Boost; PawMaw. Several do offer free posts of your lost dog.
Next contact your local animal control, humane society and any local rescue agencies and leave descriptions, pictures, microchip numbers and phone numbers with each.
In a recently published study of 1000 lost dogs over a five year period 85% were located with 79% found in their neighborhoods. So continuing to search in your immediate area is important.
Given time your dog may return on his/her own. Dogs, like people, can become confused when they travel outside a familiar area and it often takes a bit of time for the dog to become reoriented and head home.
In a project by Czech University where biologists studied how dogs find their way home, they determined that many dogs use the earth’s north/south magnetic fields to orient themselves to their environment. In addition to using magnetic fields, 59% retraced their outbound steps by using scent and 39% relied on landmarks to get home. Eight-five percent of lost dogs used a mixture of methods to navigate their way home. So continue to monitor the house throughout the search.
AFTER THE FIRST 24 HOURS
DO NOT STOP SEARCHING.
The most dangerous situation for a lost dog is that the owner gives up too soon. According to Kathy Albrecht of the Missing Pet Partnership some owners tend to be overcome with “grief avoidance.” These owners believe they will never see their dog again and to continue the search prolongs their emotional pain, so they simply give up.
Albrecht suggests that you continue to print flyers but on neon colored paper to get as much attention as possible and hand out as many flyers as you can. Make as many personal contacts as you can expanding into areas farther away from your home. Again notify patrol officers and delivery people as they may change daily.
Missing Pet Partnership also suggests that you use your car as a moving billboard. Use a neon glass marker to tag the back window with your dog’s information and your phone number. They also suggest making large sign-sized posters on neon paper then asking for volunteers or, if necessary, paying people to stand close to a busy intersection with these large signs, much like the sign twirlers do, advertising your lost dog. They have had good success in finding dogs this way.
Send someone who knows your dog to walk through the kennels of your local animal control and humane facilities each day. Many times the in-take personnel in these facilities are not informed of the information you’ve supplied or they confuse breeds and don’t think the dog they just placed into the kennel is the dog you are searching for.
Do not trust their judgement nor should you trust that the information listed on the “lost dog” site of the facility’s website is up-to-date or accurate.
Offering a reward for a lost dog is controversial and most professionals advise against it however it ultimately comes down to personal choice. If you do decide that offering a reward is in your dog’s best interest then do not publish the amount of the reward.
A reward sometimes can convince a “self-adopter” to give your dog back. Self adopters are those folks who find a dog and believing it to be a stray keep the dog. A reward can also incentivize a person who normally would not observe stray dogs to pay attention.
However a reward can encourage someone who sees the dog and knows a reward is offered to chase the dog. Being chased by a stranger is frightening for the dog and can discourage him from coming in to a human to ask for help.
Rewards encourage the theft of dogs.
Rewards can leave frantic owners open to scammers and extortion.
If the Dog is Seen
By now, the lost dog is hungry, tired and confused. If you have reports that your dog has been seen in an area, double check with the reporter by showing several photos of your dog and asking about any unusual or special traits that might separate your dog from another of its breed.
The dog’s flight instincts may have kicked in and if the dog is in flight mode he may not come to you or a family member but instead may run from you. Do not chase the dog, but try to calmly follow. If you can, get others who your dog knows into the area — again warn not to give chase.
If the dog is close-by and is watching kneel down and act like you are digging. Often this will spark a dog’s curiosity and bring the dog in closer.
If the dog is in flight mode his olfactory senses are shut down. Favorite treats or delicious smelling foods may not work but give smelly canned cat food a try — it just might encourage a hungry dog to come in.
A favorite kennel mate or playmate of your dog may be useful to encourage a confused dog to come.
If you are able and there is an adequate safely enclosed place to confine your dog try to herd him into that area — a fenced school yard, a softball field, a tennis court or any confined area will do. If you are certain that the area is safe and you feel confident that there is no escape route, take the friendly dog off lead or drop the long-line hoping that the friendly dog can encourage your dog to come in.
