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How to Find a Lost Dog

Updated on October 12, 2015


The time to plan for the recovery of a lost dog is before he goes missing. It's like purchasing insurance before you need it. No one wants to consider the possibility of needing such a plan, yet when the dreaded event occurs, we are so distressed we're unable to formulate a plan with clarity. Having a just in case plan prepared ahead of time is like having a list of emergency numbers for your babysitter. It provides peace of mind and simply makes sense.


  • Do not let your dog roam at large without a leash. Only walk him on leash, or allow him to roam within a securely fenced area.
  • Make certain gates have secure latches and post signs to clearly proclaim: BEWARE OF DOG! and DO NOT LEAVE GATE UNLATCHED, especially if utility people might need access to the dog's fenced area.
  • Consider padlocking dog areas to prevent inadvertent release by service persons.
  • Do not allow your dogs access to fenced areas when you are not at home. If you are unable to be home with your dog, leave or crate them inside, and, if necessary, hire a pet sitter to come and walk them during the day.

If Your Dog Goes Missing

  • In the event your dog goes missing, you will need to be able to rapidly produce and desseminate a missing dog poster, and to put a response plan into action. One of the first things you will need to do is to employ the services of a local area phone call blanketing service, such as (There are others, see the links section below.) For a fee, these services will, within thirty minutes of the dog going missing, notify almost all of your neighbors via telephone within a given radius of your address. There honestly is no substitute for such rapid notification of your loss. With any providence whatsoever, your dog will be back with you before he really knew he was lost.
  • Create a LOST DOG poster. You will want two, one that will fit on a standard sheet of typing paper for mailing, and a second, larger poster, for placing at around your community. It is essential that the second poster have a large enough photograph and large enough type to be read by a passing car at an intersection. The essential information is the photograph, the word REWARD in large letters, your phone number, and the date and location the dog was last seen, and the dog's name.
  • Print copies of the smaller poster, in color if possible, and as soon as possible after the dog goes missing, put one in the mailbox of every home within a square mile of the area where the dog went missing. This is key ... people will tend to save them and share the information.
  • Create a list of all of those people who are likely to frequent the area in which your dog is lost. Include such people as mail delivery men, garbage collectors, the power company meter persons, the newspaper deliverer, Jehovah Witnesses, ice cream trucks, Realtors, lawn care services, maid services, UPS, Fed Ex, Sheriff's deputies, Highway Patrolmen, Pizza delivery persons, etc.
  • Create a second mailing list of animal people: local kennel clubs, veterinarians, feed supply stores, boarding kennels, government animal control (dog catchers), non profit rescues, dog groomers, dog trainers, etc.
  • Send 8.5x11 copies of your missing dog poster to all of the addresses in the above two categories, tri-folded and including a personal sticky note that simply reads, "Thank you for posting ... will notify if found."
  • Notify your local Freecycle lists, Craig's List, local bulletin boards, call in shows on the local radio stations, etc. Be sure to give a clear description in venues that do not permit photographs.
  • VISIT your local shelters, dog pounds, rescue programs, etc. DO NOT rely on volunteer descriptions ... FAR too often, a Boxer is listed as Pit Bull, a Belgian Tervuren as a "collie mix" and a Flat Coated Retriever as a "Lab mix". Go and see for yourself on a daily basis if your dog is at the shelters until your dog is found.
  • Place flyers on all local bulletin boards at laundry mats, vet offices, agricultural supply stores, etc.

Before Your Dog Goes Missing

  • Microchip your dog, and register the microchip. Most animal shelters scan dogs to see if they are chipped. Home Again makes an excellent chip, one with a "barb" in it which tends to prevent the chip from "traveling" within the body. The AKC will register any and all microchips, and for a cost that is often less than that of the chip maker. Whether you register your chip with the AKC or with some other agency, BE SURE TO REMEMBER TO REGISTER CHANGES OF ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER WITH THE REGISTERING AGENCY! An unregistered chip is completely worthless.
  • Tattoo your dog. Although microchipping has overtaken tattooing in popularity, it is a good idea to employ both preventative measures. You can tattoo any number or word that is convenient for you to remember; the important thing is to register the tattoo. The AKC Companion Animal Recovery will register a tattoo as well as a microchip, and for no additional cost.
  • Equip your dog with a well fitting collar and attach to it an ID tag, microchip tag, and rabies tag. Check occasionally to make sure the attachment of the tags to the collar is secure. The benefit of having all three tags is that the dog's ownership can be traced by any of them, so should one happen to fall off, you still have two other means by which your dog can be identified. Get a double sided ID tag and have one side engraved to say "REWARD IF FOUND" on it. If your phone number changes, UPDATE THE TAG!
  • Keep updated photographs of your dog that show his full body in a close up pose as a part of his important paperwork. These will be necessary should he go missing, to create "LOST DOG" flyers. The likelihood of someone recognizing your dog from his photograph are much higher than from your description.
  • GPS Dog Collar Tracking -- although expensive, this is one part of an excellent strategy to be able to locate your missing dog. The primary problem with using a GPS collar is in the situation when your dog has been stolen. A thief can easily remove such a collar. Otherwise, it is an excellent option in a comprehensive plan to keep your dog safe.


American Kennel Club's Companion Animal Recovery:

Find Toto:

Fino Finder:

Double -sided ID tags:

Missing Pets:

GPS Dog Collar:

Pet Finder:

Pet Rescue:

Lost My Doggie:

Lost Found Pets:

Pet Amber Alert

After Your Dog is Found

Remember to call the all those who are still faithfully keeping a lookout for your dog. Call the animal shelters, the rescue programs, send a note to those that you sent flyers to, letting them know that your dog has been found. YOU are relieved, but there are others who are still out there hurting, looking, and feeling for you, and for your dog. Let them know that the search has been victorious and that you have been reunited with your pet! Should your search end negatively, aka body found hit by a car ... still have the consideration to notify all those who have been so faithfully searching on your behalf!


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    • Brett Winn profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett Winn 

      6 years ago from US

      Rebecca ... good point! My local kennel club does this once a year!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Good tips. There are often clinics around that offer micro chipping for a minimal fee, every now and again. My son's dog

      wandered off and he may not have gotten hi back had he not had a chip!

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      Great hub, well laid out easy to read and understand. You have provided a wealth of information. You "Beware of Dog" sign idea will leave you wide open in the event your pooch takes offense and does bite. A photo of the sign will lose you case that the dog never bit before. A "No Trespassing" sign and gate locks are a better bet.

      I find new info on chipping all the time and I thank you for bringing me up to speed with new versions and registrars thanks,


    • lokoyizone profile image


      6 years ago

      Since dogs are as well a part of the family in which they live,the above steps are very necessary and useful.

      Voted up and useful.

    • Brett Winn profile imageAUTHOR

      Brett Winn 

      6 years ago from US

      Kevin, I did not know about the USPS's new program! That's pretty good to know ... thank you!

    • campbelldan profile image


      6 years ago

      Very helpful hub. May save some lives.

    • KevinC9998 profile image


      6 years ago

      I once lost a dog (for 4 days) and hung posters all over the neighborhood. Luckily enough someone read my poster and called! It was a happy ending. As information, the US Postal Service has a new product called, Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) where you can do a mailing in any neighborhood (or ZIP) for as little as 14 cents per mailpiece. It is a great way to find a missing dog! Nice hub, voted up thanks, Kevin


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