We often get asked about tracking dog services for missing dogs. Some of these services are good, some are not so good and some are out and out scams. They will cost many hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars depending on where they are located and the distance they have to travel. Most will also charge an initial phone consultation fee. Some services will require that you purchase extra products like flyers and signs. Before you hire a tracking dog service to help find your missing dog, please do your homework. Here are some key points to consider:
- Tracking dogs will not capture your dog. They may or may not be able to indicate whether your dog was in an area and the direction of travel. But you will still have to do the work of flyering the area, monitoring sightings, establishing a feeding routine and trapping your dog. Tracking dogs are not a magic pill. If a service guarantees success, they are a scam.
- A tracking dog is kept on a long line and can only travel as fast as the handler travels. (consider the fitness level of the human on the other end of the leash). Rough terrain and extreme temperatures will be factors. Most lost dogs will be able to easily outpace a tracking dog and handler. Ask the tracking service if you can accompany them on the search with the handler and the dog. Be suspicious if they say no.
- Tracking dogs may be a poor choice for scared, lost dogs that are in survival mode. These dogs need to settle into an area and establish a feeding routine. Tracking dogs may pressure them out of the area that they may have settled in. You will then have to start all over in a new area with flyering and signs to generate sightings.
- Be very skeptical of services that tell you they will have to keep coming back to “confirm” a scent. Each of these visits may cost you more money and you risk your dog being pressured again out of an area that he may have settled in. You will then have to start over using flyers and signs to generate new sightings.
- There is no accredited school for training scent dogs for finding lost dogs. Trackers often claim success when it was actually flyers or another method of generating sightings that brought the dog home. Check references and successes thoroughly. Personally check with at least five or six references via telephone. Do not rely on online “reviews” or recommendations.
- Reputable tracking dog services will have a contract for you to review and sign and will take credit cards. Make sure you have a clear idea up front of what the total cost will be. Never send cash or wire transfer money.
- Tracking dogs have much greater success at finding lost cats (who hide when scared) than lost dogs (who run when being pressured). Ask the tracking dog service what their success rate is. If they guarantee they will find your dog, or quote an overly optimistic success rate, they are probably a scam.
- Tracking success depends on many things: the weather, the length of time the dog was in the area, the terrain and environment. The service should give you an honest assessment of what you are dealing with. The longer your dog has been missing the less likely the tracking dog will be able to pick up a scent
- Search and rescue dogs are certified for human recovery only and will not normally be used for tracking missing pets. If someone tells you they will bring their search and rescue dog to look for your missing dog, be extremely skeptical. Ask to see their training records and their certification.
- Some tracking dog services, lost pet services and pet detectives prey on the distraught owner by making unsolicited contact with them from their missing dog flyers. Be VERY careful. Many of these are scams, or at the very least – very expensive services that do what you can do yourself for a fraction of the cost.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stay calm, do your research and spend your money wisely. Generating sightings is the key to a successful recovery. Consider how many flyers, signs, newspaper ads or even billboards could be purchased with the money you would spend on a tracking dog service. Your lost dog is depending on you to bring him safely home.
Our tips, ideas and articles are based on information gathered from thousands of successful lost dog recoveries. Any advice or suggestions made by Lost Dogs of Wisconsin/Lost Dogs Illinois is not paid-for professional advice and should be taken at owner’s discretion.