Six things to do when your pet gets lost

Max (A496599) is a sweet dog whose owner was no longer able to care for him. Max has quite a history and worked for a time as a bomb detection dog and was a universal blood donor for other dogs. He is retired now and deserves a home that he can relax in!


My short memory is one of the reasons I identify with dogs so much. Dogs don’t hang on to grudges. They don’t remember (or care) that they were upset five minutes ago because they couldn’t reach the ball under the couch because they’ve found another, more exciting ball in the corner of the dining room.

Having a bad memory is a blessing in that way. I don’t carry around a lot of emotional baggage because at some point, I’ve pretty much forgotten the bad memories in favor of making space for what’s happening right now.

Where it isn’t quite so handy to have such a bad memory is that I have the tendency to get lost. Before navigation systems in cars were a thing, I got lost a lot! I’m basically like a goldfish. Every turn around the fishbowl is a new and exciting adventure and before I know it, I have no idea where I am or how I got there. Thank goodness I’m pretty!

For dogs though, getting lost easily can be really dangerous. They can get caught up in the excitement of all the interesting new sites and smells around them that they don’t notice that they are moving farther and farther away. Once the reality of being lost sets in, panic often follows – and the “fight or flight” instinct kicks in.

Hopefully getting lost will never happen to your dog, but if it does, here is what to do to get them home:

Sweep the Neighborhood

In many cases, a well-trained dog is the safest dog when it comes to not getting lost. If your dog knows and responds well to basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come” —as all dogs should— you’ll want to head outside and start calling his or her name and using a command like “come” (or other special phrases you know your dog would typically respond to, like “ride in car”) to see if that’s enough to bring him out from wherever he’s currently hiding in the neighborhood.

You may also want to bring an extra special treat or his favorite food in order to help use his sense of smell to lure him home. Sometimes leaving your dog’s bedding or some clothing with your scent by the location where your pet went missing will help him find his way back.

You should also alert your neighbors or people in the area of where your dog went missing and instruct them on how to approach your dog when spotted. Be sure to share her name and photos so that everyone in the general vicinity of your home (or wherever your dog went missing) knows exactly who they’re looking for. If you have other dogs, be sure to recruit them, too—their powerful noses may be all you need to help lead you to the direction where their best bud is currently hiding.

Use Your Pet’s Microchip

Proper identification is always key to finding a lost dog—including a collar with ID tag as well as a microchip— so one of the first things you should do is alert your dog’s microchip company. The whole point of having your pet microchipped is to help find them if they’ve gone missing. Be sure to ensure that the contact information the microchip company has for you is up-to-date, particularly if you moved recently or changed phone numbers.


Posting fliers may be the old-fashioned approach to pet recovery, but it’s still extremely effective. Print a flier with a current photo and description of your dog, as well as your contact information and other relevant information about your pet’s personality (such as if they tend to run when approached directly). Be sure to include a reward if you’re planning on offering one.

Use Social Media

Post an alert on popular social media platforms like Nextdoor, Facebook, Instagram and Craigslist. Ask your friends in your social network to reshare your post. You’ll also want to post your dog’s photo to as many local groups as possible; there are Facebook groups dedicated to finding lost pets in your area.

Call Local Animal Organizations

If someone is kind enough to bring your lost pet into the nearest veterinarian’s office, animal control office, or animal shelter, you’ll want to be sure they know in advance exactly who your pet is. Be sure to give them a call, or stop in with one of your fliers, so they know how to find you if your dog ends up in their office. But be sure to keep following up, as there’s no guarantee they will call you if your dog does turn up.

Be sure to check animal shelter websites frequently. We update our website throughout the day when lost animals come in to us – so just because you don’t see your pet listed doesn’t mean they won’t suddenly appear later.

Don’t Give Up

No matter what, keep looking.

It’s a terrifying, heartbreaking experience to lose a four-legged member of your family, and even if a few days —or even weeks— have gone by, keep in mind that though your dog may be accustomed to sleeping on a plush dog bed and eating out of a fancy dog dish, most dogs will become very resourceful and rely on their instincts to survive when they’re out on their own.

In the meantime, remain diligent and persistent and continue sharing, posting, and searching until your beloved pooch is back in your arms.