I hope you never need to search for a lost dog. If your dog does get lost, there are things you need to do right away which will increase your chances of finding your dog.
I’m speaking from personal experience here. The steps I outline below helped us find my lost foster dog earlier this year.
I fostered Teddy for Gateway Pet Guardians for about a month until his separation anxiety forced me to take him back to the rescue’s shelter. I felt terrible taking him back, but it turned out to be a good thing because his future mom was a shelter volunteer and met him after I returned him.
She fell in love with him and offered to foster Teddy. He had been a stray for a long time before Gateway was able to trap him.
Teddy was slowly learning to trust people. His new foster mom was home most of the time and was making good progress with him, but had a full day commitment a few weeks after she started fostering him.
A neighbor agreed to let him out at lunchtime and was given strict instructions on how to make sure he didn’t get away. Teddy’s favorite thing was to be outside, but he couldn’t yet be trusted to come when called.
Unfortunately, the neighbor didn’t do what he was supposed to and Teddy took off out the front door.
We all went into an immediate panic, and then into action. Teddy was missing for several days. It stormed the entire time he was gone and I was so worried knowing he was wet, hungry and cold.
While I was driving around with his new foster mom, we actually spotted him once. He spotted us too…and took off running. He kept looking back to see if we were still following him. We drove slowly behind him, calling his name for several blocks until he bolted down a neighborhood street, through a yard and across a creek. We looked and looked but couldn’t find him again.
Luckily, the steps we took over the next few days worked and he is now safe.
Here he is with his mom.
Photo Credit – David Carlyon (Darkwood Studios)
I actually think this experience was what sealed the deal for his foster mom. After she went through the trauma of losing him and searching day and night, she wasn’t about to let him go again. It wasn’t long after he was found when she decided to adopt him herself.
5 Things To Do Right Away to Find a Lost Dog
I learned a lot from the experience of searching for Teddy and the other dogs that have gone missing from the rescue groups where I volunteer.
If you have lost your dog, here is what you need to do right away so you get your dog back.
1. Spread the Word with Social Media
If you have lost your dog, Facebook and Twitter are your friends.
Obviously the first thing you should do when your dog is lost is to look for the dog yourself. But before you let time slip away, pull out your smartphone and let everyone know on social media. If you don’t have a phone on you that let’s you post a picture, call someone who can post a picture fast.
Chances are you have a lot of social media connections in your own city. Let these people help you spread the word.
You can also use hashtags for your city to spread the word beyond people you personally know. If your city has a common abbreviation, use both the short and full version of your city name. In St. Louis, I would include the hashtags #stl and #stlouis in order to get the most exposure.
Be sure to share a good picture that will help people recognize you dog. The picture should help someone get a feel for the dog’s size and color.
Don’t forget to do also post information in the lost dog group for your city. My guess is that there is a lost dog group like the St. Louis one for every big city and state.
2. Post a Lost Dog Ad on Craigslist
One of the things people do when they FIND a lost dog is to look on craigslist to see if there is a lost dog ad. Make sure they find your ad if they found your dog.
I’m surprised at how many lost dog ads on craigslist don’t include a picture or detailed information about where the dog was lost or last seen.
There are a lot of kind hearted souls in pet rescue or who simply love dogs who watch the craigslist ads and help spread the word on their social media channels. Make it easy for them to help by including all of the information you can give them.
3. Contact the Local Animal Control and Humane Society
If someone finds your dog, chances are that they will take the dog to an animal shelter. Call the most well known shelter and ask if you can email them a picture with your contact information so they can let you know if a dog matching the description is brought in.
Don’t forget that while many lost dogs stay in the immediate area, they can also travel far fairly quickly. If someone picked them up and put them in a car, they could end up on the other side of town. Contact EVERY animal control and shelter in your area.
In St. Louis, that would include animal control facilities for St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County. People are also likely to drop off a dog at the Humane Society of Missouri and Animal Protective Association of Missouri.
