How To Fin...

How To Find A Lost Dog

By Andrea Quarracino | November 2, 2021

Despite best efforts, sometimes dogs become separated from their families. Discovering that your fenced-in yard is distressingly dog-free or that your pet took an unsupervised stroll through an open door can quickly spark worry or fear. To help bring your lost dog back to the pack, we've put together some expert advice that has helped others reunite with their animals.

Learn more about how to find a lost dog below or search our national lost and found pet database to find your missing dog.

How Do I Find My Lost Dog?

The first step in finding a lost dog is connecting with others who might've spotted or contained them. Use Petco Love Lost to share a pic of your lost dog and connect to a robust database of reported found pets from across the country. If your dog wandered and a good neighbor picked them up, your best friend may reach an animal rescue before you realize they're out of the yard. 

Here are other ways to search for your lost dog:

  • Check your environment. A small dog may get scared and hide under a bed or another tight space that helps them feel secure. Look carefully inside your home and retrace your steps if your pet follows you into a room and gets stuck on the other side of a closed door.

  • Grab your dog's leash, a wrinkled bag (like a plastic shopping bag or potato chip bag), and some enticing treats (like pieces of a hot dog), then knock on your neighbor's doors. Let them know that your dog is missing and how to contact you if there's a sighting.

  • Take a walk in your neighborhood. Maybe your dog wandered to a neighbor's yard to check out an exciting smell or followed the scent of a pup a few blocks away. This is where the crinkly bag and enticing treats will come in handy.

  • If you see your dog, remain calm. Try to lure them to you with the sound of the bag and the scent of food, using these pet detective Kat Albrecht of Missing Animal Response Network. Do not call your dog↗ — even if you spot it. This can seem counterintuitive, but calling a dog can cause it to run from you. Do not chase your dog↗ . This can either add to your dog's fear or turn into a game, potentially causing your pet to travel farther than they had before.

What to Do if You Lost Your Dog

If your dog is missing, begin your search on Petco Love Lost↗. Search our robust database by uploading a picture of your cat or searching by location. Powered by facial recognition technology, we help match found animals to reported lost pets nationwide. Next:

  • Visit your local animal services, animal control agency, or animal shelter. An in-person trip is preferable, so you can look for your lost dog, share a photo and give them your contact information (with a backup contact if you miss a call). Remember: you're searching for the person who's found or spotted your pet, so getting the word out is key.

  • Check to make sure your dog's microchip information is up to date so the person that finds your pet can reach you quickly if they're brought to a shelter or veterinarian's office and scanned.

  • Continue to spread the word and ask others to help you do the same. Try placing large, brightly colored posters in well-trafficked areas near your home using simple, easy-to-read phrasing↗ like "Lost dog. Please help." Include your phone number and a picture of your missing best friend.

  • For an easy flyer template you can print at home, upload your pet to Petco Love Lost and visit your dashboard to print your pet listing. You can also use Petco Love Lost's optimized shareables↗ to get the word out on Facebook, Nextdoor, and Craigslist.

  • Post on social media through lost pet pages or groups on platforms like Facebook or Nextdoor, and ask others to share and spread the word.

How to Look for Your Lost Dog

Lost dogs may head for neighboring yards, parks or areas on the outskirts of your town near a food or water source. How far a lost dog can travel depends on the dog: some are found within the neighborhood where they went missing, while others can roam for hundreds of miles. According to Albrecht, dogs who are scared or who have a fearful temperament are often inclined to run and travel greater distances. 

Tips on finding a lost dog: 

  • Factor their personality into your search. A gregarious, wagging dog is more likely to approach a stranger than a scared, shy pup. If you have a happy-go-lucky, people-oriented pet, they may end up connecting with a rescuer, while a shy or nervous dog may run or remain hidden where they feel safe.

  • Check under bushes, shrubs, cars, or similar environments that could give your dog a sense of protection.

How to Find a Lost Dog with a Microchip

Is your dog microchipped? If so, the odds are in your favor. According to an American Veterinary Medical Association study↗, dogs without microchips were returned to their families 21.9% of the time, while microchipped dogs returned 52.2% of the time. 

Even dogs found 600 and 1,000 miles from their homes were reunited with their families thanks to their mighty microchip. If your pet's microchipped, ensure that your contact info is up to date in your microchip registry, and make sure you're ready to provide proof of ownership.

We know it's upsetting to discover that part of your pack is missing, but there is hope. Try to stay calm, put these ideas into practice, and visit Petco Love Lost to help and bring your best friend back home.


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