What To Do If Your Dog Gets Lost
Before, During and After
Author, Dorinne Whynott, Owner of Professional Pet Sitting Etc
As a dog owner, losing your dog is one of the most heartbreaking and frightening things that can happen. Many dogs tend to run off to explore, then are unable to find their way home. They can slip out of leashes, dig their way out of fenced yards, or jump out of vehicles. Finding your dog when he/she is missing or lost is hard, but the following steps can help increase your odds of finding your furry friend.
Prevention is First
Step 1 – Collar/Tag Your Dog
Get a collar that’s comfortable, and one that your dog can’t remove easily. Collars should always be tight enough to never slip over your dog’s head. If you dig puts the breaks on, you never want your dog to back out of their collar and take off. A collar should be snug enough that you can only place TWO fingers in between the neck of your dog and the collar. Try to pull your dog’s collar up over your dog’s head to see if it will slip off. Greyhounds and dogs that have slim heads, may do better with a Martingale collar. You must remember to always grab the part of the collar that tightens the collar and not any other part or it will easily come off your dog.
Your dog should always wear some kind of identification. This will make it easy for anyone to notify you if they found your dog. Collar/tag should have your dog’s name, your name, your street address, and your phone number. Some tags are just fine with two phone numbers. The second phone number can be a friend or relative.
We suggest an engraved tag that slips onto the collar, rather than a tag that attached via a metal ring. Metal ring tags can get caught and fall off.
In case tags fall off, you can write some information on the dog collar using a permanent marker. Collars can also b embroidered with information as well.
If you are going on vacation or traveling for any reason, use a temporary tag. You can get a tag at any pet store and write your information on it. It is better then no tag.
If your dog also has a rabies tag, this can be traced back to your dog’s veterinarian, and he/she can quickly link the collar/tag information to you, and make contact. This ID alone is not advised, since the animal hospital is not open 24/7/365. Inevitably, your dog will run off at the most inopportune time.
Step 2 – Microchip Your Dog
In today’s highly technological world, tracking your lost dog has never been easier. Thanks to microchip technology, many people have been reunited with their lost pets. A microchip is a tiny implant between a dog’s shoulder blades, and it contains identifying information which an animal shelter or veterinarian can scan and find whom the dog belongs to. Some pets that have been missing for a very long time have found their way back to loving owner’s. Another good thing about a microchip is once it is registered in your name, if there was ever a dispute that you owned your dog, a microchip could be used as proof of ownership.
Check your information with the microchip company at least once a year (especially if you move or change phone numbers). If you have made a birth date, do it your pet’s birthday. You can make one even if you do not know the exact date. Take the estimated age at time of your pet coming home so you have a year. Choose a month and day.
Step 3 – Leash Your Dog
Whenever you are taking your dog for a walk, make sure he is on a leash. Even if your dog is trained, keeping them leashed helps with the unexpected. NEVER let your dogs run free unsupervised unless, it is in a safe fenced in area. It is not safe for them or others.
A sturdy 6 foot nylon leash is best for walking. Put your hand through the loop and grasp the leash (the loop should be around your wrist). With your other hand, hold the leash taking up the slack as your dog is walking by your side. This way you have two hands on the leash and the end around your wrist and if your dog bolts you have a lot of control.
We do NOT endorse using any type of retractable Flexi types leashes. Not only have many been ripped out of people’s hands but have also broken when dogs bolt and people have been injured if the leash wraps around your finger or wrist as the dog is bolting. This is very dangerous.
Step 5 – Train, Train, Train
Research trainers in your area. Ask if you can sit in on a session to see if you like the trainer and how they teach. If you feel comfortable with your teacher, you will learn better and get more out of it. Every trainer teaches in a different way, find one you like.
Obedience training is NOT to teach your dog. Obedience training is to teach YOU to train your dog. So, for those that say their dog has flunked obedience…..You must practice and practice. Obedience training gives you and your dog a platform of communication. This communication is essential for a wonderful SAFE relationship with your dog. A trained dog is enjoyable to walk and have around. But it is more than that, it is SAFE for you and for your pet.
We advise going through a puppy class, then basic obedience and then advanced. The more training you do, the better and safer your dog will be.
The best thing that can ever be trained is the recall.
Step 6 – Spay/Neuter your pets
All pets should be spayed/neutered. Un-neutered pets are going to escape to do what their hormones are telling them to do. These pets usually will become lost. They will roam long distances to find a mate. Spaying/neutering not only makes a happier pet but healthier as well as keeping down over population.
Step 7 – Take Pictures of Your Dog
Today it is very easy to keep our pet photos up to date. Take full body shots, head close ups, a any special markings. Make sure the pictures are clear and crisp for identification. In case your dog goes missing, you will need these pictures to create posters and flyers. Include distinct identifying traits in the pictures so as to distinguish your dog from similar dogs. Once you have taken the pictures, consider sharing them with family and friends, in case your computer crashes or phone is stolen. Facebook and icloud also make a good place to store photos.
