What to do When Your Dog Is Lost or Missing!

The two most important things to recovering your pet is time and effort. The faster you let people know your dog is missing and the more people who know about your missing dog... the better your chances of finding your pet.

Was your dog wearing a collar and tags? Was he microchipped? Does he have a tattoo or other mark? Microchips and collars with ID tags help get your pet home faster.

Be aware that this list is not comprehensive and many more ideas and suggestions abound. If an idea for recovery occurs to you, use it immediately.

What to do first

Notify neighbors & ask their help

The moment you notice that your dog has gone missing, notify your neighbors and their children. While you have fliers made, ask a trusted friend to stay at your home in case your dog wanders past - the friend can call the dog inside. Ask the same trusted friends and neighbors to stay by your phone while you are out searching for the dog.

Call your local shelters

Call every animal shelter, humane society, veterinary clinic and sheriffs office within a 50-100 mile radius. Fax your flier to them. Attempt to speak to the Animal Control Officers at each shelter so that you can describe your dog's personality, looks, and so on, in case they are able to find him; they will know how to approach him better (a ball may be a better lure than a piece of steak). Ask the local ACOs for referrals to the breed rescue group in your area if your dog is a purebred.

How to Describe Your Dog

General Description:

How big is your dog? Remember that size is relative to the viewer. Some one used to small dogs will consider a 50 pound dog as large, while people living with very large dogs will think that size is small or medium. Give your dog's size in a general weight range and allow for hairy dogs looking bigger. A 90 pound Malamute could be described as 90-100 pounds or as 95 pounds.

What color is your dog? If your dog has more than one color or if the main color is a "shade", you should describe how the color looks in basic terms. For example, sable is a common color for many breeds.. but it may look orange, reddish brown, or light tan. A "gray and white" Malamute may have black hair tips and could also be described as "gray/black and white" or "dark mixed gray and white" depending on his overall look.

What does he look like? Give your dog's breed on your flier or missing dog report, but also include "looks like" as well. A Malamute flier would read something like "Alaskan Malamute, black and white, weighs 90 lbs, and looks like a very large Husky." An all white Malamute might be described as looking like a "very large spitz" or "heavy white Shepherd", a sable (or sable trimmed) Malamute might also be described as having "husky/shepherd" looks. Remember most people don't know all breeds or breed colors.

Any other distinguishing features? Mention any other important features or those that may not be apparent in a photo. Memtions eye color, scars, facial markings that don't show up well in the photo, etc. Also describe the type of collar, basic colors and collar decorations, and tags worn.

Collar & Tags:

Collar types could be cotton, nylon, leather (flat or rolled), metal, etc and come in buckled, snap, or slip/choke connections.

Keep color names simple like red, blue, brown, multi-color and use simple descriptions like light, dark, neon, bright, etc. Do you really know what color Puce is? Well, neither does anyone else, so if the collar is a fancy color like Fuschia... just call it bright pink.

Patterns should be described as solid, striped, spotted or multi unless it is a commonly excepted print description such as "plaid", "rainbow", "floral", or "happy face".

Tags should include a Rabies tag from a vet clinic, but can also include various shapes and colors of local license or identification tags.

Using Flyers & Posters

Flyer Information:

Flyer information should include your contact numbers, a clear photo, a good brief description of your dog, and the word "Reward" (but do NOT list a price).

On your flier, please make it quite clear whether or not your dog is wearing a collar, and what color it is. If he has identification tattoos or microchips, include that information.

Contact numbers should be where you can be reached easily or a message can be left. This includes home or work number, cell phones, or pagers.

Use photos with good detail and contrast, and try to have a plain background if possible. If you use a computer to print color flyers, also print a flyer in black & white to use for faxes or for making photocopies. Above all, your flier should say "Reward" in huge bold letters. Do not specify an amount.

If there is a heavy concentration of immigrants in your area, or within a 50-mile radius of your home, write your fliers bilingually or use two sets of flyers.

