When it comes to our loyal canine companions, it’s hard to think about them going missing. The fact is, however, that approximately 10 million pets are lost each year in the United States. Perhaps they jump the fence, slip their lead or sneak out the back door. Whatever the reason, it’s important to know what to do in this scary situation and to be prepared so you can calmly and quickly be reunited with your beloved dog.
1. Stay Calm
First and foremost, it’s important to stay calm. We understand this isn’t always easy and that distress comes from a place of love. However, staying calm will help you to think rationally and allow you to better assist your dog in the long run. It’s important to keep a clear mind and put your worry to better use by taking action.
2. Look All Around
This one might seem obvious, but the moment you realize your dog is missing, start calling their name and looking all around. Depending on how long they’ve been out of your sight, it might just be that they’ve wandered down the street to play with a friend or went to the river for a swim. Alternatively, if you know something just happened that might have spooked your dog (like a loud truck going by or a crack of thunder), spend some time looking for where they might hide. Depending on their size and breed, check under cars, under decks or porches, in sheds or barns, and even in culvert pipes and sewer drains. You never know where your pup might be able to squeeze into for shelter.
3. Call Your Local Animal Control Officer
If, after all your searching, you still can’t find your dog, begin asking for help by calling your local animal control officer (ACO). Most ACO’s can be reached through your town’s non-emergency police number and are used to receiving calls about lost pets. Many dogs who go missing wind up in the hands of an ACO who can either scan them for a chip, check their tags, or bring them to a local shelter for help. If you call ahead and let them know your dog is missing, they can easily be on the lookout for your furry friend.
4. Alert Shelters in Your Area
Since most people bring lost animals to a shelter if they’re caught, it’s very possible that your dog might end up in your local rescue thanks to a good samaritan. Always call to let local shelters know that your dog is missing and fill out any online report that they might have. Most shelters keep a record of lost animal reports in their database so they can easily compare them to stray pets that get brought in. Shelters are always looking to reunite lost pets with their families!
5. Get the Word Out
Once all the proper authorities have been contacted, the next step is to ask for help from your community. Post your dog’s photo and information all over social media with clues as to where they were last seen, what they would answer to, if they’re nervous, friendly, or outgoing, and how to get in contact with you. Ask your friends and family to share as well and start circulating your pet’s image. Facebook, specifically, has a local group dedicated to finding lost dogs called Maine Lost Dog Recovery. Submit a form and ask them to start spreading the news as well. And, of course, word of mouth is always helpful!
6. Hang Flyers
This technique might seem dated, but it definitely still works. Not everyone in your community checks social media or is friends with you, so it’s important to spread the news in other ways. Hang lost dog signs from telephone poles, trees, lampposts and fences. Ask local businesses if you can hang them in their windows or tack them up on a community board. Make sure the signs are large, easy to read, and lamented so they can withstand the elements.
7. Have Search Parties
If it’s possible, getting a group of people together to help you search each day will be very beneficial. Have different search parties go to locations you know your dog likes to frequent and begin searching there. It’s possible your pup has hunkered down near a familiar space like the dog park or around the beach. Provide the search parties with items that are familiar to your dog like toys, blankets or treats in case they need to lure your dog out or use it as a calming device. If your dog likes the sound of their treat box being shaken or their toy being squeaked, ask members of the search to do so while they look. Anything that might help draw your dog out or call them home can be the key to finding them successfully.
8. Don’t Give Up!
Perhaps the most important tip on this list is to not lose hope. Depending on how long your dog’s been missing, it can seem rather daunting or bleak to keep looking. However, pets have been known to find their way home days, weeks, months, and even years after being lost, whether on their own or through the help of a community. We know you want to be reunited with your pup as fast as possible and it’s no question that they want to be with you, too. Just make sure you don’t give up!
It’s definitely a scary time to be a pet parent if your dog goes missing, and it’s not always easy or clear to know what to do. However, staying calm and following all the tips on this list will ensure the fastest and easiest way for you to reunite with your furry friend. We hope you never have to go through this with your beloved pup, but it’s always nice to be prepared in case you do!