For information on lost pet behaviors, shelter-based lost pet recovery programs, and community-based lost pet search-and-rescue teams, a 5-day Missing Animal Response course as well as in-house workshops for shelters, visit the Missing Pet Partnership website.
Lost Dog Calming SignalsDogs with skittish temperaments that become lost are difficult to recover, primarily because they run from rescuers and often from their own guardians. By the time a guardian sees their skittish lost dog, it is probable that several would-be-rescuers already tried to capture him, sending the dog into a blind panic.
It is also important to understand that the olfactory portion of a dog's brain closes down during the "fight or flight" process and that a panicked dog likely won't recognize their guardian's scent. Guardians should be prepared that their timid lost dog may run from them.
Guardians should be instructed that if they should see their dog, they should not call or chase or even look at their dog. Instead, they should remain calm and do the following:
Carry a bag that can make noise when squeezed and is filled with soft treats, such as a crinkly potato chip bag filled with moist pieces of hotdog.
Resist all urges to look directly at the dog.
Resist all urges to move toward the dog in any way.
Kneel down and pretend to accidentally drop food on the ground while looking away from the dog or looking at the ground, watching the dog out of the corner of the eye.
Make lip smacking noises along with "nummy, nummy" sounds while crinkling the bag of treats. This non-threatening gesture will typically entice a dog to believe the person doesn't even notice them but instead is eating food.
If kneeling and dropping food on the ground doesn't work, try lying flat on the ground while making whining sounds. This is yet another way to lessen the threat to a panicked dog and encourage it to come to a human.
Remain calm, patient, and allow the dog to come up to you. Only take hold of the collar slowly once the dog shows recognition or is calm.
Encouragement biggest enemy that dog and cat owner/guardians will have is their desire to give up too soon. This behavior is called "grief avoidance" and is natural. In times of grief, people want closure and an end to their emotional pain.
However, people who give up too soon typically don't find their lost pets. The most critical and effective tool that you can give to someone who's lost a dog or cat is encouragement. Refer families to Missing Pet Partnership's website and advise and encourage them to not give up hope.
For more information on lost pet behaviors, shelter-based lost pet recovery programs, and community-based lost pet search-and-rescue teams, a 5-day Missing Animal Response course as well as in-house workshops for shelters, visit the Missing Pet Partnership website.