Steps to take if your dog goes missing & preventative tips to keep your pups safe
April 23rd is National Lost Dog Awareness Day, and here at Hot Diggity, we know just how much your dog means to you. In honor of this day, we’ve compiled a few tips and tricks to get your best friend home safe as quickly as possible should they ever become lost, as well as a few preventative measures you may take to avoid this heart-wrenching experience to begin with!
Prevention before panic!
In a perfect world, you’d never have to experience the panic of losing your dog to begin with. Thankfully there are steps we can take to protect our pups and prevent our potential heartache!
Spay & neuter your pets
Spaying and neutering has a plethora of benefits. Not only will you be helping to reduce pet homelessness, studies have shown that neutering will decrease sexual roaming in about 90 percent of cases! The sooner you spay or neuter your pup, the better – intact males may continue to roam after being neutered if they have established a prior pattern.
Pet-proof your home & yard
Outside, ensure that your fence is secure and there are no gaps that your dog can squeeze through. Fluffy dogs can be surprisingly small underneath all that floof – make sure there is nowhere they could wiggle through. However, even with a secure fence, it’s best to never leave your dog unsupervised. Dogs can frequently find a way to dig their way out even if security measures are taken – or they could eat something that could be potentially dangerous.
If your dog has a tendency to door dash when indoors, you can install baby gates to block them from bolting to the door when people are coming and going. Make sure to let people know that you have a pet before they arrive to your home and communicate with them how best to enter and exit without your pooch escaping.
Leash up your pup
Keep your dog leashed when outside – even the most well behaved dog may get startled or decide to chase something unexpectedly.
All of your pets should have identification that includes your contact information. A tag on their collar with your address or phone number works well, but microchipping is the ideal choice, because tags can be ripped off or become worn to the point of being illegible. Animal shelters and veterinary offices can scan microchips to get your pet’s ID and contact you immediately.
If your pet is already microchipped, please be sure your microchip data is current. For example – did you change your phone number from the date of your pets’ chip implant? Move to a different address? Do you know where your pet is registered? Are they registered? Do you have to pay an annual fee to remain registered?
Most microchip companies have an online system where you can update your contact information, and most veterinarians don’t update microchip information. Take the time to find out this information now and not when you’re in search mode – in an unexpected circumstance, it could save the day!
Get your pup a license!
Did you know most counties require your pup to be licensed? Many veterinarians also sell licenses for the convenience of their clients when your dog gets their rabies shot – ask your local veterinarian! Once you have one, make sure it’s kept current (typically, there is a yearly fee associated with them). The main benefit is that if an Animal Services Officer finds your dog loose and your dog is wearing his license tag, they can often return your dog directly to you without your pup ever going to the shelter. It will also save you money! Impound fees for a licensed dog are typically much lower than an unlicensed dog.
Addressing behavioral & emotional issues
Even the most well-behaved dogs may try to escape if they’re scared enough. This problem is especially common during summer thunderstorms or fireworks. These loud booms can send even mild-mannered dogs into a frenzy. In a desperate attempt to escape the terrifying sounds, dogs may leap through windows, bust through screen doors, or even scale high fences. Securing your dog during thunderstorms and fireworks will help keep her safe. We recommend soothing your pup’s fears of loud noises with calming treats, white noise, or calming shirts.
Maybe your dog is running away just because they’re bored? If you’re not providing your dog with something to do, there’s a good chance he’ll come up with his own ideas. In many cases, this means he’ll take himself on an adventure! Solve this by supervising your dog, giving him proper exercise, mental stimulation, and of course plenty of love!
So your pup is lost, what now?
Even with proper prevention, animals can go missing. While panicking is inevitable (this is your best friend after all), take heart in knowing the vast majority of lost pets come home! An ASPCA survey found that 74 percent of lost cats and 93 percent of lost dogs were recovered.
Beginning the search
Start your search right away! Search nearby by car and foot first to see if you can spot your dog before he gets too far. Call your pet’s name in a happy tone, shake a box of treats, or squeak their favorite toy. Ask neighbors, delivery workers, and letter carriers if they have seen your pet. Generally, dogs are found within a two-mile radius of their home. Remember, you know your dog best! Outgoing dogs may seek out other dogs and friendly humans likely to comfort, feed, and shelter them. Search neighbors’ yards and public spaces where your dog may like to roam. Dogs that are shy, older, or untrusting of strangers may hide in places like bushes or under cars.
Spam social media
Post a lost-pet notice on your Facebook page and ask friends to share! Then post on local lost pet Facebook pages, and sites like Craigslist and Nextdoor. Facebook groups for lost pets tend to be extremely friendly and helpful – may of them have moderators passionate about reuniting people and their pets and will offer to help you search in person or begin searching known online databases for found dogs that match your pups description.
Contact your local animal shelters & animal control
Checking with your local shelters and animal control is critical, as that’s most likely the first place someone who has found your dog will go. Going to the shelter in-person is best, as no one knows your pet better than you do! Many shelters have a holding period of less than a week so it’s crucial to check if your pet is there daily. Be sure to contact animal control agencies and file a report at shelters within a 50-mile radius of your home. Don’t trust the shelter to call you if an animal comes in that looks like your lost pet; they are extremely busy, and you wouldn’t want to chance them missing the connection.
Scour the internet
There are many online databases that you can use to post lost and found pets. PawBoost, Fido Finder, and Finding Rover are popular ones. Be sure not to restrict your searches to a specific breed, as others may describe your pet differently.
Flyers, flyers, flyers!
Post flyers in your neighborhood and public places like grocery stores, veterinary offices, and traffic intersections. Describe your pet by age, sex, weight, breed, and color – adding a photo if possible. Be sure to include your contact information, when & where the dog went missing, and what you want people to do if they see your dog (call you, try to catch him, etc.) Consider using neon posters instead of standard paper which can be easily overlooked.