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  • Post published:09/04/2021
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Finding lost dogsFinding lost dogs

A lost dog is a dog parent’s worst nightmare. Well, that and a health crisis. Over the past 10 years or so, my spouse and I have helped reunited at least a dozen lost dogs with their frantic families. What we find in each reunion is that there was a grave mistake made in the blink of an eye. That mistake might have been:

  • The dog was left outside alone;
  • The dog was walking without a leash;
  • The dog pulled the pet parent unknowingly and the leash slipped from the pet parent’s hand;

And the list goes on. Finger pointing helps no one. You’ve arrived at this resource because your dog is lost or because someone you know has a dog who is missing. Let’s cut right to the chase then, as there is no time to spare. In honor of Lost Pet Prevention Month, the brainchild of PetHub, here are resources you can and should use to find a lost dog, prevent a dog from going missing, and what to do if you find or see a dog alone:

How to Help a Lost Dog

12 Ways to Find a Lost Dog (thank you and hat tip, Sam Ratcliffe)

How to Protect Your Dog From Being Stolen

PetHub pet idPetHub pet id


Step by Step:

  1. Go door to door, street by street, and ask people if they have seen your dog. The sooner you do this, obviously, the better. Alert neighbors.
  2. Call or go to the website of your dog’s microchip registry. Tell them and have them note your account that the dog is lost.
  3. Scour shelters by foot. Yes, calling is easier, but mistakes happen. Lost dogs are caught and brought to shelters all the time. Look as often as you can, call of course, but go to the shelters. Look at the dogs. Also get in touch with shelters within a 50 to 100 mile radius of your town. You’d be amazed where lost dogs end up, so call them as well as animal control agencies. Often. Sometimes  lost dogs who end up in shelters are listed as the wrong breed upon intake. So if you are calling asking about a Belgian Malinois but the dog is logged in as a German Shepherd, the person who answers the shelter phone will not have the correct information. Visit. Often.
  4. See if the shelter has a “found” book or list of dogs. Someone might have your dog at home and doesn’t want to turn him in.
  5. Read every item on this list and act fast: Finding a Lost Dog
  6. Post fliers around town including surrounding towns: Ask veterinarians, local rescue groups, trainers, groomers, pet supply stores, and any dog walking/pet sitting services. The signs should be colorful and big. If you live in a town that is bilingual, be sure the signs are posted in both languages. You can convert the text for free online.
  7. The sooner you get a group of people together to help find the dog, the better. Scour the neighborhood in car, on foot, and even take a dog or two along with you. Dogs have a great sense of smell, and a familiar dog might attract the lost dog.
  8. Get on Social Media: Many areas have “lost pet” pages on Facebook, for example. Post your lost dog there by connecting with the page’s administrator/owners. After the fourth of July, our local lost pet page was inundated with dogs.
  9. Start your own Facebook page and share it high and low. Ask friends, co-workers, family, and contacts to share it, too.
  10. Use the search feature of your Facebook page and connect with all friends/followers in your state and reach out to them.
  11. Find a local pet or other blogger(s) and ask if they can share the word.
  12. Download an app like the ASPCA Pet Safety app which, among other things, allows you to build a lost pet digital flyer that can be shared instantly on your social media channels.
  13. Consider a pet detective. The Missing Pet Partnership has a Pet Detective Directory for consideration.
  14. Think like the dog: Where did you lose the dog? For example, did your dog run out the front door? Who does the dog know in your neighborhood? Is there a cat he chases? A neighbor who gives him treats? Look there.  Take some of your dog’s favorite and most stinky treats. Grab his favorite toy, something that squeaks perhaps.
  15. In addition to calling your dog’s name out loud, say phrases with which your dog is familiar like, “wanna go for a ride” or “do you want a treat” or “wanna play?” If someone drives you around, you can shout these things out the window as you canvas the neighborhood. Use the tone you normally would and be loud.
  16. Google. Try pet rescues in your state. Look at the lists, call whomever you need to, and send fliers/digital files as needed.
  17. Call your municipality/dead animal list. No one wants to think like this and it is a worst case scenario, but this is a list to check. Many areas keep a list of deceased animals they pick up. Not finding your dog on that list means there is hope.
  18. Contact pet stores: I personally know of at least one person who recovered her missing dog at a pet store. She was on vacation with her family, her dog got scared at a campground and bolted off leash. Someone took the dog to a local pet store. You never know where a dog will end up, so check into pet stores, too.
  19. Get in touch with rescue groups. According to PetFinder, “there are many rescue organizations which regularly publish current lists and digital photos of found pets at the shelters, as a way of helping them go home or be adopted.”
  20. If you want to be more intensive with your mailer, contact a company such as sherlockbones.com, who for a fee will prepare a mailer and posters for you, and will send the mailer as a post card to 500 or as many as 1,000 homes in your circle. This tip is from PetFinder.
  21. The daily newspaper is still a source of news for thousands of people, and the daily newspaper probably has an online version in your town, too.

