These are standard questions that I have been asked repeatedly. There will always be the unique situation and question that I have not covered here. Feel free to contact me with any additional questions and possible answers not covered here. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone is 510/415-6185.
What kind of articles can be used to get my pet’s scent?
The best type of articles to get scent from for a track are inside items like beds, blankets, scratching posts, toys, carriers, brushes and cat trees. The fabric helps to hold the scent for a long time. Machine washing will wash the scent away and also co-mingle the scent with all the other items in the wash, so the items should not have been previously washed since the pet has been lost.
To get scent off of an article, use a couple of sheets of paper towels and with the sheets in the tips of your fingers, rub the paper towels back and forth on all creases of the object and on both sides of the paper towels. Do this for at least a couple of minutes for each article, trying to pick up all hairs. After doing this, then put the sheets of paper towels into a zip lock plastic bag and store it in either the freezer and refrigerator. Make sure you mark the outside of the bag stating the object where you got the scent from.
If the item is something large like a bed or blanket, it would be best to make sure that item is safe until your pet returns by putting it in a large plastic bag like a trash bag and putting it into a dark closet or cool garage. Also, this keeps it safe from possible contamination from other animals.
The scent article must be only used by the lost pet. If there is a chance that another animal in the house had access to the article, then it would be best to talk to me to determine if that article would or would not be appropriate to use.
If there is a possibility that animals other than the lost pet have had contact with the articles, I like to use more than one article to make sure my dogs have a good variety of articles to get the proper scent from.
I don’t like to use items that are outside because there is a chance that other animals may have had contact with the item. I prefer items that are kept inside. However, I have had cases where only outside articles were available, and we were still able to find the track. My preference is articles that are inside and safe.
What is your success rate?
I don’t maintain a success rate for many reasons.
First, I don’t keep in touch with all of my clients following the searches, so often times I am not told if a pet is found following the search. I have found out later on that a pet is found, but they did not contact me. The majority of pets are found following the search because now the people know where to look and where to focus their efforts. If I do get told about an animal being found, I do note it in the case blog.
Second, for their own personal reasons, a very large percentage of people stop the search even though we are on the track of their pet. Most commonly the searches are stopped due to financial, time constraints and prior committments on their part.
Third, a person must do the follow up after the search to continue to look for their pet, and I instruct every person that they must do these things to increase the chances of finding their pet. This means going back over the track and passing out flyers and trying to get sightings or leads. If we find that the pet has traveled, I suggest they expand their search further out, and also consider that their pet may make it back home. If they decide to not do these things and not follow my suggestions, this decreases the chances of finding their pets.
The use of a search dog is only a single tool. There are many tools used to find a lost pet, and part of what I do is to show these tools to people to help them in their efforts to find their pet, especially following the search.
I have found many animals who were deceased, and I do consider that a success. However, I know that pet owners don’t consider this a success. Most people consider a live walk up find while on the search as the only type of success. When an animal has been found days, or weeks or months later, which does happen, I do count that as a success.
The primary success I maintain is the ability to find the track and follow it because in many cases that can be very difficult to achieve. If you don’t have a viable scent article, due to multiple animals in the home, or a last known location or a way the animal escaped, finding a track to even follow can be very difficult. I have had cases where just getting a scent article and the way the animal left the property were the most difficult part of the case. Sometimes, the person has absolutely no idea how the animal escaped. In Nova’s case, a Great Pyrenees in Sonoma, this was the greatest challenge and not the following of her over rugged mountains and creeks and wineries in the pouring rain.
I maintain the case blog in great detail for every search so everybody has the ability to review each case on its own merit. Each case is totally unique and can not be compared to another, though many cases have similarities to use as examples.
Finding a live animal while on a search is extremely rare unless the animal is stuck or confined or hiding somehow. Many times finding an animal while on a search involves a current sighting from another person. Then we can jump to that location to find the animal.
Can you guarantee you can find my missing pet?
