It’s every pet owner’s nightmare: Your dog ran away after becoming scared or getting loose. Now you have to find your lost dog before another one of those nightmare scenarios in your head comes true.
Luckily, there are a few simple steps a pet parent can take to find a lost dog.
7 Steps to Find Your Missing Dog
1. Stay Calm and Create a Plan
Remain calm. Keeping hold of your wits and putting together a rational plan will maximize your chances of finding your missing dog.
“Losing a pet is an extremely emotional feeling,” says Julie Bank, CEO and president of the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA in Pasadena, California, which sees more than 5,000 lost pets each year. “Your goal and your focus is to find your pet, and you need to have a clear mind to find him.”
2. Contact Your Microchip Company
If your dog is microchipped, go online or call the company to locate your pet. Found dogs that are brought to a local veterinarian or animal shelter can be scanned for the identifying contact info within the microchip, says Dr. Stephanie Liff, DVM, owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care in Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York.
3. Visit the Neighbors
Walk your neighborhood and knock on doors. Let neighbors know that your dog ran away and leave a photo or flier with contact information.
“Someone might have taken him inside,” says Bank, who once located her missing turtle at a neighbor’s house.
4. Put the Word Out on Social Media
Post your missing dog’s photo and the best way to reach you on social media, including town Facebook groups and enthusiast or dog park pages. Let them know if he’s a fearful dog or easily approachable.
“Last week a pet ran out of Central Park and was reunited within hours due to a large social medial push,” Dr. Liff says.
5. Visit Local Animal Shelters
Visit all the local animal shelters within a short drive. Bring fliers with your dog’s photo and your contact info to leave behind.
“Don’t just stop at one,” Bank says. “He could have been picked up by someone and driven somewhere else. You never want to stop in your search. Most animal shelters also have photos of the animals online. You can do an online search on a daily basis.”
Dr. Liff also says to call the police, veterinary clinics and local businesses.
6. Post Fliers and Call Around Town
If your missing dog still hasn’t shown up, get the word out to a wider circle.
“Make a flier and post it up all over the neighborhood,” Bank says. “It’s about researching every group and every opportunity to get the message out there that you have a lost dog––and not stopping.”
7. Keep Looking
Don’t give up hope of finding your pet. It could take hours or months, but you need to keep searching.
“It often depends on the dog, because some animals are going to be so friendly and will run up to someone and that person will be able to clearly read their tag,” Bank says. “Other animals are going to be petrified. I’ve heard of animals showing up years later.”
One thing to be aware of is that most shelters have a “legal hold time,” she says. “After five days, we have the legal right to place that dog up for adoption.”
So, don’t delay.
Why Do Dogs Run Away?
Multiple factors can contribute to a dog running away.
“They might be off-leash and see something they want to chase,” Dr. Liff says. “Fear can also incite a flight response that can cause pets to run away.”
Dog anxiety can cause them to run during a noisy, chaotic house party or after the boom of a firework. Bank says she’s even heard of fearful dogs jumping through a window.
“There might be a hole in the fence or someone opens up a door or forgets to latch a door,” she says. “Sometimes people walk their dogs on leashes or dog collars that aren’t secure.”
How to Prevent Losing Your Dog
Being aware of your pet’s whereabouts at all times, as well as any dog anxiety triggers, will minimize the chances of a dog running away.
“Ultimately, I have to be aware of my animal at all times,” Bank says. “Having a plan for your pet [as you] incorporate him into family activities [is critical].”
“Always keep your dog on a leash or in a contained area, such as a fenced yard,” Dr. Liff says.
Use a dog crate, such as Frisco’s Fold & Carry crate, to keep a pet contained during a party and check that his collar is secure ahead of a road trip.
Proper ID also is crucial. Bank recommends a collar tag and an implanted microchip.
“It’s a guaranteed ticket home,” she says.
New technology, such as Whistle’s GPS tracker, attaches to a dog’s collar. If he goes missing, you can find his location from the app on your phone. Platinum Pets’ pet finder tag comes with a unique trackable code for your pet, as well as a way to automatically print a missing dog flier.
“If you know your pet has a phobia, you should talk to your vet about ways you can predict and address this situation before it leads to your dog running away,” Dr. Liff says.
An anxious or fearful dog also might benefit from a calming product like the ThunderShirt, as well as herbal calming agents or anti-anxiety medication, she says. NaturVet’s calming soft chews contain melatonin and are recommended for traveling, thunderstorms, fireworks and other stressful situations.
Watch this video for more tips:
By: Rose Sala
Featured Image: Bachkova Natalia/Shutterstock.com