Social media-inspired search party helps reunite lost dog with owner
A missing dog named Dozer, who was spotted running along Greenfield Drive in Kohler after a storm, became one of the hottest topics on Kohler social media in late June.
Dozer escaped his Sheboygan Falls home during a June 27 thunderstorm when he became scared and broke through a screen door. Several Kohler residents posted about the sightings in a Kohler women’s Facebook group, but no one recognized the dog. A notice and photo were then posted on the Kohler Villager Facebook page as well as the Kohler group on Nextdoor.com. The post was shared around Facebook for two days before someone recognized the dog and tagged the owner.
Residents from Kohler and surrounding communities, as well as the owner, jumped into action helping to look for Dozer, posting sightings and updates on social media. But Dozer was on the run, which is common for lost scared dogs.
Many people searching for lost dogs don’t realize that dogs that are normally friendly and social will often go into panic mode when too many people chase after him calling his name. This causes the dog to keep running, even from its owners. While some dogs will ultimately calm down and then approach people, other dogs will continue to run as Dozer did.
According to the Missing Animal Network (missinganimalresponse.com), one of the worst things searchers (even the owners) can do is call a stray, loose, or panicked dog. Most people will slowly approach the dog using direct eye contact while tapping their leg and calling him, but in the dog’s panicked state, that signals predatory behavior. Calling his name becomes a “trigger” that can cause him to automatically take off. The website says that dogs who leave the home because of a frightening event, like an accident or thunderstorm, are the most difficult to catch since they will travel far, travel fast, and avoid all human contact. When they are in fight or flight mode, a part of their brain shuts down that also shuts down their sense of smell toward food or their owners.
The website recommends using “calming signals” instead. The calming signals involve taking a low posture such as kneeling or even lying down with a bag of food. Avoid direct eye contact with the dog or calling his name and instead make other noises like coughing or anything that captures the dog’s attention. Then pretend to eat the food, while crunching the bag, making eating noises like one would do when trying to get a baby to eat, and dropping pieces of the food on the ground. This signals to the dog that you aren’t a threat, but are instead ignoring him. Patience is required as it may take a half-hour or more for the dog to finally approach. You may then gently toss some food to the dog to attempt to lure him closer.
Several years ago a dog was lost around the Kohler arboretum for days after chasing a deer. He would hide during the day, and come out at night. The owners were instructed to park near the area, leaving the car doors open with food in and around the car. They were also instructed to walk around the car to leave their scent, then just sit quietly and wait. Their dog finally appeared around 3:00 a.m., and after reluctantly circling the car for a while, he jumped in.
Dozer made it to Gibbsville, which is about 7.5 miles from Kohler before a couple spotted him. According to the owner, as the couple approached him, Dozer began to back up, most likely getting ready to flee again. Fortunately, another person happened to be close enough to grab his collar.
Other than looking a little scruffy and being drenched in skunk odor, Dozer appears to be okay.