Time is crucial when you realize your pet is missing. Pets are beloved family members, and when one is missing, all other activities should come to a halt until you find your pet. Recruit as many friends and family as possible in the first few hours. The more ground you can cover the better. If your dog went missing from your home or yard, try to arrange to have one person stay there in case the pet returns.
Determine the circumstances under which your pet went missing. Did the dog simply wander off through an open gate? Or was he frightened by loud noises and escaped? This information is vital as a dog who is off on an adventure will behave differently than a dog who is in panic mode. If your dog panicked over something, then the odds are good that his first instinct will be to find somewhere that feels safe to hide.
This does not mean it will be close by, as a frightened dog can cover a lot of territories when in a blind panic. It is particularly difficult if whatever induced the noise is ongoing. For example, if your dog panicked because of fireworks and it is July 4th, he may travel for quite some distance, trying to escape the sound that is frightening him.
There are several steps you need to take to ensure that your pet is returned home safely and as quickly as possible.
1. Use a pet finder app like FindShadow. You can download the app and immediately create a lost pet report. The report will activate volunteers who will immediately begin to help with the search by combing through shelters, social media groups and other sources for a found dog matching your pet’s description. FindShadow also uses facial recognition software to scan thousands of photos for a match with your pet.
2. Have a flyer made and distribute it throughout the area that your pet went missing?
3. Contact local shelters and rescue groups. Ask if your dog is there, and ask if you can file a missing pet report with them.
4. If your pet is not home within 24 hours, consider offering a sizable reward for their safe return.
5. Immediately list your pet on lost and found pet groups on social media. Keep the post bumped so that it does not get lost in the thread — follow-up on every lead.
6. Talk to your neighbors or people in the area where your dog went missing. Have a good photo of your pet and leave your number with everyone who will accept it.
7. Return frequently to the place your dog went missing. A panicked animal may stay hidden or run away when people call to them, even the owner. Look for likely hiding places such as under parked cars and shrubs.
8. Remember to stay calm. It is possible someone took your pet out of kindness and has not seen your flyers or social media posts. In these cases, the pet is being cared for, and it is just a matter of connecting with the person who has your pet.
The following website, Pet Web MD, has a list of typical behaviors for lost pets. Knowing how your pet may react in different situations can help you anticipate the best way to find them.
What to do after you find your pet:
Having a beloved pet go missing is a traumatic experience for both owners and the pet. If your pet has been missing for more than a few hours or shows signs of illness or injury, contact your veterinarian.
In the days after finding your pet, you may find that the trauma has affected behavior. The following article, on Pet MD, gives insight and resources over what to do to help your pet recover from a traumatic experience. The longer your dog was away from home, the more opportunities there were for traumatic experiences. Give your pet time and follow your veterinarian’s advice for dealing with behaviors that result from their time away.
Fix any security issues that allowed for your dog to escape. Have your dog microchipped and make sure that the contact information stays up to date. Always have a secure collar on your pet with tags that clearly state your name and phone number.