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What to Do If Your Dog Goes Missing

8 min read

It’s every dog owner’s worst nightmare; one minute your dog’s there, the next they’re not. Of course it’s upsetting and stressful for you when your dog is missing, but there’s also the added worry that your pet may be scared or hurt.

The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to maximise your chance of finding your dog.

Home is where the heart is

If your dog has disappeared from your home, the chances are that they won’t have gone far. They may have been distracted by a passing cat, or have been tempted to wander off in search of food and simply got disorientated. Alternatively they may have been spooked by a loud noise or a rumble of thunder, and sought safety in the garden or garage of a neighbour.

If you’ve lost your dog in your immediate neighbourhood, spend at least 15-30 minutes calling and whistling for your dog - and try to sound cheerful. Make some familiar sounds like tapping a fork against a food tin or shaking a box of their favourite treats. 

As you walk around stop and listen, and pay particular attention to outside garages or sheds where they may have got stuck or been locked in.

Similarly, if you’re on a walk when your dog is lost, call and whistle for them. If it’s a familiar walk go back to places you know they like, such as a particular pond or even the park café! Some dogs are very good at finding their way back to your car so do check the car park. Fellow dog walkers are often a great help as they’re dog lovers too, and their pet may even be a pal of yours. Give them your phone number and ask them to let you know if they spot your wandering dog.

If your dog does come bounding back to you, greet them warmly. As frustrated and scared as you might be feeling inside, they need praise not punishment for coming back!

Asking for help

If you’ve looked everywhere that you can think of and there’s still no sign, it’s time to let others know that your dog is missing.

  • Contact local dog charities and rescue centres to see if they’ve found your dog or if a kind stranger has handed them in.
  • Hopefully your dog is microchipped. If so, call your microchip company straight away to let them know your dog is missing. While you’re on the phone, double-check that they have your most up to date contact details.
  • Call all local veterinary practices and all animal rescue centres with a description of your dog and their microchip ID. Ask them if they’d be happy to put up a poster or post something on their website or social media page. If so, they will probably ask you for a recent photo.
  • If you have pet insurance, then contact your provider as they may provide financial assistance and advice on how to find a missing dog.
  • If your dog’s run off from home, let your immediate neighbours know and ask if they’d mind keeping an eye out for you.
  • Prepare a flyer with relevant information about your dog, including their name, breed, physical description and, ideally, a recent photograph. Contact information should include your name, telephone number and email address.
  • We would advise against offering a reward for the safe return of your dog – this may attach a value to your dog, so if your pet ends up in the wrong hands, it could tempt someone to sell them. Good, honest, dog loving people should see the safe return of a pet as reward enough.
  • Post and distribute flyers wherever your lost dog was last seen, as well as throughout your home neighbourhood, as some dogs have incredible homing instincts. Drop into places close to where you lost your dog such as shops, post offices, doctors’ surgeries, pubs and gyms and ask them if they’d be happy to display your flyer to help you find your missing dog.
  • Canvas the neighbourhood, enlisting any willing volunteers to help you knock on doors or distribute flyers.
  • Walk or cycle up and down the road near the area your dog was last seen and drive slowly through your neighbourhood. Show passers-by your flyer and ask them to keep an eye out for your lost dog. If they offer, ask them to help you widen your search by looking in surrounding fields or woodlands – you might want to give them some treats in case they do find your missing dog.


Who to contact

Get in touch with your local council, dog warden, police and animal control authorities with a description of your dog and let them know the time and area when you last saw your dog. These are the people that will be contacted if your lost dog is reported as a stray or is involved in a car accident, and they are also able to reunite you.

Some other organisations can be a great help in locating lost pets. To save time make sure you have the following details to hand when you contact them: your dog’s colour, age, size, temperament, identification on the dog (collar, tag, microchip, where the dog was lost), and your details.

There are also a number of places where you can advertise your missing dog:

  • Take advantage of the lost and found ads in your local newspaper or the one closest to where you lost your dog. Place a 'lost dog' ad as soon as possible, and be sure to check the ‘found pets’ column every day for missing dogs that have been found.
  • Online databases provide free resources to help reunite you with your missing dog.
  • Facebook can also be a very useful resource. If you have your own account it’s worth advertising your lost dog there as your friends will be able to share your post and widen your search. After all, the more people that know your dog is missing, the higher the chance of finding them.
  • Twitter can be helpful, particularly if you include your location on the tweet and copy in any useful organisations.


Dog thefts

Sadly, dog thefts are on the increase although thankfully it is still an unusual crime. If you suspect your dog may have been stolen contact your local police station straight away and ask for a crime number.

Most dog lovers will be more than happy to help you find your missing dog and strangers will often go out of their way to publicise missing pets, so spread the word as widely as possible and hopefully you will soon be reunited with your wonderful friend.