Most dog owners can share stories of the time their pet escaped, and they had to search high and low around the neighborhood for them. Often, we naturally assume that our dogs and cats love us so much, and are such adept trackers that they will return home as soon as their excursion in the outside world is over. While this certainly does happen for many (lucky) pet parents, some are not as fortunate. When the days slip away and there is no sign of your furry friend, it is time to take action and find him!
How to Find Your Lost Dog
When a pet runs away or escapes, the first 24 hours are the most important, since your pet can only travel so far in that space of time. Each day that passes makes the situation more challenging, so be strategic and efficient to make the reunion more likely.
- Notify your network. Get pictures of your pooch or puss-in-boots posted online as soon as possible, across all your social media platforms. Make your friends aware on a 3 mile radius of where the dog was last seen. Send group texts (with a photo of Fido for the forgetful ones!) about your pet, and the last place he was spotted. Ask everyone to keep their eyes out and spread the word amongst their acquaintances.
- Call to the pet. Once you have reached out to your friends and neighbors, get outside and let the hunting being! If your dog has gotten lost far away, try to draw him back with an ultrasonic device. Using a high-frequency dog whistle is the best way to alert your dog over the loud noise of the city of or expansive residential area.
(NOTE: This is another good reason why whistle training is a useful method of working with your pup, since he will be more likely to associate the ultrasonic sound with you, and recognize the kind of whistle you use should he ever get lost.)
- Tempt them with toys. Walk to all the places you and your pet frequently visit, whether it is the park, neighborhood, or hiking trail of choice, and bring them their favorite squeaky toy. Calling the dog’s name, squeeze the toy so that they can hear the familiar sound and see if they come running.
A pet owner once told me that whenever their dog Coal would get out, they would bring his favorite ball to fetch. Even after 10-15 minutes of calling the dog, Coal wouldn’t come back, unless his owner would throw the ball across the park or into the bushes. Then the feisty lab would come out of the bushes with the ball in his mouth, thinking they were there to play fetch. Coal fell for it every time, no matter how long he had been hiding!
- Put out their favorite treats: If you know your dog goes crazy for bacon bits, or your most recent treat purchase, leave out a dish of his favorite food (or treat) somewhere on your backyard or porch. Though this might draw pests, it could also be just the scent needed to lure your pup back to his home!
- Bring another dog with you. If you are looking for your runaway pooch, as you comb through the neighborhood and park, try to enlist another dog in the search with you. Dogs are curious about other creatures and might come out to meet the new canine pal you are bringing. This is particularly advantageous if the dog is a tracking breed, since he might be able to help you find the scent of the escaped dog.
- Make fliers and posters. If the pup has been lost for over a day, then it’s time to alert a wider community. Make fliers and post them on coffee shop bulletin boards, on street poles, stop lights, grocery stores, gyms, gas stations, and any intersections where your dog might have been seen.
If it has been longer than a few days, bear in mind your dog could have explored a decent distance, so reach those with a larger travel radius such as the mailman, Fed Ex and UPS drivers who can carry your fliers on their route. Another good idea is to talk to regular cyclists and joggers in your area.
- Call the shelters. The next step is to call the rescue homes and animal shelters in your city to see if your dog has been dropped off. If nothing has been found, send them a picture and description of your pet, so that they will know to call you immediately if he or she turns ups.
- Keep on the lookout. During your search, look in newspaper classified ads, or on online “found” classified ads for entries about lost dogs being located.
- Help your dog track his way home: Some dog owners have helped their runaways track a path back by leaving pieces of clothing with their own scent on it for the dog to find. Others have mimicked canine tendencies and “marked their territory,” by urinating on an article of clothing and hanging it on a nearby tree branch where the wind can carry the scent for the dog to pick up. Though this might seem disgusting (even barbaric?), some pet parents are willing to do anything to get their fur-baby back!
Lost Dog Poster Details
Make sure your flier has just the right information to help people identify and find your pet, without giving them too many details. Here are some tips about what your poster should include:
- A REWARD: Write the word REWARD on the poster in the biggest letters to draw attention. (Never write how much, just affirm that there will be one.)
- A picture of the animal along with his or her name.
- Include the words “family dog” since most people will want to return a puppy to the kids waiting for him at home!
- Be sure to say she is “spayed” so no one would try to breed her, especially if she a beautiful dog or a purebred.
- If the dog is friendly, you could include a note urging the finders to try and get her to come to them before calling the owner. If the dog is not a people person (or could be dangerous when defensive) then urge them to simply contact you directly if they see the dog, without trying to corner or catch it.
- Your contact number (your name is optional but unnecessary).
Be wary and wise when the calls come in, and watch out for potentially dangerous lost dog scammers. Unless something catastrophic has happened to your pet, all of these tips will greatly increase the likelihood that you will see your buddy again soon!