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CAN A LOST DOG FIND ITS OWN WAY HOME?

We’ve all heard the miraculous, heartwarming tales of clever dogs who beat the odds to make their way home again. But how common is it? Are lost dogs really capable of finding their own way back to you?

Can Lost Dogs Smell Their Way Home?

Dogs are incredibly intelligent creatures with a keen sense of smell. Scientists estimate that a dog’s sense of smell is somewhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than a human’s! This plays a huge role in helping a lost dog find its way back home. Lost dogs will sniff around for familiar scents: plants, bushes, street corners, doormats, other animals, people, maybe even their favorite food! So, take some treats out with you when you’re canvassing the neighborhood searching for your lost dog, as well as their favorite stuffed animal - your dog might recognize the smell of these things before they hear you call their name.

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How Do Lost Dogs Navigate Their Way Home?

Lost dogs can navigate their way home using magnetic fields. This sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it’s true! New research from the Czech University of Life Sciences shows that dogs are even smarter than we thought. A recent study performed over 600 trials with 27 different dogs equipped with GPS trackers and cameras. The dogs were set loose in the forest and tracked. In two-thirds of cases, the dogs behaved predictably and tracked their own scent back to where their masters stood. However, the remaining 30% did something unexpected. These dogs began their route by running a short distance along the north-south axis—even if they did not come from that direction—then returned to their masters via a completely different route than they had come. Researchers call this type of orienting run a “compass run”. They surmise it indicates that dogs are capable of detecting magnetic fields and using this ability to navigate their environment. These so-called compass runs allow lost dogs to get their bearings and then find the fastest way back. In fact, the dogs who took this approach got back much quicker than those who tracked scents. 

How Can I Increase My Chances of Finding My Lost Dog?

So, while you’re out looking for your lost dog, ask someone to stay at your house in case your dog heads back there. Alert the police and your local rescue center to help you keep an eye out. Create an eye-catching lost dog poster and post it to all your social media accounts, like Facebook. Then use Boost by Pet Alert to help boost the visibility of your post to people in the area. Keep your phone fully charged and switched on in case anyone tries to contact you with news of your lost dog. And, most of all, be patient and try not to assume the worst. Sometimes it can take a while for your dog to make its way home to you. Good luck!