We’ve come across plenty of lost dogs in Cornwall while out on our walks, or owners desperately out looking for pets who have run away. I always stop and help if I can, as I understand how worrying it can be. Losing your dog is a traumatic experience, particularly in Cornwall where there are plenty of hazards. It’s a scenario that’s always playing at the back of your mind as a dog owner. Do you know what to do if you found a lost dog in Cornwall? Today I thought I’d share with you some of our tips.
Within weeks of adopting Woody, he managed to escape the office where I worked and sprinted to the next village a mile away. It’s safe to say I was worried sick! He’d crossed rural roads and farmland, so could have easily been hurt. When I finally found him, I was surprised to see he was still wandering around at his own free will. Despite being surrounded by half a dozen people, nobody had noticed he was lost.
What to do if you find a lost dog in Cornwall
Dogs go missing for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the back door was left open, or they started chasing after a rabbit or bird. Sometimes dogs bolt if they’re frightened by loud noises such as car horns, fireworks or thunder. Whatever the reason, if you come across a dog you believe is lost, there is plenty you can do to help.
Is the Dog Actually Lost?
It’s common for dogs to be off lead when out on walks. If you come across a dog on their own, it’s important to establish whether their actually lost. Woody loves to run and will often be exploring up ahead when we’re out. Millie, my parents’ spaniel adores water and will sprint down to the sea at any given opportunity. While they both appear to be on their own, we as owners are never far behind! If you find a dog on their own, take a few moments to see if you can spot the owner nearby.
Check for an ID tag and Call the Owner
If it’s safe and you’re able to approach the dog, check if it has a collar and ID tag. By law all dogs should wear these when out walking on public land. However, it’s common for dogs to go missing from home, so they may not be wearing their collar at the time. Also, if the dog has been lost for a while, its collar could have snagged or fallen off while its been running.
If the dog is wearing its collar, contact its owner using the number on its tag. There may be multiple numbers, so try them all. If they answer, be sure to reassure them the dog is safe and organise the best time for them to be reunited. If there is not answer, or the dog isn’t wearing its collar there are a few alternatives you can take.
Scan the Dog’s Microchip
In the UK dogs must be microchipped. This is usually done when they’re puppies. A chip is inserted in the back of their neck, which stores the owners’ contact details, as well as some information about the pet. Local vets, groomers and other pet businesses often have microchip scanners. If you find a dog who has lost its collar, you can take them in to be scanned for free.
Notify the Dog Warden
If you’re unable to contact the dog’s owner, you must report the lost dog to the council. Cornwall’s Dog Welfare and Enforcement Service are responsible for a variety of dog issues, including stray dogs. They’re also able to scan for microchips and will be able to check the dog’s details on the UK databases. The Dog Warden will also collect the dog from you and take them to suitable accommodation until it can be reunited with his/her owner. They operate during normal office hours but also have an out of office line for emergencies when they’re closed.
Notify Dog Lost Cornwall
Another great organisation to contact if you find a lost dog in Cornwall is DogLost. The organisation operates across the UK, reuniting lost and stolen dogs with their owners. Their website hosts a database of dogs that have been reported lost, stolen or found across the country. The service is free to use and I’ve found DogLost Cornwall to be a great resource.
DogLost Cornwall also operate a Facebook Group, where members are able to post lost, found and sightings of dogs in the county. I used this platform to report a sighting of a bolting Pointer in Mawnan Smith a few months ago. It was a great way to coordinate and keep up to date with the search effort. Fortunately she was reunited a few days later!
If you Can’t Approach the Dog
Sometimes it’s not always safe or possible to approach a lost dog. Oftentimes dogs bolt out of fear, which can trigger their fight or flight instinct. The Pointer I mentioned earlier was running for her life when I spotted her. I tried to follow her by car but in a matter of metres she’d vanished into nearby farmland.
Avoid Loud Noises and Making Eye Contact
When we see a dog, it’s tempting to whistle or call for them to come over. I recently learnt, this isn’t necessarily the right thing to do! Frightened dogs will run blindly, covering vast spaces, trying to avoid capture at all costs. Instead keep as quiet as possible and avoid making eye contact. Eye contact is a sign of dominance and can be threatening to skittish dogs. Sit quietly, facing away from the dog. You can keep an eye on their whereabouts using your peripheral vision.
Contact The Owner and DogLost Cornwall
I’d highly recommend contacting DogLost Cornwall again, as they’re able to offer expert advice, as well as organise a wider, ongoing search for the dog. Let the dog’s owners know about your sighting, as well as anyone else in the search party. Providing detailed, up to date information is key to helping find and reunite a lost dog in Cornwall.
Get as Low to the Ground as Possible
If you’ve spotted a scared or nervous dog, it’s important not to come across as a threat. You want to try and avoid panicking the dog further, as it may cause them to bolt again. Assuming a submissive stance by getting as close to the ground as possible is a great way to show the dog you mean no harm. Sitting, crouching or lying on the ground quietly will enable the dog to investigate you on their terms. Slow movements are key here, as you don’t want to startle the dog.
Tempt Them Over with Food
If you’ve found a lost dog in Cornwall, chances are they may have been on the run for several days. Dogs are easily enticed by food and chances are, they’ll be hungry! Scattering high value food (such as meat, cheese or treats) away from you is a great way to tempt the dog to come closer. It also helps set up a ‘feeding station,’ an area the dog will associate with food and in the future will likely come back to. DogLost often use crates to trap lost dogs and these feeding stations are a great place to set them. Rustling a paper bag, lip smacking and pretending to eat provide calming signals to dogs. Attracting the dog with food is one of the best ways to convince a dog to come closer to you.
Don’t Chase or Attempt to Catch Them
While trying to capture a lost dog is the ultimate goal, it’s important not to chase or try to catch them on your own. Reuniting a lost dog in Cornwall is all about gaining their trust. If you suddenly try to grab them or chase after them, they’re going to get frightened and most likely bolt. It also lessens the chances of them coming close to humans and their owners again. It can take hours to gain a scared dog’s trust, which is why it’s important to enlist the help of professionals and volunteers early on.
Have you come across a lost dog in Cornwall before? What did you do to help?
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