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 Canine Profile for a dog that is Roaming at Large

This is the behaviour profile we expect for a dog that may choose to roam or wander:

  • Dogs that are skittish, xenophobic, lacking in trust towards humans, or are aloof and indifferent to people are the most likely to pursue this situation. We call these dogs STARS dogs, (Shy, Timid, Aloof, Reserved or Skittish)
  • One of the most common situations is the pet that is displaced for one reason or another. This pet may have been on vacation with the owner, being boarded at a kennel, groomer or veterinarian's office, staying with some one other than the pet owner, recently moved to a new home or myriad of situations that result in the dog being in a place that is not its known home territory. The dog does not have a bonded interest in the location which causes him or her to wander and ultimately learn to survive on its own.
  • With the increased population of puppy mill survivors now in rescue groups,  foster homes or with new adopters, the missing survivor situation across the country has become catastrophic. These shy and unsocialized dogs, are generally afraid of people and have no bonded interest in their new environment. They generally have escaped while being transported, are in a new foster situation or have  just been adopted. They flee their rescuers not realizing that these humans are here to help  not hurt them;  many have experienced only trauma and isolation during their lives as production breeders.
  • Dogs in the herding, hound and sporting groups are the most likely to wander.
  • Other breeds that more commonly choose to wander are  dachshunds, chihuahuas, pomeranians, Jack Russell Terriers, Beagles, Shih Tzus, Yorkies, whippets, greyhounds, Havanese and herding group crosses. Any dog can choose to wander but some breeds are more susceptible to it - probably because they tend to be more successful at it.
  • Dogs that may have been feral or were captured as strays when they were younger may also revert to wandering when presented with an unknown situation. My experience has been that even when a pup has been captured at four weeks of age, the roaming factor may still be present when faced with a frightening situation. They opt for flight when frightened.
  • Males, both neutered and unaltered seem more likely to stay at large and not seek human help than do females. However, a female at large may travel further than a male in the same situation.

NOTE: Dogs that don't fit this profile can become roaming dogs if they are released after being stolen, rescued, or displaced.

   

Below are the type of Leads, Characteristics and Sightings that we expect when a dog is roaming.

 

Below are the typical criteria found in this scenario.

  • At first: maybe no sightings other than the first or second day. This is generally because the dog has traveled outside the pet owner's focused search area quickly. Many pet owners believe that their pet would not cross busy streets or go near a shopping center or school, etc. Generally, this is not true and the dog behaves out of character and travels farther than expected and into situations that would normally be considered unusual for him or her.
  • Later: Many sightings covering various locations; sometimes all in one area and sometimes they jump around over a large area. If the pet has settled into any kind of routine and territory, the sightings will be in a recognizable, patterned area. If no routine, the dog may continue to travel aimlessly. Some breeds exhibit spiraling behaviour while others appear to travel in one compass direction more than others.
  • The pet owners respond to sightings immediately and feel the pet is in the area. They feel their dogshould be able to hear their calls but is not responding. This is perhaps the most surprising condition to many people but it is so common as to be considered the norm in this situation. As the dog continues in his quest for survival, most will stop responding to their domestic training and familiarity. They do not respond when called and may even bolt away from their owner if approached. This is very common and has occurred even when the pet was a very friendly and bold dog. This behavior is what can make this scenario so difficult to recover the pet without professional help.
  • Sightings may happen in the early morning and in the evening and sometimes however rarely during the day. Many pets in this situation will return to a more feral survival pattern and forage for food and water at night and near dawn when fewer people are around. This survival behaviour generally takes at least 72 hours for a dog to learn. Note: Not all dogs pursue this behaviour but a high percentage do.
  • People who routinely feed cats on their front porch or in a public access area may experience the food disappearing at a faster rate than normal. Many roaming dogs eat cat food and forage through the trash as a food source.
  • The first 24 to 48 hours missing... When the pet is seen, he is generally bolting or trying to get away from people, traffic, noise or situations that appear to be threatening... whether they are or not.
  • After 48 to 72 hours missing... When the pet is seen he maybe trotting along as if on a mission, or maybe drinking or eating. Some witnesses have even said the dog looked like he was having a good time. Which I think may happen for some dogs. Those that enjoy the life style may not even lose weight during their travels.
  • When and if the dog settles into a territory, an individual or group of citizens may report seeing him or her frequently.
  • Sightings may be all in one area and concentrated in areas where there are woods, creeks, fields and open spaces. Sometimes can be in a very remote area depending on the dog's personality.
  • Common feeling for pet owner, "I just can't seem to catch up with him or be there at the same place at the same time" The dog generally keeps moving.
  • Displaced dogs may continue to travel farther and farther away from the point of escape leaving some to believe that the dog is trying to find its way home. In my experience this is relatively rare and although Lassie always made it home on her own, most dogs do not.