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Little Dog Lost: Pet ID & Tips On Finding Your Run-A-Way

What to dog if your dog is missing.

OK, so you let little spike or princess out to sprinkle a bush and you go to the door to call him/her back in and you notice that the gate is wide open and the dog is nowhere to be seen. 

Or you are walking your faithful companion and he/she sees something that excites or scares him/her and you end up standing there holding a leash with an empty collar at the end of it watching the south end of your dog heading north at breakneck speed.

Or you've taken your family to see a live nativity scene and somehow, your pet makes his/her break for freedom and a chance to play with the cow/sheep/whatever other animal attracts it (sorry Terri ... couldn't resist).

What do you do? 

Well the first thing is DON'T PANIC (apologies to Douglas Adams)!

The best things you can do to ensure the safe return of your pet are things you need to do before the pet disappears/escapes.

Try to train your dog to come when called (or bribed with a treat) or at least sit/stay so you can approach him/her. Do not ever punish your dog after coming when called no matter what it has done before you called him/her.

Have your pet always wear a collar or harness with a current rabies tag and dog license tag if your area requires you to get one. Even though the dog is inside most of the time, it only takes a split second for a determined animal to dash through a door opened only enough to take the mail from the mailman or to sign for a package. Your dog should also have a tag with your current phone number. While rabies tag and dog license numbers can be traced, a direct call to your phone number requires less effort 
on the part of a good Samaritan.

Penny owned by Joe and Theresa C.  Showing off her Collar, Harness and Tags.

You can also have your dog tattooed or micro chipped. Hair can grow over a tattoo and a tattoo can be altered but they can be useful for identification. Your vet can talk with you about microchips and insert one for a small fee. Most animal hospitals and shelters have scanners and this could also help return your pet.

Information about microchips and the AKC's companion animal recovery program can be found at

You should also have several recent clear photos of your pet from different angles front and side.

So you've done all this and now your pet is gone, now what?

If you saw your pet escape try to follow as best you can until you regain control or lose sight of the animal. If you have a cell phone you could call for family members or friends to help if they are close and could get to you quickly. Call to the dog, 
do not act or sound angry. Reassure the dog that he/she is a good dog and try to coax him/her to you. Do not run up to the animal screaming or waving wildly. Keep in mind that the safety of the animal is your first priority and act accordingly. Try not to chase the dog toward heavily traveled roads or towards crowds of people or anything else that could excite or endanger the dog.

If the animal just disappeared and you do not even know which direction it traveled, then a little more thought is required before you leap into action.

First, look in every little hole/drain pipe/box/basement crawl space/furniture/appliance any place big enough for the dog to have crawled into. Animals are curious and they might be trapped or sleeping right in your own home/yard/garage. Don't just call 
- look. You might not hear them or they could be too hurt or just too busy exploring to answer you. Make sure the dog is really gone and not just under the porch before you go running around the neighborhood. 

Have a strong flashlight handy to check places that are dark like drain pipes and under the porch. If the pet has a favorite toy or a "special" treat, these can be useful as lures.

Now that you're sure your pet is not under the couch, behind the fridge or under the car. The next step is to check the neighborhood. Ride or walk around calling the dog. Have a favorite toy and/or treat with you as well as a leash. Stop and listen, the 
dog may have squeezed through a fence into a yard and is unable to find his/her way back out. He/she may have fallen into a drain pipe or storm drain. You will need to listen carefully and investigate any sound that you're not sure about.

Figure out how far you think he/she could have gone then draw a circle at least three times that size and cover the entire area. They can cover ground a lot quicker than we give them credit for and the quicker we find them the less chance they will be hurt or found by someone who can't or won't return them.

After you've covered the neighborhood and still can't find your dog the next step is to put up flyers. Flyers should contain color pictures and are best if done on brightly colored paper to attract attention. 