The guarantee I make is that, with a viable scent article and the last known location of the pet, that we can find and follow the pet’s track until we find the pet or we are told to stop.
For this reason, I put a lot of emphasis on finding the proper scent article and making sure that the scent on the article actually belongs to the pet. Sometimes more than one article is necessary to combine if one or two articles may have scent from another animal.
On the surface, this may sound easy, but actually finding a pet’s track can be difficult if the way of escaping is totally unknown or if the person thinks the pet escaped one way, but actually escaped another way.
Since we don’t know what happens to the pet when they become lost, there isn’t a way for me to guarantee what can happen once we get on the search. However, I can guarantee I will follow the track, and my dogs can follow the track, until we are told to stop. Many people who do this work can not make that guarantee.
How can you tell if your dogs are going for a walk or tracking my pet?
There are several very specific things that are happening that don’t happen any other time.
When they are tracking, it is the only time they wear their specific tracking harnesses and cooling jackets. Also, it is the only time they are told by me certain words like “search” or “which way” or “take scent” and other words. It is also the only time I wear specific type of clothing.
As a comparison, when we go for a fun walk, they both wear other types of equipment and are told other types of words.
When they have the track from the scent article they will go forward to follow the scent or they will turn around in a “U” to go back and find the scent.
Finally, they are not allowed to follow or pay attention to any other types of smells or distractions or interesting things while they are tracking. They have been taught that they follow the one scent and only that one scent. They have an “off duty” signal at the end of the track, which is for me to change the leash from their tracking harnesses to their flat collars. That tells them they are no longer following the designated scent. If we travel to another location to restart the track, I will change the leash from their flat collars to their tracking harnesses and they are following the one scent again.
What will you do if the track suddenly “goes cold” or if your dogs lose the scent?
There are only two things that can cause a scent to stop: if the animal is put into a car with the windows rolled up, or if the animal has become deceased. Without those two actions occurring, your pet’s track will continue to exist where ever they travel. We will continue to follow the scent of your pet until we are told to stop, or we find your pet, or the two above circumstances occur.
What happens if you get to my house and you can’t find a scent or a track?
Prior to me coming out to your house, or the animal’s last know location, for a search, we will have an extensive conversation, which is at no charge. We will review what you have done so far to find your pet, and what, if any, results have you achieved with those results. We will review what scent articles are available to use. For more information about choosing a scent article, please see the question on that topic.
Due to this extensive conversation prior to the search, there won’t be a doubt in my mind that a proper track exists of your pet for my dogs to follow.
What if my pet has been stolen? Can you still do the search?
If your pet has been stolen, the first thing you need to do is to contact your police department and file a report. Animals are considered property, and your local department needs to take a report for stolen property.
If your pet has been picked up and carried or walked away, or if your pet has been put into a vehicle with the windows down, we can still follow that track, as long as we have a viable scent article and the animal’s last known location.
In order to do the search to find your missing pet, I would like to know that your local police department is aware of the search being done, to clear it with them and get their approval. The reason for this is because any evidence or information we discover about your missing pet will be turned over to them for their investigation.
In addition, the police department needs to know when the search is occurring in case we need their immediate assistance while on the search. When I worked as an animal control officer, we frequently called upon the assistance of the local police department, and they would call upon our assistance when they had a case they were working on that involved animals.
How can you tell if your dogs are not following my pet’s scent on me and my clothing instead of my pet’s track?
Since both dogs are very experienced in tracking lost pet cases, by the time I am in my working clothes, they see me packing a snack, we drive to the home, I get my things to go into the home of the lost pet, both dogs are in full excitement for the search.
When I bring them out of the car, put them into their harnesses and meet the pet’s person who will be coming along with us, they have already started to find out the scent of the animal they are going to be looking for. They look for the scent on the person and all around the house and property. By the time I show them the scent in the plastic bag, they have figured out the scent they are to be tracking. Most of the time, they only need a quick glance of the scent and they are ready.
