How To Find A Lost Dog & Tips To Avoid Losing Them

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Dog hitchhiking (caption: How To Find A Lost Dog & Tips to Prevent)

Ace got loose on a walk one hot summer day. Brandon, his owner, tried capturing him immediately, but Ace was too fast. He was lost, and Brandon was devastated.

After 20 days of searching and alerting others, Brandon was reunited with Ace, who weighed nearly 20 pounds less and was covered in ticks. A vet looked Ace over, and thankfully, he had no serious health issues. Fortunately, Brandon knew the proper steps to take to find his dog and never gave up hope.

6 Steps To Find A Lost Dog

The important thing to do is to act fast. You know your dog best. Does he love other dogs and people? He may make friends with a nearby neighbor. Is he shy? He may be hiding under a car or in a bush. By knowing your dog, you’ll have an idea on how to react.

1. Follow The Dog

My dog, Sally, has gotten away from me a couple of times, and I did what my dog trainer taught me to do. I dropped down to Sally’s level, opened my arms and called her name in a happy voice. (Make sure you don’t use a growly “you’re in trouble” voice because most of us don’t want to go to someone who is upset with us.) This has worked about 75% of the time (sometimes the growly voice works better than the nice voice).

Unfortunately, one time it didn’t work, so I began chasing after her. Sally continued running; she loves a good game of chase. I changed up my strategy and started running away from her calling her name. She thought it was a game and came back to me, thankfully.

If these tips don’t work and your dog continues to run, follow him for as long as you can. Most dogs will not run in a straight line for an extended distance. In fact, most dogs are found within a 2-mile radius of their home. Larger dogs in good health can run more than 5 miles, but most smaller dogs would be less likely to travel more than 0.5 miles.

2. Search The Neighborhood

Bella rescue lab in grass

Hop on your bike or in the car (a bike is better since you can access areas more easily than in a car) and cruise around the neighborhood where you last saw your dog. If you see a neighbor, mention your dog to them. Share the following information:

  • Dog’s name
  • Your name and contact information
  • When the dog was last seen
  • Where the dog went missing
  • Breed and color (show a photo if you have one)
  • What you want people to do if they see your dog (call you, try to catch him, etc.)

3. Go Online

After you’ve searched the neighborhood, turn to social media for help. Post online in Facebook communities, NextDoor, etc. about your lost dog. Post the following information:

  • Dog’s name
  • Your name and contact information
  • When the dog was last seen
  • Where the dog went missing
  • General area where you live (in case your dog returns to your neighborhood)
  • Photos of the dog
  • Breed and color
  • What you want people to do if they see your dog (call you, try to catch him, etc.)
  • Reward (optional)
  • Describe your dog and what he means to you (tugging at the heartstrings can help others relate)
Nextdoor lost dog post

Post daily to help get the word out and share any updates about sightings for your dog to help the community know the general area where your dog is.

4. Alert Neighbors, Shelters & Police

Next, go back outside and alert neighbors to keep an eye out for your dog. Ask them to place dog-safe table scraps and fresh water outside.

Contact local shelters, vets, etc. and share the above information with them. Be sure to check in with them daily to see if your dog has been surrendered.

Notify the police as well in case there are any incident reports involving your dog or in case they see him out on patrol.

5. Post Flyers

There is no set time that is recommended for you to begin posting flyers around town. You can post them as quickly as you want. Flyers should include:

  • Dog’s name
  • Your name and contact information
  • When the dog was last seen
  • Where the dog went missing
  • General area where you live (in case your dog returns to your neighborhood)
  • Photos of the dog
  • Breed and color
  • What you want people to do if they see your dog (call you, try to catch him, etc.)
  • Reward (optional)

Don’t forget to take the flyers down after your dog is found.

6. Ask For Help

Enlist as many family members and friends as you can to help out immediately. Have people scour different parts of the neighborhood for the dog.

What Do I Do If I Find A Lost Dog?

  1. If the dog seems aggressive, call animal control or the police department. Do not approach the dog.
  2. If the dog seems friendly, capture and contain the dog in a safe manner. Try to leash the dog or contain him in a fenced-in yard or other safe space. Offer him fresh water.
  3. Check for identification on his collar. If you find identification, contact the owners and return the pet to them.
  4. Contact a local shelter, animal control, police department or vet to have the dog scanned for a microchip if there is no ID tag.
  5. If there is no microchip found, you have a couple of options:
    1. Care for the dog while you search for his owner. Post fliers around town, post on social media, tell neighbors, notify local shelters and vets, etc.
    2. Take the dog to the local shelter where the dog will be cared for and held. If no one claims the dog within a set amount of time, the dog will be put up for adoption most likely.

Microchipped Dog Walking: Microchips for Dogs6 Ways To Avoid Losing My Dog

  1. Microchip your dog
  2. Put an ID tag on your dog’s collar
  3. Leash your dog when you’re outside
  4. Ensure your fence is secure and there are no gaps your dog can squeeze through
  5. Make sure everyone knows how to properly secure any gates (including young kids and visitors)
  6. Teach your dog basic commands like stay, wait and back so when you open the door he doesn’t try to dart outside


  • From a 2012 ASPCA survey:
    • 15% of households had lost a dog or cat in the past 5 years
    • 93% of lost dogs were recovered
    • 49% of pet owners found their dog by searching the neighborhood, and 15% of the dogs were recovered because they were wearing an ID tag or had a microchip
    • 6% of dog owners found their dog at a shelter
  • According to Peeva (a pet technology company focused on improving information sharing for lost pets):
    • 1/3 of pets become lost at some point in their lifetime
    • Close to 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year
    • Less than 23% of lost pets in the U.S. are reunited with their owners
    • Out of 1,000 shelters, 4.3 million animals were handled, and 64% (about 2.7 million) animals were euthanized
    • There are approximately 3,500 animal shelters in the U.S., which means roughly 9,450,000 to 9,632,000 pets are euthanized every year in the U.S.

These stats are pretty alarming and quite scary to read. More than 9 million pets are euthanized every year in the United States because they are lost, stolen or for some other reason. This is a reminder for us all to do our best to keep our dogs in a safe, contained environment, so they don’t join those 9 million dogs euthanized every year.

Some Pet Insurance Covers Lost Pets

Did you know several pet insurance companies cover some costs associated with lost pets? Two providers in our pet insurance reviews come to mind, Figo and Fetch.

Figo offers an Extra Care Pack as an add-on to your policy for an extra fee. This includes coverage for advertising, a lost pet reward, and $150 towards the loss of your pet.

Fetch offers lost pet coverage with all policies that have a $15,000 annual limit or more. For these customers, they include advertising costs, a reward for a stolen or lost pet, and reimbursement for the amount you paid for your pet if they are stolen or go missing and aren’t found.

And as always, we recommend microchipping your dog and putting an ID tag on their collar. That way, if your dog is lost but still in your area, a neighbor could call or bring them right back to your doorstep.

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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