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Discussion Starter #1
Sam got lost today. He was out in the woods with my wife, being as lovely as he usually is with coming back to check in when he's called or loses sight of her for too long, and then he just... doesn't.

Long story short, we spent 2.5-3 hours looking for him, walking the trail and the surrounding area, checking nearby fields, and eventually driving around asking people if they'd seen him, calling all the way. And me four days out of surgery (why I wasn't on the walk to begin with). Finally get a call from the landlord that he's shown up in the yard, and he's been able to pop Sam back in our apartment (Sam knows and adores our landlord, which helps).

He's fine. Turned up totally naked, which makes us think his tracking line or harness got caught up on something in the woods, and by the time he got loose he wasn't able to figure out where my wife had gone. Had himself quite an adventure - apparently he visited the store down the street looking for us, rolled in at least one godawful thing, brought home a tick or two, and found himself some lovely human excrement somewhere to eat. Don't ask how we know.

I'm not convinced it's a recall issue, just because he's never done anything like this before, and usually has a great natural orbit. I really think he got stuck and turned around or something. But regardless, we're stopping off-leash walks for a bit until we can brush up his recall more, and he's getting a GPS tracker for Christmas. And maybe we'll try to teach him some actual tracking skills. He's pretty rubbish when we play hide and seek deliberately, let alone when he actually needs to find us in an emergency situation.

We're all safe and uninjured. I'm sore. Sam has spent the last few hours passed out, unsurprisingly. But yikes, dog.
 

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I am so glad that Sam made his way back home safely! My guess is that he is quite pleased with himself, what with experiencing so many new things, doing it all alone and finding his way back home.

When you get your GPS tracker, I hope you will post about how you like it, how big it is, how Sam deals with it, etc.

Take care of yourself and get lots of rest over the next couple of days. And when Sam wakes up, give him a scratch under the chin from me.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I am too! I do think he wound up a bit distressed after some time adventuring. He's not a dog who likes being isolated from his people long, at least not outside, and we think he was spotted by the local corner grocer because we often stop there on walks for milk or the like. Probably wondering if we were inside! He's not acting too traumatized now so he'll bounce probably back. Overall he's a pretty confident, solid, tolerant little guy.

We're talking to my FiL, who's used GPS trackers before on his hunting dachshunds. See if he has any suggestions that'll work for us, given Sam's pretty small for the breeds that traditionally have GPS used on them (hunting breeds, essentially). Eyeing the Garmin T5 mini because the company has a good reputation and support over here, but we want to do our research.

And thank you for the well-wishes. I don't seem to be worse off for the running around, thankfully, but I'm not planning on trying that again any time soon!
 

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Glad he showed up safe and sound. My Rat Terrier, Lucky, was lost for about six hours in Anaheim, CA, in one of the busiest areas outside of the Disneyland area. My husband and father-in-law had taken him along when they went car parts shopping, and he'd jumped out of the car and slipped his collar. One of the longest centuries of my life.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Oof, I can imagine! At least our neighborhood is pretty quiet, especially on the weekends, and has lots of kids around so most people drive carefully. I was still having visions of finding him on the roadside. Before we'd narrowed down what area he was in, I couldn't decide whether it was worse for him to be stuck/trapped in one spot in the woods or running loose around the streets...

And as an aside, I know this kind of thing is a risk when you do off-leash hikes. And I don't blame my wife in the slightest. We'd taken reasonable precautions before, and now we're going to take a few more. But I can't imagine stopping them altogether with Sam. They have such a positive impact on his life, and reduce frustration/increase resilience in him beyond any other exercise/stimulation/training or combination thereof we've tried. We'll go back to long-line for a while, but my goal with him will still be off-lead hiking.
 

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So glad your boy came back safe. That’s pretty good he found his way all the way back to the apartment. Please do an update on how you like your gps collar.
 

