What to do if a dog gets lost…

Even if dog owners are careful, accidents happen, and occasionally, dogs get lost. Below are useful tips to help locate your pet.

  • Preserve a scent item for your dog/s.  A scent item is anything that was specific to your dog, like a favorite toy, a collar, the blanket from his/her crate, etc.  The scent item should immediately be placed in a Ziploc bag, and sealed tightly.  If you have another dog at home, ensure that the scent item is specific to the lost dog, not to your other dog.
  • Set up a feeding station at the last sighting spot.  Dogs often return to where they were, or travel in circles.  By setting up a feeding station, we are increasing the likelihood that, if a dog returns once, he/she will return again, giving us a better chance to catch him/her.  Feeding stations should include multiple cans of wet dog or cat food in a pile.  The bigger and smellier the food pile is, the more likely it is to attract the dog.
  • Create a flyer.  Flyers are the way we get the word out about lost dogs.  The flyer you create should have a clear picture of the dog’s face, at least two phone numbers, and the word “Reward” in large letters.  Once the flyer is created, blanket the area with flyers, beginning at the last known sighting point, and fanning out from there.  Flyers should be posted at major intersections, at smaller intersections on stop signs, on light posts in parking lots, on bus stops, on metro stops (if the dog is lost near the metro), at gas stations, and in any other highly visible place you see.  Sometimes, businesses allow flyers to be placed in their windows, or offer to take a stack of flyers to distribute to customers.  Hitting churches on Sundays and the metro at rush hour yields good results, as you reach a large number of people in a short amount of time.  The purpose of flyering is to produce reliable sightings!
  • Use social media! – Post the dog’s flyer and information on Facebook, neighborhood websites and Craigslist.
  • Contact all local vets and shelters, and file lost dog reports.  Also, fax a copy of the flyer to them.  After the first contact, have a volunteer physically go to each shelter and look for the dog.  Shelters are inundated with dogs, and do not always realize which dogs are there, so going to look in-person is a must.
  • Consider hiring a tracker.  Trackers will come out with a tracking dog and track the lost dog using the scent item that you have placed in the Ziploc bag.
  • Make sure that you are available to answer and follow up on sighting calls.  If you know that you are not going to be available, do not put your number on the flyer!  Sighting calls are time sensitive, and need to be followed up on directly as they happen!

What NOT to do if a dog gets lost

  • Do not drive around calling the dog’s name.  The dog will not come to you, and you are wasting valuable time.
  • Do not wait hours to get started on the lost dog search protocols, thinking that the dog will just make its way back home.  Again, you are wasting valuable time.
  • Do not attempt to catch the dog yourself if you see it.  You will likely scare the dog, and it will run again.
  • Do not attempt to have your own personal dog track the lost dog using the scent item.  Each time the bag containing the item is opened, it becomes less valuable for the actual tracker and tracking dog.