It’s a terrifying moment when you realise your dog is missing. You’ve searched the entire house, including his or her favourite hiding places and nothing. That sick feeling means you know she’s gone.
Your pet is missing, what do you do?
Let’s back up for a moment, and talk about steps we can take to prevent getting to this point.
Be careful when opening doors. You looked around and didn’t see anyone, you thought it was safe. Next thing you know, she’s running out the door. Always look around and make sure the animals are not there. Never linger with the door open. You may not even notice her darting out.
From the beginning, teach your children not to leave doors open. Drill the message into their heads, until they get it. That goes for their friends as well.
If you have a yard your dog plays in, make sure the fencing is secure – no loose boards, spaces underneath or flimsy gate locks.
Make sure your dog is part of the family. Take her for walks, the dog park, and let her interact with other dogs as well. They aren’t meant for the solitary life, and leaving your dog alone in the yard for hours on end is not fair, and will increase the likelihood of her escaping.
Okay, so you do all of this stuff, and your pet still goes missing. Here’s what you do
Make flyers: Find a recent picture and make as many flyers as you can. Don’t forget to include all your contact numbers. No need to post your name or address. Offering a reward may help motivate people.
Hand them out to passersby, give them to people you know to hand out, post them on poles, in shop windows, community bulletin boards, libraries, dog parks, gas stations, local businesses, and anywhere else you can think of.
Don’t just stick to a few blocks around your house. Dogs can cover long distances in a short period of time.
Scour the neighbourhood: Have as many people as you can knocking on doors. Ask people to check backyards and garages. If they don’t know you, or your pet, hand them a flyer.
Spread the word: Call local animal shelters, animal control facilities and veterinary offices. They’ll want to know the area, a full description of the animal and contact details. Keep the list handy and have someone call often.
Don’t take chances and rely on anyone to call you back. Things get busy, wires get crossed and mistakes sometimes happen. You wouldn’t want the unthinkable to happen to your pet
Post on lost pet databases: Lost My Doggie is one such database, and is like an amber alert for dogs. This company offers a free service which includes: lost pet flyer generator for you to create your own professional flyer – fax and email posters to local shelters and vets – post in their database – automatic matching to lost or found postings – email alerts when new matching pets are added. .
Use social networking to spread the word: In addition to posting your lost dog alert on all your social media accounts, there are many pet finder sites on Twitter and Facebook, specifically set up to help spread the word about a lost pet. You might want to follow and friend them in advance, or at least know who they are, just in case.
Make it easy for someone to return your pet to you
Even if you do everything, the unthinkable may happen. Accidents happen, and you can’t prevent them all. So why not make it as easy as possible for someone to return your dog to you.
- Always microchip your dog, and keep the information current. If you move, or change/add a phone number, contact the microchip company and update your records.
- Have a well fitting collar with id tags, or a collar with the name and number stitched right on the collar. Remember to update that information as well.
Be prepared in case of emergency
Much like you have, or should have, an emergency evacuation plan for your family, why not have an emergency pet recovery plan.
Sit down as a family, and decide what steps you would take should your dog go missing. That should include having a list with addresses and phone numbers of local vets, shelters, rescue groups, animal control facilities and police humane units.
Are there friends, neighbours or other family members you can go to for help? Add them to the list, and keep it in an easily accessible place, and be sure everyone knows where that is.
What to do if your dog goes missing – conclusion
Having an emergency plan in place, means you can spring into action immediately, and increase the chances of bringing your dog back home, where he belongs.
Have you ever had a pet go missing? How did you handle it, and what tips would you like to share that helped you? Leave your comments below.
I’m a cat guy but I can just imagine the horror of having your dog go missing. I love the checklist you’ve included, that is going to be very helpful to a lot of people. Thanks for posting, very well done.
Hello Peter, I’m a cat girl as well. So glad you liked the post. All the suggestions in the article can be used to help prevent cats from going missing.
