What would you do if a dog or cat you were sitting for ran off and you couldn't find them?

We were on a recent month long sit. The Home host had told me the dog had good recall and it was ok to let him off his leash - Pointing out a regular spot they go for exercise - A large expanse of grass surrounded by forest.

And so it was - every day for two weeks we went to the spot - The dog running ahead then me calling when I thought he was far enough and he would come bounding back to my side.

Until the first day of the third week.

We went out as usual, the dog was quite a distance ahead when he suddenly stopped - Ears went up, one front leg raised and he stared into the forest. He stood there statue -like for probably thirty seconds totally ignoring my calls then, without warning headed straight for the forest!

The feeling in the pit of your stomach is hard to describe. The phone call I would have to make to the home host was all I could think of. I headed into the forest calling his name but there was no sight of him. I swear you could actually see my heart pounding!

There was no one around to ask and I had no phone on me to call for assistance - After mulling over my predicament I decided my best option would be to hang around and keep calling which is what I did

Low and behold, around 10 minutes later ( which felt like a lifetime) I heard the scamper of doggy feet and out of the trees came the accused - covered head to paw in thick mud and looking very sorry for himself - I have never been so relieved.

For the next two weeks he stayed on leash at all times!


@Colin we had EXACTLY the same happen to us on the South Downs in Sussex with a “Highly Trained” Springer (ex army sniffer dog) we were 6 weeks into a 3 month sit.

All the calling in the world couldn’t compete with deer smells, our feelings were identical to yours … Woody came back, eventually.

The leash was our friend for the duration of that sit, and every sit since …

Probably not Woody’s though :dog: :wink: .

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@SABrenner I love your response as I thought the same just that I would add at the end …while having a stiff drink!

Ours was a Springer too!

Why am I not surprised @Colin? … Having been owned by six of these adorable creatures I know how their noses rule, making them suffer from selective hearing, :rofl: :dog:

I’ve finally followed through on something I learned about on the forum. I ordered tags to take with me on sits. After discussing it with owners, I will add my tag to the pet’s collar, if we think it’s appropriate. What comes to mind for me is maybe the supposedly indoor cats who are known escape artists, or may more likely be with sitters. I’m not one to walk a dog off-leash, so that would be less of an issue, but maybe still useful.

I ordered these through Amazon, and had a good allowance for characters inscribed on both sides. These are just over 1" in size, but they had a range of sizes. I added my country as my preferred sits outside of Canada are in Mexico and many people there have phone plans that cover Canada. In hindsight I should have perhaps added my country code, but no doubt these will be better than only the owner’s tag, if the owner is not reachable for some reason.


Perfect! We also sat a couple of dogs that were running off all the time (but this is what they did with their owners and we were instructed to let them off the leash). This will be helpful if we should be in that situation again. PS: We would probably go with an Apple AirTag or similar products, not sure which product is the best.

We are always a little cautious about letting any pets outside without a leash. There’s a place close to home that’s fenced, it often it’s a bit crowded. We just finishing up our longest sit, and finally found a park large enough, where she can roam without being tethered to us. She did very well, for the most part, but we are still overly attentive, when she’s free to amble on her own. Her recall was very good in certain areas of the park, and when the dog crowds thickened, we put her back on leash.

We have had a couple of animal lost situations on different sits, first one was in the UK with two German Shorthair hunting dogs. They had GPS collars and we were required to take them to a large park area about 1/2 mile from the house and let them run in the forest off lead - we were told they had good recall, but that turned out to be true for the owners but not us. We were well briefed on the equipment and software on our phones but on the day they decided to run further (probably chasing squirrels) than usual we discovered that the collars worked but not well enough to give us a location quick enough. They were running so fast in the forest that by the time the signal caught up to our phones, they were probably 1/4 mile away from the spot the map showed. (At that time, GPS tracking was useless, but we have now experienced newer better technology that is more accurate). One dog came back after about 1/2 hour and found us, the other continued to be missing. After scouring the forest trails and meadows and talking with other dog owners (and being massively apprehensive at the possibilities) we found a lady who knew ‘our dogs’ and saw the lost dog and knew he was stressed, put a leash on him and searched the trails to find us. So, our lesson with this experience was to not accept dog sits where the owner insists that the dogs go off lead outside of a fenced area or dog park. Recall is not the same for sitters as it is for owners. When a dog owners tells us we can take the dog off lead if we want, we always tell them that we do not feel comfortable doing that while we are the responsible party for those dogs.