What this means is that they know the difference of the scent of the pet on the person and the scent of the animal in the bag that we have pulled off from the pet’s articles.
Also, the pet’s person always walks behind us while on a search to not cause any potential distractions or confusion to the dogs. However, I am 100% confident that even if the person were to walk in front of us briefly, they could tell the difference between the two scents.
The primary purpose for the pet’s people walking behind us is to prevent them from being a distraction to my dogs since both my dogs are extremely people friendly, so they may want to follow the person ahead of us instead of working on the track.
Don’t dogs have their noses to the ground all the time when they are tracking?
The position of my dogs’ noses while they are tracking varies depending on what the track is like that they are following. They actually move their heads up and down in various parts depending if they need to move closer to the scent or if they are OK getting the scent from higher up. The scent of the track will vary depending on the age and the location such as urban, suburban or rural. These areas will affect the amount of vegetation in the area, which is the primary place for scent to adhere to.
Generally the fresher and newer the track the closer the dog will keep his head to the ground. When my dogs are on a very fresh scent they are extremely excited and have their noses glued to the ground. They will also raise their heads up to figure out the direction of the scent if there are multiple turns and twists.
If the conditions are very windy, then their noses will be higher up because the scent is being blown around and dispersed more.
How come your dog is on leash? Wouldn’t it be faster to have your dog run up ahead to find the scent and then come back to you while you catch up?
First, it the law throughout most of California and surrounding states, that dogs are to remain on leash when off their property. Since I abide by laws, my dogs are always on leash on all searches.
Second, many searches can run for several hours straight. My dogs would be exhausted shortly if I had them run back and forth to me telling me where the track is or is not.
Third, we work as a team, and we work together and the leash is all part of that team confidence and support. It may look like I am just holding a leash, when actually I am working with them. I do not direct them on the search, since that is their job. I am interpreting what they find and translating that into the whole search and figuring out the whole picture and what every tidbit means.
Speed is never an issue on a search. We move fast or slow depending on the need at that time, and every piece of information is thoroughly examined and put into the search.
My pet is scared of dogs. Wouldn’t he be scared of your dogs if you came up to him to try to catch him?
If we do come upon your pet while on the search, I will immediately back off and away with my dogs since your dog does not know me or my dogs. At this point, the person with me will step in and attempt to get the pet to come to them. This is also one of the reasons why the person who comes with me has to be somebody that the pet would be comfortable around and happy to see.
The best way to attract a loose animal is to bend down low to the ground to appear non threatening. Then talk to the animal in a slow, calm and reassuring voice. Hold food out to them so they can see it, but do not approach or chase them. Let them come to you, and let them trust you. With food in your right hand, take a slip collar attached to a leash in your left hand. Move your right hand through the slip collar and offer that to the dog while slowly moving the slip collar over the dog’s head. At this point the dog may bolt with the collar on, so prepare to hold onto the leash if the dog decides to run.
Why do you need to have somebody go along with you?
First, I don’t know the area where the pet is lost, and the person who comes with me will need to be familiar with the area and to keep track of where we are and how to get back. As a last resort, I do keep a GPS tracking device always on, and we have had to use it to get back home if we travel out of the known territory of the pet owner.
Second, this person needs to be a second set of eyes to be aware of loose dogs around us or what is happening up ahead of me since I am focusing so much on what my dogs are doing and what they are following and trying to interpret their signals.
Third, this person needs to be the one to be able to go up to people and front doors to ask them if they have seen the missing pet. This person is handing out flyers and trying to get leads and sightings. I can’t approach a front door with two dogs. In fact, I have had many homeowners become very angry if my dogs are anywhere on their property while the pet owner talks to them at the front door. Also, if this home has a dog, I can’t approach the door or even be near the house in case the dog escapes and attacks. Unfortunately, loose and aggressive dogs is a very common problem, even if they are aggressive on their own property.
What kind of dogs do you have?