They should contain the dog's pictures, a complete description including age and size, the pet's name and the date, time and location the pet was last seen. Also include a description of any collar, harness and the size and shape of all tags the dog was wearing.

You could also include perhaps a favorite treat for example, "Answers to the name Lucky and likes cheddar cheese".

You will also need to be careful here as there are some not so very nice people out there. Do not put more information in the flyer than is necessary for someone who finds a dog like yours to consider calling you. Leave enough out of the flyer (scars, disfigurements, special markings) so that when someone calls they can give you enough information that you didn't put on the flyer to make you sure that they really found your pet.

Offer a reward but do not put the amount in the flyer. If someone hasn't really found your pet they do not need to know the amount of the reward.

Do not put any personal information about yourself in the flyer other than your phone number. No addresses or family descriptions are necessary for someone to return your pet if they find it. You might also offer to go and view a pet someone has called and says might be yours. You might not want to have people come to your house. It is not too likely, but it could be someone who has a dog close enough to not be too suspicious and they just want to see if you have anything worth breaking into your house to steal.

If someone, especially someone not local to you calls and tells you that they have found your pet and it is hurt and you need to send money for medical treatment and transportation try to confirm that it is really your pet that they found. Next, get the 
name of treating vet or animal hospital and look up the number at and call them yourself at the published number. It might not be your pet or it might just be a scam. Try to find out as much as possible before sending any money.

Try to go and pick up the dog yourself or have someone who would know the dog go, rather than sending money for transportation. 

The next thing you'll want to do is take your flyers and go door to door in your neighborhood or the area where your pet was last seen. Depending on the area and your comfort level, you might want to have a friend or family member go with you, rather than go alone. 

Always knock at the door and introduce yourself and explain what you are doing before looking over fences or into out buildings and tool sheds for your pet. Leave a flyer with whoever answers the door or leave one in the door jamb if no one answers. 

Ask if there are any children in the house and ask to speak with them if they are old enough to play outside and leave the yard without adult supervision. Kids spend more time out and about the neighborhood than most adults and can be very effective in locating missing pets. 

Speak to the mail man, paper boy, garbage men and any delivery trucks or utility or road repair crews or utility company meter readers you may see in your travels. They might have seen something or may be able to keep an eye out for your pet. 

Put the flyers on telephone poles between waist and eye height. At corners put them where people in cars can see them while stopped at traffic control signs/lights. Place them in store windows, post offices, town halls and anywhere else people gather or p
ass by. Post them in and around parks and picnic areas. 

You might also want to go to web sites like and post a notice about your missing pet.

Bring flyers to local Vet offices and animal hospitals and also contact any local chapters of a breed club and local breed rescue organizations. 

Your next step is to visit local animal shelters, humane society facilities and animal control officer offices. 

Don't just call, go and visit. Descriptions mean different things to different people. Red, brown, big, small are all open to interpretation. Show up and bring flyers with clear, color pictures. Ask to look through the cages yourself. Ask about microchip
scanners and if they routinely scan incoming animals if your pet is so equipped. Find out how long they hold animals before adopting them or euthanizing them. Make a note of it so you can check back within the allotted time frame. 

Ask them if they know any other places stray animals might be taken or who might be called to pick them up. Follow up all leads. 

Another thing you can use is the newspapers. The daily papers, especially the Sunday edition as well as the weekly shopper type publications. Place ads describing your dog and the date/place it was last seen. Also read the pets found ads. You might get lucky there.

Your last resort is your local highway cleanup crews. It is sad to think about but if your pet was struck by a car and could not recover from it's injuries, these are the guys who would get the call. Meet them in person if you can and treat them nice. They have a rough job and you want them to do you a favor by calling you if they get a call for an animal that meets your pet's description. 

Above all don't give up. Your pet needs you he/she can't call you on the phone or ask someone for help.

Article written by: Joseph Christie
Jan. 2002

We will now move on to the next section of this site.

Understanding AKC Conformation Competition: Basics

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