The Secret to Finding a Lost Dog

The Secret to Finding a Lost Dog


Few feelings of dread are as harrowing as the moment you realize your dog is missing.

Late Sunday afternoon, our long-time employee, Dawn Tate, experienced just such a moment. After hanging out with her two dogs, Chevy and Koko, in an open field near her home, Dawn realized that her Florida cur, Chevy, had not returned from her recent romp. Minutes later, as Dawn’s searches became more and more frantic, she realized that Chevy had vanished.

After a several minutes of fruitless searching, Dawn launched a full-out rescue attempt. Not only did she contact her local Animal Control Department, but also the police. Both agencies expressed concern for Chevy’s welfare and were only too happy to receive her emails with photos of Chevy, so they could keep an eye out. In addition to contacting the authorities, Dawn turned to social media for help. She posted images of Chevy and shared her last-known location with her friend network. Unfortunately, there were no sighting reports of Chevy.


Dawn was determined to bring her baby home, searching the surrounding areas as late as 2 a.m. and then was up before the crack of dawn to resume search efforts.

Thanks to a helpful friend, Dawn decided to try a recovery strategy that someone shared online. It’s a method that’s popular among outdoorsmen for lost hunting dogs. The trick is this … return to the location where you first became aware you were separated from your canine. At the scene, place at least one article of recently worn clothing (not anything freshly clean from the wash). The more scent it holds, the better. If at all possible, also bring along a crate or carrier and two or three of your dog’s favorite toys. It is recommended that you also provide a bowl of water (not food, as it may attract wildlife that might scare off your dog). You might also consider leaving a note for any people who happen by, requesting that the items remain undisturbed and why.

The basic concept here is that your dog wants to return to you, he just can’t find you. Thanks to their incredible sense of smell, they will be able to find their way back to these familiar items. Time and time again, this method has proven highly successful in reuniting lost dogs with their caretakers.

Why is it so effective? Dogs have an amazingly keen sense of smell. Their noses possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors, which is 50 times more than humans. To convert all of the sensory data picked up by these detectors, there’s a great deal of processing power. The canine brain allocates 40 times more brain power proportionately, compared to people.

It’s hard to quantify exactly how much better a dog is at detecting scents compared to ours. Some experts say it’s a 1,000 times better, while others say it’s one million times better. And humans actually have well-developed sniffers. All of us have had the experience of returning home and opening the front door to smell that someone’s been cooking. You were probably even pretty sure what dish was being made. If we can smell this, a dog could detect the same in a house the size of an average-sized city!

Dogs are able to pick up on a whole host of information from smells. When it comes to knowing their pet parent, they can read unique chemical markers (such as hormones) that we’re not even aware we’re emitting. With one breath, they can easily determine if we’re fearful, anxious or sad. That’s astonishing! Just remember, the next time you’re walking your dog and she lingers to smell the grass, she’s reading all sorts of information from the last dog that passed by. In this scenario, veterinary experts would say that your dog’s interior thoughts probably sound like, “Let’s see, you’re also a girl, you’re about 4 years old, you had a chicken-based meal this morning, you were super excited on your walk, etc.”


It was a frightening 24 hours, both for Dawn and for Chevy. But thanks to the innovative strategy we just explained to lure her back to the exact spot where they were separated, Dawn, Koko and Chevy are now safely back under the same roof. Yay!


Have you ever become separated from your companion animal? What strategy did you use to search, and were you successful? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Share your stories in the comments section below!

Comments (5) -

  • Sasha

    11/17/2017 5:25:01 PM |

    We are so happy Chevy is safe and sound!

  • Anthony

    11/21/2017 9:13:44 PM |

    I know I missed the point of the story, but 20,642 unread emails????

  • Lisa

    11/21/2017 9:50:17 PM |

    What a cool idea! Thanks for sharing. Glad Chevy is home safely.

  • Kristin Hamilton

    11/22/2017 10:50:27 AM |

    My 6 month old Cocker Spaniel snuck out when the gardener came. Afterwards a freak thunder storm occurred which caused her to not be able to find her way home. We searched day and night and called out to her. Animal Control said she was not far but too scared to come out. A month later the AC Officer happened to see her with her hot pink collar down in the wash under a tree. She drove down and just scooped her up in her arms and took her to the local Vet. They shaved her as she was covered in foxtails. Apparently had gotten enough water from rain and ate bugs and oranges off the nearby grove. She came home happy and lived to be 15 years old and never ran off again. It was a horrible month and my 5 yr old was so sad until she returned. Strangers helped look for her and I received so many letters of support. So glad it turned happy and now we get our dogs chipped as well.

  • Diane

    11/22/2017 11:09:55 AM |

    Our cat came up AWOL after my daughter left her unattended and forgotten on her tether overnight. After a frantic search I contacted the humane society. They told us an indoor cat generally stays within a 1 block or less radius. We left lost  cat flyers on every door in our apartment complex. As we were moving in a couple days it was crucial we find her asap.  I would go out and call her without success. The night before our move I called her consistently, determined she would be found. A resident in the next building could hear what sounded like a baby crying. It was my cat hiding in the wooded area responding to my calling her name. Thanks to our flyers the resident called us and within minutes we had our dear sweet companion home.

Add comment