Tales and Tips about Lost Pets from a Pet Detective (Part II)


Kat Albrecht is the founder of Missing Pet Partnership, a national non-profit that specializes in community-based lost pet services and a police officer turned pet detective. She also trains people in the the science of finding missing pets. The Missing Animal Response (pet detective) training course is offered online and is available to anyone residing anywhere. For Lost Pet Prevention Month (hosted by PetHub), she shared stories and advice from her work as a pet detective. You can read part I here.

In the name of full transparency, please be aware that this blog post contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you).
  • Why did you start your business?
I first started moonlighting as a pet detective in 1997 after my police bloodhound, A.J., went missing in the woods in Santa Cruz, California. I used another search-and-rescue dog to track A.J. down and find him and that gave me the idea to see whether dogs could be trained to find lost pets.

As an experiment, I took my retired cadaver dog, Rachel, and trained her to find lost pets. In her first four searches she found two missing cats and one missing dog. Since that day, my passion has been to make these services available in all communities. I formed Missing Pet Partnership, a national nonprofit in 2001, launched the first-ever pet detective academy in 2005, and have been training volunteer and professional pet detectives ever since.

You can read about my early pet detective work that include many of Rachel’s pet searches in my book Pet Tracker: The Amazing Story of Rachel the K-9 Pet Detective (available as an ebook, softcover, and audiobook) at http://tinyurl.com/PetTrackerBook.

MAR Cat Detection Dog Susie greets Target Cat Cheeto with a kiss.

  • What is your most memorable pet detective experience?
I’ve been doing this work since 1997 and have had so many “memorable” experiences! I guess I would say the time I was flown to New York City by the Today Show to search an apartment for a loose snake was memorable. A violinist who lived alone opened a cabinet to find a giant shed snake skin in her pantry! She did not own a snake and was too afraid to sleep or stay in her apartment. I was flown out on a red-eye flight with Rachel my search dog and an infrared camera.
It was a surreal experience to be in San Francisco one day and in NYC the next with camera crews following our every move. We searched very inch of that tiny apartment and did not find the snake, but we did locate the hole in the floor where the snake had entered and then exited after depositing his skin. The violinist was grateful for our help.
  • How do you train your dogs to find missing pets?
We select dogs that love to play with other dogs and that become excited when another dog runs away and hides from them. We progressively train the dog to follow a scent trail after having them sniff the scent from that “target dog” which has run from them and is hiding. It takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months to properly train a dog in MAR Trailing work.
The second type of dog we train are MAR Cat Detection dogs. We select dogs that love cats and that become hyper excited when they smell the scent of a cat. We train these dogs to detect the airborne scent of concealed cats and utilize the dog as a search tool when we conduct a slow, methodical search of a missing cat’s territory. It only takes around 3 to 4 months to train a cat detection dog because we are basically shaping their existing behavior of excitement towards cats.
If anyone wants to learn more about how to train a dog in MAR work you can check out my book, Dog Detectives: Train Your Dog to Find Lost Pets.
Trainer Kat Albrecht introduces MAR Cat Detection Dog in training to Target Cat Myron.
  • Can you search for any type of pet? Does the process differ?

The pet detectives that I train occasionally are asked to search for different species like turtles, ferrets, birds and iguanas. Many of the principles that we use to recover missing dogs and cats are also used to search for other species. One of the most common techniques that we use for nearly every species is switching from using small, white, 8 ½ X 11 pieces of papers used as “flyers” to instead creating giant neon REWARD LOST DOG posters that utilize what we call the 5+5+55 MPH Rule.

You want to use five words that drivers passing by can read in five seconds when traveling fifty five MPH. We have used signs like these to help recover countless numbers of missing dogs and cats but also for other lost species. It is critical to capture the attention of people driving through an area that a companion animal is missing, and these types of signs are able to do that.

Many people falsely believe that a “bloodhound” or a “tracking dog” is the answer to finding their missing pet and yet the majority of lost pets that we’ve been able to help recover have been due to using the big, neon posters.

Giant neon lost dog posters.
  • Under what circumstances would you turn down a job (weather, time etc)?
I would turn down a request for a search if I felt for any reason that I was not able to help. Past reasons where I have turned down cases have been because the weather was terrible (too windy, too hot, etc.), the pet had been missing for over a week or the scent trail was impossible to follow, or the terrain was just too steep or dangerous for me to work in.
*All photos are the property of Kat Albrecht.
** We are participating in PetHub’s 2nd Lost Pet Prevention Month. This post was sponsored by PetHub. They are not responsible for the contents of this article.




43 Responses

  1. Valerie

    July 29, 2016 2:32 pm

    It must be so incredible frustrating not knowing your baby is safe or not 🙁 ! These people are doing amazing work, they are angels!

  2. The Broke Dog

    July 29, 2016 3:47 pm

    What an amazing service! My last dog would escape all of the time. Thank fully we were always able to find him in the neighborhood, but a decade and a half later I can still feel that pang of terror that he might be gone forever.

  3. Jeanne Melanson

    July 29, 2016 6:55 pm

    Wow! What an awesome service they offer. I love the story of the woman who found a shed snake skin in her cupboard but didn't own a snake. She must have been so afraid. Thanks for sharing this. I did not know this was a possibility.

  4. Talent Hounds

    July 30, 2016 12:11 pm

    What an excellent idea. We have seen the incredible life-saving work police dogs do tracking lost people and pets. It's great that Kat is using her skills to help other people train their dogs. Sadly Kilo does not seem to have a great sense of smell and he might eat any dogs or cats he found so he would not be an ideal tracker. I would be terrified if he got lost so glad there are dogs out there learning how to help.

  5. Janet Keefe

    July 30, 2016 10:30 pm

    I can't tell you how many times I've driven by a poster that you could not even read at all! I think that might be the best piece of advice she gives -neon posters with big letters. It's great to know that there are may options out there for finding lost pets. And wouldn't that be a great job to have?
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  6. Daily Dog Tag

    July 30, 2016 11:59 pm

    It has been so interesting to read about Pet Detectives! The bright poster board sign is brilliant, and that is something that most of us can do if we need to. Thanks for the tip!

  7. The Daily Pip

    July 31, 2016 1:55 pm

    I love that there are specific cat detection dogs! That's interesting that sometimes she has to decline jobs because of the weather conditions. I wonder if that impacts searches as a result of natural disasters – storms, wildfires, etc.

  8. M Dawson

    July 31, 2016 11:23 pm

    This is so inspiting, and so amazing! Haveing a dog thst specifcally looks for cats is, for me, a really visionary thing – some dogs just could not do it – others have the special skills!

  9. FiveSibesMom

    July 31, 2016 11:23 pm

    Excellent post! What an important service. I've added Missing Pet Partnership to my ever-evolving list for Lost/Found Siberian Huskies & Pets in my Notes on FiveSibes Facebook page. I'm also sharing and Pinning.

  10. Robin Mudge

    August 1, 2016 3:33 am

    What an interesting profession! I can't blame that violinist to be afraid of being in the apartment. I'm not afraid of snakes, but I would be nervous since I wouldn't know if it was a poisonous snake I was dealing with. It is really interesting how they use dogs to find cats too! That is a great idea. Cats are amazing at hiding.
    -Purrs from your friends at http://www.PlayfulKitty.net

  11. Cathy Armato

    August 1, 2016 4:37 am

    I loved both your posts, part 1 and 2, it's so interesting. It's great to know there are people out there who are well trained in finding lost pets.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them


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