Even the most careful pet owner can lose their dog. A houseguest may leave a door or window open or your dog may wander off through a hole in your fence that you never noticed. Unfortunately, dogs go missing every day—and if you need proof, just look at all the LOST DOG flyers posted to telephone poles and bulletin boards in your neighborhood.
Prevention and precautions
The time to prepare for the possibility that your dog can go missing is now, when he’s safe at home. Here are a few things you can start to do today:
Identification tags. Make sure your dog wears identification tags at all times. The ID tags should have current information and be easy to read.
Microchips. The use of identification microchips has become popular, and for good reason: microchips have helped reunite many lost dogs and their owners. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted under the loose skin on your dog’s shoulder. These chips contain identification information that can be read by scanners that are found in animal shelters, vet offices, and rescue groups around the country. When the chip is implanted in your dog, you register the chips number/letter code and your contact information with the microchip company’s registry. The code number will then be recorded in a shared database that can be accessed by the organization using the scanner.
Prepare a LOST DOG kit. Your kit should include recent pictures of your dog (both paper photos and electronic photo files for Internet posting), ready-to-post LOST DOG flyers with your dog’s photo and an accurate written description of your dog, and a phone number where you can be reached at any time. You may want to think twice before publicizing your name and address because making sure you stay safe during your search is an important part of bringing your best friend back home.
Close off areas of possible escape. Check and double-check your home to ensure that there aren’t any open doors, windows, or gates that your dog could slip through. Check around your fences to make sure there aren’t any craters or tunnels under your fences that lead to the world outside. If your dog is small, remember that he may be able to squeeze through very tight places to make his escape.
Check your dog’s leash and collar. . A loose collar, broken leash fastener, or threadbare leash could allow your dog to get loose when you’re out for a walk and he gives it a tug. Invest in a quality leash and collar—and make sure you use them properly.
What to do if your dog is lost
Sometimes, despite all precautions, a dog manages to go missing. The first thing to do is to stay calm. It’s natural to be worried, but if you don’t stay calm, you won’t be able to take the steps necessary to help find your dog. Here are some next steps:
Search your home carefully. Look all over your home, including the basement, behind appliances, and under blankets and beds to make sure your dog isn’t right there under your nose.
Search the neighborhood.Dogs can wander far and wide, so ask your friends and neighbors to help you look for your dog. Take a flashlight with you to help you look into dark places. (A lost and frightened dog may seek refuge in a dark, secluded place.) And don’t be shy—shout your dog’s name. If he hears your familiar voice, he may come running to you. And if he has a favorite squeak toy, take that, too. The sound may reach his ears and lure him to your side.
Post LOST DOG notices and read FOUND DOG messages in local newspapers. People who find lost dogs often read these notices to see if any description matches the dog they’ve found. You may also find a "Found Dog" notice that matches your dog’s description.
Place LOST DOG flyers. Make sure your flyers have your dog’s photo, the name he answers to, and your contact information. And remember, rewards are good incentives to get other people looking, too. However, you don’t have to mention the amount of the reward. The word "reward" is sufficient.
Notify your local authorities. Tell your local police department, animal shelter, and animal control authorities about your lost dog. They’re experts when it comes to finding lost dogs in the area where you live.
Place his bed or other favorite items outside your house. These are things with your dog’s scent deeply ingrained in them. Dog’s have an ultra-sensitive sense of smell and your lost pooch may actually follow his nose home.