Many dogs have an innate need to explore the world. They can catch the explorer bug at any time and decide to take off (the English Springer spaniel is one example). Pets can be stolen too -- pet thieves are responsible for nearly 2 million missing pets each year. Whatever the reason for your pet to go missing, your window of opportunity is small -- you need to bolt out the door and begin your search before your pet or his abductors get too far. About 90% of lost pets are recovered when their owners search intensively within a 2-mile radius for around 12 hours after the event.
Anyone who has lost a pet knows that feeling. The immediate panic follow by a rapid fire anxiety of everything that could be happening to your 4 legged family member. We've compiled these 10 quick tips to help you take action and find your dog. Tell us about your experience finding a lost dog using the comments OR tweet @hotdogcollars.
Whatever the reason for your pet to go missing, your window of opportunity is small -- you need to bolt out the door and begin your search before your pet or his abductors get too far.
Here are the tips in text format for easy copy & paste (just be sure to list us as a source):
If your dog is microchipped, things will be slightly easier
If your pet has an embedded microchip, it won't help you track your pet, but it will help anyone who finds him to use the information contained in it to identify him and reunite him with you. An ID tag on the collar is often not much use -- pets often manage to get rid of their collars when they get out in the wild.
You need to think like a dog
If it's a puppy, you need to make sure that you've looked in every closet, under every rug and other space around the house -- basement, crawlspaces and so on. You need to know how to search for a dog. If your dog has injured himself, he could be too frightened to even respond when he hears you calling. You'll need to carry a flashlight and actually look into every nook and corner around your neighborhood. Most dogs running away don't feel the need to go very far. They usually simply run away to explore areas in the neighborhood that they've noticed on their walks. You need to think of the places that your dog always took an interest in -- a property, a park, a neighbor with a dog and so on. It's a good idea to talk to everyone you know around the neighborhood -- the mailman, delivery people, neighbors, guards, store owners and so on. It'll help if you have a proper photograph of your pet to show all these people.
Look farther afield
While many dogs getting away do remain in their neighborhoods, some are known to travel many miles. Sometimes, they may be transported to a shelter or veterinary hospital elsewhere by a rescuer. Asking at all shelters, humane societies and animal hospitals within a 10-mile radius is a good idea. It's best to go in person -- it can be very hard to describe an animal over the phone.
Register a missing pet complaint with the police
While the police certainly have far more important things to do than find lost pets, having a registered complaint will help you prove that your pet is indeed yours when you find it later.
Plaster the area with posters
Posters with a quality photo of your pet, a phone number and information about a reward should go out on trees and lampposts within a 10-mile radius. You do need to be careful about scammers trying to rip you off for the reward money, though. It's usually a good idea to leave at least one prominent identifying mark out of the information you provide on your posters. This way, you can quiz anyone calling to make sure that they do have your pet.
Try the classifieds
Both print newspapers and online classifieds run ads for pets, both lost and found. Here too, you should leave one identifying mark out of your ads. Looking for pet-found ads helps, too.
Look at online databases
The Internet has dozens of lost-and-found pet databases, message boards and forums. You should work on all these possibilities. Getting in touch with other pet owners on lost pet forums can help you find new resources and ideas.
Finally, consider pet detectives - both the professional and volunteer kinds
While real-life pet detectives may not be as good as Jim Carrey's Ace Ventura, they can be nearly as good. They have access to trained search dogs, CSI-like forensic skills and all kinds of professional resources and contacts that can be of help. They aren't all expensive, either -- some work for as little as $100. Volunteer pet detectives are another possibility. You'll usually find them attached to animal shelters. In one way at least, volunteer pet detectives are better than paid ones -- they never get off the job. They aren't likely to have access to trained search dogs the way professional detectives do, though.
It's important to never lose hope
While it can be extremely difficult to keep your hopes up for a long time, this is exactly what you need to do. Looking up encouraging stories of how people have found their pets after months or even years of losing them can help you keep your hopes up. One story on Mother Nature Network, for instance, is about a family that was united with its pet 8 years after it went missing. Things certainly can work out well when you refuse to lose hope.