Have you ever thought about what to do if your dog gets lost?
It’s not something we want to think about as pet parents.
Every time I see a lost dog poster hanging up on a telephone poll or the bulletin board at the grocery store, I just want to cry.
Then I run home and check to make sure my dogs are still okay and give them a hug!
Dogs get lost for many reasons. They jump fences, dig holes under them or use their smarter than we give them credit for brains to unlatch simply them and walk out. My two girl dogs have done all three at some point. Fortunately, they never went far and always came right back. My boy, on the other hand, is a runner. He used to sneak around, waiting for someone with an armload of groceries to open a door, then bolt right past them. He’s older now, and pretty chilled out these days, but he does still try to make a break for it now and then. Thankfully, I live in an area that isn’t particularly dangerous for him if he does get loose, although I still do everything possible to avoid it. Here is what to do if your dog gets lost.
What to Do if Your Dog Gets Lost
First things first, don’t panic! Keep calm, take a deep breath. Then:
Secure the escape route
The first thing you need to do (after stopping yourself from panicking!) if your dog gets lost: make sure your other dogs don’t get lost! While your heart says “run out that door and find your dog!” your head needs to think “is the escape route still open? Can my other pooches get lost too?” If you don’t have other pooches, then you can, of course, skip this.
Canvas the neighborhood…like a dog
Once you’ve got that covered, you’ll want start with a walk or drive around your neighborhood. Cover the paths that you normally use when walking your dog since this is the area they will be familiar with. Be sure to bring a leash along with you in your search and also take something your dog will be familiar with, like their favorite toy or snack. I have driven around holding a piece of bologna out the window to get my escape artist, Cooper, back. Hey, it works, but only after he’s tired himself out.
If your neighborhood connects to others by woods but not by roads, you may want to send your spouse out to those areas to check as well. My neighborhood is right behind another large community, but I have to drive to the main road, down a mile, up three miles and over two miles to get to it. However, it’s just a jaunt through the woods for my dog, so the trip is necessary. Fortunately, he only got “lost” once (he wasn’t lost, he was just gone long enough that I was worried).
Bring along a recent photo of your dog and show it to people you encounter while on your search. There is a good chance someone may have seen your dog wandering around. If you are friendly with your neighbors, knock on their door and make them aware that your dog is lost and to contact you if they see your pet.
Going beyond your borders
If your dog your dog gets lost, and you notice it pretty quickly, chances are you’ll find him just by doing the above. If that doesn’t work, though, you’ll need to branch out. First, I recommend that someone stay home to wait for your dog. There’s a good chance he’ll find his way home. If someone isn’t there to let him in, though, he could easily wander off again.
Your next step is to start calling your local shelters. If your town has an animal control service, you’ll need to call them too. If the list is long (for example, if you live in New York City) enlist help and divide and conquer.
Media and multimedia
Flyers are going to be very helpful in your search for your dog. Post flyers around your neighborhood with a photo and description of your dog along with your contact information in case anyone sees your pet. Also, be sure you post these flyers where other dog owners may visit, such as dog groomers, veterinary offices, pet clinics, humane societies, pet stores, pet kennels and dog parks. Other good places to post flyers around town are laundromats and grocery stores. If you can afford it, offer a reward. Even if it’s only $50, the very presence of dollar signs or the words “reward offered” draws more attention.
While newspapers are a dying medium, they still have a decent subscribership in smaller towns and among the older members of the community. Most papers will let you take out a free ad for lost pets, so use that. It can’t hurt.
One of the fastest ways to get the word out about your lost pet is through the internet. Many towns have Facebook groups dedicated to different aspects of pet parenthood. Search them out, join and post. Tweet and ask your friends to tweet. Post on every social media network at your disposal. While the chances of lovemypet4987 in Istanbul (I just made that up, so I hope no one has that user name!) will be able to find your dog after seeing your tweet, you just never know if their number one fan is the guy two streets over, who found your dog and took him in. Use the hashtag #lostdog, like this tweet:
Lost dog Mimi in Baltimore, MD US (21229) #lostdog https://t.co/EojO5NiHtm pic.twitter.com/mnfzFRZfM7
— FidoFinder.com (@fidofinder) January 28, 2016
While we’re talking about social media, though, be careful how many personal details you post. Yes, you want people to be able to contact you, but you don’t want them to be able to drive up to your house and rob you in the middle of the night. We’ve all read the news stories about Craigslist murders. You can create a free email account just for this purpose, or give out one that doesn’t have your real name. If someone says, they found your dog, no matter how excited you are to get him back, insist on meeting up the someplace public.
Register and post on sites like FidoFinder, PawBoost and the like. Just search Bing or Google for “lost dog network.” Narrow it down to your area after doing some of the larger national databases (they tend to get more traffic). There are a few that require payment. I don’t know how I feel about those, especially since there are so many free sites out there offering to help, but if you feel it will be beneficial, go for it. One, PetAmberAlert, sends your poster for you to pet businesses, so if you are unable to drive around to do that yourself, it might be worth the fee.
Don’t Play the Blame Game!
Dogs escape leashes, kennels, and even locked doors (my childhood Shepherd could unlock a door coated in nasty stuff that was supposed to deter him, just to find me and steal my gloves as I went sledding down a hill). The point is, dogs are escape artists. Regular Houdinis. So if your dog gets lost, don’t play the blame game. Don’t turn on your spouse, pointing fingers and saying “I told you that you should have put a dead bolt on the door!” or tell your child “see, that’s why I said you shouldn’t walk Fido, I knew he’d get away with you!” Trust me, everyone is already worried and feeling guilty enough.
I hope this helps you know what to do if your dog gets lost. More than that I hope you never have to go through a single one of these steps! If your dog does get lost, don’t lose hope. The news is filled with tear-jerking stories of lost dogs making their way back to their families after unbelievable trials and tribulations, across miles and even states.