Step 8 – Treat Training
Buy a can of treats or use a plastic Tupperware container filled with very small treats. Find a container that makes some good noise when the treats are shaken in it. Then every time you give your dog a treat, shake the container and say treat time (or whatever you choose, just use the same words). This will train your dog to come for a treat when he hears the shaking treat container and also your words – treat time!! This can be used outside as well.
What To Do To Find Your Lost Dog
Make a Plan to Act Fast
You have a better chance of finding your dog if you’ve a solid plan AND to have a solid plan when you are not upset and in crisis because your pet is lost.
Create a plan BEFORE something happens. Know who to call and where to go. Make a list of the town you live in and all border towns. The Humane Society of the US recommends notifying everyone within a 60 miles radius.
Know every animal control officer and police station, list phone numbers. Find out all Animal Hospitals, Animal Shelters and rescues in the above towns, with their contact information.
Make a complete description of your pet in writing, even create a lost poster. Take your time, research what is beneficial to place on posters. Create this poster to have on hand to print and go. You probably have a photo app that you can create and keep on hand, just changing the photo every now and then. Create your poster to stand out. Include your dog’s picture, breed, color, sex, age, weight, special markings and such other specifications. You can also include contact information like your name, phone number and email. Have an area on the poster to fill in a few things last minute, such as – Date your dog went missing, Street and city where dog was last seen, description of collar, is your dog dragging a leash or tie out. If your dog is very shy or has any behavior issues.
We suggest not putting your dog’s name on the posters and you may want to include – Do not chase, please contact owner. Why? Some people may want your dog, so let’s not have your dog go to them by name and if your dog is frightened, having people chase after him will make them more frightened. It is better to have people contact you with a sighting so you can go and calmly find your dog.
If this dog was adopted – contact the shelter you adopted from. Many shelters do adopt with microchips and they may be contacted if the dog is found.
When your pet runs off
Step 1 – Calm yourself and Start your search immediately.
The sooner you start searching, the sooner you will find him. You will have a better chance of finding your pet in the first 12 hours. As a matter of fact, some experts say that almost 90% of dogs are found if the dog owner searches right away. Thoroughly check every hiding place in and around your home, bushes, garages, sheds, under porches, etc. Many pets never leave their owner’s property.
Make sure to have every person searching carrying a leash, just in case.
Bring smelly favorite treats or hot dogs to lure them close. Also, treats in a can make a lot of noise when shaken and may be heard far and wide.
If your pet bolted after something or was chased through your invisible fence, turn it OFF. This way he can come back in without being zapped. Never leave any pet unsupervised in an area that only has invisible fence. It is too easy for someone to steal a pet or another animal (wildlife, too) to come and harm your pet.
Step 2 – Search Your Home First and Alert Your Neighbors
As soon as you think your dog is missing, search all around the house to make sure he is not hiding or sleeping in there. One dog was playing with his ball which rolled into the bathroom and as the dog was playing it went behind the door and the dog pushed the door closed as he was getting his ball!!
Next, alert your neighbors. Neighbors are a good resource for helping you find your missing dog. Many times, dogs go visiting or your neighbor may have picked him up, or seen him run in a particular direction. Go door to door knocking on every door, and bring a decent picture along for those who may have not met your dog. Also, neighbors with dogs will attract your dog. Ask them to check garages, sheds, under porches. If your dog became injured by a car or something, they may find a place to hide.
Step 3 – Make Phone Calls, here is where all your research comes in handy
If you have searched in your neighborhood and asked neighbors, now the information you planned ahead for will come in handy. Contact your microchip company to make sure all of your information is up to date. Call the local animal shelters, animal control agencies, rescue groups, the local police and veterinary offices. Give each of them a description of the dog, along with the dog’s name. Remember to file a lost dog report with every animal shelter within a 30 mile radius of your home (if given enough time dogs can get far, especially the Husky breeds or if they jumped into a car and a person was unaware, they may just let them out where ever when they notice).
I advise to go and visit the shelters as well, and bring photos of the dog. If your dog is missing for a while (I do hope not), visits at least once a week. Why go and visit if you called and gave a description? Because sometimes your description and another person’s description may be different. What you may call brown another may call red. Even photos can get color a bit off. Seeing is the best.
Step 4 – Advertise
Here is where your created Poster will come in handy. Because you have it ready to go, you can print quickly and run to Staples and have a bunch printed up. Create poster and/or flyers which will stand out. On the flyers, include your dog’s picture, name, breed, color, sex, weight, special markings and such other specifications. You can also include contact information like your name, phone number and email. You can post the flyers at grocery stores, dog parks, traffic intersections, grooming stores, community centers, pet supply stores, veterinary offices, and other locations.
Step 5 – Use Social Media
You can post your lost dog flyer/poster on your social media account to try and get the word out quickly. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook allow you to post your dog’s picture and spread the word to people you know and other dog lovers.
On Facebook, there are many Lost Pet groups as well. Keep a list of where you post, so that you can give the good news when your pet is safe at home. Everyone will want to know!!