If you have reported sightings in a certain area and you feel confident it’s your dog this is the time to place a live trap in the area. Make certain someone is available to monitor the trap 24/7.
CONTINUE THE SEARCH.
As days pass and your dog is not found there are many options to help.
DO NOT GIVE UP.
THE STORY OF CLOVER
Several years ago a GWP who was a show champion and was obedience trained was sent to California to be trained as a search dog for the Salton Sea State Park. Shortly after Clover arrived she escaped from her handler and bounded off chasing a bird. Clover was missing for 9 days in 120 degree heat. The park officers used every asset including small planes and helicopters trying to find the dog.
The evening of the 9th day one of the officers was at home watching TV when he heard a noise then frantic barking at his front door. He opened the door and an exuberant GWP rushed in, jumped on the bed in his studio cabin and barked at him. It only took a second for the officer to recognize the dog everyone had been frantically searching for.
How did Clover know that house? When the officer had been on vacation Clover’s handler had stopped by to water his plants and Clover had tagged along. Clover was immediately returned to her handler and the two worked hard to finish Clover’s training concentrating on recalls.
The important aspect in the “Clover” case was that everyone in the area was aware of the lost dog so when she appeared she was welcomed by the officer who found her and he immediately confined her. Also interesting is this was a dog who had always been outgoing and friendly. One who had been at 2000 dog shows with hundreds of people there yet she did not immediately seek help from a human.
Lost dogs find their way home or are found and returned home weeks, months and even years after the dog first went missing. Just do not give up.
Search techniques in different environments are obviously the same in some aspects and they differ significantly in others.
Dusk and dawn are important times to search in any environment. The natural instincts of canines are to hunt at those times and though your dog may not be hunting there is a good chance that he may be on the move at those time of day.
· Continue to pay attention to the barking of confined dogs. Your dog may be lonely and looking for other dogs to interact with.
· Continue to make daily visits to animal shelter and rescue facilities.
· Keep handing out flyers and continue to update social media.
· Leave access to your yard or house in case your dog wanders in.
LIVE TRAPS — if you know your dog is frequenting an area but he is in flight mode and won’t come to anyone or even a kennel mate then a live trap may be a good option.
SEARCH DOGS/PET DETECTIVES — Almost every major urban area has a search dog team that may respond to a missing dog call.
Dogs Finding Dogs is a 501(c)3 non-profit they have resources and information regarding search dog teams. Call 410–908–6374.
Missing Animal Search Dog Network (MASDN) at MASDN.org has a listing of search teams and pet detectives state by state.
NIGHT VISION IMAGING GOGGLES & BINOCULARS, THERMAL SENSORS & POWERFUL FLASHLIGHTS — These relatively high/tech tools have all been successful in helping locate lost dogs. Primarily useful in rural settings but can be helpful in urban parks and green space and in some urban settings.
DRONES — Drones especially those equipped with thermal imaging cameras can be especially useful in rural setting where there are large distances to cover. Look for a drone enthusiast to help by going to:
Meetup.com where 120,000 drone enthusiasts communicate. Chances are you can find someone in your area.
HORSES and RIDERS — The view from atop a horse is better than a human on foot and the horse is able to get into heavily vegetated areas more easily. Horses also can help cover greater distances more quickly.
PRIVATE PLANES & HELICOPTERS — If the dog is lost in a rural or wilderness area the use of one can be invaluable. Don’t ever discount the goodness and generosity of people — pilots love to fly and one just might take on the task of looking for a missing dog.
PSYCHICS — Having a consultation with a “pet psychic” is definitely a matter of personal choice and belief. If you choose to use a psychic you can expect to pay from $100-$500 for a consultation.
PREVENTION IS KEY
Prepare a File— Just as most families do with their children, have a file prepared in case your dog goes missing. Having all of the information in one place will eliminate the panic of trying to remember where the photos you took are or where you put his microchip information.
