Dogs, Drones And Dangling Sausages: How Drones Can Help Save Lost Dogs

9 February 2022

A new trend is bringing lost dogs home with the help of drones in the UK. But is there an easier way to stop your pet from going missing and find a runaway dog fast?

dogs running in an open field with drone

Technology is developing at a faster rate than ever before, and new devices like drones and GPS trackers for dogs are here to stay. So we thought we’d take a look at the relationship between man’s best friend – dogs – and one of mankind’s newest and favorite high-tech gadgets and playthings – drones. How well do dogs and drones get along? Are drones bad for dogs? How can drones benefit dogs and their dog-loving families? Can a drone help you find your lost dog? What else can help bring a lost dog home fast? We’ll explore all that and more in this post.

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. No matter what your opinion is on drones and dogs getting along, people around the world are creatively putting their drones to good use – for the benefit of canine furry friends.

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 the lives of our canine and feline soulmates.

But do drones pose a safety risk to dogs? Yes, as we’ll see below. In spite of how they may be used to rescue lost or displaced dogs in some cases, 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.

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.

Then one day, the dog snatched the drone while it was flying just above his head and destroyed it. While the drone owner tried to sue the dog’s guardian for damages to the drone, in the end it was he who had to pay for what he’d done. In addition to paying upwards of $2,000 for the dog’s veterinary and 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.

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.

If your dog has a strong or untamed prey drive, like most dogs do, 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. 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! And while it might seem like just a thing of sci-fi movies (a dog-walking drone was featured on an episode of Black Mirror) it might not be as far-fetched as you think.

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 (which seems to have worked out okay, luckily for the dog) 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. However, with dognapping on the rise, and since drones have been known to frighten dogs, we don’t recommend walking your dog with a drone.

This small dog looks pretty comfortable with their drone-chaperon and might be keen to let the drone walk them around if it means they can get out and about. But don’t expect all dogs to be as easy-going. And since dogs are known for running away, better put a GPS dog tracker on your dog for safety and keep the drone away.

blue info icon

Don’t try this at home: 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.

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.

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

Speaking of search and rescue, 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:

Lost dog saved from drowning using sausage-dangling drone

In other 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.

Conclusion: dogs and drones

Drones, dogs, and sausages – it turns out that in dire cases, a drone really can help you find your lost dog. But before you try to introduce your dog to a drone, keep in mind that drones may cause fear, stress, anxiety and aggression in dogs. To avoid such drastic measures and losing your dog in the first place, we recommend putting a GPS dog tracker on your canine’s collar for peace of mind. That way you can track them everywhere they go (no drone required) and safely enjoy all your adventures together! 🛰️📍🐕

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