No one plans to lose their dog. Maybe he slipped past you one day at the front door. Maybe he lunged forward unexpectedly on a walk and the leash slipped out of your hand. However your dog becomes lost, there are things you can do after he takes off down the street that could help you recover him faster.

The moment you realize that your pet is missing, it is important to take immediate action to enhance your chances of them returning home. Most dogs are recovered within 50 miles from where they first became missing. Often they are found by caring people wanting to assist them and many will take them home—often to a different city, county, or even a different state. This makes it very difficult for the family to locate their pet. It is not uncommon for the missing pet to then be passed through two or three different families within a short period of time, since the finder invariably gives the dog to a friend or relative. Unfortunately, many people assume that since the dog was running the streets, the family must not want the pet and doesn't care for him or her. And many people do not take the dog to the shelter out of fear that the dog may be euthanized. Here is a list of tips to help guide you in your search.


  • Create a reward poster: A reward poster is the most important tool you have to recover your missing pet. Putting up a professional-looking reward poster shows the public that you love your pet and care enough to search for it. It is amazing how many people find a pet, plan to keep it, but once they see a poster, they decide to call because they realize how much the family cares about the animal.
  • Provide a meaningful description: As you prepare your poster, remember that your goal is to enlist the help of the general public. Do not include too much information on the poster as to overwhelm the poster with words. Write only the pertinent information about your pet. Make the photo and phone number as large as possible. Don't put everything about your dog in the flyer. Keep at least one identifying mark out of the flyer. For example, don't include that your dog has three white paws and the black paw is his right, front paw. When someone calls and says they've found your dog, see if they mention this or answer correctly when asked. This will protect you from scam artists who want a reward for a dog they don't have and from people who just saw a different dog.
  • Draw attention: Putting the word "reward" or "substantial reward" at the very top of the poster will help draw attention to the poster. If you put the word "reward" in bright red, people will be more likely to notice—and read—your poster. Do not put an amount of money. What you are trying to do is to generate the call from the person or persons who know where your pet is. Leaving the amount of the reward open may generate a call from someone who is trying to determine which is worth more—the money or the pet. Never give an amount of money over the phone. Just say "it is substantial – we just want our pet back."
  • Don't mention if the pet was stolen: If your pet was actually stolen out of your home, yard, or car, DO NOT put the word "stolen" on your poster. Every gut instinct, every bit of anger you feel will direct you to do so, but absolutely do not. If someone wants to call with information, or turn someone in, that one word may scare them away and you may not get the call you need. If the person who stole your pet wants to call and check on the reward, they probably will not call if they see that word.
  • Post fliers EVERYWHERE! The fliers should contain basic information about your dog, contact information (include a cell phone, pager or back-up phone number), and whether your dog is on any medication or has a special condition. Drop the flyer off at vet offices, animal shelters, libraries, grocery stores, pet supply stores, and police departments in the area he was last seen and in surrounding towns. Put them in neighborhood mailboxes. Pass them out to UPS and postal workers who travel through the area daily.


  • Use the media to spread the word: Place a notice in the newspaper; most newspapers will publish "lost pet" ads for free. Contact local radio stations; some will allow you to place a notice on air. Also watch the "found" ads in your local newspaper. Respond to any that might be close to your pet's description. A week of wandering the streets can make white pets look drab gray, and the ad's description might not exactly fit.


  • Look in out-of-the-way places: Look for your pet in abnormal or unused places around your home, including outside storm drains and ditches.
  • Bring the photo: Remember that recent photo? Take it with you everywhere. If someone calls and says they've seen your dog and it sounds like your dog, visit them and show them the photo. A color photo will be much more accurate than a black-and-white flyer. If they positively identify your dog from the photo, you know your dog was in that area.
  • Be accessible: Make sure you have a functioning answering machine on at all times and, when possible, make sure to have someone at home to answer phone calls.
  • Visit local shelters: Visit your local shelters at least once a week. Don't just settle for a phone call. Lost of shelters are very busy and especially if you have a distinctive breed, such as a husky or a husky mix, they may have your dog but not realize it if they are unfamiliar with the breed or just too busy. Also, your dog may not be as recognizable to someone who just has a photo if he's lost some weight or is dirty.
  • Call your local animal control officer: Animal control officers work through the police department and pick up stray animals. Check with them every couple of days to see if they have seen your pet.
  • Call shelters out of your area: Call shelters in neighboring towns and counties. Who knows how far your dog has run?
  • Pound the pavement: Drive your car around and walk around calling your dog's name. Keep flyers with you to give out to people you encounter on your search. The more people who know about your dog, the more likely you are to get him back.
  • Bring another dog to help search: Sometimes the comforts of smelling a familiar canine friend or seeing one will bring your dog running back to you.
  • Leave at your home something inviting: Something that smells like you, maybe even food or a favorite toy. You never know but your dog could find their way back home to enjoy the special treats you have left.


  • Post your dog on the Internet: There are plenty of sites, including ours (www.siberescue.com) and www.petfinder.com that list lost and found pets. Don't forget to check the "found pets" sections of these sites.
  • Include meaningful information: When advertising on a flier, on a website, or any other resource you have found, the information you provide is extremely important for increasing your success in finding your pet. You always want to include:
    • Where the animal was lost: A minimum is state, city, and street name, with cross streets.
    • When the animal was lost: Provide the date, and a general time of day, if known.
    • A description of the animal, including color and markings: Please be sure to include age, approximate size and/or weight and sex. Giving a breed or species name is not enough as not everyone knows what a conyer looks like and or what color your mean when you say a dog is blue or a cat is red. Be sure to mention if the animal was wearing tags or is tattooed or microchipped, but do not include the ID number.
    • Contact Information: You must include contact information. Your name, phone number, and email address are necessary. Other helpful information includes the circumstances of how your animal was lost (for instance, if your dog was frightened by fireworks, he may have spent quite a while running). If your animal mats easily, or likes to roll in the mud, that may help. It is a good idea to offer a reward, but do not mention how much on your listings.


  • Be careful when searching for your pet: Unfortunately, some people want to profit from another's misfortune. As hard as it can be, it is important to remain calm and levelheaded when searching for your pet. Be on the lookout for con artists that may call saying they have found your pet and wish to ship the pet to you. They will ask you to pay for shipping. DO NOT SEND MONEY. Also be careful of thieves who may take advantage of the situation by calling you and asking you to come and identify the pet they found. Never go alone. Always meet in a well-lighted public place. Some pet owners have been robbed of their reward money when they arrive to identify their pet.

Searchable Lost & Found Websites

Lost and Found Tips
Prevention and Safety
What to do if you lost your dog
What to do when you find a dog