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What You Need to Know to Find a Lost Dog

Dog running

Your dog is so much more than a pet; he's family. So, the thought of losing your precious pup most likely twists your stomach into some serious knots. According to the American Humane Association, roughly 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen each year in the United States. Of those pets, the Coalition for Reuniting Pets and Families estimates that less than 23% end up getting returned to their owners.

Plus, with the approaching New Year, sometimes things like fireworks and other loud noises can spook dogs, causing them to run off and hide. Therefore, it's critical to know the best steps to take if your dog ends up lost, so you can increase your odds of getting him home safe and sound.

Lost dog flier

Things to Do When Your Dog Is Lost

Of course, when you first discover your dog is missing, your immediate reaction might be to panic. But, quick action and a cool head will make a speedy return of your pup more likely.

Act Fast

If your dog just got out of the yard or ran out the front door, he's likely not far. Call out for him and have a handful of his favorite treats at the ready. If you can see your pup, resist the urge to chase him; he'll assume you're playing and keep on running from you. Instead, crouch down and call your dog in an excited, upbeat voice. Squeak his favorite toy and show him the treats so he'll come to you.

Sometimes, if your pup gets loose and is scared, he might be closer than you think. Check out your driveway and your neighbors' yards and garages, look behind trash cans and under cars to see if your dog is hiding (or possibly stuck). This can especially be the case if certain stressful situations are happening, like fireworks or bad weather, or if it is cold outside and your dog is trying to find a place to stay warm.

Look For Your Dog During the Day and Night

It’s a good idea to go out at night with a flashlight and look for your pup, too, as he might have hunkered down somewhere during the day. Not to mention, if he’s nearby by nightfall, he’s more likely to respond to you as he’s probably hungry. You can also try putting out your dog’s food bowl to see if he’ll make his way home once he gets hungry, but the essential thing to remember is to not depend on this. You never want just to sit back and wait for your dog to come home; action is necessary.

Post Fliers and Consider a Reward

Unfortunately, if you don't notice your dog missing right away, it becomes more challenging to find him, but definitely not impossible. Still, you need to work fast. You can do some of the expected things like post fliers throughout the neighborhood with your pup’s picture, place an ad in the local newspaper, and consider offering a reward. A reward encourages others to keep an eye out for your furry friend, plus persuades people to turn in your untagged pet instead of choosing to keep him. It’s also helpful to post fliers at local stores, vets, and groomers.

But, several other things can help find lost dogs. Most of them involve getting others on board with your search.

When Your Dog Is Lost, Who You Gonna Call?

Let your neighbors know that your dog is missing; also, contact your vet and groomer. It’s also important to call your local shelters as well as animal control. Typically, shelters and animal control will not call you if a dog matching your pup’s description comes in (unless your dog is chipped). So, it’s imperative that you contact the shelter every day and call animal control at least every two days. Also, no one knows your pet like you, so visit the shelters in person and ask to see dogs recently brought in.

You can also try calling your local radio station to help spread the word. Likewise, ensure you scan the local found ads every day, too. If you see any descriptions that could possibly be your pup, call the number in the ad immediately.

Use Social Media and the Internet to Help Find Lost Dogs

Today, social media has become a powerful tool for animal shelters and rescues to find homes for pets. Social media has also proved helpful in reuniting lost dogs with their families. Therefore, when your pup is missing, post his picture on various social media platforms like Facebook and Nextdoor, and even the app for the popular doorbell camera, Ring.

Using the internet and various apps to aid your dog search instantly increases your search party by thousands. You can also check websites like and Pawboost to initiate a lost pet alert.

Dog in fenced yard

6 Final Tips to Ensure Your Dog Doesn't Get Lost

The American Humane Association estimates that 1 in 3 pets will get lost in their lifetime, so taking certain precautions is vital if you want to ensure your pet isn’t one of them. Here are a few pointers that can help make it more likely that your pup stays home where he belongs:

  1. Ensure your backyard is fenced in, and check your fence regularly for any gaps or holes that your dog could fit through. It’s also worth checking around the perimeter of your fence for any holes that your dog could use to climb under the fence, especially if your pup is a digger. If this is a particular problem for you, consider placing some underground barrier along your entire fence so holes won’t be a problem. 
  2. In addition to regularly checking your fence, don’t forget about any gates. Ensure that your gates are always latched fully and assess your gates often. If you have any service professionals working in your yard or around your home, make sure that your gate is locked after they leave. Sometimes, you can let your pup outside out of habit, not realizing one of the workers left your gate open. If you find any issues, like a faulty latch or broken lock, fix them right away.
  3. Of course, one of the best ways to keep your dog safe is to undergo proper training with your pup as soon as he joins the family. Train your dog to remain in your yard, not to run out the front door, to stay out of the street, etc.
  4. If your dog is notorious for scooting out the front door every time it opens, then training is definitely in order. But in the meantime, consider placing a doggy gate across the inside of your front door or the foyer entryway.
  5. When there is inclement weather or things like fireworks and other loud noises (especially during different holidays), keep your dog indoors so he doesn’t get scared while outside and escape from the yard.
  6. Finally, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, ensure your dog has a pet ID tag. Dogs with proper identification have a much greater likelihood of making it back home. Likewise, getting your dog chipped is also very helpful. If animal control or a shelter picks up a dog, one of the first things they do is scan for a chip.
There’s no denying that losing your dog is one of the scariest, gut-wrenching things that you can experience as a pet owner. But, knowing the best course of action to take, and acting fast, can make all the difference in the outcome of your search. For more great ways to take the very best care of your pets, make sure to check out the rest of our blog! You’ll find all different kinds of ideas and resources that will guide you in making the right decisions for your fur babies.

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