Dogs and drones – sounds like an unlikely mix, right? But turns out, some creative dog parents are actually using drones to locate and track down missing dogs around the world!

But just how well do dogs and drones get along?

With all the reasons that dogs run away, any loving dog parent would want to stay on top of their safety at all times. So let’s explore whether drones are the best choice for tracking down a missing dog – and why a GPS tracker is a safer, more reliable choice instead.

Do dogs and drones go well together?

Dogs and drones. This unlikely duo is making headlines around the world lately with some unbelievable stories. (A few of which we’ll explore here.) In fact, some people around the world are creatively putting their drones to good use – for the benefit of their furry friends.

A man holding up a drone and tracking device

Haven’t heard about it yet? Here are some recent headlines for you:

As the makers of the world’s most trusted GPS trackers for dogs and cats, we’re for anything that protects our furry friends.

But do drones pose a safety risk to dogs? Yes, as we’ll see below. This in spite of how they may be used to rescue lost or displaced dogs in some cases. So let’s look at how drones might not be so helpful for dogs.

Do drones bother dogs?

Oftentimes, drones can bother dogs (and their parents) more than they can help them. Like this story of a Malamute who took down a drone that was harassing them in their own backyard.1

The owner of the drone was flying it in his neighbor’s yard without permission, stalking the frightened dog. This persisted for months, causing anxiety in the dog and a headache for the Malamute’s caretaker.

Unfortunately, the ill-mannered drone operator ignored requests from the dog’s guardian to stop flying the drone over his property.

A Malamute sitting outdoors in a lawn with an ice cream cone in their mouth

Then one day, the dog snatched the drone while it was flying just above his head and destroyed it.

The drone owner tried to sue the dog’s guardian for damages to the drone. But in the end it was he who had to pay for what he’d done.

⚠️ Besides having to pay over $2,000 for the dog’s medical expenses, the drone owner was banned from flying over the property.

He’s also being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for failing to register the drone and other infractions.

As this example shows, drones may cause stress, anxiety and fear in dogs. And for dogs like Malamutes who have a strong prey drive, there’s nothing stopping them from lunging at something flying above their heads.

⚠️ Even Poodles, Labradors, Spaniels, Terriers, Setters, and Pointers have a strong prey drive. So they might not respond well to a drone either.

Studies have shown that flying drones around animals can result in behavioral changes and increased heart rate, which may indicate stress caused by the sound or sight of the drone.

three small dogs running through an open field chasing a drone

Why do dogs bark at drones?

Unsurprisingly, dogs tend to bark at drones like they do at many other things. A drone will commonly be mistaken for prey by dogs; but it’s unlike any kind of prey they’ve seen before. So it’s natural that a drone can cause fear in dogs, which leads to barking. And other potentially more serious behaviors.

Most dogs to tend to have a strong or untamed prey drive. So don’t be surprised if a drone sets them off on a hunting frenzy. In this case, the dog may very well try to chase, capture and attack the drone.

The combination of fear and the prey drive in dogs can become dangerous when the dog is untrained, aggressive, or otherwise feels threatened by the drone.

One cautionary tale tells how a team of researchers was using a drone to survey seagrass along the coastline in Baja. When a terrible accident happened.2 A group of stray dogs happened upon the team, and were barking and jumping at the drone. When a member of the team caught the drone, one dog attacked him and tore into his leg, causing a bloody injury and a near-death experience.

Needless to say, a drone will certainly set off a dog’s natural curiosity, for better or worse.

Always use caution when a dog and a drone are in close proximity.

Drone dog walkers: Can you walk your dog with a drone?

One creative use of drones for dogs is the drone dog walker, aka dog-walking drone! The onset of the 2019 coronavirus pandemic left many dog parents stuck inside under lockdown or quarantine. But that didn’t change the fact that it’s still essential to walk your dog every day.

So in 2020, one creative Cypriot made international news when he decided to walk his dog with a drone. He posted the experiment on Facebook, for the world to see:

Stay home to be safe, but don’t forget your dog’s happiness.

Vakis Demetriou, Facebook

Now, some companies like DronesDirect in the UK are even selling ‘ProFlight Walkies Dog Drones’, with this intended purpose in mind. And admittedly, Vakis’s dog seems pretty chill with their drone chaperone.

But if you’re looking out for your dog’s safety and wellbeing, avoid walking them with a drone. The resulting stress and anxiety it might cause your dog just isn’t worth it.

⚠️ If you can’t take your dog for a walk, ask someone else to do it for you. Don’t try walking your dog with a drone, as this may cause fear and panic in your dog.

Other (more serious) reasons we recommend avoiding drone dog walks

Drone dog-walking seems like the perfect lazy day activity. (Especially when your buddy wants their outdoor time – and you don’t.) That said, there are a couple of serious reasons why we wouldn’t recommend walking your dog with a drone.

A drone won’t help in case of a dognapping attempt

Dognapping is on the rise around the world. If your dog is on the trusting, friendlier side, they might be enticed to enter a dog thief’s car with the promise of treats. And if you’re not around to intervene, you won’t have any way of knowing where they’ve taken your dog.

Sure, your drone could follow them for a couple of hundred feet – until it runs out of battery and you now have no idea where your dog’s been taken.

Your dog’s sense of smell might tempt them to run away

Dogs run away for all sorts of reasons. Especially if they’ve sniffed out something interesting – like a female in heat or an intruder on their territory.

