It’s every dog owner’s worst nightmare—your pup slips his leash and starts sprinting after the neighbor’s cat. Or maybe you go outside to find that someone forgot to close the gate, and your dog is nowhere to be found. No matter how it happened, losing a dog is always devastating. You’ll be filled with panic, heartbreak, and the instinctive urge to do something—even if you don’t know what that something is. Your chances of bringing your dog home safely will be greatly improved if you know exactly what to do. Remember these steps the next time your dog runs away.
#1 – Start Searching, But Don’t Panic
Panicking will only work against you. If you need to take a minute to collect yourself, do it. When your head is clear and you’re ready to solve the problem, start by searching your immediate area. Dogs that wander out of open gates can often be found casually sniffing the neighbor’s tree or visiting other pets that live nearby. Knock on your neighbor’s doors and tell them what happened. Don’t forget to bring a picture of your pup for reference.
#2 – Spread Out
Grab your phone and file missing reports with the Humane Society, SPCA, and any other rescue organization in your area. Often when dogs run away, they’re picked up by good Samaritans and taken to shelters. When you hang up the phone, gather your family and friends to organize a larger search party. Think about your dog’s habits and pick a radius around the spot where you last saw him. If you have a Rhodesian Ridgeback that is used to running for miles, your search perimeter should be fairly large. But if you have a pudgy Pug who prefers to spend his days snoozing, focus on a smaller area.
#3 – Search Smart
While you’re out searching, you’ll want to look in every backyard and alley, but you’re better off thinking strategically. Dogs tend to end up going to familiar places. If there’s a park nearby where your pup loves to play, or if they have a canine buddy you frequently visit a few streets down, those are good places to start. Also remember that dogs follow their stomachs and their sniffers. Local restaurants or factories may lead your pup straight to their doorsteps—or the back alley where they keep their trash.
#4 – Visit Shelters in Person
Shelters are busy places, and the person you talked to on the phone may not have noticed your dog, or the description you gave them could have been lost in translation. It’s always recommended to go to the shelters and ask to see their recent intakes yourself. Remind them about your situation, but don’t be pushy. Check out the kennels and if they’re not there, leave your name and number with a second person before leaving.
#5 – Post on Social Media
The power of social media has reunited countless owners with their lost pets. Post on your personal page, but also look for community pages where your message will reach more people. Most areas have Facebook pages dedicated to finding lost animals. You can also post on yard sale and community event pages. The more people who know to be on the lookout, the better your chances are of one of them seeing your dog.
#6 – Put Up Signs
Technology will work to your advantage, but there’s still no substitute for the old fashioned “lost dog” poster. Craft a sign that includes a color picture of your dog and use bold, easy-to-read font. Include your dog’s name, your name, and your phone number. Some communities have rules about where you can and cannot post personal fliers, so do your research before you take your staple gun to every telephone pole. Bulletin boards outside of grocery stores and bus stops are usually good places to start.
The biggest thing to remember when your dog runs away is to not give up. Check back frequently with the shelter and keep searching. Once your pup is back in your arms, take steps to keep the scary situation from happening again. Make sure he’s micro-chipped with updated information, and keep his collar with ID tags on him at all times.