Your search to find your lost dog must start the very moment you realise your dog has gone missing. Don’t waste time waiting for them to return, or cursing your dog, yourself, or others for what has happened. Even the most cautious owners can lose a dog, but only those who take action will have the best chance of finding their fur baby. Start by forming a search plan, based on what you know about your dog’s behaviour.
Does your dog have fears or phobias?
Is it possible that your dog has run away because he was spooked or stressed by a storm or other loud noises, such as fireworks or construction sites. If that is the case, first check to make sure your dog is not hiding in your home or backyard.
Your ‘day one’ plan of action
- Canvas your close neighbours. A friendly neighbour might have seen your dog running loose and taken them into their home to keep them safe. Some neighbours might not know your dog well enough to recognise him in passing, so take along a photo for reference.
- Leave your gate ajar. Your dog might bolt back to safety, so leave your back gate open for a couple of days, just in case.
- Check your usual walk. Go to the places in your neighbourhood where you regularly go for walks, your dog is likely to walk along your usual route.
- Ask other dog walkers. A local might have seen your dog running loose while out walking with their dog. Some might not know your dog well enough to recognise him in passing, so take along a photo for reference.
- Contact your council, local pounds and shelters. Don’t assume your dog will have been picked up in your local area. Contact every animal pound in and beyond your area, letting them know that your dog is lost. Give them a clear description of your dog and your contact details. Be sure to call them every day to check if they have found your dog.
- Contact your local vets. Contact the vets in your local area, letting them know that your dog is lost. Give them a clear description of your dog and your contact details. Ask them to keep an eye out and contact you immediately if they hear anything.
- Use social media. Post the news of your lost dog to your friends and followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Include a clear photo and the date, time and place he went missing, and make sure the post is set to 'public'. Ask them to share, retweet and spread the word for you – the more eyes on the lookout, the better. Also join, and post in 'Lost and Found Pets' Facebook groups in your area.
- Get on Gumtree. The website has a ‘Lost and Found’ page in their pet section that is regularly searched and updated. Visit http://www.gumtree.com.au/ and list your pet.
Your ‘day two’ plan of action
- Visit websites, pounds and shelters. Sometimes, pounds and shelters can get breed descriptions wrong, so the best way to check is to look yourself. Check the web to see if the pounds and shelters in your area have a website with photos of the dogs they have found. If they don’t have a website, drive down there and visit their kennels in person. And don’t assume the pound will scan your dog for a microchip - many pounds aren't equipped with a scanner.
- Do a letterbox drop. Create a full-colour flyer asking ‘HAVE YOU SEEN THIS DOG?’ Feature a clear photo of your dog, the date and place he went missing, your first name and your mobile number. Drop a copy in all your neighbours’ letterboxes, covering a significant area around your property.
- Create a ‘LOST DOG’ poster. Adapt your full-colour flyer into a poster, asking ‘HAVE YOU SEEN THIS DOG?’ Feature a clear photo of your dog, the date and place he went missing, your first name and your mobile number. Distribute your posters in person to local pounds, vets, shops and in public areas around your neighbourhood.
- Place an ad in your local newspaper. Your local paper will have a pet section you can advertise in. Be sure to include details of where the dog was lost and, if your budget allows, add a clear colour photo.
- Expand your search. Dogs can travel a long way when they’re spooked. They could be several blocks away, or could even have been picked up by a well-meaning person and taken to a pound or vet in neighbouring suburbs, so broaden the field with your calling and poster distribution.
Beware of scammers
Sadly, there are scammers who will take this as an opportunity to make a fast buck. Avoid putting a reward on your flyers and posters and don’t disclose your full name and address. If you receive information about your lost dog, don’t be lured into giving any money until you have your dog safely home. And if you need to visit a stranger’s house to pick up your dog, take at least one friend along and tell others where you are going.
Don't give up the search
Don’t underestimate your dog’s survival skills. Keep calling and checking the pounds. Keep widening your search. And keep posting to social media channels. There are lots of stories about lost dogs being reunited with their owners months or even years after they went missing.
A prevention plan that’ll keep your dog safe
The best way to ensure you don’t lose your dog is to take some simple measures to prevent it from happening. Check out these effective ways to identify your pet as your own, as advised by the vet blogger experts at Vetico.