Losing their beloved furry friend is every dog owner’s worst nightmare. Whether your dog jumped over the fence in the backyard or took off down the street after you turned your back for just a second, a dog can become lost in any situation and at any time. Therefore, it helps to know what to do the first few hours and days after your dog runs away.
What to do immediately
The first several hours your dog is missing are crucial. It is important to act quickly during this time. Each minute that you wait increases the risk of your dog getting hit by a car or taken by a thief.
Have your family split up and search in several directions around your home or the location where the dog got lost. You may want to bring photos of your dog with you so you can ask people you encounter if they have seen your dog. You may also want to bring a favorite squeaky toy or a dog food bag that you can shake. Dogs often come running home once they hear familiar sounds.
Have someone notify the local animal control facility, animal shelters and veterinary clinics about your lost dog. If someone finds him, they are likely to take him to one of those places. Give the people you speak to a thorough description of your dog. Be sure to note any markings that could easily identify your dog.
What to do after 24 hours
If you still have not found your dog, it’s time to ramp up your search. Create a flyer informing people that your dog is missing. Include a large recent photo of your dog, if you have one. Be descriptive in your flyer. Include colors, markings and the color of the collar the dog was wearing, if applicable. List an approximate weight and location where the dog was last seen. It helps to offer a reward, but do not state a specific amount.
The flyer should also include some information to prevent people from using your dog as a breeding opportunity. For example, if your dog is a female, always say that she is spayed, even if she is not. You may also want to say that your dog is on special medications, even if she is not. Although it seems like you are lying, these tips will prevent scam artists from trying to keep your dog and use her for breeding. Adding the part about medications will also add some urgency to the situation.
Once you have your flyer finalized, print up many copies and post them all over town. Bulletin boards at grocery stores, gas stations, pet stores, telephone poles, parks and schools are good places to post flyers. You may also want to hand out flyers to people you meet on the street.
If someone claims to have found your dog, make sure it really is your dog before you get too excited. Scammers often prey on people who have lost their dogs, so be wary. Ask the person to describe your dog to you, or better yet, you can ask the person about a marking your dog doesn’t have and see how he or she responds. For example, if your dog doesn’t have a white spot on her leg, ask the finder if your dog has the spot. A person looking to scam the dog owner is likely to answer “yes.”
What to do after two days
Each day that goes by decreases the chances that your dog will come home. However, don’t give up hope. Instead, ramp up your search even more. Post flyers in outlying areas and call animal shelters in the next town. Dogs are very quick and can run many miles in just a few hours.
Look in the newspaper’s found ads daily. You may also want to post an ad in the local newspaper or on an online community board, such as Craigslist. Some websites allow you to post missing dog ads for free.
You should also visit local shelters several times a week and see if your dog is there. Don’t rely on the volunteers to call you if they see your dog. They likely have many dogs coming in and out of the shelter and may not remember what yours looks like.
Keep praying that your dog will come home. Many do after several days, weeks or months. Some even come home years later. It is important to remember that most pets that run away come home unharmed within a week.
The best tip is to prevent your dog from getting lost in the first place. Here are several things to do to keep your dog at home.
- Check your backyard. Make sure the fence is tall enough so that your dog cannot jump over it. Check for any gaps underneath the fence that your dog could possibly crawl through. Make any fixes immediately so that your dog does not escape.
- Never leave your dog unattended. Your dog can still get through some fences, so you cannot ever assume your dog is safe. Always supervise him when he is outdoors.
- Microchip your dog. Although this won’t necessarily keep your dog from running away, it will potentially bring him home faster, since his microchip can be scanned at animal shelters and vet offices, allowing them to contact you quickly. At the very least, keep a collar on your dog with an ID tag that has your contact information.