My dog is missing, what do I do?

My dog ran away. What do I do? Where do I start looking? Could he have been hit by a car? Will he be scared and bite? So many questions, and such little time to panic. You need to be smart in this stressful situation.

One of the biggest fears I have is my dog getting loose and leaving my property. Accidents happen even with the most diligent owners. We are only human after all.

Someone could forget to latch the gate in the yard.

The batteries in the electronic fence collar can go dead.

Chasing a squirrel, they could get away from you or clear a 5-foot fence in the chase.

The door doesn’t close fully and Fido makes a break for it.

Dog’s collar falls off while they are on a lead or tie-out.

Now, this last incident happened to me recently (and inspired this article). I have a trolley system tie-out for my dogs and when I glanced out to check on them, I saw the puppy only. My senior, almost-deaf, black dog was not at the end of his lead, just his reflective collar. Dangling. Did I mention this was at night? The panic that shot through me was indescribable. I yelled for my husband and grabbed a flashlight before running out into the yard to try to find him. Luckily for me, he didn’t go far and I found him almost immediately. If it wasn’t for a glistening in his eyes, he’d be easily overlooked since he blends into the darkness.

Had I not found him, what should I have done?

A Few Sources To Notify

Neighbors – chances are they know your dog on sight and will let you know where they saw them or potentially hold them if they come across them. This is the best first step. Make sure you have your neighbors phone numbers on your phone. 90% of the time, your dog is just hanging out in their yard curiously smelling their lawn.

Veterinarians – not just your personal vet, but all vets in the area. Some people take found dogs to their vets usually to check for a microchip.

Police – some people contact their local police department when they find a lost dog.

Social media – I’m lucky enough to live in a community that has a Facebook lost dog forum. They are volunteers but their results are incredible. The group consists of over 16,000 members. You can post missing dogs or dog sightings. The moderator of the group takes a very active role within the community. She prints and posts flyers, sets humane traps, uses trail cams, sets up feeding stations, and participates in active searches. The group has used dog trackers in the past as well. Every community should have a group like this. If your area doesn’t, why not start one?

Websites – Craigslist, local newspapers,, facebook yardsale sites, Twitter, Instagram. Any website that will get your dog’s picture and information in front of a large audience. The more eyes looking for your dog, the better.

Local Animal Shelters – this is often the first place people who find dogs call since most can’t/won’t hold the do until the owner is found.

Other things to do:

Place a worn article of your clothing in the area they were last spotted. A dog’s sense of smell is incredible and he may just find his way home on his own with your help.

Post flyers. On telephone poles, in grocery stores, local businesses, dog parks, bus stops.

Instruct anyone helping you search or anyone that spots your dog NOT to chase them. Most dogs that aren’t in their comfort zone (home) are panicking and will run from anyone coming towards them, even people they know.

Microchip your dog. This will bring them back to you faster if their collar falls off.

Make sure your dog has an up to date name tag and collar on, ALL the time. A lot of the missing dog flyers I see state that the dog had a bath and wasn’t wearing their collar. Immediately after bathing your dog, put their collar back on them.

The Most Important Thing

Don’t give up hope, and don’t panic. Some dogs have been lost for two years and still make their way home. Remember the odds are in your favor and keep calm.

Image credit – Jacta-Est des Plaines de Thieraches BOUTONNET B -4276 by Flickr (Public Domain)

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