Feeding stations are an important tool in the toolbox of shy lost dog recovery. It is a fancy name for a blob of smelly food on the ground, a bowl of water, and a way to monitor the two. You should also leave an article of your clothing at the feeding station. Remember, lost dogs are drawn by smell – not by sight or sound. This is why it doesn’t do any good to call or whistle to them, and may in fact drive them farther out of the area.
Shy lost dogs that have gone into survival mode are only concerned with three things:
- finding food and water
- finding hiding places or shelter in inclement weather
- avoiding predators: humans. Yes, this means you, the owner. Don’t take it personally!
This is instinctive for dogs and it gives them the ability to live out indefinitely on their own. Never, ever underestimate your dog’s ability to survive.
The key to a successful recovery is to provide the dog with these three needs. Once these needs have been met, he will start to settle into a predictable routine. He will start to return to a more domesticated state of mind. This can take a few hours or a few months. A feeding station is an integral part of this process.
Most owners make the mistake of not putting food out at a sighting location or if they do, they abandon it after a day or two. Big mistake! If a dog has been in an area once, it is very likely that he may return to that area, and your feeding station will help draw him there.
For a little humorous break in an otherwise serious topic, here are the top ten reasons people have given us why they won’t leave food out for their shy lost dog:
- Raccoons will eat it
- Cats will eat it
- Other dogs will eat it
- Skunks, possums, rats, aliens will eat it
- Will attract coyotes and foxes
- The lost dog will get loose stools or an upset stomach because it’s not his regular dog food
- The lost dog will get some rare deficiency disorder from eating cat food
- Food will get wet if it rains
- Don’t have a dog food bowl handy
- Too expensive to put out food for their dog
To which we say “So What? Your dog will be eating roadkill soon.”
So, put your excuses aside and put the food out. The only place that you can’t legally put out food is a public park because that would be considered feeding wildlife. Almost everywhere else, if you politely ask permission and explain what you are trying to do, property owners are generally very eager to help. If you can’t get permission, set up your feeding station at the nearest point to the sighting where you can get permission, and use really smelly food.
We like to use small containers of canned Vienna sausages or cat food because they are cheap (about 50 cents per can) and can easily be stored in the car, but you can be creative. If something isn’t working for you, try something else. Rotisserie chicken pulled off the bone, canned tripe, grilled brats, bacon. Think about what would be smelly and delicious to a dog. If you have rushed out to a sighting and forgotten the food, stop at the nearest convenience store and pick up a hot dog that is cooking in one of those mini rotisseries. You don’t even need the bun. Try explaining that to the clerk!
If you are using a bowl, it is always a good idea to drizzle some of the drippings onto the ground as well. That way, if a cat or raccoon does eat all of the food or drags the bowl away, the dog will still be attracted by the smell on the ground. Don’t use dry dog food or raw meat. It doesn’t have enough odor. You want your offering to be more delicious and tempting than the restaurant dumpster or roadkill down the street.
Next time: low and high tech ways to monitor the feeding station. Click here to go to Part 7.
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 the owner’s discretion