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Can a Dog Find Its Way Home?

Can a Dog Find Its Way Home?

Dogs can get lost for a variety of reasons. But can a dog find its way home? There have been plenty of stories that tell us that yes, dogs do have a way of finding their way back home after having been lost for weeks or months, over long distances. At the same time, there have been many cases of lost dogs yet to be found, so it’s safe to say that while some dogs are able to navigate their way back home, it’s may not be as easy for others. While navigation systems among animals are still being studied, science pinpoints how dogs are able to return home after being lost.

Finding out that your dog is missing can be quite devastating for a pet owner. It’s absolutely crucial that you remain calm and take every step necessary to find your lost dog, including printing and putting up lost pet flyers, calling vets and animal shelters, posting lost pet listings, and reporting your lost pet to PawMaw.com. More importantly, never give up on your search. Your lost dog is out there somewhere waiting to be found, or possibly, doing everything he can to find his way home back to you.

How Can a Dog Find Its Way Home? 

Animals have different means of internal navigation. Seabirds, for example, are believed to be guided by the sun and stars. Sea turtles and pigeons have been found out to be able to orient themselves through the Earth’s north and south magnetic fields. In the case of dogs that have had to travel long distances to return home, it comes as no surprise that their strong sense of smell is their primary tool for determining which way to go. Along with a sort of internal visual map, this is how can a lost dog find its way back home.

1. Sense of Smell and Scent Markers

Dogs have a very keen sense of smell, thanks to about 220 million up to a billion olfactory neurons in their system. Human beings have only about 12 to 40 million neurons. Can a lost dog find its way back home using only his sense of smell? Everywhere you take your dog, he registers all surrounding scents in some sort of internal registry, where he can isolate and memorize different scents. This would allow him to identify a specific scent in any location.

In the same way, he also leaves in his own scent deposits in places he’s been through the pads beneath his paws. Walking him through the same paths, again and again, strengthens his own scent markers on the trail. Beyond the usual routes, dogs can extend the range of their scent markers through what scientists describe as “overlapping circles of familiar scents.” These work in a similar way to cellular towers, where scent footprints are interconnected.

When your dog is out of its own range, he should be able to pick up a familiar scent from the next circle, and from there, track the scent to something more familiar, say a tree, a light post, or even a person. He picks up these scent markers which could help with his orientation.

2. Visual Acuity and Visual Markers

How else can my dog find its way home? A dog’s sense of sight may not be as sharp as his sense of smell, but he uses the images he sees around him to form a sort of visual map, which he refers to as needed. In the case of wolves, for example, they use visual landmarks to make their way around mountainous or wooded territories. In the same way, dogs know how to remember and recognize visual cues that could help them track their way home.

3. Dog-Human Bond

How does a dog find its way home? The answer may be a lot simpler.  How much a dog loves you and wants to be with you could influence his homing capabilities and skills. Never underestimate the strength of your bond with your dog. Depending on his temperament, his connection with you could be more than enough for your dog to travel for miles in search of his owner. While scientists caution against giving animals too much credit, taking into consideration the number of dogs yet to be found/ Still, you should never underestimate the powerful bonds formed between dogs and humans.

Can a Dog Find Its Way Home If Lost?

It surely is a possibility. If this is what your dog is trying to do, there are some ways you can help him. In an ideal world, all our pets will be wearing GPS collars so we can easily find out where they are at any time. But if your lost dog, doesn’t have a tracker, you’re probably worried and are already trying out different means and channels to locate him as soon as possible.

Will a dog find its way home? The first thing to remember is to trust and to never give up. If your initial searches of the neighbourhood have yielded no results in the first few days or weeks, you may want to eventually take your search further. This is especially true if your dog is a fast runner or hyperactive. Keeping in mind how dogs are able to find their way back home, going farther could help your dog as you’d be leaving some familiar scent markers to locations where you’ve been.

You also know about how dogs may be driven by their faithfulness and loyalty, to do everything they possibly can to be reunited with you. As a dog owner, it’s also upon you to stay positive and to never give up on your search. Believe that your pet is out there, not giving up on you. If you hold on to this belief, you should be able to keep trying and doing anything possible to search your beloved pet, regardless if your dog has been missing for a week, a month, or even years. Can a dog find his way home? Don’t doubt it, because yours just might.


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