Where to Use Flyers

Post your Flyers in as many places as possible and for several miles from where your dog was last seen. A 25 to 50 mile radius is NOT unreasonable. Dogs can travel many miles when lost, exploring, or frightened. This is especially true if they "hitch" rides to other parts of town and across major roads, follow waterways or ditches, or have behavior quirks such as thunderstorm anxiety.

Send a flier to every post office within a 50-mile radius, and ask the local papers to pass fliers to their carriers in the same radius. And don't forget local delivery services such as UPS, FedEx, or even florists. These people often have to be on their watch for stray dogs, in case these dogs are aggressive; they will be more likely than your average pedestrian to notice a strange wandering dog. If there is a local jogging route (or bike path or horseback riding trail), post fliers on trees and lampposts along the route for the same reason.

Some other suggested places are pet department stores (PetsMart, PetCo, etc), convenience stores, drug and health stores, liquor stores, schools and day care, vet clinics, boarding kennels, groomers, shelters and humane societies, gas stations, health or recreation clubs, and of course street signs or light posts.

Do You Use Your Dog's Name?

That's up to you. There are two schools of thought about including the dog's name. One says that a Good Samaritan will be able to make the dog trust him and come to him; the other opinion says that by providing a name, you are giving a potential thief a window into your dog's soul.

Other Ideas and Suggestions

If your dog was stolen, call the police immediately and file a report.

Inform your neighborhood watch program or neighborhood constables.

Enlist the aid of ham radio operators and CB radio users.

Advertise your dog as lost in local and neighborhood newspapers. Many newpapers will list lost & found dogs for little or no cost.

List your dog on as many Lost & Found internet services as possible. Ask friends to forward email notices to other people and pet email lists.

Contact local dog rescues, particularly if your dog is purebred or looks more like a single type of dog. Call rescues who help breeds for which your dog may be mistaken... if your dog is a Malamute or Malamute-mix, call both Husky and Malamute rescues.

Call the studio lines of the top three rated radio stations during morning and afternoon rush hour, and speak to the on-air personality. Briefly describe your problem and ask them to please mention it on-air. Stations routinely record every call that comes in to the studio (for security reasons), and if they decide to assist you, they will simply play your conversation. Try to keep your problem less than one minute in length.

If there are unusual circumstances regarding the dog (Seeing Eye), his breed (world's rarest), or his disappearance, call your local television stations. One (or all) of them may pick up the story for its "Human Interest" potential.

Remember to keep a list of who you called for future reference and call backs. It is also a good idea to keep a descriptive list of your dog as a reference when you call. After a few calls, you may not remember everyone you called or to give all your dog's information to each person.

Remember that the faster you can alert your neighbors and animal control, and implement the procedures listed above, the better your chances of recovering your dog. Remember, too, that it can take days for the animal to be found. And lastly, remember not to give up hope.

Please go to our Publications page for a PDF documant version of this page. A link to download a PDF document reader from Adobe is available.

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Lost Dogs
Act Immediately!
Notify Neighbors
Call Police Immediately if Believed Stolen
Call Shelters and Area Vet Clinics
Use Lost Dog Flyers or Posters with "Reward"
Physically Visit Local Shelters
Advertize in Local Newspapers
Use Internet Lost Dog Services
Contact Local Rescue Groups
Contact Dog Microchip and Tattoo Registry (If Applicable)
Contact Postman, Area Deliverymen, & Local Children
Keep List of Calls and Recheck
Don't Give Up!

Steps To Avoid Lost Dogs
Microchip and/or Tatto Pets
Use Collar with Identification and Vet Tags
Never Allow to Run Off Leash
Secure All Gates and Fences
Secure Dog with Active Visitors or Workman in Home
Make Sure Neighbors Know Your Pet
Notice Strangers in Neighborhood
Be Aware of Pet Location and Activities
Spay/Neuter Pet

The Dogs!

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