Knowing that your dog is wandering around in the woods, lost and alone, is something I don’t wish on my worst enemy.
Every year, about 3% of the 78 million US dogs gets lost. That means 2.3 million owners are looking for their loved ones, and (luckily) 93% of those are reunited.
While that is great for the lucky ones, a lot of dogs still don’t make it back to their families. Shelters euthanize around 670.000 dogs every year.
If your lost dog hasn’t returned after 24 hours, it’s likely going to need some help.
So please use the following tips and raise your chances as high as possible
There is a lot of advice that will tell you to; alert vets and shelter, place flyers, and post on social media.
So I am going to assume that you already know that. Instead I will give you a couple of extra steps to get the most out of it, and 3 additional methods that most people don’t know about.
I Discovered This During The Worst 12 Days Of My Life
My 8 month-old Bernese went missing in the woods for 12 days. It was 3.5 years ago, but I still remember it vividly.
We were returning home on a cold and drizzly day in autumn. A deer jumped up just in front of him, and he instantly gave chase.
I was yelling but both of them disappeared between the trees and bushes. We spend hours searching the area and calling.
But no dog.
Eventually it started to get dark and we had to go home.
That evening I felt more devastated than I have ever before. My baby was out in the cold and I had no idea how to help him.
In the following days I researched anything I could find, called up every pet friend and went through 3 books.
Now I have never been great at getting attention. (I am more the introverted type that hopes to get noticed and liked). But by following these simple tips I got a huge response from my neighborhood, which eventually led to my dog getting found.
And that is what it’s all about.
Tip 1: Place food and Familiar items in the area where he/she got lost.
Dogs are naturally good at tracking. And when they find get lost, they fall back on this amazing skill to track their own trail!
When they do, they can end up in the car park where you left.
If your dog doesn’t find you there, it will leave, and your chance of finding it is even lower.
If your dog finds familiar smells and some water, it will stay in the area.
Then you go and check this place, at least once a day, and during different times. Because dogs are strongly habitual: if you always check at the same time, you could just be missing each other.
Tip 2: Place Better Flyers
Flyers might seem old fashioned in this day and age. But they still work very well, and that is what matters!
With a flyer, you often have to catch someones attention in a split second look. Don’t be afraid to use BIG fonts, red fonts, and a big picture.
- Be clear and concise
- Use bullet points
- Offer a small reward if you can
- Laminate so they don’t get destroyed by rain. (This is not necessary if it never rains where you live)
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Tip 3: How to Maximize Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool to get a message out. But there are a lot of messages out there, and many never get to the people they were intended for. Use these tips to target and reach the right people.
- Use appropriate hashtags: at least the name of your town, area, and the breed of dog.
- Search for local pet pages and post there
- Include clear recent pictures from multiple angles. And, if you can, a short video. People love watching videos, and it will help with recognizing your dog.
Tip 4: Call (Or Mail) As Many Neighbors, And People In The Area Where You Lost Your Dog.
According to research by the ASPCA, 80% of lost dogs get found by neighbors and people in the area. Of course, this only works if the people recognize your dog.
That’s why you want to alert as many people, both neighbors and from the area where he/she was lost.
Make sure that you give as accurate a description as possible. And try to include a little story of how you lost it.People remember things better if they are connected to a story.
Tip 5: Alert Vets And animal Shelters In The Area
This is probably the most well-known advice for finding lost dogs. But since it is done so much, you might want to give yourself an extra advantage.
Particularly in busier areas, veterinarians and shelters will have many alerts come in.
You want to make yours stand out!
Here are some tips to make your call more memorable:
- Get more personal with the person on the phone. Call them by their name, briefly tell the story of how your dog got lost, and show emotion.
- Mention that there will be a reward and what it is.
- Mention the vet you are a regular with. Vets often know each other, and this can put you in a different light.
Tip 6: If You See Your Dog, DON’T Chase It!
Often people run after their dog when they see it. Don’t do this!
You risk scaring him/her off, maybe for good.
When dogs are lost, they experience a lot of stress. They are alone, cold, hungry and scared.
They might have been chased or attacked by animals or people. If you run into it, you can easily scare it off. And then it will be harder to approach, both by you and others. Or it might turn away from humans for good.
Don’t Forget Speed Is Of The Essence
It’s crucial to do all these things within two days to keep your chances high. Because the risks of traffic accidents, hunting accidents, or wildlife attacks keep on increasing as time passes.
On your own, this will be difficult.
Even if you have people helping you, it will be a struggle to reach more than a hundred neighbors.
Considering half is home, you will need to call at least 200 phones. Because people are working, you can only call in the evening. That means you will personally have to call 30 people per day, tell your story, describe the dog, and convince them to look for it.
What You Are Going To Need
Make sure you have the following things available to launch and effective search campaign:
- Time: if you are working, consider taking one or two days off. Calling people, making and posting flyers, looking for your dog; it’s all going to take a considerable amount of time.
- Computer + printer
- 200-400 sheets of paper, laminating sheets and laminator to make flyers.
- Phone numbers of as many people in your neighborhood as possible.
How To Maximize The Chances Of Getting Your Dog Back, AND Safe A Lot Of Time And Money
Your personal search campaign will take a lot of time and money because you are not setup for it.
Most people don’t expect to lose their dog. So they don’t have phone number databases, auto responders, laminating machines and lots of time available.
Some professional services do.
These are called pet amber alerts but go much further than just alerting.
There is a couple of them around but you have to be careful: some don’t provide the service they promise. (how are you going to check they called the people they said?)
One that stands out above the rest is lostmydoggie.com. After helping thousands of pet owners, they get reviewed as considerate, fast and very good at what they do. And they are endorsed by the ASPCA.
You can get help in 3 different packages starting with a FREE version.
|Action/option||On Your Own||Lostmydoggie Free||Lostmydoggie 1||Lostmydoggie 2|
|Design Flyer||DIY||Professional Templates||Professional Templates||Custom Design|
|Send Flyer To Local Vets/Shelters||(est: 3 hrs + $10)||25||25||Unlimited|
|Post On lostmydoggie.com||No|
|Get Phone Database||-||-||Neighbors (210 Mln)||Neighbors AND Pet Related Businesses (225 Mln)|
|Alert 1000’s Of Neighbors||(Est: 100+ Hrs + Phone Bill)||-|
|Notify Vets, Shelters, Rescue groups, Animal Hospitals, Pet Stores, etc. BY MAIL||-||-||-|
|Price||Considerable Time And $||FREE||From $54,95||From $94,95|
I sincerely hope that you use this information to get your dog back. Please don’t give up on him/her and don’t just wait for a miracle.
The path to success is to take massive, determined action.
– Tony Robbins
How To Prevent it From Happening in the First Place
Whether you’ve lost your dog before or not, here are some prevention measurements every owner should keep in mind:
Collars & Tags
Collars and tags tell people your dog is not a stray. They should contain identifying information so a rescuer may contact you.
A tracking device (lo-jack) is inexpensive and worth the investment. Whether yours runs away, breaks away, or disappears when not supervised, you will know where to find her/him. You can locate and reunite with your pet hopefully before anything horrible happens. Check out our post on whether GPS dog Collars really work.
Training & Conditioning
Dogs that are happy rarely run away. They can still get lost as a result of chasing something, but more training is always going to reduce the risk. Reward and praise are essential during the training. Training time will seem like play time for both.