New Pet Owner

Lost Pets Offer Clues to Finding Them

How To Be A PetRescuer

How your dog interacts with strangers can be key to finding him. Depending on his personality, he may be right around the corner — or halfway across the state by the time he’s located.

Thousands of dogs go missing every day. Knowing your pet’s personality and how he behaves toward strangers can reveal how she will act if he gets lost. His personality may also indicate how far from home he’s likely to travel before being rescued.

Dogs tend to fall into one of the following three behavior categories:

The Friendly Dog

A gregarious dog will come up to the first person that attracts his attention and wag his tail. It’s unlikely he’ll stray far from home. Because of his trusting disposition, a stranger who finds him may be tempted to adopt him on the spot. If you find a friendly dog without a collar and ID tag, he’s probably lost. Contact the closest animal shelter for advice on reuniting him with his family.

The Standoffish Dog

A dog with an aloof temperament is wary of strangers and may travel a great distance from home, avoiding human contact. He can, however, be enticed with food. Strangers may misinterpret his wariness for having been abused. Often a distrustful dog is not recovered for weeks or even months after escaping. By then, his physical appearance may have deteriorated and he may appear to be homeless. When you see a dog in this condition, think "lost," not "stray," and try to locate the owner.

The Fearful Dog

A fearful personality is either a genetic disposition or the result of an unfortunate puppyhood experience. If a dog panics easily, a loud noise may be enough to make him bolt and run for miles. Consequently, a scared dog can travel great distances and is at high risk of being hit by a car. Because of cowering or fearful behavior, people may assume he has been abused. Even if the dog has an ID tag, a rescuer often refuses to contact the owner, assuming he or she mistreated the animal. Once again, think "lost" not "stray," and act accordingly.

Start Searching ASAP

If your dog disappears, don’t inhibit your chances of finding your pet by taking a “wait and see” attitude. Start searching immediately. Although dogs in movies and Internet tales find their way home after a long and harrowing journey, it’s rare they do it without help. So don’t give up quickly—it could take weeks or months for your pet to be recovered.