Lost Dog: What You Should Do
When a dog is lost, the most important thing to remember is to act immediately. Even a short delay may hamper your efforts to find your lost dog. And while microchipping your dog may have given you a sense of security about recovering your dog in the event it goes missing, don't sit back and rely on that microchip alone to get your dog back home to you.
Initiate a Search
First, search your own property thoroughly, including basements, sheds, garages, and even vents and pipes, where a dog may be stuck and unable to get out. Small dogs, when frightened or injured, can hunker down and hide even though they hear you calling. The point is to look in every single hidey-hole and cover every square inch of your house and yard. Bring a flashlight along!
Talk to your immediate neighbors and get permission to search their properties as well. Then begin searching the neighborhood in general, calling your dog's name as you go (you could also squeeze a favorite squeak toy or rattle a box of treats.) Take a photo of your dog with you, and talk to as many people as possible - including the mailman, school crossing guards, etc.
Lost Dog Posters Do Work
Signs and flyers have a higher "find rate" than any other method of searching for a lost dog.
Your sign should include a clear picture of your dog and a phone number where you can be reached. Post them within a two mile radius of home, focusing on intersections where drivers of cars may see the sign while stopped at a traffic light or stop sign. Also post them at grocery stores, coffee shops, and other neighborhood spots. Consider offering a reward (don't state the amount). Don't include your name or address, to avoid opening yourself up to scammers and criminals.
Also place a lost dog ad in your community paper; some publications offer this as a free service. Begin checking ads for found dog on a daily basis.
Work the Phones
Get out the phone book and call all the veterinary hospitals nearby. If your dog was found injured, or hit by a car, it may have been taken in for care. And if a dog even vaguely resembling yours turns up, go take a look in person - two people's descriptions of the same animal rarely match.
Also, if your pet ID tag or the contact info you supplied to the microchip database is out of date, try to contact the people who have that address or phone number now. Let them know the situation and have them take down your name and current phone number.
Visit Dog Shelters in Person
Do this on a daily basis - don't assume the shelter will make an effort to contact you, even if your pet is microchipped or wearing pet identification. And don't rely on the phone in this instance either. Sometimes information about newly arrived animals doesn't make it to the switchboard operator on a timely basis. There's also a small chance that a shelter might have an old microchip scanner instead of a universal model that can read all kinds of chips.
If there are a number of shelters in your area, it helps to have two family members split up to cover all of them each day. Take a flyer along that includes your dog's picture and your phone number. Try to befriend the staff at each shelter and urge them to hold onto the flyer and call you if anything turns up. Try to find out how long each shelter will hold an animal before euthanizing it or putting it up for adoption.
Help Your Dog Navigate
Many animals can pick up a scent from a long way away - help out your lost dog by placing scent markers around your property. Scent markers can include articles of your clothing (a sweaty jogging suit is ideal), the dog's bedding, a litter pan, etc.
Consider a Pet Recovery Service
Your vet or local humane society can tell you if there's a specialized pet recovery group in your area. A pet recovery service can give you specific tips for your situation, based on their expert knowledge of animal behavior.
Don't Be Too Trusting
Unfortunately, there are scammers who prey upon the owners of lost pets. When you begin your search, keep one identifying feature of your pet to yourself. Then if someone calls saying they have your animal, you can screen them by asking for that detail. Never go to someone's home or let them come to yours - only meet in a public place and always take a friend with you.
Related Advice from Other Dog Owners
How I Got My Dog Back
I lost my German Shepherd, Atticus, in November 2009, and he was found three weeks later by a canal in our neighborhood. What helped? A poster I displayed by a sheriff's sign at a Publix shopping mall, as well as posters I put all over town. I was never going to give up and put flyers on people's cars, mail boxes, as well as a huge poster by our home. It was by the grace of god that someone remembered Atticus from that poster and called us. He had been living in this canal area since he went missing. Don't ever give up!
~Donna K., owner of a German Shepherd
A Word on Microchips
Our shelter dog, Bridget, has been with us for about two years and her microchip has moved all the way down to her shoulders. Sometimes that tiny little chip can move, especially if the dog gains weight like our Bridget. She gained roughly 20 pounds of muscle and good tissue
~Linda Hassinger, owner of Bridget the dog
Make Sure Your Dog Has an ID Tag
I have found in the past that having a collar displaying your name and address of the lost pet, along with his name helps to recover your pet faster.
I recently found a Lab on my property and it had tags on its collar. Displaying its name and phone number. Being to late to call the owner, I made her a warm bed and fed her and called the owner the next day. They came to get her the very next day. So it helps to make sure your pets have an identification tag on their collar.
~Cyndie B., owner of a Blue Heeler and Boxer