Dino is a herding mix with maybe some Corgi or Hound or Border Collie. He was adopted from the San Francisco Animal Care and Control by Grateful Dog Rescue, and I adopted him from Grateful Dogs.
Asia is an Australian Shepherd mix, adopted from a shelter near Redding.
They are both experienced, dedicated and thorough trackers with a complete love of their work. They enjoy tracking so much and work themselves into a frenzy at the beginning of each case in anticipation of the search. Once they are on the track, they are silent and focused.
Don’t you need to have a Bloodhound or a purebred hound to do this work?
Definitely not! All dogs can track and follow scent as long as they have working nose. The difference in each individual dog is their motivation and desire to work.
Breeds of dogs are grouped together into the varieties of type of work they were bred to do. There are Scenthounds like Foxhounds and Bloodhounds. There are Sighthounds like Afghans and Greyhounds. There are Sporting dogs like Retrievers and Spaniels. There are herding dogs like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. Terriers were bred to hunt vermin and other game. There are companion dogs like Pekinese and Pugs and Pomeranians. The last group was bred to be companions. They were not bred to work long hours and cover long distances. The dogs in this group of companion dogs can still track if they have working noses. However the difference between a Pug and a Golden Retriever is that a Golden is bred to work long hours in a variety of conditions and a Pug was bred to be a companion to people at home. Pugs’ noses are too short and they won’t be comfortable covering long distances and being in hot and demanding weather.
Other dogs in the remaining groups are bred to work all day long. In my opinion, if you pick dogs or mixes from any of the working groups, they would make great tracking dogs who search for pets.
My first criteria in looking for a tracking dog is to have a dog that is first a friend and a companion and somebody I can live indoors with. I need to have a dog that adapt to a busy household and can live with other dogs, cats, birds and rabbits, and, of course, loves people.
Won’t my pet come to me if I call them while we are on the search?
When your pet becomes lost, they won’t act like the pet you know and are familiar with at home. At home, they are safe and secure and comfortable. When an animal becomes lost, everything changes and now they are scared and hungry and confused.
The longer your pet is lost and further away from anything familiar to them, the higher the chance that they may not recognize you if you call to them while we are on a search and find your pet.
If that happens, then just be patient and understanding. Your pet can still be coaxed into coming back to you. What you can do is to bend down to the ground and make yourself as less of a threat as possible. Speak to the animal in an inviting and warm and comforting voice. Use pet names and familiar words that your animal may recognize. Don’t give up and continue to talk to your pet until they recognize you and start to come to you. Do not chase or run after them or that will scare them and they will run.
What happens if we don’t find my pet while on the search?
If we don’t find your pet while on the search, there is a lot of information and follow up that I can help you with.
The most obvious piece of information you will have is a documented track of where your pet has gone to or taken to if your pet has been picked up. You can now focus your full recovery efforts in those areas, rather than spending time in areas in which your pet no longer exists. On all of my searches I record the track while we are walking with an application on my cell phone. I will mark any pertinent locations we come upon with details that you or anybody can follow up on. For example, if the track we are following goes up to a home, and we attempt contact at the home and nobody is home, you have now have a documented spot on the track with the home’s address so you can check back at that house to talk to somebody to see if they saw your pet. This track, which is superimposed onto a Google Earth Map, will be emailed to you following the search, and posted in your case blog. You can also forward that email to others who can help you with your search.
I also include with all searches a copy of my “Finding Lost Pet Checklist.” This is a very detailed six page document with a wide variety of resources to follow up on after the search. You will find listings for automated phone services to announce to people that your pet is missing. You will find listings for rescue groups to give your pet’s flyer to, plus a whole lot more. We will go over the list in detail to make sure you are aware of all the resources available to help you find your pet.
All email and phone conversations are at no charge before and after the search. You are encouraged to contact me with any questions or comments that come up after the search. That is ongoing and never ending until you find your pet, no matter how long or short that takes.
