Lost and Found: Strategies for Preventing and Dealing with Lost Dogs

Posted by Jackie Ly on

a lost dog with their leash on their mouth

A pet going missing is every owner’s worst nightmare. When your dog decides they want to tap into their inner Houdini, it’s important to set aside the initial panic and focus on finding them.

With the right strategies and the appropriate gear, you’ll be able to bring your canine companion home where they belong. From proactive measures to dealing with the aftermath of a great escape, this article has got you covered.

How to find your lost dog

When your dog suddenly embarks on an unscheduled solo adventure, how do you go about bringing them back? Here are our tips.

Jump into action immediately. Time is of the essence! The minute you notice your dog isn’t anywhere to be found, especially in the places they used to frequent, you’d better start Operation: Find Fido.

Even if it turns out that your dog was only cowering behind a shoe rack in a bid to escape bath time, the earlier you begin your search, the less likely your pup will have gone far, and the higher your chances of finding them.

Alert your neighbours immediately. You want all the pairs of eyes you can get. Tell everyone immediately. Go around your apartment or your neighbourhood and ask them to keep an eye out or to check their surveillance cameras. You can also write a post on your community page online—make sure to provide a photo of your dog and your contact details.

While you can ask your neighbours to give you a call if they see anything, it’s important to stress that they should not actively go looking for your pup. Otherwise, your dog may feel threatened or hunted, and stay away even longer. When they do find your pup, tell them to gently coax your dog over with treats, not to chase them.

Do a thorough sweep of the house and all possible and unexpected hiding places. After alerting everyone near you, now you can do a search. Don’t rule out the possibility that your dog is still within the premises of your home, just in areas you wouldn’t expect them to be in. Check the roof access, under piles of laundry, among pillows or inside toy chests and closets, boxes, behind appliances, any space your dog can squeeze through or hide under

Alert the authorities. Reach out to your local neighbourhood association and other law enforcement agencies. Provide them with a most recent picture of your dog, a full description of their physical features, and the names they respond to.

You can go to veterinarians and animal shelters, too, in case someone mistook your dog for a stray. You can give your highway maintenance department a call, on the off chance and the unfortunate event your dog has been hit by a car.

Print out, put up, and hand out fliers. In addition to the details mentioned above, if your dog has been microchipped, include that information. That will prove useful for veterinarians and personnel at the animal shelters, as they often screen newcomer dogs for info on their owners.

If you’re able to, put up a reward for anyone who can give valuable information or for anyone who can find and keep your dog until you can pick them up.

Post on social media. Social media can be a real force of nature when it comes to getting the word out about your missing pup. Put up your flyers and other information on Facebook, X, Instagram…if there’s people on that platform, give it a go!

Make sure to monitor your posts once they’re up. That way, you stay on top of any updates on the search.

Once you find them, don’t chase them. It may be tempting to run after your pup, especially after hours, days, weeks, or even months of searching. But hold your dogs—er, horses! If you start to chase after your dog, they might get startled, or think you’re playing a game. When you find your dog, sit somewhere nearby and coax them over with treats.

How to keep your dog from getting lost

To keep your dog from disappearing to who knows where, prevention is key. What are the things you need to do?

Put up sturdy screens and a fence around your house. This way, your dog doesn’t get into places they shouldn’t be and you protect them from possible accidents.  You can also invest in receiver collars, which alert your dog when they stray toward the perimeter you set, as a reminder that they should not go too far.

Consider spaying or neutering your dog. Intact dogs tend to roam in pursuit of a mate. Males can smell females in heat for miles, and females also want to get out. Spaying or neutering your dog can keep those hormones under control, while lessening their urge to  pursue their hopeless romantic ending.

Basic obedience training. Make sure your canine companion understands commands like “sit”, “stay”, and “heel”. This keeps them from bolting off in a different direction, even without your attention on them.

Provide opportunities for enrichment. Without anything to keep them occupied, dogs can grow restless and frustrated. As a result, they’ll actively search for enrichment, no matter where that takes them. Keep this behaviour at bay by giving them ample opportunities to exercise and toys to keep them entertained.

Provide your information on their collar. Have your dog’s name, your name, and your contact information engraved on a charm hanging from your dog’s collar, or on the collar itself. Think of it as your pup’s personal identification card.

Some countries require microchipping as part of registration. If your dog goes missing, you can pay your vet or your local shelter a visit to help you track your dog down using their microchip.

Identify what scares your dog. There are instances where dogs run off in response to something that scares or threatens them, like fireworks and other loud noises. Before this happens, keep your dog away by putting them in a quiet, secluded area.

You can also read your dog’s body language to know what else sets them off.

Preparation goes a long way in keeping your furry friend by your side. While the fear of a lost dog may linger, the key is knowing how to deal with the situation if it arises.

The only acceptable time you should be actively searching for your pup is during an intense game of hide-and-seek. Finding your furry companion should be an adventure, not a heart-wrenching saga.

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