It’s unfortunately a common occurrence – an estimated 11-16% of dogs go missing at least once in a five-year period, according to a 2012 study by the ASPCA. This may not sound like a lot, but considering there are approximately 90 million pet dogs in the US, this equates to millions of beloved members of the family that go missing every year.
The good news is that the large majority of lost and missing dogs are reunited with their owner. If you’ve just discovered that your dog is missing, and you want to know what to do when your dog gets lost, try the steps below.
Search the neighborhood
The majority of dogs that are later reunited with their owner are found right in their own neighborhood, according to the same study referenced above, and never get further than just a few miles from home. So the first thing to do is to scour your neighborhood. Check familiar places first, like a favorite park your dog likes to play in or the route you take on your daily walk. Call out your dog’s name and bring along a squeaky toy or a squawker to get their attention. And if you can, enlist family members, neighbors, and friends to help so you can cover more ground.
How long should you search the neighborhood for your dog? That’s up to you. The longer, the better. Chances of finding your lost dog are higher in the first 24 hours after they go missing, so if you have the time and the stamina, focus your efforts during that time. However, that doesn’t mean to give up after the first day. There are many stories of owners reuniting with their dog after days, weeks, or even years later.
Monitor your home and yard
The most likely scenario is that you’ll find your dog somewhere in your neighborhood. The second most likely scenario is that your dog will come back on their own, according to research. So while you can’t search the neighborhood and stake out your own home at the same time, do keep your eyes peeled for your dog whenever you’re at home and tell everyone else in the household to do the same.
Put up flyers
If you don’t find your dog within a few hours of searching in your neighborhood, don’t give up! It’s still possible your dog is nearby and you just haven’t found them yet. This is the time to put up Lost Dog posters in your neighborhood. Think beyond street corners and put your flyers inside at grocery stores, the library, restaurants and coffee shops, and other places people will see your flyer, too. (Always ask permission first if you’re uncertain about whether you’re allowed to hang a flyer.) Then remember to monitor your phone for messages or calls in case someone contacts you about finding your dog.
Contact local animal shelters, animal control offices, veterinarians, and emergency animal hospitals
Some dogs are reunited with their owners after ending up at a shelter or local animal control office, so make sure to contact those facilities in your county and the surrounding counties. Some allow you to fill out a missing pet form online so they can contact you if they have a dog matching your pet’s description. You may also want to go in person every so often, as well, to see the dogs in person; call first to ask if this is allowed.
Make some calls to local emergency animal hospitals and veterinary clinics, too. If your dog was injured after being separated from you, it’s possible that someone could find them and take them in to be treated. It takes just a few moments to call so there’s no reason not to add these places to your list.
Update or verify your dog’s microchip registration information
Is your dog microchipped? Now is the time to make sure that the microchip is registered and that the information is current. One study found that about 40% of dog microchips weren’t registered, but a microchip is no good if it’s not registered along with your contact information.
Post on social media
Post pictures of your dog with information on the last place they were seen as well as how to contact you. Ask people to share your post with other people they know in the area. This is especially helpful if you’re part of a local neighborhood or community group, but go ahead and post to all accounts, because you just never know who’s looking!
Place an ad in the paper
This is an old-fashioned tactic but if you still haven’t found your dog after a few days or weeks then you’re probably eager to try every avenue available to find them. Contact local publications like your local broadsheet newspaper, local free paper, and other places that publish classifieds and ask about running an ad about your dog.
Prevention if possible
If and when you are reunited with your dog, take steps to increase the chances that if your dog ever goes missing again, it’s more likely that they’ll be found and returned to you. That includes microchipping your dog and registering the microchip and ensuring that your dog is always – always! – wearing a collar with a current ID tag. Between 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 dogs are returned to their owners because of ID tags, so be sure your dog has one with your contact information on it.
For hundreds of dog ID tags in a huge variety of colors, designs, and shapes to choose from, check out our selection at Hot Dog Collars. We also carry over 180 styles of personalized dog collars so you can put your contact information right on their collar. This is another simple way to up the chances that if your dog goes missing, they can be returned to you.
Don’t give up!
Don’t give up hope if you don’t find your dog right away. More than 9 in 10 dogs are reunited with their owner so the odds are in your favor. Keep looking, keep calling, keep posting, and keep a positive attitude.