What to Do When You Lose Your Dog or Find One


You Lost Your Dog… Don’t Panic!

If your dog ran away or if you lost your friend’s dog, the chances of finding a lost dog are actually pretty good, so don’t worry. Very often, a lost dog can find its way home, so wait outside for a good hour or two and wait for the dog. If you are out there, they’ll see you and then run to you. This is also true if your dog ran away at night. Just put some lights on and wait outside if you can.

Dogs that run away from home were often distracted somehow. They either found a scent or something led them away. It’s in their nature to hunt or track scents. Once the trail goes dead, they may be far away but they know how to get back in most cases.

There are tons of stories about dogs and cats finding their way back home when they’ve been hundreds or even thousands of miles away. There have even been movies made about that. Animals have almost a sixth sense where they’re able to make a map in their minds and scientists don’t know how they do it. They have used magnets and found that doing that takes away that ability. The other way they find their owner is with the emotional bond they have with the owner. The owner could have even moved from where the dog last saw them and the dog can still find them.

Search for Your Dog

Of course, go out and do a search for your dog. Search the neighborhood and surrounding areas. Bring a familiar chain or leash and keep jiggling it so your canine hears it. Don’t forget to search your entire house and property – maybe the dog is still there and just stuck or trapped somewhere.

Most dogs will be found within a half a mile to a mile of their home if they just went missing.

Be careful about going onto other people’s property. Doing that isn’t a good idea. Stay on sidewalks and streets and call the name of your dog.

Get some neighbors together and organize a search for your dog. It will help to create a Google map of your area so you know where to search. It helps because dog’s don’t often stay on streets, of course. They’ll take any direction they can so this map will help you search. Here’s a video on how to do that:

ID Tags or a Chip Will Certainly Help

Hopefully, your faithful companion has an identification tag on it or has been chipped. This way, if someone finds a dog, they will know what to do with it so that either the chip can be read or they can contact you via phone. Someone would then just need to go to a place where there is a dog chip reader to find out how to contact you – or read your number off the identification tag on your pup’s collar.

If you are interested in chipping your pet, then it usually costs around $50 or else check with your local animal shelter/rescue, who might offer it for a cheaper price.

Use Bluetooth and Crowd Sourcing

Today, because of mobile phones, you can even get a device like TrackR put on our dog’s collar. This small tag helps you find whatever you attach it to – including your doggie. Just put one on your dog’s collar and then your dog can be tracked by not only your iPhone or Android phone (via Bluetooth) but it’s tracked by anyone else using the app. This means if your dog runs off and out of range of your device, maybe your neighbor down the street has the app running and your dog is now in range of that mobile phone.

If your dog went missing and does eventually come back, then it might be a good idea to go with all of these options. Get an ID tag on the dog with the dog’s name and your phone number, get the tail-wagger chipped and then get a TrackR put on our dog’s collar as well. When you do all of these things, you have the best chance of finding your family pet again in the future.

Contact Your Local Animal Shelter, Rescue, Humane Society, Police and Animal Warden

doggieDo a search for an animal rescue, shelter or humane society. Report your missing dog there. Include information like your hound’s:

  • name
  • breed
  • color
  • size
  • age

And your contact information, of course.

Drop off a photo of your dog as well when you can.

Call all veterinary clinics and veterinary hospitals in and outside your local area so they can be on the look out for dogs that might be brought in.

And yes, the police are still responsible for lost and found property. Don’t call 911 for your missing dog but do contact the local police and report the dog missing. A lot of police will help find the missing dog, so don’t be shy about doing this.

Use Social Media

Next, use social media. Post a picture of your dog on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and wherever else. State the information listed above along with where you last saw your dog and how to get a hold of you. Encourage people to share your post so that it gets out to as many people as possible. People take walks after and can look for your dog or they might purposely go out looking for your dog – get the word out.

Post an Ad in the Paper and on Craig’s List

Some newspapers will let you post cheap or free ads for lost pets. Don’t forget about Craig’s List either since that’s free to use.

Use a Lost Pet Register

There are lots of lost dog registers and missing pet websites online that you can use:

Again, post the dog’s information and use a good picture of the dog – one where it’s easy to see what the dog looks like. Use the best picture you have.

Lost Dog Posters Do Still Work

Make a poster for your lost dog. You’ll want to include the same information listed above along with your phone number. Make sure the poster has a photo. Use tape or thumb tacks for your signs if you post them so that your signs don’t leave a lot of mess and are easy to remove. With your poster, make sure your phone number is large and can easily be read. You can say you’re offering a reward but don’t state how much.