4. Update Your Microchip Contact Information
If your dog was microchipped, you need to call the microchip company and make sure they have your current contact information on file. If you don’t know your dog’s microchip number or the company, contact your vet or the rescue group/shelter where you adopted your dog.
You would be shocked at how often dogs with microchips end up in shelters but the contact information is out of date. These dogs were once microchipped, but the phone numbers are disconnected, email addresses bounce and have home addresses where the owners no longer live.
If you have a pet and your haven’t gotten it microchipped, call your vet today and schedule an appointment to get it done. It is the best way to ensure your dog is returned to you if it is lost.
5. Post Flyers in the Neighborhood and at Nearby Stores
When Teddy went missing, one of the rescue group volunteers made a flyer for him and we had hundreds printed off. I joined his current foster mom (and future adoptive mom) and other volunteers in the search. We drove up and down every street over and over in the area where he was last seen.
We handed flyers to everyone we saw outside, especially people who were walking dogs or pushing strollers. These people are outside a lot…ask them to help by calling if they see the dog.
We taped flyers to telephone poles, streetlights and street signs.
It was one of the flyers that actually brought Teddy home.
Teddy’s foster mom posted flyers at the grocery store and several other stores near her home. Someone shopping at the grocery store recognized the dog that had been hanging out in his backyard under some shrubs, trying to stay dry in the rain storms. He called the phone number on the flyer and before nightfall, Teddy was back home.
Flyers really work.
Do you have any more tips for finding lost dogs?
Things to Do BEFORE Your Dog is Lost:
I already mentioned this, but get your dog microchipped. You also want to make sure the microchip was registered and the contact information is correct.
Make sure you have a tag with your contact information on your dog at all times. I was browsing on Cafe Press and found this fun dog tag (affiliate link). It’s apparently the number one pet item in the Cafe Press store, and I can understand why.
You can also get a GPS Tagg Tracker (affiliate link). Can you believe we actually had one of these for Teddy, but the tracker was on the charger and the neighbor was supposed to put the collar on him before he was anywhere the door. Oy.
I had a Tagg tracker on Teddy’s collar when he was living with me. It simply snaps on the collar and has an easy to use charger. If I had a dog that I thought might run off, I would definitely buy one. Milo is so clingy that he won’t leave my sight, so I haven’t felt the need to get one for him.
Lost in St. Louis:
If you know people in the St. Louis area, help me spread the word about 2 more foster dogs that are still lost.
Darcy – lost in South St. Louis County (63125)
If you see her, contact Needy Paws Rescue
Great ideas, like checking Craigslist! That must have been so very hard, looking for a pet for days and not knowing if he is ok. Zack ran off once when he was hurt, it about tore me apart. I called the police (I live in a smallish town) as I was rushing around. It just so happened that someone listening on the police band saw Zack stumble across his front lawn and called me! Pure luck. … And thanks for the link share :->
Calling the police if you live in a rural area is a must-do tip. I think flyers would be even more effective in a small town. Thanks for sharing.
I think your tips are great and deserve a share to help anyone out there who has a pet!
I would also suggest checking if there are Facebook pages/groups/communities for your area that are dedicated to help people reunite with their lost pets.
For St. Louis and a couple surrounding areas:
STL Lost Pets (website is http://www.stllostpets.org/)
St. Louis, Missouri Lost & Found Paws
Lost/Found Animals in Jefferson County, Missouri
Franklin County Mo Lost & Found Pets
Franklin County Missouri Lost & Found Pets
You can also let local rescue groups know and they can help spread the word or keep a look out.
Thanks for adding the STL list! I did link to one in the article, but was trying to make this applicable to people everywhere so opted to not make that the focus of this post. I plan to do a follow up and post it on Arch City Homes with all of these links.
Great tips and timing is important. Also, you should remember to put temporary tags on your dog or cat when you are on holiday with your mobile and lodging details. Most dogs will be found shortly after being lost unless they really want to run away from home. Then, it is easier to return him/her back to the owner with the right details.
