Why searching for a missing dog is the worst thing you can do, according to experts | TeamDogs
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Why searching for a missing dog is the worst thing you can do, according to experts

Michelle Newns-Peers, the founder of Greater Manchester Lost Dog Search & Rescue Capture Team, says it could do more harm than good

Danielle Elton

Posted 2 months ago

The thought of our dogs going missing is the absolute worst - we just couldn’t imagine being without them.

Although we hope it’s something we never have to experience, we know we’d waste no time in getting out on the streets to search for them if the worst did happen.

But according to the experts, searching for a missing dog could do more harm than good.

Michelle Newns-Peers, the founder of Greater Manchester Lost Dog Search & Rescue Capture Team, warns owners against actively searching.

She has caught hundreds of dogs over the years, all in her spare time when she’s not working as a primary school teacher.

She told TeamDogs: “Many dog owners think that if they lose their dog then they need as many people as possible to help find their dog. This is actually the worst thing to do.

“Once a dog is lost, they become frightened and their instincts take over. This is called survival mode. All humans, and often the owner themselves, become predators to your dog so if someone approaches him/her then your dog will enter ‘flight mode’ and run away. 

“When dogs are in survival mode, they keep themselves safe. It is human interaction that will cause the dog to forget about staying safe and the dog will run, sadly often onto a road, motorway or railway.”

How can I find my missing dog?

Although she warns against searching, and especially about getting others involved in the search, she did have some advice that could help owners reunite with missing dogs.

She said: “The best thing that you can do to get your dog safely back is to raise public awareness in order to get natural sightings phoned in. When we say ‘natural’ that means when people see your dog as they are going about their daily business and not people who are actively searching. 

“Remember, active searching is dangerous for your dog. Only search if there have not been any sightings for at least a couple of days after your dog went missing.”

READ MORE: Meet the man who has helped find 2,000 missing dogs using drones

To raise awareness, Michelle recommends joining and posting on lost and found groups on social media. But again, warns owners not to use it to encourage people to search.

She added: “Don't post any sightings of your dog on your post on social media. Well-meaning people will go to that area to try to catch your dog and this is dangerous as your dog will run away and could leave the area or run into traffic. 

“Instead, ask the public to contact you (put your phone number on the post) if they see your dog with details of the sighting. Keep sightings to yourself.”

As well as social media, she also recommended using posters.

What to do if you spot your dog

It might be tempting to shout for your dog if and when you do see them, and you’d expect them to come running into your arms, but Michelle advised: “If you see your dog, don't shout their name. Instead, use a playful soft tone of voice.”

She explained that this is because shouting for a dog could make them think that they are in trouble and cause them to run off.

READ MORE: The primary school teacher who has helped locate hundreds of missing dogs

She added: “Also, if you see your dog, don’t directly approach him but sit down close to the ground with appetising food to lure him with. Once your dog recognises you he should come straight to you.”

Michelle’s advice also included staying where your dog last saw you if they become lost while out walking.

She also reassured owners that many dogs simply make their way home if they escape from the house or are lost nearby. She recommends keeping the door open.

“If your dog returns to your house to find that they can’t get in they are likely to go away again,” said Michelle.

“Put some unwashed, recently worn clothing of who the dog is most bonded to outside in your garden. This will help them to get home by picking up the scent.”

If those measures don’t work, the primary school teacher also recommended contacting a local dog trapping team such as the one run by herself.

She said: “Your dog may not need trapping but we can still help by providing advice and equipment such as live cameras and carefully searching the area with a thermal scope.”

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