Why don’t you work after dark?
All of my searches are scheduled during the daytime hours. I can start as early as sunrise and I will work as late as sunset, all year round. I do pet detective work full time (in addition to part time dog show photography, promoting my book, doing intuitive communication work and showing my dogs), so I am available seven days a week, morning, afternoon or evening. In the summer hours, this enables me to do searches earlier and later into the day, while in the winter, my hours are more restricted.
The reason why I work daytime hours only is primarily for safety reason. “Safety First” is my motto in life. Even though we wear safety vests, which makes us completely visible to all people in back and in front of us, many times on searches we are walking on roads with no shoulders or sidewalks. On many of these roads, drivers are not expecting to see pedestrians, so they drive fast and don’t look for us.
Many, many times we have to go up to doors and ask somebody if they have seen the missing pet, especially if the track leads up to the door. Respectfully, we don’t want to bother people after dark, and it may not be safe to approach somebody on the street after dark.
Also, when looking for an animal, it is always best to be able to clearly see the animal and the places where we are looking. Many times we are climbing in creeks and hillsides and behind houses. These locations can be dangerous even in daylight. At night they can become deadly if you loose your footing because you can’t see.
I have done a couple of searches at night, and those were for animals who were knowingly attacked by another animal and possibly injured, and I was already out on a search. I was able to come by later that night after my search in the daytime.
If I was called by the sheriff or police department to assist on a search, day or night, I will come. My cell phone is always on and fully charged. When I did Animal Control from 1999 to 2002, I was regularly on call and responded to many emergencies in the middle of the night. If there is a true emergency of an injured animal that is missing and a viable scent article and last known location are all available, along with somebody to accompany me on the search, I will respond. My normal fees apply. I do not charge extra for an emergency.
Did you train you train your digs or did someone else?
Another person showed me how to do the initial tracking training, since I had never taught a dog to track. I have taught dogs how to do a variety of other things like competitive sports and demonstration routines.
Once that person showed me how to teach my dogs tracking, I took it from there and continued with their training on my own. I would lay tracks with my cat and my other dogs, and then run him on the track later. This way I could make sure he was doing the track correctly.
I also referred to books on Variable Surface Tracking or Urban Tracking put out by tracking trainers. The third and highest level of competitive tracking training is Variable Surface Tracking (or VST), so there are books on exactly what variety of patterns to use and what words to use and what to expect from your dog. I read those from cover to cover to teach Dino.
I would also have friends and family walk their pets in an area and then they would email me the track and leave a scent article. I would then go to that spot and run Dino on the track.
As he moved along in training I would change the type of environment (urban, suburban or rural), age of the track and difficulty (windy or dry locations).
Why kind of information do you put in your blog?
My pet detective case blog is a detailed history of all my cases, whether I have done a full on-site search or a phone consultation. My intention for the blog is to have a direct spot for pet owners to review cases that may be similar to theirs. Or for them to see what variety of missing pet cases do exist.
I put as much detailed information as possible from the case including a recorded track in newer cases. However, there is no personal information of the pet’s people. The only personal information is the pet’s name, breed, color and city.
Also in the blog is any letters or comments from the pet’s people, after permission from them.
Where did you learn about this kind of work?
I took a seminar with Missing Pet Partnership in June 2008 in San Jose that was a full six day education and field work intensive training. They also tested Dino to make sure he was friendly with cats and dogs. After that I was told they thought he was make a great dual purpose dog, meaning he could be trained to search for both dogs and cats. Some dogs in this business only track just cats or just dogs. Many do both or all animals. We track all animals.
Here is a list of the subjects covered in the seminar:
Type of MAR K9’s
Lost Pet Services
The Lost Pet Triad (Behaviors)
Loose Dog Recovery
Feline Behavioral Profiling
The Lost Pet Problem
Where Do Lost Pets Go?
Search and Recovery Applications
Physical Evidence in MAR Cases
Pet Grief Counseling
Offering Your Services
How long have you been doing this type of work?
