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  • Writer's pictureKim Hoshal

Tips for finding a lost dog

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

In honor of National Lost Dog Awareness Day

We never want to think that this will happen to our dog, but it helps to have some guidance if the unthinkable happens. The good news is that according to a survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 93% of lost dogs return home safely.

Grab their most favorite snack

Since most pups are found within 20 minutes of realizing they are missing, it is best to get out looking quick. Grab their favorite high-value snack, their leash, and maybe a favorite toy. This may help entice your dog over when you find them.

Consider your dog's personality and fitness level

How far is your dog likely to run? If their daily routine involves a run with you then your dog may end up farther away from home versus a dog that enjoys spending their time curled up on your lap. You also want to think about their favorite places like a nearby dog especially if your dog is inclined to be social.

Alert your neighbors

The more people keeping an eye out for your dog the better. Make sure to tell your neighbors and local businesses. Have extra fliers and photos on hand to give them so they can help spread the word.

Bring a "search dog" with you

Does your dog have a best fur friend that can help? They can track their scent and may help put your dog at ease if they are stressed when you do find them.

Stay close to home

This one is probably the hardest to do. If you can have a family member stay home or you can stay home and have friends search, this will prevent you from spreading your scent and confusing your dog. They may actually pick up your scent from while you were searching and it may lead them further from home.

Use the power of the internet

The internet has become an important tool in returning lost pets to their owners. Facebook has several pages that can assist. Look for your local lost pet Facebook page, post there as well as to your personal page. Portland has a couple of different pages, but there are also some for Multnomah County and the state of Oregon.

Photo by Bruno Emmanuelle

There are also websites like Craigslist, Pet FBI, Lost My Doggie, and PawBoost that can assist in the search.

What to include in your postings:

A recent photo

Physical description (leave out small identifying features to avoid being scammed)

Where and when they were last seen

Contact information (share as much as you feel comfortable with)

Notify veterinarian offices and pet-related businesses

Many times when someone finds a lost pet they will bring them to a local veterinary clinic for medical attention, checking for a microchip, or because they don't know what else to do. Send your dog's photo and description to clinics in your area. Expand the search further every few days.

Other pet businesses may be able to help in other ways especially if your dog has been stolen or adopted. The new family may bring them in for grooming or take them to the local pet store. If these businesses are aware of the situation they may be able to alert you if the dog comes in.

Contact local animal shelters and rescues

Contact your local shelter and file a lost dog report. The Humane Society of the United States recommends contacting shelters within a 60-mile radius. You will need to provide a recent photo and an accurate description.

Shelters and rescues are often very busy so it is suggested that you visit them in person and then check in with them daily.

Photo by Sheri Hooley

Contact the microchip company

If your dog is microchipped, call the company to let them know immediately. If your contact information is not current, make sure that they get the most current information. They may also be able to offer you additional resources to help you get your pet home such as sending out alerts to vets and shelters.

If you see your dog, do not chase them

Resist the urge to chase after your dog if you see them. There are a couple of reasons for this. If your dog hasn't been gone long, they may see chase as a game and run in the other direction which can make the situation more difficult or dangerous. If your dog has been gone several hours or days, they may be traumatized so the usual game of running in the opposite direction to get Photo by Saray Khadangan

them to follow you might not work.

Here are two techniques to try if you spot your dog. If it has been a short time and your dog seems in good spirits, run the other way or lay on the ground. This will spark your dog's urge to chase or make them curious about what you are doing.

If your dog has been gone a while or seems like they are fearful, try sitting on the ground facing away from your dog. Have treats or a favorite toy or blanket nearby. Your dog can now be curious without fear of threat.

Create a "home" where you last saw them

If you have been searching and still have not found your dog consider creating a "home" near where you last saw them. Make sure that it is in a safe place away from traffic. You can set up a crate with some of their bedding, a piece of your clothing, and bowls of food and water. This might keep your dog in this area so they will be easier to find.


Here are a couple of tips for preventing your dog from being lost or making it easier to find them.

Training: Train your dog to not go out the door without getting a specific cue from you or having their leash put on.

Keep a visual: When your dog is outside keep an eye on your pup. Even in a home with a fenced-in yard, your dog could dig under the fence, the gate could be left open or your dog can be stolen out of your yard.

ID tags: Get your dog an ID tag and add at least your dog's name, your phone number (the one you are most likely to answer), and an emergency backup number. Often your microchip company will also give you a tag to put on their collar. There are so many stylish ones out there to choose from that you can find one to fit your dog's personality.

Microchip: Getting your dog microchipped is inexpensive and is an effective way to get your dog home safely since they cannot fall off like ID tags and collars.

Have a current photo: Make sure to keep current on photos of your dog. Our dog's appearance changes over time. As a pet parent, it seems subtle, but to someone looking at a flyer or social media post, it could make a huge difference.

Hopefully, you will never need these tips, but it is better to be prepared if something happens.

Portland Pet Parent Resource

In the Portland area, we also have a local nonprofit that can assist you in finding your lost furry family member called Waggin' Tails . They are available 24/7 to offer you assistance and support.

Now go give your furry family member some scratches and tell them how much you love them.


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