Steps To Find A Lost Dog

Firstly let’s get the guilt trip out of the way; almost 200 dogs a day go missing in the UK, so no one’s judging you. If you know anyone with dogs the chances are that at some point they will have been in a similar predicament. Thankfully, as long as your dog is microchipped, 75% will get picked up by some good Samaritan and reunited with their owner, but to make sure yours is one of them, read this guide before it’s too late.

If it’s already too late and you’ve come across this guide whilst looking at your options, then skip down to the information that’s useful to you now and don’t dwell on the parts where you’re thinking “I wish I’d done that,” it isn’t going to help you now but there’s still plenty you can do.

First Steps

The moment you realise your dog is missing, stop and if you have a mobile on you, drop a pin on your location on google maps. Ideally use an app such as Endomondo, to track your steps so you know where you’ve searched.

Stay calm and try not to panic. If your dog is properly lost you need to be in control of their rescue and you can do that by being as organised as possible.

Search methodically and call your dog’s name. Hopefully they’re just out of sight and will pop back up.

Nearly 90% of pets are found again if the owners search in the first 12 hours. Remember to listen carefully; they may have fallen in a hole so listen for any noises.

Look for any tracks, disturbed leaves, grass or footprints in mud…

Its Now Time To Get Help

Once you are confident you have searched thoroughly and your dog is definitely lost we recommend registering your dog with The Dog Lost Website

  • Contact your dog’s microchip company and inform them that your dog is missing, some of the common ones are Pet Chip Registry UK, Pet Log,PETrac, Tracer if none of these ring a bell then this website will tell you who to contact Check-A-Chip but you’ll need the dog’s chip number.
  • Contact your dog’s insurance company. Ask if they offer rewards for missing dogs as some insurance companies offer undisclosed sums.
  • Contact your local dog wardens (we would contact them each day your dog is missing don’t rely on them to call you.)
  • Contact local vets, dog walking companies and local dog shelters in case your pooch has been seen or handed in (again, we would call fairly regularly just incase.)
  • If the area your dog went missing in is near farmland, it is advisable to contact the farmers. Remember that if your dog is on their land worrying or hurting their livestock, a farmer can by law shoot your dog, they are much less likely to do this if they can link the dog to an owner.

Now you need to put posters up. You will have your poster but if for any reason you need to make one yourself, your poster will need to include:

  • A clear photo of your dog showing any distinctive marking which will help distinguish your pet, including an indication of size if possible.
  • Their name and age
  • Whether they are wearing a collar, harness and/or muzzle
  • 2 contact details
  • Sex – whether they’re neutered
  • Date and location of where they went missing and a few words saying how they went missing e.g. escaped garden or lost on usual walk
  • Colour and markings, size and weight – size can be deceptive on photos.
  • Are they microchipped? Do they have an ID tag on their collar
  • Is a reward offered? You don’t need to state an amount
  • Your dog’s facebook page (If you’ve made one.)

Time to go Public


If there’s one public social media outlet that’s a must have it’s Facebook. If you’re not personally engaged with Facebook then maybe you’ll need to recruit the help of a friend who is. Either way, there’s no better way to not only get your friends onside with your plight but the greater dog community as a whole. Play this the right way and you’ll get all the help you need, massively increasing the chances of getting your dog back.

Which brings us on nicely, to our next job – create a Facebook page if you’re not sure how to do this see our guide here, but there’s a few quick do’s and don’ts in our opinion.

1.Make a Page, not a group: you retain better control over a page,  you can keep control as an admin, decide what information appears on your page from other users (who can, on occasion, confuse the information stream) and you can delegate some of the tasks to another “page editor.” Don’t give anyone else page “Admin” rights we’ve heard stories of disagreements over how a page is being run and strangers who have been given Admin privileges actually deleting the owner from their own dog’s page….more advice here.

Muster a Search Party

Rescuers and the search dog at the scene on the Glaramara ridge. Photo: Keswick MRT

Now you may be approaching the 24 hour mark; get as many friends on board to help search as possible, bribe them, beg them, do what you need to but the more people you have on board, the higher the likelihood you’ll find your dog sooner. If you’re struggling to get your friends on board or if you can’t get enough of them to commit then it’s time to request help from our lists of Volunteers Click here to see who’s around you

There’s a lot of jobs to do now; you are going to need people to put your posters up (and hopefully take them down again once you find your dog,) physically search for the dog, maybe if you’re on holiday or in an unfamiliar area someone with local knowledge would be worth there weight in gold, especially if you’re trying to rally up local support, whatever you need ask and we will do our best to provide

Planning The Search

Try and be as organised and methodical as possible when you organise a search:

  • Give an exact time, location and contact number for the person who will be in charge of that search, you can give this out individually to search party members you don’t have to publicly broadcast it if you’re not comfortable.
  • Make sure any volunteers are completely aware of the type of environment they will be searching in; will they need walking boots, wellingtons, waterproof clothing, thermals etc? If your dog is up a mountain, often the situation at the summit is very different to the weather at the bottom of the hill. You want to be sure your volunteers have the correct experience for the situation; the last thing you want is a person stuck on a hill! Always put safety first and do not take risks.
  • Try and choose places which are easy to find with ample parking, if this is unavailable close by, then maybe try and find people who have 7 seat cars to transport people to the search zone and offer to pay for petrol.
  • Decide set routes beforehand and stick to them. You can always look in other places after you’ve done your route but it’s a waste of time if lots of you end up deciding to go off piste and the most likely routes get missed.
  • Organise more searches for a couple of days ahead of where you are – hopefully you won’t need those searches and can cancel them. Nobody minds a cancelled search but it can be really difficult to rally the troupes last minute if you need one.
  • Make sure you speak to anyone you see on your search, especially fellow dog walkers and ask them to keep a look out. These guidelines especially apply if you use our volunteers.
  • We know you will be stressed, exhausted and anxious but remember all these people are helping you – look after them as much you can; buying some refreshments can really help make people feel valued and work even harder to help you.

Try to get a good night’s sleep and remember to eat. When your dog is missing, it’s a horrific feeling and you feel guilty even if you have no reason to, so we completely understand how hard it but they need you on top form to give them the best search possible.

During The Search

  • Stick to the plan, don’t let other members of the search party try and take over, politely but firmly tell them you or the person you have chosen is in charge.
  • A slightly peculiar tip but you can pee into a bottle and spray or tip some of this along the track as your dog may find it and follow the scent back home.
  • If suitable, you can take a disposable BBQ (Be fire safe and aware!!) and cook some sausages – the smell travels far and many professionals use this method to attract dogs.
  • Take marker flags (these can be bought here)  and use these to mark any rabbit, badger or other holes that you have checked out on route.
  • Take photo’s and upload them to your Facebook page, tell the story of the search, keep people engaged, for our own personal experience this made the entire difference to the help we received when searching for Cherry…our story is here..
  • Leave some of your clothes out – there have been many dogs go missing who are found curled up on clothes their owners have left for them.
  • If you have a set area you suspect your dog might be stuck in, you can do a structured police style search with canes. Walk in a straight line with the other volunteers and mark out a set space in front of you and search it extremely carefully. You can use canes or walking sticks to prod the ground if you are worried there are holes.

Don’t Give Up

Your dog will be perfectly fine for at least 5 days without food, if they are trapped in a rabbit hole they may struggle to get water which is more serious, maybe 3 days depending on the weather. There’s plenty of stories of  dogs surviving for months in the wild before being returned to owners, or if your dog gets stolen sometimes that person decides they have had enough of your dog and dumps it either near where they found it or simply anywhere, so there’s always a chance.

Apply To Get Help Right Now

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