Follow the same routes used previously when walking the dog. Try going for a walk with another dog (leashed) from the home, a dog "friend" or same-breed dog. Be "happy", calm and get the dog you are walking with to bark occasionally. If nearby, a dog might want to return the bark and join the "fun." Dogs use farm fields, golf courses, gravel pits, cemeteries, power line access roads and parks as shortcuts to get to another street or the next town. Dogs are attracted to dumpsters with food, most farms, kennels and multiple-animal homes. Quiet yards, especially on dead end streets are favorites. They rest on lawns, in fields, cemeteries, open barns & sheds, under shrubs & porch decks. They try to sleep as close to a house as possible, especially at night. It affords them protection from harsh weather and predators. Dogs don't usually go into deep woods unless chased. There's no food or familiar scents there. Keep in mind when talking to homeowners that their dogs (and cats) may be agitated all night and dogs may bark excessively when they know a strange dog has settled into their yard or neighbor's yard for the night. Coyotes are a threat but not an excessive one. Many dogs smell them, sense trouble and go in the opposite direction. The general public and many lost dog owners are quick to assume that a dog has been a victim of coyotes when there's no proof. Worry more about fast cars and keep on searching.
During the winter you can follow tracks through the snow. Walk beside the tracks, not on them. Bring extra socks, boots and clothes if you plan to be out for any length of time. Situations vary, but dogs can survive snowstorms and harsh weather. One real danger is the spring thaw that occurs on ponds and small vernal pools. Dogs are extremely adaptable. They revert to "survivor mode." The main requirement for dogs is to have a supply of water and food. Water can be relatively easy to find, while food is a challenge. Depending on the dog's breeding, it can hunt for rodents, birds and snakes. They knock over rubbish cans and rip open bags. They find food left out in bowls for cats and dogs. Dogs will also eat birdseed, manure, grass, insects and carrion. Dogs lose weight during their ordeal but can survive for a long time.
Lost dogs are scared, confused and generally respond better to rescue attempts made by women. They might also prefer children they know & love rather than the adult owners. Children must be old enough to understand the situation & remain calm. Well-meaning people, including owners, initially chase many of these dogs. Chasing reinforces the dog's perception that people are "predators" and may make them run even further.
Searchers must have a leash and "bait" such as: hotdogs, string cheese, meatballs & "stinky" cheese like Provolone/Swiss, salmon-flavor kitty treats, luncheon meats, "Little Caesar" dog food & "Sheeba" cat food –both small tub w/foil peel-back tops. Bring a squeaky toy, ball or Frisbee if dog likes them.
Reprinted with permission of Debbie Hall