Step 6 – Make the outside of your house or the last place your dog was seen familiar
Place a favorite blanket, crate, toy, something that has their scent. You can place some smelly food in a bowl near the blanket or in a crate.
A wildlife cam can be helpful. Aim it near the blanket and food and check frequently to see if there are any sightings.
If you are thinking you want to use a trap. The Concord SPCA rents out traps to use (call for more information). They will have instructions for you as well. Remember to never leave that trap unsupervised for very long. It should be checked regularly, every few hours. Once trapped, the trapped animal is vulnerable to harm of other animals and people.
Step 7 – Use maps
Keep careful documentation of all sightings. Set out to put flyers in areas of each sighting. All animals will cross roads, highways, ponds, rivers, etc to get to wherever they think they are going or away from whatever may be chasing them.
Step 8 – You see your dog
Once you see your dog, do everything to get him to come to you. Do not chase him, he may panic and run into traffic or farther away. Open your car door and say let’s go for a ride or whatever you say. Shake the treat can. Sit on the ground and toss treats out. Try running in the opposite direction to see if he will chase you.
Step 9 – when you capture your dog
Check your dog over for any cuts, punctures. If you notices any trauma, bring to your vet now. At home, Do not offer your dog alot of food and water. If they have been stressed or gone for a few days or longer, giving them alot of water and food at once will just make them sick. Offer a small amount of water and let them just rest. If they are doing okay after a 15 minutes or so give them a second small portion of water. If they look okay after a half hour or so, offer them 1/3 of their normal meal. If they keep that down after an hour, go ahead and give them another third.
If it is morning, I would not give anything except water until dinner, if it is dinner, not until morning. If they seem fine by meal time, then give their regular meal.
I would suggest, taking to your vet, to get your pet completely checked over within the next few days. Just to make sure that you have not missed anything and your veterinarian may see or find something with their expert eyes.
What To Do After Your Pet is Home
Step 1 – Eliminate Opportunities in the Backyard
One of the most common ways a dog gets lost is when he escapes the yard. Try and close up any escape points in the yard. Make sure you do not have any holes in your yard fence or anywhere else that makes it easy for the dog to escape. Make sure there’s nothing against the fence that your dog can jump onto, and then over the yard fence.
Here is a tip for dogs who dig everywhere. When you clean up the yard of dog waste, fill the holes that they have dug. Put some dirt over that. Dogs generally will not dig in that area again. They may dig elsewhere and keep filling those holes with dog waste. After a while, they do stop. They may pick it up again later and just repeat.
Step 2 – Fence your yard if you only have Invisible Fence
Invisible Fence is great but it is only great if your dog does not see anything and bolt out or your dog is not chased out by another dog or bear or a person. It does not PROTECT your dog. So, fence your yard with a 6 foot fence or higher. If you place that fence around the invisible fence, you can prevent your dog from digging under the fence!! Using both fences will help keep your dog a bit safer.
Step 3 – Make Your Home Welcoming and Comfortable
You should make your home a place your dog likes to be. You can make your home a fun and happy place by; regularly cleaning it, giving your dog a specific area that’s designated for them, playing with your dog regularly, and giving him treats regularly.
Exercise – giving your dog as much exercise as possible helps to wear off that energy. Play ball or go for a walk. Give them at least 30-60 minutes of fun exercise a day. Giving your dog regular exercise helps curb boredom and those who think about escaping.
What if I do not have the time? We all lead busy lives. Have you thought of hiring a pet sitter? Professional Pet Sitting Etc can come to your home every day while you are at work. We can play ball with them, go for a walk and break up the long boring days. We have lots of different lengths of time to fit most budgets.
Step 4 – Train Your Dog
Dogs with formal obedience training are less likely to go missing. An obedience trained dog is much more likely to stop on command and come back when called, rather than running off. In addition to this, obedience training gives both the dog and the owner more things to do together, thus the dog is much less likely to wander off out of boredom.
Simply said, training your dog gives you both a platform of communication. It gives boundaries and your dog respects those boundaries when they understand them. It also increases the quality of the relationship when you both understand one another.
We hope that this article was informative and helpful to you. We want all pets to stay safe and happy.
If you liked this article, check out our other articles –Complete List of our Articles and Videos
About the Owner and Professional Pet Sitting Etc
Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional. She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990. Click to Read her complete History.
Professional Pet Sitting Etc. is a leading business in the pet care field and continues to grow since 1990. It is an AWARD WINNING business, having been awarded the 2015 Best Pet Sitting , 2015 Best Dog Walker, Business of the Year Awards in 1996, 1997, 2006 and 2010. It boasts 30+ amazing pet sitters on staff, over 3000 clients in 38 cities from Nashua to Concord, NH. Hundreds of satisfied client testimonials can be found on their website and more 5 star reviews on their Facebook page, Google+ page and more. They have sustained an A+ rating with the BBB, A rating with Angie’s List and are unmatched in the Pet Sitting Industry in New Hampshire.
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