The poster should have this information in order:

  • “Lost Dog” at the top (large letters)
  • Your phone number (large numbers)
  • A good photo of the dog
  • The name of the dog, the breed of the dog and it’s age

Go to a local print shop and get copies made – maybe 100-200 or more. It’ll be cheaper to go there than use you computer’s printer. You will need a lot of signs and you’ll even need to replace any that have been ripped down or blown away.

You can even make smaller posters that are 2 to a sheet that have the same information but smaller. You can cut these sheets in half and hand them out to everyone in your neighborhood or stick one under the door of every house in the area. Use bright paper for your posters.

Hand our posters at a local grocery store or gas station if it’s fine with the manager there.

Put a poster at the entrances of your subdivision or main areas/streets within about a 5-10 mile radius or even more. Putting them at stop signs is good because people stop there and they can see it.

Once you do find your dog, please do go back and take your posters down. If not, then people might find these posters annoying and cities might stop allowing them to be posted. The next time you need to do this, you might not be able to and that wouldn’t be good.

Lost Dog Flyer Template / Poster Download

Here is a missing dog sign you can download and use as a template. It’s made with Microsoft Word so that you can edit it.

Lost-Dog-Poster-Flyer.doc (23 kb)

There’s even this online poster make, which you might want to try:

Free Lost Pet Flyer & Poster Template Maker (findtoto.com)

Visit Dog Shelters Daily

It’s a good (no great) idea to visit dog shelters, rescues and kennels in the area every day your dog is missing. Get the word out. Don’t stop. Do it every day and keep at it.

Here’s a good video with more tips:

What to do When You Find a Lost Dog

First, check and see if the dog looks alright. Make sure, they’re not injured. Next, look for the owner, who might be out looking for their puppy. Stay outside with the dog if you can in case the owner comes by. If you go inside with the dog, it’ll make it a lot harder for them to find you and the dog. Go ahead and give the dog some water as it might be thirsty. Don’t give the dog any food until later – like if you end up keeping it overnight. Some dogs have allergies to certain food, so go only with really mild kinds of food.

Next, look for an ID tag on the dog’s collar. If there’s one with the owner’s contact information, then call the owner.

Again, try to stick around outside for a while in case the dog’s owner comes looking for it. In the meantime, give the police a call and let them know you found a lost dog. Don’t call 911 but call a local police department. Also call local animal shelters or rescues and describe the dog you found.

If the dog appears to be a stray, then be careful. Use caution and common sense. If a stray or any dog bites you, you don’t know the vaccination status of that animal and you will need to go to the emergency room and get checked out.

A Shelter Can Read a Chip

found-dogIf there is no collar, the pooch might be chipped. Take the dog to a local animal shelter where the dog can be scanned. The chip reader there will contain the contact information of the owner and they can then be contacted. Before leaving your home to do this, make sure you leave a sign out somewhere that a dog has been found. Describe the dog and leave your phone number. This is in case the dog’s owner comes by.

Where Can I Take a Dog I found?

If you don’t want to or cannot care for a dog, then there are places you can take one if you’ve come across one.

Your best bet is a local humane society, pet shelter or lost and found dog rescue. They will have the facilities to care for the animal. They can also tend to any injuries. Another place to consider is a local veterinarian or animal hospital.

Put Up Found Pet Flyers

If you decide to hold on to the dog, then put up some “Dog Found” posters. Here is a template made with Microsoft Word that you can use:

Dog-Found-Poster-Flyer.doc (23 kb)

Include any details you have about the dog including where you found it. Don’t forget your phone number, of course.

Post a Picture of the Dog on Social Media

Go to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media and post a photo of the dog along with any information you have about it. Ask people to share it so that you can find the dog’s owner quickly.

How to Help Your Dog Be Found if It Goes Missing

Most or a lot of dogs will go missing or run away at some point. You should be prepared.

  • Be sure there’s an ID tag on your dog’s collar.
  • Get your dog chipped in case the collar comes off.
  • Consider using a TrackR tag on your dog’s collar as well so that you can use your mobile phone and Bluetooth to find your dog.
  • Have some good, recent pictures of your dog ready in case you need to post pictures.

Hopefully your dog never runs away but if it does, you should be prepared so that it can be returned to you right away without a lot of fuss, trouble, expense or broken hearts.


If you lost the dog or if found a missing dog, then do the best you can. Hopefully the tips here will help you with your situation. If you have any more ideas or tips, please leave them in the comments section below but do not post information about lost dogs here.

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