How to Find a Lost Dog in the Woods

Many pet owners enjoy taking their pet dogs out with them on an adventure, whether it’s the beach, the park, or hiking up the mountains. Some canine breeds just love to explore and chase after small creatures, that it sometimes can’t be avoided for them to get lost in the woods. If you ever find yourself missing a dog in a dense forest or the woods, “distressing” couldn’t even begin to describe just thinking about your pet being out there with no food or shelter. So, how to find a lost dog in the woods?

Before we go any further, you also have to be aware about how a dog copes when it gets lost, particularly in places like the woods where various threats abound.
Canines who are suddenly separated from their owners would sooner or later switch to what is referred to as “survival mode.” This is a flight mechanism wherein your dog would revert to its primal instincts, seemingly forget about domestic life, and focus on nothing else but food, safety, and shelter. Some dogs would switch to survival mode instantly, while others might take weeks.

What does this mean? There’s a possibility that upon getting lost, your dog won’t instantly head towards your voice when he hears you call. If he’s in survival mode, your dog would also be wary of people and run immediately if spotted. Survival mode, however, isn’t a permanent state. When you find him, it might take time but your dog will eventually recognize you.

So, how to find a lost dog in the woods, especially if he might be on survival mode?

Get a piece of clothing with your scent.

In the area where your dog was last seen, leave an item of clothing with your scent on it. The longer it’s been worn, the stronger the scent would be and the better chance of your dog finding his way to it. You can also leave his crate in the same location and leave some water as well. Check back every day and you just might be lucky enough to find your missing pet waiting for you.

Try luring him with his favorite food.

treats for dogs

It’s not the best idea to leave food overnight in the same location where your dog was last seen as it can attract stray animals or predators. But on days when you can spare a few hours, try going to the spot, sit, and wait with your pet’s favorite food to see if you can lure him. Hopefully, he will detect the scent and follow it back to you. Avoid calling out his name as he might be frightened if he’s in survival mode.

Set up traps.

Safe and harm-free traps would be helpful in capturing a lost dog in the woods. See if you can borrow a trap from a nearby shelter or animal rescue center and set it up on the location where your pet was last seen. Check the traps frequently to see if you caught another animal or if it’s your missing dog! If unsuccessful after a week or two, try setting up in another location.

Use bloodhounds.


Finding a lost dog in the woods could be a job for a professional. You may consider hiring a pet detective to track your dog’s whereabouts if the situation seems desperate. These pet detectives typically use trained bloodhounds to follow the scent of and locate a missing dog. See if there are pet detectives in your area.

Get his favorite things ready.

In the event that you receive a report of a sighting, take your dog’s favorite toys and other familiar items like his blanket or his crate and leave them in a safe, secure corner within that area. Leave a bowl of water too in case your dog is thirsty. Check back every few hours or the next day to see if he comes.

Stay calm when you see your dog.

When you see your dog, but he doesn’t immediately run to meet you, you must remember to stay calm. Don’t try to move towards him, but rather, wait for him to come to you. This could take time, so you need to be patient. Don’t make sudden movements. Sit on the ground with food or his favorite toys and wait for him to register and process the scents of home. And when he finally recognizes you, it would definitely be the most wonderful reunion.


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