After taking the seminar at Missing Pet Partnership, I worked alongside another person in her own company here in Northern California for several months as an independent contractor. This person was the instructor at the MPP seminar. I went out on as many searches with her as possible, and I also did some independent work of posting flyers and posters, which did not include the use of a search dog. At this time, I was also training Dino for searches in the future.
It took me about a month to get my own business going and finish up on Dino’s training. I started my own business full time in April 2009. As of April 2010, I have done over 900 cases, all of which are posted on my blog.
I have trained a second dog, Asia, who is the primary tracking dog after Dino's retirement.
What kind of guarantee do you make?
The guarantee I make is that with a viable scent article and the pet’s last known location, we can find the track and follow it until we find the pet, until we are told to stop or until the track physically ends. One example of the scent ending is if the pet is picked up, put into a car and the windows are up and then they are driven away. If the windows are down, we can still follow the scent. Another example of a track stopping is if the pet is deceased.
Many tracking teams can’t make that guarantee because they don’t have the experience in finding appropriate scent articles or their dogs are not experienced enough to work on older tracks or the handler believes that a track can’t be found.
Also, I have never and will never turn anybody down. Even if a perfect scent article is not available, I am willing to try with what scent articles might be available. My dogs are very experienced, so they can pick up the proper scent from very minute samples. They have always been able to find the track and follow it on every single search we have been on, even with some not-so-perfect scent articles.
There have even been cases where the owner had the wrong location of how the pet escaped. We discovered that when Dino told me “no scent” in every direction from that location. Since I knew he was very good and very experienced, I believed him. I told this to the father who was with me. We went back to the fenced yard and reviewed the whole scenario again. We then found the correct way the dog got out. The dog found a way to jump onto a pile of rocks alongside their fence, jump into a neighbor’s yard and then escape that way. We found the track of the dog leading out from neighbor’s yard and down the street.
What if my pet has been picked up by somebody and carried away or put into a car and driven away?
If your pet is picked up and carried away by somebody we can still follow that track. Their scent is still coming down and onto the ground.
If your pet is picked up and put into a car with the windows down, we can still follow that track. Their scent is coming out of the window and into the area.
If your pet is picked up and put into a car and the windows are rolled up, the track will stop.
If there are possible sightings of my pet, how can those be used in the search?
The way to confirm a sighting is to show the person a photo of your missing pet, and ask if that is the animal that they saw. If they say “Yes” then we can go to that spot and check if the animal’s scent is there. In my experience, 95% of sightings have been correct, so I consider that information to be extremely valuable. This is the benefit of having good clear photos of your missing pet and using those in the flyer.
What we will do to positively confirm the sighting is to go to that spot in the beginning of the search and see if the dogs pick up on the scent. If they confirm the sighting is correct they will follow the track from there. If they say “No” then we will go back to the last known location and start from there.
The benefit of using sightings to start the track is to cut off time from the search from when the animal disappeared and when the search is begun. We can try to catch up with the animal and get more current information. For example, if during the search, after using a sighting as the beginning of the search, we have somebody say they saw an animal that matches the description of your missing pet just the day before, we can post flyers in that area to see if, possibly, the pet is still hanging out in the area.
I highly encourage people, when looking for their pet, to talk to everybody along the way and try to get more sightings and more current information. Also, this is much more critical in a search where the animal has been missing for several days or more.
What kind of payment methods do you accept?
I take cash and checks only. Unfortunately I have had too many problems with Pay Pal and internet reception is spotty in too many places.
Is there a charge for the search if I find my pet prior to the search?
My cell phone is charged and on 24 hours a day, and my email is always open. If you find your pet prior to me leaving to drive to your home, and you call or email me, there is no charge.
If you have found your pet, and I have already left my home, and I am on the road to your home, then the minimum time plus mileage will apply.
