It’s every dog owners worst nightmare. Your beloved dog has vanished, apparently without trace. In this situation, it’s vital to keep a cool head and take prompt action to find your missing dog.
- They may be following their hunting instincts
- They may have wandered off
- Male dogs may be tracking the scent of a female on heat
- They may be startled by a noise
- They may have wandered off and been involved in a road accident
- They may have been stolen
What to do first
It is advisable that you wait for a couple of hours at the place where your dog disappeared, as your dog will usually return to the spot where you were last. However, most dog owners find it impossible to wait for hours for their dog to return. In the age of the internet, owners are advised to use social media to call on family members, friends and fellow dog owners for help and support. A single posting could mobilise a team of helpers who can begin searching in areas and along routes frequented by your dog.
In the meantime, you should contact the relevant authorities – e.g. the police, local authority, animal rescue organisations, animal shelters and microchip pet registers – and report that your dog is missing. Also, contact local vet surgeries or animal hospitals – if your dog has been injured, they may have been taken there for treatment. Local radio stations may also be able to support you but calling on their listeners to look out for your dog.
Some of these organisations may be able to provide you with missing posters. These can be filled in with key information, such as your dog’s breed, age, name, any special needs (e.g., medication) and your contact details. These posters can be distributed and displayed in the place where your dog was last seen as well as in your local neighbourhood and further afield. It is always good to have up to date photos of your pet so these can be used in such situations.
The radius of your search will be determined by several factors, including the reason for your dog’s disappearance (if known), its temperament, age, and state of health. Older or disabled dogs usually don’t cover great distances. However, it’s a different story with panicked dogs: they tend to run for miles in an attempt to get back home. If they don’t know the area, they may keep running in a disoriented way, which will make your search more difficult.
Dogs that run away suffering from shock (e.g. after an accident) often cover many miles and hide in places where there are fewer people around. In such cases, the search area should include isolated locations and empty buildings, garages, sheds.
In line with responsible pet ownership, every owner should make sure their dog is microchipped and registered with a pet microchip register. Every dog should also wear a collar with a tag engraved with the owner’s phone number. These measures will increase the chances that a missing dog will be reunited with its owner.
To help prevent a dog from running away in the first place, the best advice is to plan ahead and take some extra preventative measures. These include enclosing your land (especially your garden) with a fence that is too high for your dog to jump over. If your dog has strong hunting instincts, you should never let it off the lead if your dog does not have good recall.
There has been a significant increase in dogs being stolen. While out walking with your dog take care not to let anyone distract you and steal your dog. Make sure that your garden and house are secure and never leave your dog on its own for example in a car or outside a shop as they can be easily stolen.