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The Best Ways to Find Your Missing Dog

Updated on December 31, 2015
Dogs can sometimes be escape artists, slipping through a back yard fence.
Dogs can sometimes be escape artists, slipping through a back yard fence. | Source

If your pet is missing, it is very important to start looking for him or her as soon as you realize it.

Acting quickly and following these steps can help insure that your lost dog comes safely back home.

What You Need To Do First

  • Ask Neighbors

If you have called for him and he does not respond, the first thing you will want to do is ask neighbors.

If your dog escaped out of fenced in yard, for example, he may have decided to go hang out at a neighbor’s house.

Sometimes people will take the dog in to keep him from getting further lost or hurt.

  • Put Up Flyers

As you are going around the neighborhood, put up flyers.

The most effective flyers are large, on brightly colored paper, and easy to read from a distance.

Include just the basic, most important information and don’t give too many identifying characteristics.

Something like the flyer above will often be enough for people to realize that the loose dog they saw is probably yours.

A Good Lost Dog Flyer
A Bad Lost Dog Flyer
Brightly Colored
Lettering too small
Large Letters That Are Easy To Read
Too much extra information
Not brightly colored
Phone Number
Not facing natural traffic patterns.

Safety First

Remember that it is important to keep your own safety in mind. There are people who will try to scam a pet owner searching for their lost dog.

They may claim to have the dog but need you to send them money. They may be untrustworthy and want to meet you in an isolated place.

This is why it is important to leave out some information about your missing pet when you post flyers.

If someone calls claiming to have found your dog, have them give you information about the dog (such as markings and colors) to help insure they truly found your pet.

If you are meeting someone, suggest meeting in a public area or at a vet’s office to make the exchange.

Take friends or family members with you if you are going to someone’s house to retrieve your dog.

It is important to get lost dog flyers up as soon as you realize your dog is missing.
It is important to get lost dog flyers up as soon as you realize your dog is missing. | Source

Your dog is very likely to still be in the neighborhood and you may have her back within a few hours.

However, if these two methods don’t help your dog get back home, there is more that you can do.

If Your Dog Is Still Missing

If you don’t locate your dog within a short period of time, you will want to expand your search area and place notice about your missing pet in other areas.

  • Call Vets In The Area

Contact all the vets’ offices within a 10-15 mile radius. Ask if they have had anyone report finding a dog.

Also find out if they have a missing or found pet board where you can post a flyer.

If they do, take a flyer by and also check the found dog notices to see if anyone has been able to find your dog.

  • Visit County Shelters

Many local, county animal shelters will not verify whether or not they have a dog that matches your pet’s description.

Your best bet is to visit the shelter daily to see all the new animals that were brought in.

If you can’t visit every day have a friend or family member that is familiar with the dog go and look.

It is important to do this often as unclaimed pets can be put up for adoption with a new family or, unfortunately, euthanized if the shelter is over-crowded.

  • Register and Check Missing Pet Databases

There are also online, missing pet databases. You can register information about your dog and the area that he or she went missing.

Be careful about giving too much information and, again, be aware of scammers who might be looking to make a quick buck off of your bad situation.

Try putting in search words that include your city or state. A local missing pet database may yield better results than a national one.

If Your Dog Is Timid

What if you found your dog but she is too scared and shy for you to catch?

You might try bringing canned food to see if you can tempt him or her to come out.

If she is smaller, you could try a humane trap with food as bait.

Finally, you can hire a professional trapper. They have many tricks and ways to catch animals who don’t want to be caught.

Once Your Dog Is Back

If your dog had been missing for more than a few hours when you get it back, consider taking him or her to the vet to be checked over.

He may have gotten hurt while he was out. She may have picked up fleas where she was hiding.

If you have other dogs or pets, you may want to keep them separate until your vet has checked them over and insured that they are healthy.

It is especially important to get your dog to the vet if they have scratches or bite marks or other injuries.

Even if your pet is up-to-date on his vaccinations, your vet will likely want him to have a rabies booster shot.

Making sure you cover all possible places your dog could be will help get him or her back home to you.
Making sure you cover all possible places your dog could be will help get him or her back home to you. | Source

How To Get Your Dog Back Faster Next Time

To help make sure your dog gets back faster to you the next time he or she is lost, make sure that it has a good collar with a rabies tag and a readable tag with a contact phone number.

You might also consider taking the next step and getting your dog microchipped.

The microchip process is easy, fast, relatively cheap, and safe for your dog.

Most vets’ offices and all county shelters have a scanner that can read the chips.

The chip contains a number that is matched to your information in a database.

So even if your dog’s collar is lost or removed, identification and return is still possible.

If You Suspect Your Dog Has Been Stolen

If you suspect your dog may have been stolen, you should still do all the steps above.

This is where having a microchipped pet can really help. Even if the thief tries to claim the dog as theirs, the microchip will tell the real story.

Continue to check back with vets in the area to see if a new animal matching your pet’s description has been brought in.

Dogs still need to be taken outside so, ask around and see if anyone has noticed a new dog in the area matching your pet’s description.

If you are able to locate the person who took your dog, it is best to get law enforcement involved before trying to claim your pet.

Remember that your safety is always important.

Keep Looking

Sometimes pets have been returned days, weeks or even months later. Don’t give up. The more proactive you are, the better chance your dog has of finding its way back home to you.

A Microchip Brings This Dog Back Home

Note: If you are missing a cat, there are slightly different steps you need to follow.


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