This is very different from other pet detectives in the business who collect a deposit of either the full price or half price at the time of scheduling the appointment, and you don’t get that back even if you find your pet prior to the appointment.
Why do you record the track on a Google Earth software?
All of my searches are recorded in a software on my handheld mobile device. The software is commonly used for long distance runners and other similar sports. After my neighbor told me about how she uses it for her marathons, I saw how useful it would be for my pet searches.
It records a foot by foot track and is then superimposed onto Google Earth. If we don’t find your pet while on the search, after the search I will email the track to you and then you can use it to trace where your pet went to and how to follow up on sightings or where to place posters and flyers. It can also be forwarded to others in your search party.
Along the way, I will also record with markers any special spots we discover like houses that the scent goes up to and nobody was home or any sightings along with way.
Dino’s oldest documented track is five weeks old, and that was in urban Santa Rosa in August. I went to their home for their missing Pug, and on the way there I received a call the dog had been found. Upon arriving at the house, they told me that their cat had been missing for at least five weeks. There had not been a single sighting, though they had an idea of what may have happened since several other cats in their mobile home park had gone missing in the same timeframe. They suspected that somebody in the park was trapping and removing the cats.
I did explain that Dino’s oldest track at that time was four weeks old, but that I was willing to try. They had a great scent article with the cat’s condo scratching post.
The people were not able to go along with me since they had to go to work, so I said I would do the track and call the daughter later in the day. This was Dino’s second track of the day because we followed the track of the Pug in the morning to see where she went to. That is documented and can be seen in “Maya the Pug” blog case.
We followed the track from the house around the mobile home park a couple of times and then into the elementary park behind the homes. We went out to the street, but Dino’s did not indicate any scent beyond a block from their home. Everything was negative scent. There was no scent leading out from the mobile home park, though I checked in all directions.
This confirms that the cat did not walk out, but was carried out in a vehicle with it’s windows rolled up, which would be common in Santa Rosa in August where the temperatures can average 90 to 100 degrees every day.
I called the daughter later that night and told her. I told her about the tracks I found around the park and the school. She said those were the known territories of her cat, and that he was not known to stray very far from the home. I told her I agreed with her that her cat had been carried away by somebody in the park.
What if there has been rain? Does that wash away the scent?
Any kind of moisture and cool temperature is great to keep the scent around for much longer and slow its decomposition. In rain, morning dew and moisture like fog, the scent sticks to everything like cracks and sidewalk and planter edges.
Hot and windy temperatures are the hardest on scent. This speeds up decomposition and forces the scent in a wider area for the dog to follow. A dog can still track in this area, but I believe that only an experienced dog trained in these types of situations should be used. This is not an environment for a beginner dog.
My dog loves to sniff when I take him/her for a walk. Can they do this work, also?
Absolutely! All dogs are capable of following scent. They do it everyday when taken out for walks. In tracking you are just teaching them which scent you want them to follow.
I have found the dogs that have a higher motivation and capability to perform this sometimes physically demanding work are dogs from the herding, terrier, working, sporting and hound groups and any mixes of these breeds. These dogs are bred for strenuous and demanding work compared to a Pekinese which is bred for looking pretty in a lap.
What if I have multiple pets in the house and I don’t have a scent article that has just my pet’s scent on it? Can we still do a search?
I can certainly go over that with you if the perfect scent article does not exist. I have been able to get scent for my dogs off some pretty far fetched objects and locations.
The most extreme I have had to use is for a case where two Great Pyrenees lived together on a large ranch that was totally fenced in. The female had escaped, and the caretaker did not know how she got out. Both dogs had free roam of the multiple acre ranch, and the only shared scent article was a common brush. They had no blankets or beds since they slept in a large paddock.
Since we had the male still on the property, I had the caretaker cut off a clump of undercoat from the him and put it in a zip lock plastic bag. I had the brush in a separate plastic bag. I showed the brush to my dogs and then showed them the hair from the male and I said “find the other scent”.
