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How to Find a Lost Dog in the Woods

How to Find a Lost Dog in the Woods

Many pet owners enjoy taking their pet dogs out with them on an adventure, whether it’s the beach, the park, or hiking up the mountains. Some canine breeds just love to explore and chase after small creatures, that it sometimes can’t be avoided for them to get lost in the woods. If you ever find yourself missing a dog in a dense forest or the woods, “distressing” couldn’t even begin to describe just thinking about your pet being out there with no food or shelter. So, how to find a lost dog in the woods?

First Things, First

Before you begin to brave the woods, there are steps you must take to increase your chances of finding your lost dog. For starters, you need to spread word to as many people as possible. This way, you’ll have more people on the lookout for a missing dog of your pet’s description. In case he turns up anywhere, you’ll be alerted immediately. Spreading information starts with creating and putting up a missing pet flyer with your missing pet’s description and your contact details.

Report your missing pet to PawMaw.com, where you can also generate a missing pet flyer in minutes. You can print the flyer and ask family and friends to put them up in strategic locations. You can also spread information by posting on lost and found sites, putting an ad in the local newspaper, and reporting your lost pet to vets and animal shelters in the area.


 Best Way to Find a Lost Dog in the Woods

Before we go any further, you also have to be aware about how a dog copes when it gets lost, particularly in places like the woods where various threats abound.

Canines who are suddenly separated from their owners would sooner or later switch to what is referred to as “survival mode.” This is a flight mechanism wherein your dog would revert to its primal instincts, seemingly forget about domestic life, and focus on nothing else but food, safety, and shelter. Some dogs would switch to survival mode instantly, while others might take weeks.

What does this mean? There’s a possibility that upon getting lost, your dog won’t instantly head towards your voice when he hears you call. If he’s in survival mode, your dog would also be wary of people and run immediately if spotted. Survival mode, however, isn’t a permanent state. When you find him, it might take time but your dog will eventually recognize you.

So, how to find a lost dog in the woods, especially if he might be on survival mode?

Get a piece of clothing with your scent.

In the area where your dog was last seen, leave an item of clothing with your scent on it. The longer it’s been worn, the stronger the scent would be and the better chance of your dog finding his way to it.  You can also leave his crate in the same location and leave some water as well. Check back every day and you just might be lucky enough to find your missing pet waiting for you.

Try luring him with his favorite food.

It’s not the best idea to leave food overnight in the same location where your dog was last seen as it can attract stray animals or predators. But on days when you can spare a few hours, try going to the spot, sit, and wait with your pet’s favorite food to see if you can lure him. Hopefully, he will detect the scent and follow it back to you. Avoid calling out his name as he might be frightened if he’s in survival mode.

Set up traps.

Safe and harm-free traps would be helpful in capturing a lost dog in the woods. See if you can borrow a trap from a nearby shelter or animal rescue center and set it up on the location where your pet was last seen. Check the traps frequently to see if you caught another animal or if it’s your missing dog! If unsuccessful after a week or two, try setting up in another location. 

Use bloodhounds.

Finding a lost dog in the woods could be a job for a professional. You may consider hiring a pet detective to track your dog’s whereabouts if the situation seems desperate. These pet detectives typically use trained bloodhounds to follow the scent of and locate a missing dog. See if there are pet detectives in your area.

Get his favorite things ready.

In the event that you receive a report of a sighting, take your dog’s favorite toys and other familiar items like his blanket or his crate and leave them in a safe, secure corner within that area. Leave a bowl of water too in case your dog is thirsty. Check back every few hours or the next day to see if he comes.

Stay calm when you see your dog.

When you see your dog, but he doesn’t immediately run to meet you, you must remember to stay calm. Don’t try to move towards him, but rather, wait for him to come to you. This could take time, so you need to be patient.  Don’t make sudden movements. Sit on the ground with food or his favorite toys and wait for him to register and process the scents of home. And when he finally recognizes you, it would definitely be the most wonderful reunion.


We know it’s difficult to just sit and wait by the phone while you worry about what your dog may be facing alone out in the woods. But the sooner you take action, the higher the chance of getting reunited with your lost pet. Don’t forget to notify your neighbors about your missing pet. The more people helping you look, the better chance of your pet returning home safe and sound. Report your lost dog to PawMaw.com and spread the word to the growing community. Finally, remember these useful tips for finding a lost dog in the woods.