Great article, Karen!! I love the ‘Oh Shit’ dog tag! One thing I think is very important is putting a sign in your front yard that says Lost Dog Lives Here so if anybody sees the dog running around the neighborhood, they’ll know whose home to check. Another good tip is taking those flyers to local restaurants/pizza places that deliver with the hopes a delivery driver will see them. And never put a flyer in anybody’s mailbox – it’s a federal offense!
My heart breaks that Frannie is still out there. I had hoped by now she’d be found. Praying for her & Darcy.
Great tips! I have to tell you that I recently had my dog run away from my home and I found him through Facebook. Social media is awesome in helping you spread the word! Of course, he wasn’t wearing his collar that day and I was off at work when it happened. When I got home I started driving around, stopping and asking random people in the area. Then I got online and went to all local animal shelters and veterinarian websites and posted his photo in hopes someone would find him and return him back to me. Then I went to local city websites and radio station websites and did the same. After that I took his photo to the local grocery store and left it on their bulletin board. I also started a Facebook page to help find him after seeing another family do the same trying to find their baby. It was an emotional 2 days but I finally got a lead through FB and he was only about 3 miles from my home, safe and with someone who cared for him while he was lost.
It was truly amazing how many people wanted to help and the response I got from the public. Needless to say, he always has his collar on now with a new dog tag that attaches to the collar itself. Thanks for sharing and I hope I helps somebody find their baby. 🙂
I’m so glad that you found your baby so quickly, and he didn’t have to fend for himself while he was lost. It sounds like you did everything you could to find him. I like your added tips about the vet offices and local radio station websites.
Very touching post, it is also has lot of valuable information, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop. pinning.
These are some awesome tips! I love the dog tag:) Thanks for linking with us at the Teach Me Tuesday Linky Party! I hope you’ll have the time to party with us this week, as well.
We lost our 10 year old weimaraner a little over three years ago. He was gone for almost a week. Our ad in Craigs list is what finally reunited us with our dog. Great tips. We did #2, #3, and #5.
Great post! PInning it. We have two dogs, one was a rescue. Thankfully, we also have a fenced yard and they are not given to trying to escape. My daughter has a rescue named Hercules who jumps the fence every time he’s out but he is such a little sissy that he comes to the door right away for her to let him in the house. Herc has it so good, he’ll never run away. 🙂
Great article Karen! Just has two of our guys get out yesterday (tunneled on through like Tim Robbins in Shawshank.) I microwaved up a few Morningstar Fake Bacon strips and tossed them in the yard. They came running in less than 5 minutes. When it was gone, they took off again, but came right back when I put more out there. I made a trail into the house and they came right in.
The smell is very, very strong, so if you can make these outside on a hot plate or a BBQ, the odor lingers and could help get their attention faster.
One of these dogs (my foster) took off for an entire, agonizing day last month and I wish I would have had some of these then, I think it would have helped so much!
I love the tip about using bacon, or veggie bacon, and even making it outside since it has such a strong odor. Dogs can smell things from so far away, I bet it really would get a hungry dog who has been lost for a day+ to come looking for food. Of course, you might end up with all of the neighborhood dogs too!
I think these are all great tips, but if you find a dog don’t be so quick to post a picture on Craigs on list! Posting ads are great but ask that they call and provide a detailed description of the pet including any marks that might make them stick out. When we found our pit-mastive mix our add had alot of people calling and giving us the wrong descriptions just because they knew it was a pit bull. Sadly there are not so nice people out there!
You make a really good point. My recommendation would be to post a picture but take the collar off and ask people to describe the collar and some other detail that only the owner would know. With Milo, I could tell someone that he looks pretty silver except for his feet, ears and face, which is black.
I just finished a post about said dog and it made me come back to read this again. I love him so much. He looks so well groomed in the first picture. I’m guilty for loving his crazier and shaggier coat though. I’ll have to share your post on my blog too!