Our second lost pet was on a 80 acre ranch (off the grid - mountains, forest, predators) when the cat disappeared about a week into our sit. After a day of calling and looking, we contacted the owners and they said it wasn’t uncommon when there were others caring for the cat and not to worry - he would come back. He had not returned when the owners got home a week later and they were sure he would come home now that they were home. We felt terrible leaving without knowing where he was but the owners were ok with it. We kept in touch and after 2 weeks more they had given up and feared the worst, but he then showed up - apparently none the worse for wear! I think the lesson here and in other situations is to communicate quickly with the owners (if possible) about any situation that concerns you (and discuss how they want you to handle emergency type situations while their home and pets are in your care.).


A few years back, my friend’s cat came to stay with me whilst they were away. Obviously I planned to keep him inside for the duration as I’m not local to his normal stomping grounds.

He disappeared. I was 99% certain he hadnt got out through a door or window… and yet he had completely vanished. I looked in every room of the house. And then again, making sure to shut the door between searches, so he wasnt sneaking out behind my back. I started to doubt myself, maybe I had left a door open… Argh! How would I tell my friend I had lost her cat???

I eventually found him sleeping on a pile of plates at the back of a corner kitchen cupboard. He’d opened it himself and the door swung shut so I never realised it had been opened. And obviously he’d ignored all my calls! I closed the door and left him to come out in his own good time :smiley:

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Warning - short story, another one of my rambles…

Again, not a sitter story, but a Springer one, @Angela-HeadOfCommunity @Colin

I have had a few Springers over the years, all rescues or from the dog home.

My first, Brandy, was a lovely old man, about 10 years old when I got him in 1990, I think. His owner had died, and the family couldn’t look after him, so when I spotted him at the local cat and dog home, with his lead and collar hanging on the side of the cage, I just knew. I only had him a couple of years, he had epilepsy and sadly didn’t recover from one of his events.

Next was Prince, or MR Prince, again from the dog home. Still a bit older, about 7 I guess, he was very much a spur-of-the-moment thing. Again, a random visit to the dog home, and I walked away with him – so I had 3 dogs… Back then it was just a. case of asking about a dog, handing over about £10, and that was it.

I had Prince for about 5 years. That’s him in the middle.

My next was Pip. I had a caravan in Aviemore, from 2003, and in 2005 I spotted an ad in the local newsagent window – home wanted for an older Springer lady. So guess what?

She was a star, so well trained, my best pal for about 6 years, went everywhere with me.

Now to get to the point.

When Mrs Pip passed, I decided not to get another dog for a while.
After 20 years I wanted a long lie in the morning.
I got involved with a rescue charity in Scotland, SpringerrescueforScotland, but after only 3 months I met Duffy. He was a real character. About 7 years old with a bit of history.

Really prey driven.

The biggest, friendliest dog ever indoors, but outside – birds, Squirrels, rabbits, leaves – anything that moved he chased.

So, after meeting him, knowing his history, I adopted him!

Not long after I got him, we were walking in the Cairngorm mountains above Aviemore, he was on the lead – (he was never off the lead) - when he spotted something and slipped his collar, and headed off into the hills. I set off after him, but he was so fast. It must have been early afternoon.

There is a Bothy nearby (an abandoned cottage, used by hill walkers for shelter) so I waited there for a few hours, calling him, walking around a bit, but nothing. Eventually, I headed off the mountain as it was getting dark.

I drove back to my caravan, packed a bag with some food, a torch, and sleeping bag and headed back up the hill in the dark – it was about an hour off the road. Back at the Bothy I lit a fire, laid out some food outside for him, and settled down for the night.

It is amazing how many people are about in the mountains at night! The Bothy was on a track between two valleys, and apparently, it is very popular to cycle between them at night, in the dark.
And people climb mountains in the Dark! At about 10 pm, a group of walkers appeared, left a pile of backpacks and headed off into the night to climb the nearest hill. I was a bit uncomfortable with all this activity, so decided to head down the mountain and start my search in the morning (Sunday).

The next day, I must have walked over 30 km up and down the track, shouting and whistling for Duffy.
When I first made it back to the Bothy, a young couple were there, having spent the night (no idea when they arrived) so I asked if they had seen my dog.

“No, but we did hear some scratching at the door, it was a bit scary…”

Anyway, I still didn’t find him on Sunday.
Monday morning, I phoned a couple of local outdoor centres and the local youth hostel asking them to look out for him – they run hillwalking/climbing classes in the mountains.

Just as I was about to head off to start my search again, I got a phone call.

“I have your dog, he was in my garden this morning, so I have given him some soup, and he is sleeping now”

He had made his way off the mountain and stopped at the very first house on the road. I went to collect Him, and he just looked at me, and jumped into the back of my car, as if this was normal.

Almost 48 hours later.

I had him for 5 years, strapped to my arm. Big softy.

This is just a random post…