Your dog decided to run away, and you are scared of what will happen to him. Will he find his way home, will he get hit by a car, will someone steal him, will you ever see him again?
I remember as a child, our family dog would run away very frequently, I’m guessing because he was bored. As an adult, we’ve only had one dog that liked to take off. Nala would escape our backyard anytime one of the kids would leave the gate open. Looking back, she was probably bored too. The funny thing with her is she just liked to explore the neighborhood and return shortly, while her doggy brother, Symba, would sit in front of the garage waiting for her to return.
I understand your dog running away is one of the biggest fears of many dog moms and dads around the world. But, take a deep breath. Don’t panic, follow these steps and hopefully, you will have your dog back home safe and sound.
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will receive a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more). Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
The first step is to stay calm and do NOT chase your dog. If your dog is in sight, do not go running after him. This will only result in him running further away.
If you have a favorite toy or treat in grabbing distance, try to entice him to come to play or get his yummy treat.
If he ignores you, try turning sideways and sit or kneel down, then excitedly call your dog. Do not yell but use the voice that gets him excited to play or come to you.
Still ignoring you? Try walking slowly toward him, but not directly. Walk like you aren’t paying attention to him,
Next, try running the other direction… but make sure he notices you. Again, use your high-pitch excited voice to call him… “Let’s go Rover!, Come ‘on boy!” The point is to get him to want to play with you, resulting in him coming toward you.
IMPORTANT: Once he does come back to you, do not scold him. He will relate the scolding to him coming to you, which will ensure he won’t come to you next time. Praise him for coming to you, lots of love and treats are in order.
If your dog is long gone and you have no ideas where he ran off to, then start searching your surrounding neighborhood.
Start by putting out food, water and a blanket near the location your dog was last seen. He may decide to come back on his own and familiar smells will encourage him.
Grab a bike or car and start searching as soon as you notice your dog has run away. Bring supplies to help bring him home safely:
Once you locate your dog, follow the steps above about not chasing your dog.
Please don’t call 911, this is not a life-threatening emergency. But do let your local authorities know you’ve lost your dog. The first place many people contact when finding a lost dog is the police station. Even if they don’t have your dog yet, leave your cell phone and contact information with them just in case.
Here is a list of places to contact:
If you can’t find him quickly on your own, then seek the help of your neighbors and friends that live in the area.
Instruct everyone to not call or chase your dog. Sitting or kneeling down, turned sideways and making no eye contact is best. The person can toss smelly treats in your dog’s direction to encourage him to come toward them so they can hopefully put a leash on him.Do these 12 steps right now if your dog ran away. I know you are scared of what will happen to him. That's why this list is built to make it easy for you to find him quickly.
The NextDoor app is a great way to connect with your entire neighborhood quickly. Post a message with detailed information about your lost dog. You may be surprised at the community response you get from strangers!
Helping Lost Pets is a centralized database and creates the free flyers and social media links to use.
Helping Lost Pets is FREE to use and when you list a pet as lost, members in your area are alerted. They also partner with many amazing volunteer groups across the country that will share your listing on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
This an invaluable service, so make sure to take advantage of it.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever social media you use, take advantage of this instant source of getting your dog’s information out quickly. Post a photo of your lost dog, details about his last seen location, along with any other important information. Then ask people to share. Complete strangers will come to your aid to help find your dog quickly.
Hopefully, your dog was microchipped when you adopted him. A microchip is a great way to protect your dog from being lost forever. If he shows up at a shelter or animal control, they will scan his microchip to find you.
If you haven’t registered your dogs microchip or updated your information recently, now is the time to log in and make sure all your information is up to date.
Pet Chip Registry displays contact information for all brands of pet microchips including Animal ID, Home Again®, AVID™ AKC CAR/EID™, Digital Angel®, ResQ®, ALLFLEX®, Schering Plough™, 24 PET WATCH™, Lifechip®, Banfield®, Crystal Tag™, Datamars™ and Destron Fearing™ once submitted.
