Pet Detectives Concerns

Pet Detectives VS. Professionals
The difference between professionals and unlicensed and/or inexperienced "trackers"

"The fact that someone may claim they have been doing this work for several years may have no validity
if they were trained in ineffective K9 Handling techniques and casework protocols from the start."
~Karin TarQwyn 


The missing animal industry continues to evolve. The difficulty today is for the grieving pet owner to be able to tell the real from the faux, the experienced from the theorists and the professional from the hobbyist. Pet owners are in a high state of alarm and need when a four-legged family member goes missing. Many times, they reach out or are guided to individuals professing to be pet detectives or "trackers". The family sees a vest on the dog or some other professional equipment and may even be charmed by an online certification they see next to the individual’s name. They sign up and send the money.



The Meandering "Tracker"  VS.  Seasoned Investigator with Professionally Trained K9s

This is the same search
Pet Detective vs. Licensed Professional

Disposition: After two days of endless tracking, the Pet Detective tells the pet owner that her dog is roaming the area. The dog had not been seen since it went missing and was never seen again.

NOTE: Professional K9s trained for this work would not work a trail like the one above even if the subject had been in all those areas. Trained dogs find the most recent trail and follow it based on that premise to move the case forward. Professional dogs would not have crossed over their own tracks as shown in the trail above.


Disposition: A private investigator with a team of five fully trained dogs arrived a few days after the pet detective left. Within four hours the P.I., and her team were able to ascertain that the family pet had been picked up in a car north of the point of escape. It is most probable the small dog was picked up the day she went missing. 
The pet owner was frantic and presented the P.I. with a map given to her by the pet detective of her meandering trail.She asked the P.I. to check the trail that had been given to her. The pet detective's wanderings were checked as shown on the map above. The missing dog's scent was not found at any of the scent scan areas along the pet detective's trail as shown by the numbers above. 


Fully 25% of the pet owners that contact us have had some interface with a pet detective, tracker or other pseudo moniker. In many cases they have hired what they thought was a professional dog tracker only to find that the dog and K9 handler dog did not appear to know what they were doing and now they wonder if the story they were told about their missing pet was true or just that… a story.

Below is another "redo case" 


The "Certified Online Pet Detective"... Weeks of Grief and Frustration

East Coast

The small dog went missing from the family's cabin. Right away the family thought that the shy dog must have bolted into the woods. They hired searchers and called in everyone they could think of. By chance there was a pet detective that lived nearby in North Carolina. Without checking out her certification or even how she was trained, they hired her and her one dog. The tracker spent the day tracking all over the countryside. She and her dog came back the next day and kept going. By the end of the second day she told the family their senior dog was in the woods in an area approximately a mile and half away through the woods.
The family was skeptical that their old dog could travel that distance but the "certified Tracker" was confident so they hired an animal trapping company to come to North Carolina to trap their senior dog.  The pet detective told them the old dog was hiding from them.  For two weeks the family and the trapping crew proceeded. The dog was never seen on camera and they only caught raccoons in their traps. By the end of the first week, the trapping company had become doubtful; by the end of the second week, the family began to explore the pet detective world. They found that the "certified pet detective" they had hired had actually only been certified through online classes. How could a dog with no training and an inexperienced K9 handler be taught... online?
Without alerting the local tracker, they called in professionals from the Midwest. Within 30 minutes, the first K9 out of the truck found the remains of their missing dog just 140 feet from their front lawn; the last place where they had seen him. They were accepting of the closure the K9 team brought but angry that they had been put through so much when their dog had been deceased the whole time. They felt that because the pet detetective was so nice and really wanted to help that they had believed her cross country trek even when they knew that their old arthritic dog could not have traveled that far.



As professionals we are called upon to “redo” many cases every year. Sometimes we find that K9 handler and her dog were right but generally we find that this is not the case. Most of the general public believes that because a dog can follow a trail it is a tracking dog. This is not true. Many pet detectives use dogs that have no alerts and are only partially trained thus making it impossible to move a case forward. But perhaps the biggest problem lies in the fact that the K9 handler herself has no casework protocol and is left to run around behind the dog guessing at what the dog is telling her. This is the biggest problem in the missing pet industry.

Below is an additional "redo".


