How your dog reacts in a new environment depends greatly on their personality. An adventurous dog may be more likely to roam, whereas a skittish dog may seek a safe hiding spot. A social dog will likely head right to the closest park, while a highly food-motivated dog may head for the closest dumpster. Dogs can cover huge distances in a very short time. That being said, dogs can also find their way back home before you find them so make sure to leave your backyard gate open, or that someone stays home if you don’t have a yard.
Social media can be the key to finding lost dogs – access to your friends, family, and a community of fellow pet lovers at your fingertips.
Post your dog’s name & picture online, asking for anyone willing to share your post and/or help join your search party. The search must start now.
Contact the following Facebook pages and your community’s social media page(s) to post your dog’s information. Many communities have a lost and found pet group in addition to their main community group.
Bring in the experts: the team over at K9 Recovery Services will help you track and recover your lost dog.
Notify veterinary clinics and shelters
Contact your veterinarian, other local veterinary clinics in your community and surrounding communities, and all of the 24-hour veterinary hospitals in the area, advising them that you have lost your dog and to contact you if any information becomes available. Provide each organization with a copy of your lost poster.
To create a lost report in Calgary, call the City of Calgary Animal Services at 311 and the Calgary Humane Society at (403) 205-4455. Visit the Calgary Humane Society and Calgary Animal Services websites every few days to check the dogs that have been turned into their facilities.
Notify your dog’s microchip company
If your dog has a microchip, contact the microchip company to notify them that your dog is missing and ensure they have your current contact details.
Grab a good flashlight, a treat bag, a favourite toy or blanket, a leash +/- a familiar doggy friend, and start the search.
Wear comfortable clothes that can get dirty.
Make sure everyone takes along a fully charged cellphone.
Take advantage of your dog’s acute senses
A dog’s sense of smell, hearing, and sight far exceed our own; use this to your advantage when searching for your lost friend. Remember, just because you don’t smell/hear/see them, doesn’t mean they don’t smell/hear/see you.
Use smelly and/or enticing foods and treats; this may be your dog’s favourite packaged treats, wet food (cat or dog), chicken, sardines, or cheese.
TIP: Add hot water and warm the wet food, chicken, or sardines slightly in your microwave; this will help the odour linger and travel further.
Shake the treat bag, call your dog by their name, or use phrases they are inclined to listen to, “Who wants a treat?” “Want to go for a car ride?” “Time for a walk!”
TIP: if you have another dog that either lives with you or is familiar to your dog, bring them along for the search.
Put yourself in their paws
Begin your search at the suspected exit point from your home. Look around. Where would you go if you were your dog? Put yourself in their paws. Look on the ground for fresh tracks in mud or on the sidewalk for an idea of which direction your dog may have travelled.
Keep in mind your dog’s personality and habits – when do they like to eat or sleep? Where do they like to go or hide? Are they attracted to quiet, people or food?
Extend your search from your yard to your neighbours’ yards in every direction. If you have helpers, spread them out in different directions. Using your flashlight, look in any possible hiding places such as under decks, inside sheds, or garages. If the weather is harsh, focus on areas that would protect your dog from the elements.
If you don’t find any traces of your dog in the immediate area, get in your car and start driving through the neighbourhood. Again, if you have helpers, go in different directions. Keep your windows open, look and listen for your dog, and continue calling their name and shaking the treat bag.
If you have recently moved, expand your search to your previous home and hang lost posters in the area between your previous and new homes.
Don’t be shy… Talk to everyone!
During your search, alert everyone you see about your missing dog and knock on every door, making sure to show them your dog’s picture. Ask them if you can check in their yard; you will search more thoroughly than they will. You are canine-focused.
Notify your mailman, paper boy, kids, and anyone else you can think of that is outside on a daily basis.
TIP: Alert kids in the area; they notice everything and are sometimes keen to work for the reward.
Other dog owners are another great source of information, as their dogs may have noticed your dog or picked up on their scent.
Bring the inside outside
Upon returning home, leave food and water outside your home. Place your dog’s bedding and some of your unwashed clothing outside; these are familiar scents. Remember, their nose knows! If the weather is unfriendly, place the food and water in an area protected from the elements, but still easily accessible by a scared dog. If possible, keep your garage door open slightly and set up food, water, and bedding inside. Leaving a baby monitor near the food may help you hear if there are any visitors.
Using a humane trap
Setting up a trap can be a successful and safe means of catching your dog. Traps must be checked often to ensure the welfare of the animal inside; it is possible that you may catch another dog, cat, or wild animal.
Every night before going to bed, check the safe spots and traps and call out to your dog one more time.
Make a missing dog poster and plaster your neighbourhood. Deliver the poster door to door. Hang the poster at dog parks, bus stops, pet stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, schools, churches, community centers, on lampposts, and at major intersections in the area. If you have access to sandwich boards, make a big poster to place at the major intersections entering your community.
Create a lost poster with your phone number, a close-up colour picture of your dog, your dog’s name, and the words “Lost Dog” (+/- “Reward”) in a font large enough that people can see it from their vehicles and as they walk past. If offering a reward; do not quote an amount, as people may not think the offer is worth the effort. Indicate if your dog is on any medication; this may deter people who agree with the saying “finders keepers”. You may also consider adding vertically cut strips with your contact info at the bottom of the page for people to tear off.
(Note: Be sure to download this template from your desktop)
TIP: Slip posters in a plastic sheet cover (with the opening at the bottom) to prevent the poster from getting damaged by rain or snow.
WARNING: If you choose to offer a reward, be cautious of scam artists, there are people who will target distraught pet owners.
Keep the search going
The search can be physically and emotionally draining; stay strong. Keep the search alive and current by periodically updating your posts on social media, calling all of the vet clinics and agencies above, and hanging “Still Missing” posters in your neighbourhood.
Catching a Lost Dog – Don’t Chase!
All dogs, regardless of their personality, will likely take off in the opposite direction if you start running towards them – either because they are terrified or think you are playing a fun game of chase. If you suspect your dog is in a playful, curious mood, we recommend running away from your dog or laying on the ground to entice them into approaching you. If you suspect your dog is terrified, we recommend sitting on the ground with your back to your dog and laying out their favourite treats/toy/blanket next to you. For more tips on how to safely catch a lost dog, click here. Make sure everyone in your search party knows what to do if they spot your dog.
Not all missing dogs are lost; if you suspect your dog has been stolen file a police report immediately. You should still notify veterinary clinics and shelters as well as distribute “Lost Dog” posters with a reward for any information. Do not state that you believe your dog was stolen. Also notify surrounding pet stores, dog groomers, and dog walking companies. Reach out to local radio stations and newspapers to see if they will help share your story. For further tips and advice, visit Home Again.
Contact our hospital or visit this page to learn more about getting permanent identification for your dog. Apple AirTags or other battery-operated GPS tracking devices can be attached to your dog’s collar but have the limitation of being battery-operated and won’t do you any good if your dog slips their collar.
Keeping an eye on your dog while they are outside, ensuring your dog has solid recall training, and using slip-proof collars or harnesses can help prevent them from getting lost in the first place.
Always remember to tell anyone entering your yard to secure the gate upon their arrival and departure and check the gate before allowing your dogs back in the yard.
TIP: Ensure your dog is secured inside during thunderstorms and fireworks. Dogs can easily get spooked by these loud noises and escape their environment in a frantic attempt to find safety.