What to Do if Your Dog Is Lost

There's nothing worse than that sinking feeling some owners have experienced when they realize they've lost their dog. If it happens to you, there are some steps you can take to help reunite with your pet.

Check With Local Shelters

Call the local animal shelter more than once. You may call on Monday morning, but they may not have your pet until Monday afternoon. Stop by in person and show them a photo; don't depend on a verbal description alone. If you have a mixed breed, your idea of what your dog looks like and the shelter's may be two different things.

Check all the shelters in the area. Dogs can travel quite far, and the longer the dog is gone, the farther away he may be. Years ago, a German Shepherd Dog escaped from a fenced-in yard and was found eight miles away only 30 minutes later.


Run an ad in the lost-and-found section of the newspaper. Read the other ads in this section, too. Someone may list your pet as "found" and not make the connection between their ad and yours.

Post signs around your neighborhood. Including a photo of your pet on the poster will be more helpful than a long description. If you can print the photo in color, that's even better. Otherwise, include a brief description of your dog's colors and distinguishing features (like a scar or a limp), as well as your contact information. Listing your pet's name may or may not be helpful—he probably won't respond if he's frightened. If you are offering a reward, don't put a specific amount. Post the photo and description on social media as well. The more people who know your pet is missing, the better.

Consult Your Neighbors

Ask kids in your neighborhood if they've seen your pet—kids tend to walk and bike outside more than adults. Go door to door and ask around. Someone may have seen your pet but not your ads.

Check With Area Vets

Make calls to all area veterinarians. Your pet may have been injured and taken to a veterinarian. Keep checking back with them, and ask if you can hang one of your posters in their waiting room. If not, at least leave a poster with the receptionist so they can indentify your dog and contact you if he's brought in.

Be Prepared

Consider getting your pet microchipped. Collars can snag and come off, and if that happens, ID tags are useless. Microchipping will ensure that your dog carries a permanent ID tag that can't be lost.

Our local shelter requires proof of a rabies shot and a license before you can claim your lost dog. This happens frequently, and area vets are used to being asked to go to shelters to inoculate a dog if he's not vaccinated. If you can't find your license, your town or city clerk can make a copy for you.

Be proactive if you lose your pet; persistence increases the odds that your story has a happy ending.

Susan M. Ewing has been a dog expert since 1977. She owned and operated a boarding kennel, participates in shows and dog performing events, and is affiliated with the Dog Writers Association of America, and has written professionally since 1964.


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