Frequently asked questions
Q: How does this work?
A: Handler and search dog would meet you at the location where your pet was last seen. The owner of the lost pet would need to contain a scent article specific to the lost pet. Do your best to chose an article that your lost pet used often like their favorite toy, a toothbrush or a blanket for example. This scent article should be placed in an unscented sealed plastic bag to avoid contamination. Using this scent article, a search dog would be directed to pick up scent and then to search. Pending the end result of the track, an action plan will be formulated to follow.
Q: How does a dog get trained to look for lost pets?
A: A properly trained tracking and trailing dog will begin training at approximately 9 months old. It is recommended training begins prior to a dog reaching 1 year of age. A dog should be in training for approximately a year and a half. ***MOST IMPORTANTLY*** any and all scent trained dogs and their handlers should regularly perform training exercises together to assure the lines of communication between dog and handler are consistent.
Q: How much does it cost to have a scent trained dog search for my lost pet?
A: Because there are so few professionally trained tracking and trailing dogs in the country, most K9 handlers prefer consulting with a potential client to determine what extent of travel is required prior to discussing a price.
Q: How long does it take to search for a lost pet?
A: Every track is different. Some animals travel a far distance and some are just a few houses away from home. The personality of your lost pet, the cause for disappearance (chased another animal, got scared of a loud sound, etc.) and the duration of time your pet has been lost has the most impact on an accurate answer to this question.
Q: What if the lost pet comes from a multiple pet household?
A: This is not a problem. A well trained dog will be able to familiarize himself with all animal scent within the home and he will be able to determine which scent (animal/pet) is missing. The only request/requirement is that all other pets are home at the time of the scheduled track and if possible a scent article specific to the missing pet be stored in an unscented and sealed plastic bag.
Q: Does rain or snow wash away scent preventing a dog from being able to search for a lost pet?
A: No. Rain (pending terrain), snow or humidity are all good for a search dog. Moisture will pack scent down or keep it from fading. (Think of a hot summer day when it first begins to rain.) Elements that work against tracking would be time, wind or excessive heat.
Q: How soon after a pet goes missing should a tracking dog be hired?
A: It is suggested that a track be your first step taken when a pet goes missing. ALL steps are important. But it is suggested to pin point a direction of travel so the correct area can get flyers or a trap can be set up in the correct area opposed to setting traps up randomly or putting flyers in an area that you think your pet has possibly traveled.
Q: Why would flyers need to be posted if a tracking dog is being used?
A: Each animal is different. Some lost pets return home with a scent trail immediately after the track. Some lost pets require a few days to return home with a scent trail. Some lost pets are so scared that they go into a survival mode and may very well continue running and completely disregard a scent trail. Therefore flyers are important so people can call with sightings when your lost pet leaves an area a search dog has given direction to.
Q: Do I (the lost pet owner) have to participate in the track?
A: This is not mandatory but it is strongly suggested that someone the lost pet is familiar with participates in the track.
Q: What circumstance can make a track difficult?
A: There are certain things that will create a more challenging track for example, an indoor/outdoor cat. When dogs are outside, they are either leashed and walked on a specific and familiar path or they are in their fenced in yard. An indoor/outdoor cat roams and their scent is everywhere. It takes an abundance of time, along with a couple of re-checks usually, to determine the most recent direction of travel.
Q: Will a search dog take us directly to where a lost pet is?
A: It is not common to come up on a lost pet in plain sight. Most of the time a lost pet is frightened and hiding. I have learned from personal experience, when a lost pet does not want to be seen or heard, they will not be seen or heard. Lost pets also will occasionally run further away if someone they are unfamiliar with (tracking dog and handler for example) enter their safe zone. It is very important for the K9 handler to be able to read their dog and know when they are getting close to the target/lost pet. The handler should pull back and prevent the search dog from getting too close to the lost pet in an effort to keep the lost pet from running further. NOT ALL LOST PET SEARCHES WILL BENEFIT FROM UTILIZING A TRACKING DOG. Skittish pets may very well run further away preventing a safe return home. The pet owner should know the personality of their pet and determine if a tracking dog would be counterproductive.
Q: What is the success rate of your team?
A: This is a question no handler can truly answer. If they answer you, they are making up a number to simply answer your question. If you handle a true working dog, a properly trained tracking and trailing dog, the dogs success rate, in my opinion, should be 100%. There are many other questions that need to be asked and answered prior to even attempting to calculate a percentage of found pets utilizing a scent trained dog. Did the owner follow the action plan discussed/provided after a track was performed? Was the pet found alive? Did the search dog lose scent due to the lost pet being picked up? These are just a small fraction of questions that have an impact on a success rate.