11 comments on “How to Find a Lost Dog in the Woods”


October 18, 2019 at 01:45

Leonard Harley says:

You can also get in touch with SAR for dogs on Facebook


May 13, 2020 at 01:25

Rachel Dockerill says:

our dog got out,and ran off in a storm 7 weeks ago , hes very timid and hiding , he has been spotted , a stray dog came up to our gate and they must have had a bit of a rattle of the gate and he got out and ran off, he has never got out before and not been out on his own , he is 8 years old and been desexed and micro chipped and has a collar on ,, we been looking day and night for him out at all hours and night the tracks at Tahmoor heading towards Bargo but he must have got off through a gap she said as he is ok , they put a warning out , the rangers know and the vets ,everyone I put on fb and posters , flyers talked to lots of people and businesses because of the covid19 its been harder as less people about , its on every community gruop on fb we been off work and hes my grandsons best friends we all devastated, everyones know s but we just cant spot him, he would run and hide ,I left his bed and food I throw biscuits in a trail to our hosue as hes over the other side of town , do they go in a circle, if he just cross the road, as he knows our road we walked down it , his mother who didt run off has weed every where leaving a trail ,we at a lost and its taken an emotional toll on us all, I written to the local newspaper but i dont think they interested ? I love reading your information thank you for your help


May 21, 2020 at 05:35

Angela Alas says:

Rachel Dockerill, where was this??


January 03, 2021 at 10:18

Cassie Hendrickson says:

Mum lost our dog Trigger in the woods on LAMB ROAD in CAROL ohio. He's just a tiny little thing and we spent a good portion of the night looking for him. We kept thinking we'd hear him but, apparently, sound carries funny here. I'm so scared for him.


January 28, 2021 at 08:03

Michelle Miner says:

I hope you find him! :((( Cassie Hendrickson,


May 22, 2021 at 04:26

Barbara Backhaus says:

My 3 yr old took off running when she got out of our RV. She is very shy and afraid of everything. She is a Dachshund (hot dog) long hair, cream color with amber eyes she is wearing a blue halter, her name is Mysty or Sniggy. She is a standard size. We are in the NW Austin KOA on 2869 Hero Way in Leander. If you find her please call 314-920-5100 anytime.


July 16, 2021 at 10:50

Jennifer hill says:

My pup has been lost for 13 days. She took off in the woods but there has been some possible sightings in some neighborhoods. We don't know where to even begin to put a trap because we don't know where she is. She was very skittish to begin with so I don't think she would go to anyone.


July 22, 2021 at 05:31

Michelle Harris says:

My dog was lost 12 days in the sweltering 90+ degree weather in a heavily wooded area with many animals of prey. I did everything mentioned in this post. All good things. But it was a tip that he spotted in a field about a mile and a half from where he ran off from. We searched 3 hours that morning and nothing even with drones. I went back that evening sat on the ground several yards from the tree line and played a video on my phone twice as loud as my phone would allow me to. The video was called adorable sounds your dog will love. Miraculously he came out and right to me when all else failed. I recommend this to everyone!


May 05, 2022 at 06:35

Josie says:

Michelle Harris, Omg great idea. One I've never seen as a solution. Thank you!!


July 28, 2021 at 02:48

Meagan says:

My Boston terrier is currently missing. We are in day three without him. He went messing in the bush while we were camping 3 hours away from home. (Iron Bridge Ontario Canada). We have followed a lot of these steps. I hope we find him soon


September 23, 2021 at 07:17

Fred says:

I want to thank for creating this post. I have lost my dog in the 18th of this month, in the middle of the woods. In that same day when I returned home, i found this post and decided on the next day to take his doghouse to the closest source of fresh water he could find, always leaving food (no predators in my case) water and the t shirt with my sweat of the previous day hike. Every day I walked an average of 8kms searching for him through the woods, starting where I lost him, into the direction where I placed the doghouse. Today I found him, 50m away from the doghouse. He didnt barked or cry, just walked to me. Maybe I had passed by him previously without even noticing, but he was clearly in shock thats why he never barked. Hes a Beagle (this means he barks everyday at everything). Stay calm and dont give up. Warning: everytime you decide to take a break and go rest for the next day, you will breakdown. What kept me going was thinking he would be worse than me. Once again, thank you for this post, i would never found him without it


May 25, 2022 at 11:25

Willis says:

Our dog just went missing this morning in greenfield Tennessee. It's not a well-known location and has a lot of forest area. She is a pekingese/shih tzu mix, so she's small and kinda scraggly looking. Her name is Molly. If anyone can provide any actual help, please email me.


June 20, 2022 at 03:20

Victor Herbert says:

After having a professional dog tracker coming I can unequivocally this was the best move. The dog tracked the scent immediately and we followed. She was able to define the borders of where the dog had been and now we have a very focused area to search. No more wasting precious time and resources looking everywhere.


October 04, 2022 at 06:18

Jenny Green says:

I lost my Border Collie tonight when he ran of with his parents. He is only one and a half and they escaped from their stall in barn. Parents came back but Pup didn’t. I head Coyotes. I’m sick with worry. We took out flashlights and called for him for five hours. Will not give up. I’m so scared.

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