First they had to get her scent and then they had to find out how she got out. Since my dogs are trained to find and follow only the most current track of the missing pet, after a very short time, they did find the last track of the dog on the property and then followed it to the large, electronic front gate, which is how she got out. Her track was on the other side.
In my pet detective case blog, that case in under “Nova.”
If my cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, how can your dogs tell the difference between the scent from him running around outside and the track of his when he became lost?
The way that my dogs can tell the difference between all the different tracks that exist of your pet in your area is that my dogs will only follow the most current track, which would be the newest, even if that was several days ago.
What we do first is to walk the perimeter of the area where your pet’s most current track would be, letting the dogs check out all the scent’s of your pet. Then we come back to the middle and the dogs pick the most current track and then they follow it.
I live in a part of San Francisco where there is a lot of concrete and wind and not a lot a vegetation. Can you still do a search?
Yes, we can still do a search. That is a challenging area to follow a track because of the lack of vegetation for the scent to stick to and the high winds and high traffic of both vehicles and people. However, that was one of the areas I first trained in with Dino because I knew that if we could successfully track in San Francisco and other densely populated urban areas like Oakland, we could track anywhere.
Since I live in an area where there is a lot of livestock, are your dogs friendly with horses, goats and sheep?
Yes, my dogs are friendly with all animals. They are taught to be respectful of other animals are never allowed to chase. We have had many searches where we came across livestock and worked very close to them. Dino especially loves horses, and always wants to say hello.
Can your dogs track humans?
Since my dogs are “scent-specific” tracking dogs they can track any type of scent put in front of them, whether they are human or animals. However, in my area, there are so many well trained and experienced human search and rescue dogs that work for many agencies, so I like to focus my efforts on lost pets, where I feel our efforts are most needed.
What kinds of pets can your dogs track?
My dogs can track any type of animal, as long as we have a viable scent article and their last known location. All animals leave scent when they move, thus allowing us to track them. The only exception is birds, who do not leave a scent when they fly and go to places we can't reach
Can you help me find my pet if they are missing for more than one month?
This would make a difference if there has been sightings of your pet since they have been missing. If there have been positive sightings of your pet then we can jump right to those sightings and start the search from there.
If there has not been any currents sightings of your pet, and they are missing for over a month, it would be best for us to discuss your case and the available options in detail.
What is included in the price of the search?
You will receive the abilities of a highly experienced and completely professional tracking and searching team who have performed a wide variety of pet searches ranging from urban to suburban and to remote/wilderness.
You will also receive a copy of my “Finding Lost Pet Checklist” and a template for a Lost Pet Flyer.
I also record all my tracks on a software that superimposes onto Google earth. I will email that to you after the search.
You will receive free email and phone call conversations before and after a search for as long as necessary.
You will receive flexibility for the search for your pet. I don’t charge a high flat rate for a set amount of hours. Since I believe that every pet search is unique and should be treated as such, I charge hourly so you can determine how many hours you want to put into your search. If you want to do four hours or six hours or ten hours or two days or four days or one week, I will do that. I will keep going until you tell me to stop.
I don’t live in your service area. Do you perform phone consultations?
Yes, I offer phone consultations if you don’t want to do an on-site search or if your pet has been missing for several weeks with no current sightings.
What areas do you cover?
I cover the entire Northern and Central California area. However, I will go to an extended area if I am asked to and if another pet detective is not available in that area.
Do you have references I can contact?
I put all my letters of references and recommendations on my blog: www.petdetectivecaseblog.blogspot.com. They are put into the corresponding case that they refer to, along with all the case details, maps and photos.
Are there any searches you won’t work on?
I have never refused anybody for any reason. Even if we don’t have the perfect scent article or the track is older than what we have already done, I am still willing to work with what is available. I also don’t have a maximum distance in which I will drive. If somebody asks me to come, I will do everything I can to be there. And I will continue to search and follow the track until I am asked to stop.