Check Yards, Gates and Doors Often — Place locks on all gates with public access. Look for holes in fencing, separation of boards and latches that don’t function properly. If your dog can flip the latch make certain you have a clip in the latch which prevents opening. Check your front and back doors to make certain that they are closing properly so the dog cannot push them open.
Microchip your Dog — Microchip your dog and keep the information with the chip registry up-to-date. The chip is useless if there is no way to reach you because the information held by the registry is out of date. Make sure you have the chip number recorded and keep it in a convenient location.
Tags on Collars — Even if the dog has a microchip having an identification tag on the collar is important. Have your dog’s name and your phone number on the tag. Most neighbors will not have a microchip scanner and even some vets do not have up to date scanners so having a tag will be helpful. Most pet stores have inexpensive tags and machines that engrave the information on the tag.
Take Photos— Take photos of your dog. Make sure that you have a good quality full-body shot, head shot and a photo of any distinguishing features. Hopefully you will never need to use them on a lost dog flyer/advertising but you will have them. Be sure to update them as the dog ages — pictures of a puppy will not be helpful when as a senior dog he wanders away.
GPS Collars — If you are a hunter, a hiker or have an escape artist consider the investment in a good GPS collar. The collars have differing abilities so you will need to research what type of collar fits your needs best. Some electronic training collars typically used to train hunting dogs also have a GPS tracker.
Costs vary widely too — from around $50 — to over $1000. Most require a monthly subscription for satellite access to activate the GPS tracking system. Subscriptions to satellite services also vary widely in price and only certain ones work with certain collars. Some collars offer internet or text emergency messaging when your dog leaves it’s safe zone.
Teach Your Dog How to Get Home— From the moment you bring your puppy or older dog home take walks in the neighborhood. Being familiar with the area will help your dog find his way home if he escapes the yard.
Introduce the Dog to Your Neighbors— If you are blessed to have great dog-loving neighbors be thankful, but even those folks nearby who are not dog enthusiasts can be ever so helpful if your dog goes missing and he ends up in their yard. Make certain that occasionally you and your dog visit with the neighbors.
Crate Train Your Dog — Crates are immensely helpful in so many situations. Make the use of a crate a pleasant experience by teaching crate time with food, treats and toys. Crates can be a dog’s safe haven because they mimic dens. A dog who loves his crate will be more accepting of a live-trap if he is ever lost and frightened and a trap is necessary.
Obedience Train Your Dog — Obedience is a language. It is the communication between you and your dog. Obedience training builds confidence in a shy dog. Take an obedience class. Concentrate on Recalls. You’ll be ever so thankful to have a dog who comes when you call him no matter what the distractions are.
*NGWPR DOES NOT RECOMMEND, SUPPORT OR ENCOURAGE THE USE OF ANY ITEM, PERSON OR ORGANIZATION MENTIONED IN THE ABOVE ARTICLE. Information is listed so our readers are aware of the various things and services that people may offer to help when a dog is missing.
National GWP Rescue is a nationwide rescue program whose volunteers work tirelessly to provide funding, foster homes, medical care and training for GWPs found in shelters, animal control facilities and to those GWPs whose current owners are unable to provide a suitable situation.
Working hand- in-hand with governmental and local shelters, NGWPR provides a safe and responsible home for GWP’s in need. Placed with an experienced GWPCA member, fostered GWPs that have been neglected, untrained or have medical issues quickly blossom as they are readied for their “forever” homes.
Prior to releasing our rescued GWPs for adoption, volunteers provide obedience, manners, and house training. We hold to the philosophy that a mannerly dog has a better chance of fitting into a new household.
NGWPR believes that Wires were designed to hunt and unlike some other rescue programs, we are happy to place dogs with field experience or bird instinct with potential owners who enjoy hunting behind a Wire. However, NGWPR insists that any rescue dog first be a house dog and companion, then a weekend hunting partner.
Please go to our website to learn more.
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