How to Keep Your Dog from Getting Lost & What to Do If Lost

March 9, 2023

Missing pet posters have long been one of the most effective ways to quickly reunite lost pups with their families, but there are some other helpful methods you can use to find your missing dog. From handy prevention tips that will help keep your pup from going missing in the first place to useful cues on what to do if you find someone else’s lost pet, we break it all down below. 

Prevention Tips

Before we highlight a few things you can do if your beloved companion goes missing, here are simple steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of them getting lost to begin with. 


  • Use a leash. Avoid leaving your pup on their own outside. Be sure to always keep your eyes on them if they’re not wearing a leash.
  • Recall commands. Wondering how to train your dog not to run away? Focus on commands that give them verbal permission to go through doors and gates. Practice recall techniques and cues so that if they do run free, you’re confident they’ll return.
  • Collar tags. Pet tags on their collar that include your name and contact information can increase the chance of your dog being found by someone before being taken to a local shelter.
  • Never leave your pet outside unsupervised. Many people leave their dogs outside shops while they grab something inside, but this can present an opportunity for potential dognappers. Similarly, try not to leave your pup unsupervised in the backyard. 
  • Microchips. Microchipping, which can be safer and more reliable than pet tags, also increases the chance of pets and their parents being reunited quickly. 
  • Register your pet with AKC Reunite. If your pup does go missing, simply call the helpline to inform them. You can also create a lost pet alert on their website, meaning you’ll have a proactive plan in place for worst-case scenarios.
  • Secure your yard and home. You might think your home is perfectly secure, but if you have a secret escape artist on your hands, it might be too late by the time you find out they can actually jump the low wall in the backyard. It’s better to overestimate your pet’s abilities and secure any potential escape routes before your pet discovers them.
  • Take your dog’s DNA fingerprint. It’s not a very common process outside dog shows, but if you have a valuable dog, it might be worth asking your vet about DNA fingerprinting. By taking a snapshot of your dog’s DNA, you can provide irrefutable proof that your dog is yours. This is useful in cases where there is any dispute over ownership of a lost dog.  
  • Spay or neuter your pet. Pets that are not fixed are more likely to wander off when they hit maturity. And if they’re female and come back after their little adventure, they might be bringing home a few bonus pets with them.

What to Do If Your Dog Goes Missing

Despite the steps above, pets do sometimes wander off, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad pet parent. However, you do need to act quickly to ensure you find them quickly and safely. 

Consider Your Search Radius

Your dog’s age and fitness level are likely to determine how far they might have wandered if they left of their own accord. If you can calculate how far your dog would be willing to walk in the length of time since they went missing, then you’ll be able to map out a potential search radius. This will allow you to concentrate your efforts and waste less time searching places that they are unlikely to have been able to reach. 

Notify Others & Search Your Neighborhood

Be sure to inform local authorities, your neighbors, and your community. This includes the police, local rescues, animal shelters, vet offices, and groomers. Asking for a point of contact to communicate with can help you to get regular updates too! While searching, knock on doors and inform neighbors to keep an eye out while they move about their daily lives. The more eyes out searching for your pup, the more likely you are to find them.

Older man in a collared yellow shirt pointing in a direction over a blue fence.

Your dog could have traveled miles from where you last saw them. Pay attention to sheds, abandoned buildings, and any other hiding spaces that you can think of. Getting friends and family members to help means you’ll be able to search larger areas more quickly. If your pet has a microchip, it also helps to ensure your information is up-to-date in the database. 

Update Your Microchip Company

If your pet has a microchip, log into their account and check if you can upload information to notify anyone checking the chip that you are trying to locate your pet. Be sure to also double-check that your contact details are up to date! 

Use Social Media 

It’s important to get the word out there so that other people in the local area can keep their eyes peeled. Facebook and community groups like NextDoor will help you to do this, but remember to upload an up-to-date photo of your pup along with a detailed description if possible. 

If you have the budget, you can pay to boost your posts on social media such as Facebook and Instagram, or on bulletin boards like Craigslist. This way, you get more eyes on your missing pet and more chances of someone recognizing them if they spot them out and about. 

Call the Experts 

There are several national databases that enable pet parents to log their missing pets while members of the public can advertise found pets, including PawBoost and Petfinder. You should also get in touch with local shelters in your area in the search for your pet. Animal control agencies will also pick up any found pets in the community so getting in touch with them is useful too.

Man in a blue-checkered shirt holding up a puppy beside a wall of kennels.

Make Lost Pet Signs 

Using a recent photo of your dog, make a lost pet sign and put it up around town. Consider popular places such as grocery stores, schools, and even veterinary offices. Check to see if the local newspaper is open to including an announcement as well. Don’t forget to include your contact information so that people can easily get in touch. 

Offer a Reward

Sometimes, adding an incentive can encourage people to take notice of your signs and reports. Consider offering a reward for anyone who finds and reunites you with your beloved pup. Make sure you mention it in any social media posts, flyers, and announcements so that people know about it.

Stay Positive 

It’s always going to be a stressful time when your pet goes missing, but remember, there’s a good chance you’ll be quickly reunited again by following the steps above. It’s also important to stay positive throughout the process. It’ll help you remain persistent and committed to finding your beloved dog.

What to Do If You Find a Lost Pet

If you come across a dog on its own with no owner in sight, it may be lost. Here’s how you can help reunite them with their family.

Try to Safely Secure the Dog 

Attempt to guide the dog away from busy streets or intersections. If a dog is running in a street, always yell loudly for help, and attempt to stop moving traffic. Try to keep the dog in a secure location, and call local animal authorities or rescue hotlines for assistance. Be very careful when approaching an unknown dog, and always keep your pets a safe distance away. Professional help is always the safest bet for both you and the dog, as some dogs may carry diseases or act aggressively due to fear.

Check for Identification

Check to see if they’re wearing a collar or tag, which will make it much easier to reunite them with their family. If so, find the contact details to get in touch immediately and leave a message if no one answers. Should you have some spare time, look after the dog until you hear back. If no information is available, take them to a local animal shelter — they can scan the pup for a microchip to try to locate the dog’s family.

Post on Online

Take a picture of the lost dog and share it on social media or local community groups to inform people in your area. Just ensure you update your privacy settings to allow others to share your post too. As a reminder, two great resources for this include PawBoost and Petfinder!

Person photography a posing Jack Russell in the grass.

Call the Authorities 

As mentioned earlier, it’s always best to call a professional. Contact your local animal control, who will send a team of experts to come and help. Be sure to give them specific location information and keep a close eye on the dog until they arrive. 

Add Barkbus to Your List of Contacts

We’re always more than happy to help any pet owner find their lost dog, so give the Barkbus team a call if you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation. We can scan the area as we drive through your neighborhood and keep an eye out for your pet. And if they need any extra grooming after their adventure, book a session with one of our specialist groomers to get your pet looking their best again!


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