How to help a lost dog

Beware of Scumbags

Sadly, there are unscrupulous scumbags who prey on people whose dogs are missing. When talking to someone who claims they found your lost dog, ask him or her to thoroughly describe the pet and even send you an image. Be careful about what information you give out.  Be particularly cautious of people who say they want money to return your dog.  The person may have your dog, but there are enough evil people in the world who are trying to scam innocent people in a desperate situation.

If You Rescue a Lost Dog

Once the dog is safely in your care, the following is a checklist of who to call/connect with to try to reunite a lost dog with his owner/parent:

* If you decide to keep the dog until his owner is found, let animal control know. Pet parents should call local animal shelters to report a missing dog.

* The dog should have immediate medical treatment at an emergency hospital if there is any outward distress or injury. If you are keeping the dog until the owner is found, veterinary care should be provided in the event of internal injury or disease. You don’t want to expose your pet(s) or yourself to something if there is an issue.

* Place an ad in the local newspaper. Hang signs around town. If you opt for something like Craigslist, use caution. You want to be sure to reunite the dog with the rightful owner and not someone sinister who buys dogs on Craiglist for any number of horrific reasons.

* Check lost pet websites. More and more lost pets are reunited with their rightful owners because of lost pet websites. Start with Petfinder Lost and Found Pets

* Our friends at the Humane Society report that you need to check on any relevant laws in your state, county, or town and contact your local animal control agency, humane society or SPCA Many times the animal you find along the highway will turn out to be un-owned, unwanted, and unclaimed. Even so, the person finding the stray dog or cat does not automatically become the owner or keeper until he has satisfied certain state and/or local requirements.

how to help a lost doghow to help a lost dog

 Additional Websites

  • Center for Lost Pets
  • Craigslist
  • Fido Finder
  • Lost Dogs of America
  • Lost Pet USA
  • Missing Pet Partnership
  • Where Pets Are Found

How to Prevent Your Dog From Getting Lost

No one wants their dog (cat, etc) to go missing. The best gifts you can give your pet to keep them safe and get them home fast if anything should happen includes:

1) Microchip the pet at the veterinarian’s office

2) Have a prominent, current ID tag on the pet – we also have a PetHub QR code scannable tag on our dog

3) Never let your dog roam free: I know this sounds like common sense, but a dog should not be roaming free. Period. A leashed dog is a safe dog. And a dog who does respond on voice command is great, and something my dog does, but I do not let him roam the streets.

4) Don’t let your dog walk by your side leash-less. I am seeing more and more of this disturbing trend. Passersby don’t appreciate a loose dog, and that’s what a dog without a leash is: loose. In most cases, it is also against the law.

5) Don’t leave your dog alone outside. The property that is poorly lit, without a secure lock on a gate, and out of view of passersby. “It happened in broad daylight” is something that has become all too common as it relates to pet theft. Use an alarm or bell, and if possible, a security light, so you can hear and see anyone who comes on your property. The bottom line: Good fences make good neighbors. They also keep criminals away, and coupled with pet parent supervision, they keep dogs safe and secure. Ask neighbors to keep an eye on your property and offer to do the same for them if they are pet parents

6) Be careful when walking your dog. There are folks who prey on people walking a dog. The world has changed and it is sad, but prepared dog parents can know what to watch for.

CLICK THIS: How to Protect Your Dog From Being Stolen

cute scruffy dog in needcute scruffy dog in need

If You See a Stray Dog: Don’t Ignore Him

Most articles online give advice about how to find a lost dog, but very few tell people what to do if there is a lost dog out there and you happen to find him or her. I cannot begin to tell you the number of dogs we rescued from a highway or side of the street and got them in our car. We are very cautious about handling the dog: Anything from biting in fear, to disease, to dog fights can ensue. Thankfully, this has never happened to us. And I have a set of paw prayers I say every night that it never will happen to us…or to you.

Dogs roaming the street need your help. They do not belong there.  A dog is roaming alone because:

A) You aren’t in the United States and it’s the norm in another area of the world;

B) He or she is lost;

C) The dog’s owner/parent is irresponsible and allows the dog to roam free;

D) The dog is living the life of a stray;

No matter the situation, he or she needs your help.

CLICK THIS: How to Help a Lost Pet

Have you ever reunited a pet with his frantic pet parent? Any tips we missed?


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