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If your dog or cat is missing, you’re probably terrified, frantic, and upset. 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.

Immediately Upon Noticing Your Dog Is Lost

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

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).

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If your pet is registered with AKC Reunite, call the Reuniters Helpline at 800-252-7894 to let them know your pet is lost and to enable an operator to confirm that your contact information is up-to-date. Also, visit the website to create a “Lost Pet Alert” (learn how to activate this service here).

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Use Social Media

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. Use multiple platforms — Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+.

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.

Do It the Old-School Way, 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.

Whom to Inform

Bring posters to the following places and to any other pet-related companies you can think of, and also post to their social media pages:

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

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Be Persistent

Visit local shelters and humane societies 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.

Be Proactive

The best way to ensure that your dog gets home if lost is to plan ahead. Animals with a microchip that are brought into shelters have a 200 percent higher chance of being returned than non-microchipped pets. Vigilant per owners are also now relying 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 he goes 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, and crate training can be an effective way to keep your dog secure when you can’t watch him. Visit the AKC’s GoodDog! Helpline for advice on teaching your dog these lifesaving skills.

Be Optimistic

With all the technology and opportunities available to share information, there is a good chance your pet will be returned to you. Staying optimistic will help you maintain the persistence you’ll need to bring your four-legged friend back home.

We hope your friend gets home safely and soon.

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