Dogs have been used for search and rescue to find lost people for decades. But what you may not know is that your furry friend can also be trained to find lost pets, like your cat, when he wanders off. How is this possible? Let's start by looking at the fact that just like humans, every animal has its own distinct scent. This does not mean each breed, it means each and every individual animal has his or her own smell, one that no other animal shares.
Traditional search and rescue relies on the dog being able to track the person in question by their scent, often retrieved from an item of clothing they wear. Just as your dog can be taught to locate a missing person in this manner, he can also be taught how to find your pet cat in the same manner. No more spending hours searching the neighborhood the next time your kitty gets out when he is hiding under the house. You can even train your dog to help find other people's lots cats or dogs, making him very popular with your neighbors.
The task itself is to train your dog to recognize the scent of your cat and then to be able to find your cat by following this scent wherever it goes until he finds your kitty safe and sound. While this might seem easy enough, the reality is that it could take some time before your pup can successfully track your cat anywhere he happens to go, even up in a tree.
You can teach this trick to any age dog as long as he has been trained to follow basic commands. Not only can this be a very important skill for your dog to learn, but teaching your dog to seek out and find your cat or anything else by scent can be a lot of fun. Bear in mind, you will need to be very patient and have enough time to work with your pup on a daily basis until he masters it.
To get started training your dog to find your cat, you will need a few things to make the training easier and more successful. These include:
Training requires that your pup understand exactly what it is that you want him to search for, then you have to teach him to look for your pet, and finally, you have to teach him how to let you know he has found your cat.
I've got a lost cat, I need to train my dog to help me find him.
Hello Lori, You will need several items with your cat's scent on it. I would create a trail of scented items, lead pup along them, rewarding pup whenever they sniff the cat's objects. When they get to the final object you have planted, reward several times. Practice this for short intervals a couple times a day every day. In all honesty, the next steps in training would require your cat to be present to reliably train. You would next drag your cat's scented things across the ground to create a scent trail, spacing the objects further apart and rewarding each time pup sniffs the cat's trail or objects, rewarding big when pup gets to the cat's final object along the trail. This tends to take months to reliably train, with distance being gradually lengthened more and more as pup improves. Because you will need to drag the cat's things along the ground to create a scent trail, the cat's things will begin to smell like the ground and less like the cat with each repetition, making the trail harder and harder for pup to track. I'm not sure there will be enough scent left by the time pup lengthens the trail they can track to continue the training without confusing pup. When training this for future use, the items or cat's bodily fluids can be used to re-scent the trail or objects, without being able to replenish that scent this gets tricky. This is really something that needs to be taught ahead of time, in preparation for a cat potentially getting lost - like when you have a cat who tends to wander but then return and you are concerned they will not return one of the times they wander - so you teach this as a preventative. You can try this, but know that your efforts might be better spend contacting local rescues and shelters, putting up signs, searching and posting on local neighborhood/area faceook groups, nextdoor, and rescue groups to see if anyone has taken your cat to a rescue, had a sighting, or perhaps is taking care of your cat at their home. When I was a child we lost our cat and went door to door in the area handing out posters. We were very fortunate that one of the people down the road we handed a poster to spotted her and called us and we were able to retrieve her. How far she may have traveled will largely determine your level of success with this or other approaches. I really hope you can find your cat!! I know it's heartbreaking to loose a pet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Can i train my dog to find my cat who is already lost ?
Hello Sara, That depends on a lot of factors, such as how long the cat has been lost for and how far away the cat may be. If your cat disappeared this week and you have items of scent you can use for training, it may be possible if the cat is close by for your dog to find. Know that, unfortunately it can take several weeks to train this and by then scent trails will likely be washed out and faded, plus object with scent for training purposes less strong. It is possible in rare cases I believe but normally it would not be successful in my opinion. There is probably no harm in attempting to teach this if you wish to though. Also be sure to contact your local humane societies and leave a picture and description of your cat with them (and make sure the cat isn't there). You can hang up flyers and check with local rescues who have missing animal pages on their websites. I hope you are able to find your cat! Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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