Reprinted with permission from the author, Darla Duffey. Darla has A LOT of experience looking for and finding lost Shelties.
1. The most important thing you can do is to “get the word out” on foot to every household in the area. Not everyone gets a newspaper, nor do they read the LOST ads. If there are signs out, attention is drawn to the fact that there is a lost Sheltie. On any posters/notices/ads place the information that the dog is micro-chipped or tattooed (hopefully they are). I had one returned almost immediately after I added that. The dog we believe had been “removed” from its yard unwillingly and when it was know that the dog could be positively identified even at a later date, it was returned.
2. Make large posters 14X21 in very bold print, that could be seen by a passing vehicle, with a telephone number of someone immediately available to check out a sighting. Make it brief, no long explanations on why the dog got loose, etc. No small size signs. You want someone driving by to be able to see the phone number easily, so that if they spot the dog they could call from a cell phone. Put “PLEASE DO NOT CHASE!” on your signs, as a chased Sheltie will run like the wind! Try writing big red letters on poster “BELOVED Child’s PET.” Maybe you’ll tug at someone’s heartstrings if they think the dog belongs to a child. We all have this feeling of sadness and helplessness. People almost always will try to help a lost “Sheltie”…say “Sheltie” on your advertising mode, but also in smaller print say “miniature collie“…because some people are NOT smart enough to know what a Sheltie is. We care not about semantics at this point in time, call it a miniature collie!
Use two 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper, one on the top and one on the bottom with a picture of the dog in the middle. Cover the whole poster with clear “Contact” shelf paper. This makes the poster waterproof and it’ll last for weeks.
Another option instead of handing out flyers is to do your own business cards. Make up cards with the dog’s picture, the date lost, where lost, phone numbers and hand those out to children, people out walking their dogs, running, riding bikes etc. Sometimes they throw away flyers, where they’ll keep a business card. Always put a phone number on the card where someone is there all the time.
3. Talk to local delivery people: mail men, oil companies, electric companies and ask them to keep an eye out for the dog, give them one of those business cards with the dogs picture on it. Seek out every child in the neighborhood (kids always know where the dogs are on the street) and give them a flyer or business card with your number. Post one at the school and play grounds. If someone in this category helps you find the dog, it is nice to give a reward, no matter how small.
If this dog was a timid dog to begin with, they will be hiding, petrified. When hunger finally overtakes fear, they will venture out of their hiding place. That is when the mass notification of the whole area will pay off. Hopefully, somebody will see the dog and call a phone number from a sign or one of those business cards. At that point somebody needs to GO, right then because the dog is going have fear overtake hunger and go back to hiding somewhere.
Lost Shelties are in “flight” mode. If you think they will come to you when you call them, that has not been my experience. They see a human or a dog and they are gone. They don’t wait to see who it is. Don’t take a dog with you looking. That has not worked for me ever. IF they did see you they would not hang around to see who it was, they would take off running to find a place to hide.
4. Most times a humane trap is a very good idea. If you find the area the dog is in get a humane trap to that location. You will put food and their toys and something with your scent on it, inside the trap. Do NOT try to chase them. Our experience is they will not wait to see who it is. They will just run. The passive way to recover is with the trap. If you have a decent Animal Control they may loan you one if you have a sighting. Some of us have purchased our own traps. Check the trap frequently to release any captured critters that you didn’t want to capture, like cats, raccoons, etc.
5. Keep a list of everyone who calls with a sighting and a phone number so that if you get to that place of the sighting and can’t figure out what they said, you can call them back and maybe they can meet you there and tell you which way the dog was headed, etc. Get a map of the area (Mapquest) and mark the sightings on the map.
6. When someone calls with a sighting, you must go NOW, not hours later. Dogs, especially Shelties, do not meander around the same place usually, they seem to be “going” somewhere. Either back to their hideout or a new hideout.
When they find a hideout, it may take several days for the dog to get comfortable enough to come out. THAT’s why you get the large signs out and flyers or business cards to a lesser extent. I think the big signs get to way more people than you can cover with flyers. When the dog gets hungry and starts to venture out to look for food, people will call. Then you put the food out and setting the trap.
7. If you get sightings, don’t chase the dog; you’ll just chase them out of the area. Try to keep the dog comfortably in the area they are spotted in. Find a place to feed them, so that they feel they can comfortably come back to that spot for food. Then try to beg or borrow a humane trap. Because this dog is a Sheltie, they are not going to go to a stranger to start with, and with thier mind set now EVERYBODY is a stranger. The only way you are going to get the dog is if they happened to run into somebody’s yard and get cornered or they go into a trap.
8. Be diligent in your search. Don’t think the dog will come home on their own. Sometimes they do, but you cannot take a chance. Make sure everyone knows this dog is being searched for and continually be seen “searching” so if anyone does have the dog, they know you are not going to give up and go away!
If you are thinking someone “has” the dog, because there have been no sightings? As you are driving around looking, tape one of those large posters to the back of your vehicle, so everywhere you go, “people” know “somebody” is still looking for this dog, as is not going “to just go away!”
Also, if you suspect the dog may have been stolen, state that the dog is micro-chipped. If its a bitch, state that she is spayed. Some put “NEEDS MEDICATION” in large print on their flyers and posters. And if at all possible, offer as large a reward as you can afford. Then if somebody happens to see a dog they “will” pay attention.
9. Words of advice from a dog officer: make sure you keep calling.
10. You MUST physically check the Animal Control facilities (aka: dog pounds) and Humane Society yourself. Do not leave the decision as to whether a dog in the ‘jail’ is a Border Collie, Aussie, or a Sheltie up to an inexperienced, minimum wage shelter worker. Get vets to check. Yes, you’ll drive them crazy, but better safe than sorry!
Most importantly, lost dogs do not usually range. They usually stick to one particular area, might be 3 miles in diameter. Now, the dog might have traveled a couple miles before they got to that area or they might be around the corner, but odds are if the dog is loose (and not stolen) that they are either with someone or they have staked out an area.
11. Make sure to look for the dog at their regular meal times. This seems to bring frightened/lost dogs out of hiding, being the creatures of habit that they are.
12. For every day that passes that you don’t have any calls with sightings, put new signs out approximately one additional 1 mile in each direction and call all ACOs, shelters and vets in those areas. Mail flyers to all local vets (within 30 minutes driving distance).
13. Create “drop zones” where you can leave food and an article of your clothing so that if the dog runs across it, they will stay with your scent. We successfully found one of my own dogs that I had recently placed when she escaped her new owners and couldn’t be caught. We had reports of her in an area, left a shirt there, and there she stayed until caught (she was terrified and wouldn’t go near her new owners). If possible, and the dog is used to it, leave her crate outside, too.
Since I spend a good part of my day looking for lost dogs, I can tell you, they are really easy to miss. They can be five feet away and you’ll miss them, but they are creatures of habit, and even when lost, they stick to a routine.
14. When you are on foot searching you need to think like a dog. What do they like? Which direction would they be most likely to head? Is there another house/yard in the neighborhood similar to yours? The dog might be there. If the dog has crossed a street, they might have a visual barrier preventing them (in their mind) from returning. Follow the lay of the land. Which way would you be most likely to go if you were the dog? Take the path of least resistance. If you come to an area where there is a drainage ditch, or railroad tracks, or high power lines, that is like a highway! Walk it and “quietly” look for the dog. Do not take a chance on scaring the dog out of the area.
DO NOT GIVE UP! It is perseverance that gets the dog!