My Dog is Missing, What Should I Do?

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 11/06/20 •  10 min read
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It can happen—one minute your dog is safe in the yard or the house, and the next minute he’s missing. It’s a horrific experience for both you and your fur baby. Before this happens to you, learn what to do if your dog goes missing—you can increase the chances of finding him by following a few tips.

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Lost Dog Statistics

The ASPCA did some research on lost pets and here are some statistics they found about lost dogs. According to the ASPCA:

Those are some sobering statistics on lost dogs. The most successful dog recoveries were made within a few hours of a dog being lost and then searching the neighborhood as the first job when looking for their lost fur baby. Also important was checking shelters the first day a pet goes missing. We’ve put together some tips on how to find your precious canine companion should he make an escape, become scared and run off, etc. Keep in mind that the sooner you start searching, the chances of finding your dog are at their highest.

Dog Behavior After Being Lost

So, how does a dog behave after he’s gotten lost or escaped? This information could give you clues on where he’s gone or what he’s likely doing. Let’s take a look at different behaviors.

Act Fast: Within 30 Minutes of Losing Your Dog

When you first realize your pup’s missing, you’ll need to start the search right away. In the first 30 minutes, it’s a good idea to contact your vet’s office and alert them that your dog’s missing. This is especially helpful if your dog has been microchipped and/or wears ID tags. It’s also helpful to alert the microchip company. And make sure your contact information is current with the vet and the microchip company to make it easier to get in touch if your dog’s found. And alerting shelters and animal control agencies in your area can also be helpful.

If you have social media accounts, you can also put the word out that your pup’s lost. Post pictures of your dog, describe identifying marks, etc. You just never know if someone has seen your dog and can instantly report it to you via social media. It can’t hurt to try. Next, start searching in your neighborhood. You may want to ask family and friends to help you—the more people you have, the more territory you can sweep in a shorter time. Be sure everyone calls your dog’s name, maybe take along his favorite toy or treat. Ask neighbors and passersby if they’ve seen your dog. Don’t forget to check under bushes and other areas where your dog could hide.

A note about microchips– how to find lost dog with microchip. Your microchip company may have a website where you register your dog’s name, breed, your name, address, phone, etc. The sooner you alert the vet and the chip company the better. If your dog is found and taken to a shelter or a vet’s office, he will be scanned to see if he has been microchipped. The scan will provide the vet or shelter with your contact information, making it fast and easy to let you know your dog’s been found. Microchipping is an excellent way to improve your dog’s odds of returning home.

Don’t forget pet finder websites online—these can also be helpful tools to get the word out about your lost dog. A missing dog website is a great way to alert other that your canine companion is lost. Such sites include:

How to Find a Lost Dog in the Woods

If your pup is lost in the woods, you can certainly try searching for him. But a better option might be using posters, flyers and a service called Lost My Doggie. On this site, you can create a free listing for your lost fur baby. This listing is then emailed and faxed to over 25 local shelters, veterinarians and rescue groups.

For a fee, you can use their pet finder package, which includes making phone calls to neighbors, vets, rescues and shelters in your area

When searching on your own, keep in mind that dogs will look for shelter, food and water. Dogs may stay near hiking trails and other places where they’ll run into people. They may also choose paths or woodland roads to travel through areas with thick underbrush and trees. Paths and roads make traveling easier and faster.

How to Find Lost Dog at Night

If you’re searching your fur baby at night, be sure to keep your cell phone with you and charged. Also use a bright flashlight to shine into dark spaces. The light will also alert drivers and others in the area that you’re there, keeping you safer from accidents. Be sure to call your dog’s name. It can also be helpful to carry your pup’s favorite food and treats, as these can be used to entice him to you.

Also be aware that a dog’s natural instincts will kick in and he’ll be most active at dawn or dusk. These are the best times to find your dog if he’s lost during the night. During the deep night, your dog will likely look for a safe place to shelter. Be sure to look carefully for spaces that could shelter your dog—look under cars, porches, bridges, etc. Any space that is big enough for your dog could offer him a safe place to spend the night. Here is a good Missing Dog Website.

Other Things to Do

There are additional things you can do to find your lost dog. Let’s take a look:

1). Keep your phone with you: make sure your phone’s battery is charged and that you have it with you at all times. You just never know when a call could come in with news your pup’s been found.

2). Make copies of your dog’s photos: look for the clearest photo of your dog and make copies. This can be done on your cell phone or computer. Have the images printed in color, then leave them at shelters, around the neighborhood, on bulletin boards, etc.

3). Create flyers: taking the photo idea a little farther, you can use the photo to create flyers to put up around the neighborhood. Be sure to include your pet’s photo, his name, your address and phone number. You can also include your vet’s contact information. Put the flyers on phone and light poles, in store windows, etc. Offering a reward can also be helpful.

4). Create lost and found ads: some local papers will run free pet lost and found ads, so be sure to contact the papers in your area with information about your lost dog. Again, be sure to include your contact information, dog’s name, etc. Craigslist is also another option for posting lost & found ads.

5). Check animal shelters, pet rescues and animal control agencies: don’t forget to check these organizations to see if they’ve found your lost dog. Alert them about your lost dog, and then be sure to call them every day. You can also visit them every day, as these places are very busy and filled to overflowing with pets.

It’s easy for your dog to get lost in the mix. Persistence could pay off with the safe return of your precious pet

How to Catch Your Dog

What should you do if you find your dog? Should you chase him, coax him with his favorite treats or what? That’s a great question and we’re here to help you with the best ways to catch your dog when you do find him.

Most of us, by instinct, run after our lost or escaped fur babies. However, this isn’t the best thing to do. Many dogs will just run away, especially if they fear being punished. It can be scary for you and your dog, and your dog’s first instinct may be to run away from you. Chasing a loose dog could even cause him to run into traffic and be hit by a car.

To avoid your dog running away from you, try these methods to get him to come to you:

1). Run in the opposite direction: why run away? First, your dog may actually be enjoying the game of you chasing him! That’s right! So, turn the tables and run away from him. You’ll grab his attention—he may wonder what you’re doing. He may also think this is some new fun game you’re playing. Let him chase you and get him to follow you to your car or an area where you can safely corral him.

2). Open your car door: this may work, especially if your dog loves to ride in the car. Simply stop near him and open the car door, then wait for him to jump in. Your dog may just run off, but it’s worth a try.

3). Sit down, facing away from your dog: this is another tactic to try that may grab your dog’s attention. He doesn’t expect you will simply sit and turn your back to him. Doing this will cause him to become curious and he’ll come to see what you’re doing. If he comes near, offer his favorite treats with a lot of love.

Each of these methods can work, because they will attract your pup’s attention. You’re doing what he expects, which can bring him running to you, rather than away from you.

We hope the tips covered in this article will help if your dog ever gets lost. Remember, the best way to help your dog is to make sure he’s been microchipped and/or wearing identification tags with your current contact information. We wish you both all the best.

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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.

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