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Good you got him back.
It sounds like he is not "really" off lead.. he drags a tracking line (10 meters????) when you let him loose? I do not know your country or your woods, but here where I live that is a recipe for disaster (the dog can get really caught). For once, I will say thank goodness he was in a harness because he could slip it.

I think these are banned in your country, but this is why I hike off lead in the woods with an e collar on my dog (I have hundreds.. and in some cases thousands.. of acres of wilderness and wild forests at my disposal and all of it is "dog must be under control" so no leash is required unless posted otherwise). Of course the dog is trained to understand the e collar and I will add I have had to use it only ONCE on a recall off of wildlife (deer) in all the years of having it on in that situation.

I am so glad he came home, nastiness and getting to be a dog (which is not always conducive to what humans like) and all the rest. I would have been worried sick.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
It's a light biothane cord, cut down to somewhere around 3-4 meters. Not woven at all, completely smooth and round, and previously has virtually never gotten caught up in undergrowth. Sometimes it'll get a little snagged, but I've never seen it catch badly enough that he'd be able to pull out of his harness before he pulled the line free. It's actually designed to be dragged by dogs on a scent trail, which is why we used it - and yeah, would've never had him dragging a line from a collar for obvious reasons! Since he's rarely out of sight for more than a few seconds, it just hasn't been a priority to change things up. Just wanted to make it clear we're aware of the potential dangers of having a drag line and were taking precautions that have, until yesterday, been sufficient.

Still, something happened. We're re-evaluating and may stop having the drag line altogether, once we've freshened up his recall on a long-line and seen if this incident has caused any behavior changes during our hikes. No, I'm not going to use an e-collar - as you pointed out, legality takes that right off the table regardless of any debates on training methods, etc. I do lean towards something causing Sam to not be able to return to my wife, and getting turned around as he tried to find her, just because I know him and how he behaves with us in the woods. He might get side-tracked by an interesting smell for a short period, but he does not like being isolated or not knowing where we are on hikes. If he were the type to just bugger off on his own we wouldn't be letting him off-lead at all. If I'm right about the scenario - and I may not be, but it seems most likely - no amount or kind of recall training would've helped, because he wanted to find her and couldn't.

That's actually why I'm considering adding some tracking and SAR type training in, because those woods can be pretty echo-y (lots of big rocky hills), and teaching him skills for finding people PLUS adding a lot of value to finding people in the woods seems like it could only help. He's not great at using his nose... we play hide and seek games in the woods on occasion, and even with one of us playing referee to keep him in the correct general area, I've seen him pass a (relatively easy) hiding place a good half dozen times before he thinks to start snuffling around.

And yeah, we were worried sick. I'd rather lose a dozen harnesses and have to clean up god knows what from the kitchen floor than lose him. Super_Nova, the trail is actually up the street from our apartment so we walk there regularly. Very glad that he knew to backtrack to look for us in familiar places, though I wish I could explain to him that if he'd stayed in one spot we could find him more easily.
 

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Can you make a search and see if you can find the harness and the cord? It might provide answers. Just a thought.

I use biothane for tracking (lots of advantages over nylon, cotton and leather). IF it wraps on itself (as in encircling an object), it can get very very tight and not come "undone" regardless of shape unless unwound in reverse. I would go on a search and see if you can find what happened. I would bet it was not far off from where he was last seen.

You can try teaching tracking.. but most dogs that are successful have a natural hunt drive and natural tendency to use their noses. If nothing else, you will be doing something interesting and new with your dog so that is a win right there.
 

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Given that the dog went out in a harness and long line and came back without, no.

Odds are he would have:
1-) Lost the ecollar the same way
or
2-) been tangled up and being shocked and still unable to return.

Yay.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
We're going to look for it - or my wife is - but as previously mentioned I'm on bedrest and REALLY shouldn't have been running around looking for him yesterday, and she had to work today because she took time off to get me home and settled post-surgery. It's not likely to be somewhere easy to find, because she would've seen it hunting for him in that area yesterday, but we are going to try to track it down and figure out what's up. I agree it might've been the line, but as I said, we were aware and trying to take precautions, not being totally careless.

