Attracting a Lost Dog

In addition to a basic feeding station, there are other steps that you can take to attempt to attract your lost dog to a specific area.  This would generally be done near the location where your dog went missing or in an area where there have been several sightings.  You may also want to combine these methods with a feeding station, trap or surveillance.

Dogs are scent predators, so anything that you can use to spread a large amount of food smell may attract them to the area.  This method is sometimes referred to as “chumming.”  Even if you don’t see them, they may be watching and hiding nearby and waiting for you to leave so that they can investigate these wonderful scents.

  • Set up a Bar-B-Q grill and cook some really wonderful smelling food.
  • Cook some bacon at home and them collect the grease.  This can be soaked into paper towels, which can be placed up in tree branches.  Microwaving bacon on the paper towels may also work well.  Note that some people have expressed concern that some dogs might actually get some of these paper towels and eat them.
  • Boil hot dogs or chicken in water and save the water.  This can be put into a spay bottle and sprayed around the area.  Tuna water may also work well.
  • Collect grease from your own cooking or perhaps a nearby restaurant.  Create trails of the grease leading form likely hiding places to your feeding station or trap.
  • Smear wet dog or cat food on tree trunks or branches several feet off the ground so the scent will travel farther.

In addition to food smells, you might also consider creating a comfort station with comforting smells from home.  This works best with dogs that are strongly bonded to a person or another pet in the home.  Place some bedding that smells like home (e.g. bedding with his own scent or a person or animal that he is bonded with) either in the trap or in a kennel or dog house.  If the dog does not like confined spaces, it can also be left out on the ground.  This method is supposedly used by hunters when they lose their dogs in the woods.

If a dog is a new rescue or extremely skittish, then you might want to just start with a camera and food and not add anything else that might scare the dog from investigating the food.  If possible, it is best to verify that the dog is in the area before attempting to trap him.

If your dog is not neutered, then you might try to find a dog in heat and walk her in the area that your dog was last seen.  This would probably work best if you also leave something that smells like the female, preferably with some of the blood-stained discharge from her estrus cycle, at the location of the camera.

Lost dog at pre-baited trap in Vermont.
Lost dog at pre-baited trap in Vermont.

This pug mix was lost for seven weeks in rural Vermont before he was located with large florescent posters.  This pre-baited trap was set and bedding from his original foster home was added.  He spent most of the night sleeping in the trap, and when it was set the following evening, he immediately entered the trap and was finally caught.