GPS Recorded training exercises
There are many possible scenarios on how a pet can go missing or get lost. We do exercises regularly to assure dog and handler are in constant communication. The pink line is the scent trail that was done days prior to exercise. This exercise was done in a heavily wooded area near the beach and some homes. Dogs are often taken into these trails. These trails also serve as a home for deer, fox, raccoons, feral cats and much more. When the scent was being trailed, large amounts of a very strong decoy scent was dropped around and off the trail in an attempt to distract Enzo. The days between laying the scent trail and the actual track were very stormy, heavy rains and strong winds.
So you decide one morning to take your dog to the Bluffs for a nice long walk in the trails. Upon arrival you open your car door and your dog takes off chasing something. You run after your dog calling their name but lose site. You spend the entire day walking for miles calling and searching for your dog with no success. You return to the Bluffs every day and there is no sign of your dog. Enzo tracks your lost dog. We give Enzo a scent article from your dog, a toothbrush, toy, bed, etc. Enzo is told to smell the scent article and then to search for the scent. He cuts out all of the unnecessary running through the woods and goes straight to the end of the scent trail. Enzo stopped tracking in exactly the same spot the scent trail ended. Your dog was picked up by what we can only hope is a kindhearted person with good intentions. Additional steps to follow in this circumstance would consist of hanging flyers in the area where the scent was lost in hopes that the person who picked up your dog travels this road regularly and calls you when they see the flyer. This scenario has happened in the past and happens often. A tracking dog will allow you to confirm the direction your pet traveled and an action plan will be formed in an effort to determine the next steps to get your pet back home.
The exercise below was done is a residential area simulating a daily walk and your dog gets away from you. Some turns in the scent trail, in pink, and again you can see during the actual track, in blue, that Enzo did, he eliminates all of the unnecessary running around and goes straight for the lost pet which was in a strangers backyard in this case.
Real gps Recorded tracks
The exercises above make this process seem easy. It's not. Below are a few tracks that we have done where the lost pet is not simply waiting for us to come find them, which is the normal outcome. Lost pets are either in motion or in hiding. There is almost always a little, or a lot of leg work that must follow the track. The instructions recommended after a track is complete should be followed immediately. Some lost pets can take hours to get comfortable and trusting enough to come out of hiding, some can take days, some can take weeks and unfortunately some do take months. The sooner the owner of a lost pet starts taking action, the better chance they have of getting their lost pet back home safe, where they belong. Other factors, like the lost pets personality, level or fear or something as simple as having the ability to get back inside their home also have influence on the length of time a pet remains lost.
Sometimes everyone in your neighborhood is helpful. Sometimes they are not. This track shows two areas where Enzo was extremely eager. The blue line connects the two areas. One property was abandoned due to fire and the other was heavily overgrown. In between these two properties, where the back yards somewhat meet up, was a very unwelcoming home owner who refused to let us check his property. Because we were restricted, we could not search the complete area where Enzo was picking up strong scent. We used the furthest point and dropped a scent trail from the back yard of the abandoned home all the way back to the pet owners back yard. The dog followed this scent trail home late that evening. Because the pet owner left the back gate open with some scent articles, the dog walked right back into his back yard.
This was a search for a little Yorkie that thankfully survived a very dangerous situation. The complete outlined track in red confirmed all of the sightings that neighbors called in. The area circled in blue was our "hot spot" where Enzo was extremely excited and was on fresh scent. The area we were in was swamp/marsh land. Right in the middle of the marsh, was a hawks nest. We were all very uneasy about the safety of this little girl. She was able to remain under the radar and avoided any danger with the hawks above and safely made her way out. It took her another two days to come out of hiding. The property she walked into, which is marked by the blue line, is where the pet owner had set up a couple scent articles and some food, with approval from the home owner of course.
This track brought us face to face with the lost cat. He was a bit too scared for us to approach. We were able to very quickly confirm that this indoor only cat was not hurt or far from home. Remaining close to home is very common for an indoor only cat. A trap was set but he wouldn't go near it. We needed to return for a recheck because this handsome guy was refusing to come out of hiding and we needed to make sure he did not travel further. He was still in the same area but just needed a bit more time and convincing to get comfortable enough to trust the unfamiliar surroundings he was in and follow his owners lead home. After our second visit, it took another day or two and the cat was home safe.