Losing a pet can be devastating: whether they bolted out the door, jumped the fence, or pulled the leash out of your hands. You are mixed with the emotions of fear, anxiety, sorry, possibly even anger. The first rule is not to panic. Here are some steps for finding your companion, hopefully quickly and safely.
Microchip: There are many things to consider before your dog is ever lost. First, microchipping has become one of the best ways to get lost dogs returned. The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice, and is injected between the shoulders by a veterinarian. Once registered, the information should stay with the dog for life. Sometimes chips move or stop working, so be sure to verify your chip information at each annual vet checkup.
Tag: Even if your dog is chipped, we always recommend keeping a collar with identification tags on your animals at all times. While stores, Animal Controls, and veterinarians have microchip scanners, most people on the street do not.
Photograph: Finally, make sure to keep detailed photos and descriptions of all your animals. These include a clear, bright headshot, pictures of both sides of your dog, and any distinguishing markings (white areas, splotches, etc) that can help identify your animal.
Tracking: They also make tags today that have bluetooth GPS location (PetHub Signal, for example). If your pet is known to be an escape artist, there are also higher-tech tracking devices (Tagg, Whistle) that require a monthly subscription but give extremely accurate location information.
Take a Walk: Make sure to thoroughly walk around your neighborhood, letting your dog sniff as you go. If your dog does run off, their sense of smell will be their best bet for having them return home on their own.
Shelters/Animal Control: Go a web or phonebook search for any animal control and shelter within a 10-15 mile radius of your location, and contact all of them. You can also file Lost Dog reports on petharbor.com. Once filed, check into the shelters weekly to verify the information is still on file, and they do not have your companion. Depending on the local legislation, every found dog has to be held for only 5-10 days before being listed for adoption.
Aussie Rescue: We keep a file of lost dog reports as well, and will post any reports we receive on social media. Email us with information.
Facebook Lost Pages: There are many Lost Dog pages in our area. Do a search for Lost Dog and your location, or use our starter list below.
What to put on a sign: The biggest wording you want on your sign is ‘LOST DOG’ and your phone number. You also want a clear, easily seen photo of your animal, if possible. You can also include a last-known location, and a description (i.e. Black/White Aussie, 40 lbs, female) in short, easily remembered information. Including your dogs name can help if they have good name-recognition, but otherwise takes up space. Putting ‘REWARD’ on the sign can be risky, but may get attentions more, but never put an actual dollar amount.
Posting on Facebook/Social: When posting a lost dog on social media, make sure to have all information within the photograph. Many times, friends will share the photo, and any text included will be lost. Have your phone number, location, and ‘LOST DOG’ within the image for best results. Also, don’t forget to make the image public, instead of private, so more people can see it. You may also want to post on craigslist and any neighborhood sites.
In front of house: Many people place signs on light poles, but one of the most visual ways to post a sign is to grab a Yard Sale-type sign and place it in your yard. Make sure to use very dark, bold lettering with your phone number and brief information. This way, if someone finds your dog, they will daily know what house lost it.
On your car: Putting a large sign in the window of your car is another great location not often utilized. People will see it while driving around town, and again will be an easy locator for your home if found.
Cover pole signs with plastic: Paper pole signs are only good until the first rain, and then they are trash. Use sleeves (upside down with tape across the bottom) or large ziplock bags to cover any signs that may get wet.
There’s Apps for That: There are several apps that can help local communities, depending on your area. NextDoor is a great neighborhood-based app for posting bulletins. Plague-The Network, a crowd-sharing info app, may also be of use. Location Tracking Apps for searches, such as Map My Route and Sales Rabbit, can ensure you don’t double-back on areas already searched.
How to Recapture
Stop!: When you have visual contact with the dog, DO NOT CHASE IT! Running after the dog will either make it flee in fear, or make it run in chase/play. You have a couple options of making it come to you:
If your dog isn’t in fear/survival mode, acting playful and calling it in a happy voice, even patting your legs, might make it jump for joy and run back for you. Acting like you have a treat and getting it to “sit” or do commands could also break their flight mentality and allow you to get close enough to recapture.
If your dog is still running away in play/chase mode, run in a perpendicular/opposite direction, or lay down. This may get your dog to become the chaser vs the chased, and have them run toward you instead of away.
Remember, once your retrieve your dog, do not yell/hit/scold them. You want to praise them for coming back to you.
If your dog is in survival mode, you will have to be more cautious. Be aware of your surroundings and if there are any good areas to trap the animal. Using a neighbors fenced yard or garage may be your only option. If it’s an open area, luring could be your only option. Slow patience is key. Do not stand tall or crouch, since these could be intimidating. Turning your side/back to the animal and looking over your shoulder can help you get close while throwing treats and other bribes. This video is excellent at showing body signals and how to use them to your advantage.
Trapping: If you still can’t get a dog to come to you, live traps may be a last resort. Only set up traps when you know and animal is sticking to one area. In the traps, use very smelly food (cat food, roasted chicken, very wet meaty canned food, anything to get their smell going). Stores such as Rural King often carry “Coyote Traps” big enough to catch lost dogs.