The most important thing to find an escaped animal with specially trained search dogs is the individual scent of the missing animal.

If one has to ‘generate’ this only when the animal is already gone, experience has shown that it is very difficult. Because no matter where you try to find hair, saliva, or maybe dead skin, you have never an isolated sample of these, they are always already ‘mixed’ with other odours. These other odours can be the pet owners, or other animals living in the same house.

In order to work as efficiently as possible, a so-called scent article is needed. The isolated and unmixed scent of the missing animal.

It is very easy to make such a scent article, but you should really pay attention to some points, otherwise it may lead to an unusable scent article:

You need a small jam jar – unused with silicone coating in the lid. Don’t use jars with a rubber seal between lid and glass as this may deteriorate over time and contaminate the scent article.

Depending on the fur length of the animal you need a pair of scissors, or new sterile wound dressing, sterile tweezers and disposable gloves which are put on before you start collecting the scent.

For long-haired animals, open the jar and without attacking the fur, apply a few hair tips or strands, or cut the clump of hair with a pair of scissors and drop directly into the jar.

With very smooth-haired animals you take – with your gloves – the sterile wound dressing out of the packaging, slightly dampen the dressing and rub on either the inner sides of the the animals thighs or along their gums. Dampening the dressing allows saliva, dandruff and fine hairs to remain on the dressing. Place the dressing inside the glass jar and put the lid on it.

The glass jar should now be labelled with the name of the animal and the date the scent sample was collected. Stored in a cool, dark place the sample will last for many years as an ‘insurance’ in case the worst happens and your animal goes missing. In the best case of course, you will never need it! Please note that if you take saliva, the odoriferous material usually does not survive for more than 6 months (starts to grow mold), so a new sample is required to be taken every 6 months.

If necessary, the glass is only opened by the professional PETTRAILERs, as it is important to obtain the scent article and to draw only one ‘copy’ for each search dog. If you let every dog get a taste of the original glass, the scent article would not be ‘clean’ after the first dog and the second search dog may end up following the scent of the first search dog not the missing animal.

PETTRAILER recommends that every pet owner make a scent article from every pet and every owner checks that all their pets microchip details are up to date.

It would be particularly important for breeders and animal welfare associations to deliver animals only with scent articles to foster homes, or even permanent homes. With new animals in the home, the risk of runaways is particularly high and of course there is nothing in the new home that contains the scent of the animal, that you could offer a search dog to track down the missing animal if they do runaway.

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