A central Alberta dog tracker says frying up some bacon on the campfire will do more to find lost dogs than yelling their name in the wilderness.
That’s just one of the tips Kim Taylor has for dog owners who lose their pets while camping or spending other time outdoors.
The owner and operator at Remote K-9 Search and Rescue said fewer dogs were getting lost in recent months, while people stuck close to home because of COVID-19. That’s likely going to change.
“Because everyone was so home bound, they really want to hit the bush. I think there’s going to be a lot more camping, a lot more lake visits, and I believe there will definitely be an increase in lost dogs,” said Taylor, who lives in the Sundre area.
One of the first things Taylor will do during a search is cook some bacon in the area where the dog has gone missing, or bolted because of a loud noise.
“To get them to come back, I bate the air. I scent the air and I bring them in by their nose, because that’s the one sense they don’t lose. When they’re running blind, they’re not hearing properly, they’re not seeing properly, they’re not reacting properly, but their nose always stays engaged.”
She said calling them, whistling, or chasing them, will only scare dogs even more.
“They’re in that heightened sense of fear. It’s driven to hide and decompress. It has to work through all these emotions.”
She said owners should also try to remain calm, so the dog doesn’t sense panic.
“Your body language is going to show the dog, if it comes back, that you’re upset. It’s not going to know you’re upset because it’s missing.
“It’s going to think that something there is bothering you, so why would it come into camp? Slow cook something over the campfire. A dog is going to respond faster to food than it will to mommy.”
She said small dogs can roam as far away as three kilometres, medium-sized dogs may go five to eight kilometres, and a large breed can cover 10 to 25 kilometres.
If there are train tracks near the campground, such as in Sylvan Lake, lost dogs will use them, because they can see all around, travel easily without hurting their feet, and they can move fast.
“They get up on these tracks and they can go two to three towns before they’re seen again.”
She said the danger is that they will run beside a train and get sucked under it from the draft the train creates.
A simple solution to keep dogs safe while camping is to attach their leash to a rope strung up high between two trees at the site, so they still have some freedom to run around, Taylor said.
“If there’s gunfire, backfire, or a moose runs through, this dog is safe. It can chase, but it can only chase to the end of its line. We do it with horses when we’re in the countryside. We should be doing it with dogs as well. Don’t let them roam free.”
For more tips visit Kim Taylor on Facebook.