Steps to Take if Your Dog Goes Missing

Knowing what to do if your four-legged family member goes missing is critical. The American Humane Association estimates that close to ten million dogs go missing each year, so no matter how careful you are it can happen to you. Having an action plan in place before a dog goes missing gives you the best chance of a happy reunion.

What Are The Steps To Follow When Your Dog Is Lost?

a dog in wild

To have an action plan before your pet is missing, consider these steps:

  • Have your dog wear a well-made collar and tag with your contact information clearly engraved.
  • Pre-register your dog on a lost dog app. Pre-registering your dog on a lost dog app allows you to quickly create an alert, complete with a photo if your dog goes missing. Most apps have the tools to help you create a flyer for printing as well.
  • Have your dog microchipped and make sure you keep your contact information up to date.
  • Do routine maintenance and safety checks on any outdoor enclosures where your dog is left free to roam.

If your dog does go missing, a lost dog app will help provide you with an action plan of things to do:

  • Create an alert on the missing dog app you are using.
  • Create a missing dog post on social media for all lost and found pages for your area, and be prepared to include a reward.
  • Print flyers and include a reward amount.
  • Put the flyers in plastic covers and have a staple gun and duct tape to attach the flyers to every sign, pole, bulletin board, and storefront that you can.
  • Get help from friends and family. Let someone work the social media front and stay home in case your dog returns, while you go out and search for your dog.
  • Mobilize as many people as possible to comb the area where your dog went missing. Call calmly to the dog using a friendly voice. If your dog has a favorite activity associated with a phrase, use that. For instance, if your dog gets excited when you say “let’s play ball, boy,” then use that phrase when calling to him. Dogs are experts at picking up stress in your voice. You probably feel anything but calm, but make sure your voice sounds playful and stress-free.
  • When searching for your dog, occasionally stop to listen. Do you recognize your dog’s bark? If so, try to figure out where it is coming from. Someone may have your dog in their home or backyard. Approach the house politely and explain that your dog is missing. If it is your dog, odds are good that the people were simply keeping the dog safe because he appeared lost. If there is a problem, and they won’t return the dog, then do not escalate the situation. Leave their property and call law enforcement to report the problem.
A white dog in a garden
  • Remember, your dog may have gone farther than you would think. If you do not find them within the first few hours, expand your search area.
  • Send someone to visit every shelter in the geographical area, and ask them if they can take a lost pet report. Take flyers with you so that you can leave them with every shelter.
  • Visit private rescues in your area, and ask for information about other groups and rescues. The people who work in the field may know of resources you do not know about, so ask about any further steps they might suggest.
  • Put out food, water, and even a favorite toy in the event that your dog returns home. If you are not there, you want to make sure your dog knows he is home, and leaving his favorite food and comfort item will encourage him to stay in the immediate vicinity until you return.

Remain hopeful, even though it is hard when you are worried. There are remarkable stories of pets returning home months and even years after they go missing. Of course, you do not want to wait that long to have a happy reunion, but remember that up to 93% of lost dogs are reunited with their owners.

The lost dog app that you are using should provide you with a support community. Take advantage of the support offered by people who have gone through the stress of a missing dog. This community of people may also have suggestions for other things you can do to help bring your dog home safely, and it helps to communicate with people who know what you are going through.

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