Friday, September 27, 2013

What do you do if your dog is missing?

A pet owners nightmare: their beloved furry friend has gone walkabout and might never come home again. It can happen. Many dogs are experts at sliding out of collars or jumping fences. They might bolt when they get scared by something, or they sneak out when someone comes to visit.

In personal experience, I was taking one of my dogs from the car to the house when she saw a dog on the other side of the road. She tugged on the leash, and the metal hook that attached to her collar snapped right off.

No one counts on metal fatigue to ruin the day!

My imagination painted out vivid images of Bonnie scrambling into traffic and being hit by a car. She could have gone for the dog on the other side of the road and ended up in a fight, or she could have ran away. Luckily, she's a good girl, and when I called her name she sat down just a step away from me.

Did I learn from this? Not really. My dog still doesn't have a tag with my name and address. I've looked at GPS collars, but not gotten around to buying one. She's microchipped, but my contact information probably isn't up to date.

What do you do if your dog does run away?

1. Search the neighborhood.

Start with your normal dog-walking routes, and expand your search from there. Remember to bring a leash and some smelly, yummie foods. A favorite toy that makes sound is a great thing to bring; dogs hear quite well. If you have more than one dog, or if your doggie has a friend, bring them. Show recent photos to everyone you meet, and give people a way to contact you.

2. Tell your neighbors.

Not every neighborhood is suitable for going door to door, but most people are happy to help. Post fliers and tell as many people as possible. On the flier, offer a reward and create tear-off tags with your phone number. Leave fliers at vet offices, emergency clinics, shelters, groomers, pet stores, and everywhere else you can think of.

While you do this, talk to the vets, trainers, and groomers. Someone might pick your dog up and decide to keep him or her. If they seek out a vet or a groomer, you want to know.

Post photos of your dog on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media available to you.

3. Enroll the mailman.

Postal workers, delivery drivers, and bus drivers go around your neighborhood all the time. Give them a photo of your dog and ask them to call you if they see anything.

4. Search shelter and rescues.

Contact local breed specific rescues, even if they're not right by you. Search shelters within roaming distance every day - depending on where you live, strays might be euthanized after just a couple of days. It's tempting to just sit down and call, but it's much better to go in person. Whoever answers the phone might not know which dogs are there. Your dog might be designated as the wrong breed or gender. If you're not allowed inside, bring photos.

5. Never give up.

Dogs are tough. Some people look for their furry friends for months or even years before the doggie turns up on the other side of the country. Keep looking, and keep asking people to help you search.

What do you do if you find your dog?

In a perfect world, doggie would come running up to you with a wagging tail, excited to see you. The outside can be pretty darned exciting, though, and other things might be more interesting.

Chasing a dog usually isn't a good idea. Tricking them into a yard that can be closed off is easier. Encourage your dog to run after you instead of the other way around. If that doesn't work, try falling down on the ground and crying out in a high-pitched, distressed tone. Many dogs will run over to tend to their owner.

~ Maria Sadowski ~


  1. Awful thought! We lost a cat a few years back. Katie, Mom, and I walked the area for over a week looking for him and never found him. Mom kept looking for months every time we went out. She says she would just die if one of us dogs disappeared like that and I believe her. Great tip telling the mailman! Hopefully this will never happen, but you just never really know.

    1. He never came back? =( Cats can be a little weird though; they can decide to move in with someone else for a few years. I hope it will never happen, but it gives some peace of mind to have a plan just in case.

      Thank you for coming over, Emma!