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If your dog is missing, you’re probably feeling a lot of emotions. First, breathe. Being calm and logical will allow you make the best decisions to help you get your beloved pet back home safely. Next, follow these steps to get the word out and try to locate your lost pet:

What Should You Do Upon Noticing Your Dog Is Lost?

Before your dog has time to roam too far, begin searching within a two-mile radius from where they were last seen. Gather friends to help search, and ask neighbors if they’ve seen your pet. Don’t forget to bring along your pet’s favorite treat or toy, and call out words they respond to, such as “toy” or “treat,” along with their name. Shaking their food container, or opening a can if they eat wet food, might be helpful.

English Cocker Spaniel puppy on a walk on a trail in the park
Saira MacLeod via Getty Images

What Should You Do Within a Few Hours?

Notify the police and local shelters that your pet is missing. Provide a current photo and an accurate description of your pet: breed, hair/coat length, and color (don’t forget special markings), size, age, and ear type (pointed, long, short, droopy).

If your pet is registered with AKC Reunite, call the Reuniters Helpline at 800-252-7894 to let them know your pet is lost. Speak with an operator to confirm that your contact information is up-to-date. Also, visit the website to create a “Lost Pet Alert.”

Spreading the Word

Thankfully, social media has made it easier to spread the word about a missing dog. Post a photo of your dog with your contact info on the photo — this way that information isn’t separated from the post as it’s shared. Try to share the same post across multiple platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook. Also, many areas have set up Facebook pages for local lost pets. See if such a page exists in your area and send the post there, too.

We may live in the digital age, but never underestimate the power of ink. Print out posters with your dog’s name and photo and your contact information, and post them in your area.

Welsh Springer Spaniel head portrait outdoors.
©Eliška -

Who Should You Inform?

Bring posters to the following places, as well as any other pet-related companies you can think of:

  • Local police and fire departments
  • Local animal shelters
  • Veterinary offices
  • Groomers
  • Dog parks
  • Pet stores

Be Persistent

Visit local shelters daily to see if your pet is there. Also, call for updates. Remember, at some places, volunteer staff changes each day, and not everyone working at a facility may know that your pet is missing. Repost on social media often.

Young woman sitting in the grass holding her French Bulldog.
Akarawut -

Be Proactive

The best way to ensure that your dog gets home if they’re lost is to plan ahead. Animals with a microchip that are brought into shelters have a 200% higher chance of being returned than non-microchipped pets. Vigilant pet owners can also rely on wearable technology for dogs. Most GPS collars can allow owners to obtain their pet’s general location, within a few blocks, at a moment’s notice. Having up-to-date tags, a microchip, and a GPS collar is the best three-pronged approach to increasing the chances your pet will be returned to you if they go missing.

Furthermore, training is key to preventing a dog from escaping. Ensuring your dog always responds to the commands “come” or “stay” can help prevent an escape. Crate training can also be an effective way to keep your dog secure when you can’t watch them.

Be Optimistic

With all the technology and opportunities available to share information, there’s a good chance your pet will return to to you. Staying optimistic will help you maintain the persistence you’ll need to bring your dog back home.

This article is intended solely as general guidance, and does not constitute health or other professional advice. Individual situations and applicable laws vary by jurisdiction, and you are encouraged to obtain appropriate advice from qualified professionals in the applicable jurisdictions. We make no representations or warranties concerning any course of action taken by any person following or otherwise using the information offered or provided in this article, including any such information associated with and provided in connection with third-party products, and we will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death.

Related article: What To Do if You Find a Lost Dog
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