The Havoc Created by Phantom Trails and False Sightings

East Coast

In the case above, a Tracker came out with one partially trained dog, (no trained alerts), to find out if the dog at a potential sighting was the subject missing dog. The tracker said, "Yes it was the dog,"  and went on to "track" for another two hours. The tracker also told the family to move their search to the new location approximatley five miles from where the dog had last been seen... and across a major river.

The family contacted licensed professionals within 48 hours of the tracker's departure. The K9 team immediately found that the sighting was not the missing dog and actually found the dog that had mistakenly been called in as the missing dog.
Further investigation and scent work revealed the dog was still near his home and a campaign was initiated there. 
Twenty four hours later, the missing dog was sighted... near his home.
The next day he was recovered. 



In addition, most of these trackers have only one partially trained dog. Some may have a "prop dog" that makes it seem like she has a team of trained dogs. The pet detective's web sites or Facebook page may show multiple dogs in vests but when she sets to work there is only one dog who actually works. This ploy is in use by at least four different pet detectives. In one case, there is picture of a bloodhound… but the pet detective does not even own a bloodhound. These are “prop” dogs used in marketing to bolster the public’s confidence that they are hiring a team. More than one family has called us stating that only one dog even got out of the car but they had been assured there were several dogs on the team.

 Bottom line... to be effective it will take at least three fully trained dogs to work a missing animal case. 

Below are more actual cases we have been called upon to "redo."  


Trying to save money using local pet detectives results in frustration for pet owners

The South

In the case above, the family was trying to save money by hiring a local pet detective.
The woman with her one dog team went to to check a sighting that had been called in. A dog had been seen running down the street and then ducked into a mobile home park where the caller lost sight of it. In haste the pet detective went to the sighting immediately declaring that the running dog was in fact the family's missing Jack Russell. Like most families, the grief stricken pet owners moved their search and began a large campaign in the area of the mobile home park looking for their dog.
A week later, the family began to have doubts and regretted not hiring professionals. They felt that the story the pet detective told changed and seemed to be more like a "fairy tale". They made the call and hired licensed professionals. A private investigator with a team of five scent specific dogs began the case from the point last seen using proper case protocols and then went to check the sighting where the family had said their dog had been confirmed as sighted. The investigator and the dog team found right away that the missing JRT's scent was no where to be found in the area of the mobile home park or the street where the dog had been seen running. Upon futher investigation, the experienced investigator found the dog that the caller had seen. The dog, also a JRT, had got out of his  house on the day he was seen running down the street and when the caller pursued him, had run hell bent leather to his home... in the mobile home park. 

The Bloodhound Myth... mistakes... just running around behind a bloodhound.

The South

A local bloodhound owner turned "new pet detective" volunteered to come search for a missing Chihuahua. The K9 handler had hunting dogs and she felt she could track missing pets. This was her only experience.

She would volunteer once to come track the dog which resulted in a circular track around the pet owner's back yard. The second time she went out she charged the pet owner.
In both cases she said her bloodhound had scent and the second time she tracked over a mile until she came to a busy road and told the pet owner that she did not track near busy roads and left. She encouraged the pet owner to move her search since someone down the road had said, they "saw a small dog and that must have been him." 
The pet owner had been in touch with professionals but was trying to take advantage of the bargain basement price of the bloodhound. After three more weeks she contacted a private investigator with a K9 team and made the decison to hire them because she had to know what happened to her dog... the grief and search was consuming her life. 
From the onset, the K9 professionals found that the dog's scent ended very close to where the pet owner had last seen him standing. All five dogs confirmed that the little dog's scent abruptly ended in the driveway. A tiger line search was done and remains were found. The small dog had disappeared because a predator had come from the adjacent woods. He had never left the front yard.
As a courtesy to the  family, the investigator and her K9s traveled to the sighting where someone had seen a similar dog. The scent scans were negative for the tiny dog's scent. The family was sad but they were relieved to finally have the answers and could begin the process of closure.


Beware - Inexperienced Pet Detectives or Lost Animal Finders

What are Pet Detectives?

Tracking Dog - Pet Detectives Directory by State

List of Certified Pet Detectives/K9 Handlers

Affordable Pet Detectives
Pet Detectives near me
Certfied Pet Detectives