Strategic Pet Recovery
Strategy - Technique - Tools
Skills to Find and Recover Missing Pets
The Pet Recovery Go Bag
Shawn Dienhart, April 2019

The purpose of a Recovery Go Bag (RGB) is to be prepared in the event you intentionally or unintentionally locate a missing dog.  It is an essential set of tools to have with you during all phases of the strategy until the missing dog is recovered. 

In its most basic form, the RGB contains  the tools necessary to handle a sighting or contact with the missing pet. The optimal "bag" is a small backpack that you can wear when on foot so your hands are free. When you're not on foot, the RGB stays in your vehicle.  The RGB should always be maintained after each use so it is always ready to "go" without delay. 

See the Tools page for detailed usage of each item.

Essential Items
These tools should always be in your RGB.

Small first aid kit
A first aide kit is necessary to manage the hazards encountered when searching for, or recovering a missing dog.  These may involve environmental  issues causing minor cuts, abrasions, a twisted ankle, poison oak or the possibility of having an aggressive or scared dog bite you if proper precautions are not taken.

Many low cost first aide kits are available for $10 to $15 dollars, but you will want customize by removing unnecessary items and adding other needed items. To address the potential hazards you may encounter (e.g. antibiotic cream is not typically included in common first aide kits).

The use of gloves is prudent in many search circumstances to avoid contact with poison oak, getting cut on rusty fence wire, handling objects of unknown origin, and of course handling dogs.  A skittish dog may be skeptical while taking a treat from a gloved hand, but if you must actually handle a dog wearing gloves is the best approach. There are gloves advertised as "bite proof", but if you find yourself in those conditions you really shouldn't be handling the dog anyway. A common glove with a blend of fabric, and leather will suffice to lessen to impact of an unexpected bite - or at the very least,  reduce the seriousness of a bite by some degree.

Dog leash with  "bolt snap" metal clip
Should you encounter a dog that has a collar or harness already on, you'll need a leash.  Be sure to check and inspect the collar or harness to make sure it will not break or come off for whatever reason (too loose, old, worn, etc.).  A "bolt snap" clip is the most common end piece on a leash; it is the easiest and most reliable to use under challenging conditions.

Six to eight feet of nylon rope with a "bolt snap" metal clip secured at one end
The purpose of this rope with a clip on one end is your "go to" leash, slip noose, and all around tool for initially securing a dog during recovery. If a leash is also placed on the dogs collar, the rope remains as a backup device to ensure the dog does not get away from you .

It is important to use nylon rope because it is strong, won't fray, and is more resilient that other common rope fabrics.  These can be easily made or bought at a horse tack store already prepared (sold as a "lead rope"). Just be sure the clip can clip onto the rope to fashion a noose.

Cell phone (and camera if not a smart phone)
For communication within cell coverage areas, your cell phone is best. A camera is needed to take photos of all Points Of Interest and for general reference items. If you find yourself near the missing dog, or think you may be near, silence your phone or turn it off.

Dog treats
Having quality dog treat immediately available when encountering the missing dog is the initial and primary means by which you may get the dog to come to you for recovery. Remember, always have the dog come to you (get down on the ground, do not stare at the dog, pretend to eats the treats, calmly and quietly speak to the dog). Take as much time as necessary to have the dog come to you (measured in minutes to hours, maybe days if trapping is not an option.

A can of pate dog food (in a pull top can).
If the dog shows no interest in treats, it's time to open a can of pate dog food. Pate works best because you can take a little out with your fingers and toss it midway between you and the dog. Then slowly trying narrowing the gap between you and the dog by tossing the food closer to you.

Pen and notepad
Don't rely on your memory. Write down information received from contacting people and provide them with your contact information. Make notes about each Point Of Interest and other information observed.  Often times ideas, thoughts or theories about the missing dog will occur during a search; write these down so you can pursue them at a later time.

Having a map in the field helps you locate Points Of Interest, locations of people contacted and all other relevant search information. Use an app on your phone, a GPS unit, a paper map, or simply a map hand drawn on a blank piece of paper - just be sure it's a map.

A reliable flashlight is of course required at night but also useful during the day to look into dark places (large pipes, drainages, etc.).

Useful Items
These items are nice to have but not essential

Binoculars or small spotting scope
Having the ability to see further than normal is useful to identify objects at a distance.

Animal print/tracker chart
Having a good animal tracking / animal print reference is very useful in the field when trying to identify a particular print as either a domestic dog or some other animal. It is easy to become biased in the filed and having this reference provides a good level of objectivity.

The ruler is used for a reference scale when taking photos of suspect tracks/prints.

Pro Items
These items aren't required in your RGB, but there are occasions they will be needed. All of them require a level of expertise before attempting to use them in the field.

Snappy Stick
The Snappy Stick is a useful tool for securing a non-aggressive yet difficult to secure skittish dog.

Catch Pole
A Catch Pole is required to secure an aggressive dog (or a dog that poses any kind of risk to you).

Microchip reader
A microchip "chip" reader is useful for identifying in the field if a recovered pet is chipped or not. Once the chip number is obtained, one of the main microchip companies can be contacted for pet ID info (or some websites exist that provide some pet ID data.