Posting flyers may be old school, but it still works. You can use the Helping Lost Pets poster you created above. Or download our template for quick printing.
Want to make your own lost dog poster? Make sure to include the below information:
If your dog has been lost for more than a day, you need to start considering putting out live traps in areas he has been seen. Some animal control or rescues have traps you can rent. Or you can order live traps online, but the issue with that is you will have to wait to receive it.
Posting a reward may be a last resort option. But Lost Dogs recommends not offering a reward for several reasons. A reward encourages people to chase down a scared dog, making him run even further away. Reward money will bring out the scammers. If your lost dog has been found by a good Samaritan, they will return your dog without money.
Dogs have an amazing way of surviving incredible journeys. I’m sure you’ve heard the same stories I have… of dogs returning weeks, months, sometimes even years later. Don’t lose faith, keep searching until you find your dog.
Even the friendliest dogs can become disoriented and scared when lost. If your dog was already skittish around people, then take precautions and tell people not to approach the dog helping to search for him. Use the tips above about approaching a lost dog.
Carry your cell phone with you everywhere. If someone reports a sighting, you will be able to head in that direction quickly.
The darkness adds a whole new level of difficulty when trying to find your lost dog. As I mentioned above, put out food, water, and a blanket near the door your dog usually enters your home.
It’s going to be virtually impossible to locate your dog in the dark. You can set up a live trap, but otherwise, I recommend starting fresh in the morning.
Train a solid recall command. Your dog should always come to you when called. This is not an easy task. Your dog will always have distractions that are more fun than coming to you.
It takes time to train a dog to always come to you no matter his surroundings. So if you don’t have a solid recall command, start working on it today! Our dogs do come when I call them 99% of the time. But I will admit, if another dog, or something more interesting is around it’s a struggle. I need to work on a non-negotiable recall with my dogs too!
Always, always have an ID tag on your dog. You never expect your dog to run away, so having the ID tag on at all times will help him get home quicker.
I recommend getting an ID tag that is engraved like this one that we have for our dogs. The tags that are simply printed can wear off in time, making it useless if he gets lost and your info is unreadable.
Microchipping is an easy way to make sure if your dog is lost or stolen, and loses his ID tag, a vet or shelter will scan his shoulder/back and know you he belongs to.
The rescue I volunteer for microchips every dog before being adopted. But your vet can microchip your dog upon request, it’s not very expensive and very worth it in my opinion.
If you are wondering how to find a lost dog with a microchip, it’s important to note that a microchip will not help locate a dogs location. Reading a microchip takes a special scanner that a vet, animal control or shelter will have. It will only be useful if your dog ends up in one of these locations that have a microchip scanner.
GPS tracking our dogs is relatively new, but a really cool idea. There are several options that attach to your dog’s collar. Some only go a short distance, others can track all around the world.
The problem I see is if your dog is stolen, you can bet that collar is long gone. The battery needs to be recharged every 7 days, so if you forget to charge it, then you’re out of luck. And it seems a little bulky to have your dog wear it 24/7.
The most recommended GPS tracker for dogs is the Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker & Activity Monitor.
I can see using it when traveling, knowing your dog may get scared or be in unfamiliar areas.
Look around for broken fencing or places your dog can dig under the fence. Also, check gates anytime a service person is at your house. If you have kids, make sure they understand the importance of closing the gates in the yard.
If an open gate is a problem in your yard, consider a security alarm specifically for gates! I found this gate alarm that is highly rated on Amazon.
I pray you never have to worry about your dog getting lost. But stuff happens to the best of us. We never expect that our dogs would want to run away. But sometimes a dog gets scared and panics.
Your suggestions or story could help someone else in our Rescue Dogs 101 community, please feel free to comment below.
P.S. Don’t forget to download our Lost Dog PDF for quick printing.
Debi McKee is the mom of Ginger and Bear (and three human kids too), lifetime dog lover and a volunteer for a rescue as foster home. She is the creator of Rescue Dogs 101, were she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. Sign up for the free resource library! It is jam-packed with valuable resources that you will use throughout your journey.... all for FREE!