Losing your dog can be your worst nightmare. Once you have realized that they are not coming back, you should start looking. Search all animal shelters in your area code. It’s not clear how far a lost dog can go, considering there are many types. It likely depends on the temperament of the animal, the environment, and the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate disappearance. When asking about your missing dog, you should say, “Who has my dog?”
One factor that makes it harder to recover your pup is people picking up stray or lost dogs and transporting them to a place outside the search area. Most lost dogs end up in foster homes and rescue shelters. You should contact all rescue teams and groups within your city. Search “animal rescue near (your city),” and the results will show all animal shelters and rescue homes in your area. One of them might be providing a roof over your dog’s head.
Disabled, Elderly, & Small Dogs
Generally, elderly, small, and disabled dogs are recovered quickly because they can’t go further than a few blocks away from their escape point. Your target area, while searching for a dog in any of these categories, should be within 1 to 2-mile radius from your home.
The higher the population of your area, the smaller the radius. Dogs will travel further in a sparsely populated area like mountains and rural farmlands. Place bright and visible flyers, and posters in the area and also have some distributed in homes and others glued on car windows.
Aggressive, Skittish/Shy, & Panicked Dogs
Dogs which panic due to fireworks or accidents, the shy or skittish types, and aggressive dogs are more challenging to capture and are at the risk of traveling to the other side of the city. They are more likely to run blindly and travel for miles. When they get tired, eventually, and decide to rest, their favorite spots would be cemeteries, wooded forests, or creeks, where they can avoid all human contact.
If your dog is in this category, you should put posters near the escape point and other areas far from yours, including the areas where they might have been sighted. The radius of your posters should be something between a 5-10-mile radius.
Most panicked dogs will run away from their owner with fear instead of coming. Even though they might avoid being associated with their owners, they may appreciate the company of other dogs and are okay. Therefore, you can use another dog to attract your distressed pup so that it can get close enough to rescue and take him back home.
Some technicians are trained on how to use a “magnet dog” to attract a panicked dog to make a quick capture. If you don’t have access to a technician, you can use your neighbor’s dog, which your dog is familiar with, and use their cuddling and “where have you been?” moment to capture your dog. Dogs are predators, but when they panic, they act like “prey,” meaning they assume humans are predators or threat to their peaceful existence. The way you approach them can make them free with fear.
There are three zones involved when approaching a panicked dog. The first one is the Awareness Zone, the second is the Alert Zone, and the third and last one is the Action Zone. The Awareness Zone is where the animal knows you are situated. If you can see the dog, be sure it already knows you are there. When you start moving towards it, the dog’s body language starts to change, and that’s the Alert Zone. At that time, the dog might be contemplating on how to escape. You can prevent the dog from running away by being patient and sending calm signals.
If you stare at your dog and walk really slowly towards it, it might bolt. We always tend to think that if we walk slowly and calmly towards a dog, it will think you are harmless, but a dog’s mind thinks otherwise. It sees a predator slowly stalking towards it and pouncing once close, the same way your dog hunts its prey. If the dog doesn’t bolt, welcome to the Alert Zone, where you can get bitten if your dog doesn’t get the last chance to run. Here, you should stop and talk normally in different tones. The dog is getting used to your presence, and then you can take a step or two, with your hip facing the dog and shuffling side by side.
In this zone, the dog may either fight or flight. This is the part where an animal control officer’s skills are tested. They use a catchpole or snappy snare to loop around the animal’s neck and capture it. If you don’t have any of these devices, you can walk close enough, and it will recognize you via your scent, sound, and time you’ve been there, and it will not be afraid anymore. If all attempts to getting close don’t bear fruits, you should proceed on to the next plan, setting up a large dog trap. You will have to buy those traps.
Friendly & Purebred Dogs
Wiggly-friendly dogs are easy to capture because they like attention and are not shy about walking to strangers. Friendly and purebred dogs will, therefore, be “rescued” much quickly than mixed breed dogs because they are highly noticeable. The reason why is because an average person who sees a mixed breed dog looking lost may not pay attention to the dog, but when they see a popular breed such as Great Dane, English Bulldog, Sausage Dog, or Retriever, they will immediately stop what they are doing and try to call the dog over.
They may want to keep for themselves, and the dog will have a new home, although against your wish, or that person will assume that since it’s a valuable dog, the owner is looking for it, and try to help. Your target area for flyer and poster distribution should be between 1 to 2 miles in the radius of where your dog was last seen or your home. You better hope that the person who will rescue your dog has no intention of keeping it since you might never see it again.
Placing an Advertisement
Placing ads in your local and regional newspapers might help recovery your beloved dog. You can also check the lost and found ads in the same papers. Keep in mind that your dog might be posted sooner or later after it got lost. It’s crucial to check the newspapers almost daily. A lot of factors may deter you from finding your pet soon. For instance, let's assume your dog’s name is Lucy, and she digs out of the yard on Sunday, runs down the street, five blocks away, and someone finds and takes her to his or her yard.
Lucy is lost but safe somewhere. The rescuer may check on Sunday, and Monday newspaper, while you reach out to the newspaper guy on Monday to have the ad published on Tuesday. The rescuer may not buy the Tuesday newspaper, perhaps because they are not aware of how newspaper ads go. They will then assume the owner is not looking for the dog and adopt it. That’s why posting flyers and posters around your area is vital.
Unfortunately, there are several scammers victimizing people who’ve lost their dogs. One common scam is the “truck driver,” one where someone gets your number from your posters or ads and calls to say that they run into your dog while driving through your area, and they just saw your ad. They then request you to wire money to them so that they can ship your dog back home. After you send the money, the dog never comes home, only for you to realize you have been scammed.
If someone asks you to wire money for them to send your pet, don’t believe a word! Never pay a reward until you get your dog. If someone claims they have your dog, but they’ll only return it after you pay, and you verify from their pics that they indeed have the phone, call 911. If you are required to pick your pet, take another adult with you and let your closest friends and family know where you are going, so that you don’t end up at Ed Kemper’s basement(just joking).
Scammers take advantage of every opportunity deemed exploitive. Some place “SEARCH DOG” vest on dogs and insinuate they are trained to find and recover lost pets, and charge a fee. Beware of such scammers, and check references and reviews of pet detectives before requesting for their services.
Never Lose Hope
It might take hours, days, weeks, or months to find a lost dog. There is no specific timeframe. There have been cases where dogs have reunited with their owners years after their disappearance. If your dog is not dead, then its somewhere living its best life. It could be possible that someone transported your dog away from your home, but still within your town a few miles away from where you last spent time together.
Never lose hope! People will discourage you, and suggest that you buy another dog to forget Lucy, but no other dog will be like her, and it will be impossible to get her out of your head. Don’t get discouraged and never give up on your efforts to recover your lost pup. Just hope she’s alive and apply different styles of finding her. If you manage to get her back, make sure she wears a Lost Paw NFC tag, to facilitate quicker recovery next time. In case you never find her, make sure you tag your next pet.