Discovering that your beloved dog is missing is one of the most heartbreaking moments a dog owner can experience. Usually dogs are lost when they manage to escape from their owner's yards or sometimes as a result of being dognapped. In either case, there are steps that you can take to find your dog, as well as precautionary steps that will make finding your dog easier should he ever escape.
First of all, be aware that your dog could be almost anywhere. Exploring dogs have traveled as much as 20 miles in a single day. Do not limit your search to your neighborhood only. Be prepared to spread the word of your missing dog far and wide.
Know in advance how to describe your dog. Try to use specific terms -- not just a vague phrase such as "shepherd mix." Have plenty of snapshots of your dog on hand so you will be able to leave pictures at shelters and pounds. Attach a written copy of your dog's description to the photo. Visit shelters a minimum of once every three days. Do not depend on overworked staff workers to find your dog amongst the hundreds on the premises.
Place ads in newspapers around your area. Again, be as detailed as possible when describing your pet and where it was last seen. Leave out one piece of vital information in regard to your dog's description so that you will be able to test callers claiming to have your dog. Scan the papers daily to see if someone might have found your dog.
Hang "lost dog" flyers up in your neighborhood. Try to include a photo of your dog (which can be photocopied along with the written description).
Consider using a lost and found service. These services use computerized databases and have vast contacts with shelters, veterinarians and other dog fanciers. To find such an agency, call your veterinarian or groomer.
As a precautionary measure, make sure the area where you keep your dog is secure. Do not underestimate the climbing or burrowing power of a bored, frustrated or fearful animal. Be especially vigilant during noisy holidays, such as the Fourth of July.
Never let your dog run loose in the neighborhood. Besides losing your dog, you also risk angering your neighbors, as well as risking injury to your dog. In addition, most areas have ordinances that forbid free roaming dogs.
Keep personalized dog tags on your dog's collar. Although this will not help if your dog is stolen, lost dogs with tags are much more likely to be returned to their owner.
Many people have their dogs tattooed with their social security number or a special identifying mark. By law, dogs with tattoos are supposed to be prohibited from sale to animal experiment laboratories. National registries will post your dog and its number on a national lost list if your dog is missing.
A growing number of animal organizations are adopting microchip identification systems. The microchips consist of tiny transponders encased in biocompatible glass. Smaller than a grain of rice, the chips are inserted under the skin between the dog's shoulder blades in a process that is similar to getting a shot. When a scanner is passed over the chip, the unique identification number can be read. Although this technology is not yet in widespread use, it could become the most efficient way of identifying lost dogs.
Prevention and perseverance are your best tools. Although many dogs are found within a week, some are reunited with their owners months after they were first reported missing. A quarter of all lost dogs are found by their owners in shelters and if your dog is wearing identifying tags, there is a 60% chance that it will be returned.