But during the colder months, snow and cold weather can actually mess with your dog’s sense of smell. Making them more likely to get lost and be unable to find their way home.

A dog surrounded by snow in a forest

A senior dog might need your help & presence

Got a senior dog at home? They might not be able to make their way back to you by themselves. Because of age, senior dogs might be more vulnerable to dog dementia. Making them more easily disoriented and unable to sniff their way back home.

So how can you stay on top of your dog’s location from the comfort of your couch? Simple. A dedicated dog GPS tracker that lets you track in real-time – and over an unlimited range. Or that lets you set up a “safe zone” for your dog walks and sends you an immediate notification once your buddy sneaks past it. (Perfect for foiling a dognapping attempt.)

This way, you can rest easy knowing you can track your dog wherever they go – whether you’re by their side or not.

packaging of the Tractive GPS DOG tracker

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Drone search & rescue for lost dogs UK

There’s another way drones are used to help dogs that doesn’t involve dog walking. Drone search & rescue teams are popping up around the UK, in an effort to help reunite lost dogs with their desperate parents. Drone SAR for Lost Dogs UK is one such organization, set up by Graham Burton in 2017. The Facebook group has over 50,000 members, and it consists of over 1,300 volunteer drone pilots who have helped to bring home over 1,700 missing dogs.

So it’s safe to say, a drone search and rescue might be just the thing that brings your lost dog home someday, at least if you live in the UK. For that to work, your lost dog will probably need to be microchipped and wearing proper ID tags, too.

Keep in mind: A drone search party wouldn’t be necessary though, if your lost dog was wearing a GPS dog tracker; then you can track and follow their every step in real time on your phone.

black dog wearing gps dog collar in sitting on grass in background; tractive GPS app in foreground
Pictured: The Tractive GPS Dog Tracker allows you to follow your dog’s position live with the help of GPS.

💡 Tractive’s live tracking and Location History have been helping Search and Rescue (SAR) teams around the world. Here’s how Ontario-based SAR expert William Bolton uses his dog Sheba’s Tractive GPS to succesfully track down missing people from his community – including with water rescues.

Track my dog with Tractive GPS

Lost dog saved from drowning using sausage-dangling drone

In some pawesome news, Millie the Jack Russell terrier was saved thanks to a daring sausage-dangling drone rescue mission. The curious 3-year-old slipped her leash one day in her home in England which led to her going missing for days. Millie’s mom Emma contacted Denmead Drone Search & Rescue on Facebook in hopes of finding her missing pet. Despite Millie getting lost in a dangerous sinking mud marshland, they were able to bring her home to safety thanks to a little creativity and some sausages attached to the drone.

Read the full story of Millie’s rescue:

Stranded dog drone rescue mission in La Palma

On September 19, 2021, the volcano known as Cumbre Vieja erupted on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain. The eruption led to the forced evacuation of over 6,400 residents and caused damages to the tune of 400 million euros3. The lava continued pouring for three months, destroying 3000+ homes in its path. And while most people were able to evacuate to safety, some dogs weren’t as lucky.

Thankfully, animal lovers took action to save the dogs that had been left in the volcanic aftermath. A drone rescue mission for at least four stranded dogs was planned. But in the end, a mysterious gang known as the A-Team rescued the dogs ahead of the drone rescue.

Local hero uses thermal imaging drone to find lost dogs and bring them home to safety

Erica Hart of South Yorkshire, England, is a search and rescue team of her own. Using her thermal imaging drone, she finds lost dogs in her area and reunites them with their families. And her mission is successful; she’s already helped save over 200 lost dogs in the UK! Her new hobby has turned her into a local hero.

Finding a dog that has been missing is like winning the lottery.

Erica Hart

💡 Now she’s urging dog parents in her community to invest in Tractive GPS Dog Trackers so they can stop their dogs going missing in the first place.

Check out the whole story in this video by the BBC:

Discover Tractive GPS For Dogs

Drones? Good for finding dogs. GPS trackers? Great for finding dogs.

Drones and dogs: not the best combination, but pretty handy in a pinch! Turns out, in dire cases, a drone really can help you find your lost dog. But in the end, the cons overwhelmingly outweigh the pros:

  • For some dogs, a drone might cause them fear, stress, anxiety and aggression instead.
  • Drones won’t prevent a dognapping attempt. (Especially if you aren’t around to intervene.)
  • A drone can only track your dog to a certain range until its battery runs out. Which, given all the reasons dogs run away, won’t help during an emergency.

Bottom line: drones weren’t really built for keeping track of pets. But by investing in a dedicated dog GPS tracker instead, you’ll be taking a much more active role in ensuring your dog’s safety and wellbeing.

And most importantly? A GPS tracker with real-time tracking a smarter option for helping you intervene during a dognapping attempt.

Take the story of Kathy, an off-leash Beagle who was in the middle of her hunting dog training – and tracked by her dad via her Tractive GPS. Suddenly, he noticed she was traveling at high speeds and way off-course!

From her movements, her dad immediately realized she’d been dog-napped and the kidnappers were driving off with her in their car.

Tracking her with Tractive’s LIVE Mode, her dad called the police and after a two-hour car chase had her back in his arms, safe and sound.

So to avoid losing your dog in the first place, invest in a GPS dog tracker for 100% peace of mind. That way you can track them everywhere they go – and safely enjoy all your adventures together.

Track my dog with Tractive GPS

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