Hari S Nair
Great tips!!.. I have been there and the consequence of not being careful about my pet was worse than nightmares.. I lost him..still remember that day so vividly. So, I would strongly advise every visitor of this site to please follow these tips.. You may think that you have trained them well but, take it from me ..you never know when they will break your rules and try to explore things on their own..
Hi Hari, So sorry that you’ve had to experience that. It’s very possible someone took your dog in and cared for him. Just the other day there was a dog running around the park, no collar or tags. I asked the guardian what the story was, he said the tag was attached to the harness. Big help when the harness is in the house, and the dog is outside. I hope this article is really shared widely, and that the readers will take those words seriously. Although some things are unavoidable, there is so much each of us can do to reduce the chances of seeing our pet’s photo on a lost poster.
Hello Hindi, I love this post it make people aware, All my pets are chipped 4 cats and a dog. It never happened to me that one of my pets were missing but better save then sorry. Hopefully more people take action to prevent their pets from missing and I think this article helps.
Hi Ron, nice to hear from you, and definitely nice to hear all your pets are microchipped. I’m always amazed at how many people are negligent, when it comes to doing what they can to ensure their pets have every chance of being reunited with them. Here’s hoping articles like this help get the message across.
First of all, thank you for this informative post,I own two dogs and two cats and they are part of the family, I do not even want to think about how I will react if one of them goes missing, However, having a plan in case of an emergency is the way to go and you PROVIDE me with that plan!
The four of them have a well fitting collar with tags,on them with the house phone number. Thank you for posting.
Hi Juan, Thanks for taking the time to comment, and I’m so glad you found the information helpful. A houseful of animals – sounds like heaven to me!
I Liked reading your post here. Do they have microchipping available in Canada? In the states our vetrenarians can do it. Not sure about the cost.
The micro chip goes just under the pets skin around the collar I thaink, and then if a stray is caught it has become custom to scan them to see if they have a chip. Of course the chip is registered to you, so its easy to locate the owner of a stray dog.
Some people could addthis to their emergency plan when their dog goes missing
Hello Debra, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Microchipping and a proper collar and tag are both listed in the section of how to make it easier for someone to return a lost pet. Microchipping is most definitely available in Canada, and isn’t expensive at all. The chip is a bit bigger than a grain of rice, and a needle is used to insert it under the animal’s skin, between the shoulder blades. If the pet has no collar, any vet or rescue can scan the chip, and as long as the information is current, the animal can be returned.
Hi Hindy. I’m a dog lover. I have a Westie, she’s 6 years old. Always been a house dog. About 6 mos. ago, on accident, I left the gate open and fergie was gone with the wind. I waited till the next day to report her missing to the vets office and animal shelter. She has gotten loose in the past but always came home in a matter of hours. A week goes by and no calls from anyone about fergies whereabouts. Finally on the 8th day, someone found her and took her to animal shelter. I went and picked her up and she was so happy to come home. You made a lot of great points about what to do if your dog goes missing. I made a lot of notes and will bookmark your site to follow your posts. Thank you. Did any of your pets ever go missing? Jeffrey
Hi Jeffrey, thanks for sharing your story, and luckily the shelter didn’t do anything stupid, if you know what I mean. There are definitely lots of things we can do to stop our animals from running away, and yes unfortunately I did. My husband and I had just adopted a puppy mill rescue. She was 8 and had spent her entire life locked in a chicken coop breeding. The shelter gave us no indication of what she was like, or tips to keep her safe. One day while walking she got scared, and got out of her collar (even though it was well fitting). She took off and we couldn’t catch her. My husband followed her on his bike, and watched her run through people’s yards, and swim across a canal. I had called the humane unit of the local police department, and 6 hours later we got a knock on the door. She got so tired she couldn’t run anymore. After that we had a harness and a collar, with a leash on each one for added protection. We also just walked her around the yard, because she was too scared to be “out there.” I guess I should have figured to put a harness on her, so I do feel responsible, and sadly shelter staff didn’t know enough to offer any advice.