Marty’s dog, Tasha, is lost! He’s looked everywhere — all around the house, the backyard, the neighborhood. He’s talked to neighbors, but no one has seen her. He’s gone to nearby places she enjoys, like the park, but there’s no sign of his beloved canine friend there. His heart jumps into his throat as he starts imagining the worst of all possibilities.
If your dog ever gets lost, don’t lose hope! There are a lot of effective ways for you to find a lost dog. And after you find them, there are things you can do to prevent such a nightmare from ever occurring again!
Can Dogs Get Lost?
There is much said about dogs’ incredible senses of hearing and smell. So you’d think a displaced dog would be able to sniff their way home. After all, there are stories, even movies, about pets that find their way home from hundreds of miles away! But that’s not the norm.
How Often Do Dogs Get Lost?
About a third of pet dogs get lost at some point, and almost all are eventually found nearby (e.g., brought home by a good Samaritan). But some of them are harder to find and can’t just sniff their way home.
How Do Dogs Get Lost?
When a dog goes missing, it’s usually not because of someone’s malicious intent, but because:
- Something interesting caught the dog’s attention, and they got lost during the pursuit.
- You’re in an unfamiliar area, and the dog wandered off.
- The backyard fence is damaged, or someone left the front door or front gate open, and the dog got past it.
- You were in a car accident. In the chaos, your traumatized dog jumped out of the car and ran.
- The sound of fireworks frightened your dog, and they ran away.
- Your dog was bored and wandered off to find something interesting.
- Your male dog is not neutered and has taken off in search of a mate.
How To Find Your Lost Dog
As difficult as it is when your beloved dog is missing, thinking straight is of utmost importance. The more you can think things through, the better your chances of finding them.
Know Your Dog
What places your dog is attracted to and how far they may go depends on their traits — breed, size, age, physical condition, activity level, and personality. If your dog is well socialized, for example, they are more likely to approach people for help or seek the company of other dogs. You might find them stuck in people’s backyards or lost in parks. On the other hand, a timid dog may hide or run away from people trying to help. They may be found hiding under bushes or cars.
Make a Plan
Think about your dog and the area where they went missing. What is in the area that might be attractive to the dog, or what might feel like a safe place to hide? Is there anything dangerous? How far could they have traveled on their own? Does your dog know the area?
Base your plans on the area you think they could have covered.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” — Fred Rogers.
Find such helpers in the search area. Who are they?
- Veterinary offices/vet clinics;
- Pet rescue groups;
- The local animal shelter;
- Animal Control agencies;
- Animal hospitals;
- Pet supply stores;
People here might have information about a lost dog, or someone may drop off your dog with them. There are even pet detectives to help your search. Also, check the shelters frequently in case your dog was taken to one of them. Other potentially helpful people are neighbors, other dog owners, and people who spend a lot of time outside, like mail delivery people.
Use Online Resources
Several websites are dedicated to helping pet parents find a lost pet:
In addition, take advantage of your social media accounts, such as Facebook groups, Instagram, Craigslist, or Nextdoor, to post pictures and details about your dog. You never know who might have an important tip.
Beware of scammers, though, especially online! Anyone who demands money or can’t describe your dog should raise a red flag.
Print and Distribute Fliers
Create an eye-catching flier, with a picture and a brief description, and post copies in the area, such as near dog parks and other places where many people will see them. Ask local businesses to post them in their windows and the local newspaper to print one on their ad page or the lost and found section. If your dog went missing from home, hand copies to your neighbors. You may want to offer a reward.
Preventing a Loss
Before your dog can go missing, or after they return home, take some measures to prevent it from happening at all or ever again.
Get a Microchip ID
Have your dog microchipped. If someone finds and takes them to a vet or animal shelter, they will scan the dog and find that chip. As long as the chip’s information is current, you will get your dog back in no time!
Use a Sturdy Collar and an ID Tag
Use a collar that won’t easily break or slip off. Attach a tag with the dog’s name and your contact information (e.g., telephone number). Some people even attach Apple Air Tags as a tracking device.
Consider These Tips, Too
- Keep your dog busy. A bored dog might wander away in search of something to do.
- Use a secure dog seat in the car.
- Inspect and repair any fencing keeping your dog in the yard.
- Make sure you don’t leave doors open by mistake.
- Neuter your male dog. Otherwise, the instinct to wander far and wide in search of a mate may be irresistible.
- Keep your dog indoors during fireworks and other frightening noises.
Looking for a Certified Dog Trainer? Look No Further than K9 Basics!
Need help keeping your dog from wandering away? Our capable team at K9 Basics has the experience, expertise, and compassion to safely and effectively teach your dog important skills and teach you how to be a powerful pack leader.
Give us a call at (866) 592-2742 or, if you’re from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, or New York, visit us at 131 Kenilworth Road, Marlton, New Jersey 08053, to learn more about our dog training services. Also, browse our blog and social media for various topics about dogs and their lives with us!