He's very heavily motivated by positive interactions with people, really loves his 'you found mom!!!' parties, and enjoys simple scent games at home. I don't think he'll ever be a hunting dog or competitive or anything, but some extra skills couldn't hurt. I think he will actually be more inclined to use his nose to orient himself if we work on normalizing it more in different scenarios, based on what I've seen from him so far. And as you said, fun. Plus our next dog will be a 'nosey' breed and my wife is considering training them for SAR for real if they have the knack for it. But then, my FiL - who has successfully trained and judged tracking dogs - has a hunting line dachshund who'll happily follow a track backwards... poor girl. So we'll work with what we can.
 

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I'm glad he came back safe and sound!

My parents used a GPS tracker for a couple of their dogs, and they worked great. Some of them will even send a text to your phone if the dog leaves their "boundary".
 

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The CogDog Radio Podcast has had a couple of episodes about GPS collars.
 

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Wow that must have been so stressful! I can't imagine. I've only lost Kane for about 45 minutes once (he escaped our yard), but I was terrified he was going to be hit by a car. He was just in the neighbour's yard but completely ignored my calling him.

I'm glad Sam is okay :)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
LeoRose, I've listened to those episodes! It's one of the reasons Garmin was the first brand I thought of. She uses the Astro, I think. We have to decide what kinds of features we want/need and if we just want one that has a phone app or one that uses its own handheld.

And thank you all for the support. Right scary situation. Still haven't found his harness yet... it should still have a tag on it so maybe we'll hear if someone else stumbles across it.
 

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Oli has a Whistle tracker, and I love it. I may make a post about it, actually, since there seems to be some interest in the subject.

I'm happy to hear Sam made it back! Oli getting lost is my biggest fear, so I can't imagine the panic you must have felt. The tracker definitely helps ease my mind, and I think it's a great idea.
 

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What a reliable boy, to find his own way home. As stressful as that surely was, it must be some peace of mind to know he keeps a brain in his head in emergency situations.

My Cassius went on a tear once, running after a hare. I live in a tiny remote Alaska town, so I wasn't terribly worried about traffic, but he's a huge hairy black dog so I was afraid he might get mistaken for a bear and shot, or that he might hit the edge of town and get lost in the wilderness. But while I was a panicking and searching, I got a phone call from the liquor store asking whether I owned a huge hairy black dog, because there was one in their beer aisle with my number on his collar.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
The liquor store! I know it was terrifying for you but I'm laughing - I'm just imagining he was planning to have a party without you! Very glad he made it back to town unscathed.
 

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Its such a cold pit of fear in the stomach when they scare you and I know that feeling of your brain running through all the horrible things that might have happened.

It's been 7 or 8 years now, but Chester and I were hiking with a group at night in the snow in a very large city park here. Large like over 700 acres but completely urban around it. He was off-leash because he had been great off-leash at a friend's horse farm and he was trotting around with another dog. He wasn't really well trained for off-leash and it was stupid of me to have him off-leash in the night and a foot of snow on the ground. He went after a deer and disappeared over the retaining wall of the path into the woods. I think that he quickly got past the range for him to hear me call for him and snow muffles everything more too. I searched on foot for him for hours but 20 degree weather and the hills meant I was too exhausted to keep up by close to midnight. All night I could think only of him being trapped by his harness in the woods and freezing and other bad bad dreams.

Got a phone call first thing that morning from the mounted police! He had let himself into their horse barn and tackled the caretaker when she arrived to feed the horses. Smart boy found the only warm place in the whole park :) I figure that he tracked the scent because he was used to my friend's horses and staying in a stall there when we were out riding.

Eva never ever goes off-leash, I mean, she has killed a rabbit while ON-leash so that's some prey drive for ya. But her coat color is identical to my privacy fencing color so she manages to give me a minor heart attack all the time by sitting stock still at the far fence line and visually "disappearing" when I look out the door for her.
 
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