Woman lying down and cuddling with her dog on the floor

Finding your lost dog

It’s hard to stay calm when your pet is lost. Use these tips to help you find your furry friend.

Moxy likes to run — so it can be hard to find a dog like him when he goes missing. Running is just part of what an English springer spaniel does, though, so even though he loves his home and family, he also loves to chase, hunt, and see what might be just over the next hill. When he escapes, his owners need all their dog-finding skills.

One time, Moxy managed to find his way out of the yard after a delivery driver left the gate open. His owners scrambled into pet detective mode and drove around the neighborhood all night looking for him. Finally, after three days of hand-wringing and putting up “lost dog” signs, the county shelter called to say that they had Moxy.

He didn’t have his collar on anymore, but he did have a pet microchip — one of the best ways available today to find a lost pet — and the shelter workers were able to get all of his information by scanning it.

Your window of opportunity to find a dog is fairly small, so a few very specific strategies can make a big difference in effectively recovering him if he ever gets lost.

Dog finder tip #1: ID and microchips

Your first line of defense against a lost pet is identification. A registered microchip with updated contact information and identification tags make it easier for a rescuer who may find your pet to help reunite you. Register your pet’s microchip online with a pet recovery service like HomeAgain®.

Without proper identification, your pet can face several barriers to getting home.1 There may be little to no information about where the dog was lost. Shelters may assume a lost dog is a stray and doesn’t have anyone looking for them. People who come across a pet may lack the dedication to pick up a stray and bring him to his owner. This is why it’s vital that every pet has a registered microchip and ID tag.

HomeAgain premium members can also contact a lost pet specialist, which puts the word out to any PetRescuers within a 10-mile radius of where their pet went missing. These are just a few out of over three million veterinarians, animal shelters, and volunteer PetRescuers in the HomeAgain® network.

Dog finder tip #2: act immediately

Whether or not your pet has identification, it is important to act immediately. Time is of the essence when your pet disappears. Start getting the word out right away.2

Dog finder tip #3: look close to home

If you want to find a dog, think like a dog. Don’t zoom about in a panic — there are places in or near your home, property, and immediate neighborhood that may have always been interesting to your pet.2 Sometimes, a lost puppy is asleep in a closet or under a bed. Sometimes, you can find a dog just by visiting the neighbors.

“Walk around your neighborhood, talk to the neighbors, delivery people, and the mail carrier. Show them a picture and post signs with details about your pet. A color photograph helps tremendously,” suggests Betsy McFarland, program director for animal sheltering issues at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Washington, D.C.

Dog finder tip #4: look far from home

Once you’ve covered your immediate neighborhood, don’t assume your pet won’t go far from home. Dogs have been found many miles from their homes, so even though your dog may still be in the neighborhood, don’t assume that to be the case.

“It is imperative that people extend their search range. Dogs often travel quickly and cover more distance than expected. Good Samaritans may also transport an animal they find to a hospital quite a distance away,” said Mary Anna Labato, DVM, DACVIM, and clinical associate professor in small animal medicine at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.

Dog finder tip #5: call your local veterinarian

If someone finds your lost pet, they may very likely inform a veterinarian’s office.2 Even if your pet hasn’t been found yet, it’s important to inform area veterinarians of your pet’s disappearance so they’ll be on the lookout. Take lost pet signs to their offices so anyone visiting them will be on the lookout as well.

If you’re a HomeAgain premium member, contact a lost pet specialist to get the word out to PetRescuers within a 10-mile radius of where your pet went missing.

Dog finder tip #6: call the fuzz on Fuzzy

File a lost pet report with the local animal control. Give them all the information you can about your pet. If they don’t have a pet matching your pet’s description, don’t be afraid to call back and check later.

Dog finder tip #7: make “lost pet” signs

Post “lost pet” signs within at least a 10-mile radius, or even farther if you live out in the country.2 Signs should have a color picture of the pet, offer a reward, and include your phone number. McFarland suggests leaving out one identifying detail about your pet, so you can quiz any callers who might be trying to scam you for the reward money.

HomeAgain premium members can easily create personalized lost pet posters as part of the lost pet alert process.

Dog finder tip #8: call local shelters

When you want to find a dog, don’t forget the places that are set up to help you do just that. Visit all local animal shelters and humane societies that accept pets in your area (and, let HomeAgain help).2 Keep in contact with the shelter to make sure the shelter staff are keeping an eye out for your dog.

Dog finder tip #9: social media and lost pet groups

Put the word out via social media platforms and neighborhood discussion groups. Some areas have specific, local “lost and found pet” groups created for this purpose.

Dog finder tip #10: never say ‘never’

Don’t give up hope. Sometimes, pets and owners are reunited months after the pet went missing. Check out these found pet stories for inspiration, and use every resource at your disposal to increase the odds of having your pet return home safely.

Authored by Eve Adamson


  1. Lost Pet Reunification. Human-Animal Support Services. https://www.humananimalsupportservices.org/toolkit/lost-pet-reunification/
  2. What to do if you’ve lost your pet. American Humane First to Serve. https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/what-to-if-youve-lost-your-pet/

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