Strategic Pet Recovery
Strategy - Technique - Tools
Skills to Find and Recover Missing Pets
Immediate Actions When Your Dog Is Missing
Shawn Dienhart, Jan 2019

Nothing strikes fear into a dog owners heart like the realization their dog is missing.  The good news is Fido is likely not far off and with the right actions taken immediately, odds are your dog will be home soon. A large part of recovery depends on your dogs breed and behavior.  You are the best judge of how your dog behaves away from home and around strangers.  If your dog is super friendly around strangers, he or she may quickly and incidentally be recovered by a good natured citizen that realizes the dogs owner is nowhere to be found. Conversely, if your dog is skittish around strangers, he or she will be harder to recover .

Here are some do's and don't for having your dog return to you sooner rather than later.
[This info primarily applies to dogs that have gone missing from their home. Look at the Strategy and Techniques pages for other circumstances]


1.  Do a thorough search inside and outside your home.  Make no assumptions about where the dog may be, inspect everything and everywhere the dog could conceivably fit (closets, sheds, spare rooms, culverts, pipes and so forth.

2. Check your security camera(s), if used, to determine time missing and possible direction of travel.

3. Walk your neighborhood at least 1.5 times further than the area your dog is familiar with.  For example, if you walk your dog four blocks away as a matter of routine, go looking ON FOOT for at least six blocks.  Bring paper and a pen. Be sure to bring a leash and treats.

4. While you're out looking, talk to anyone you come in contact with and ask if they have seen your dog. If they have, get as much detail as you can and write it down. Also write down your name and number and ask the person  to contact you if they see your dog again.

5. Knock on your neighbors doors, at least 5 or 6 houses adjacent to, and behind your home (for urban areas). In rural or remote locations,  drive to or phone your neighbors or others that may be in the area (businesses, etc.) and make the same inquiry as #4, above.

6.  Repeat actions 3, 4, and 5 at least several times during the first day the dog is missing.

7. If your dog is not home by the first evening, put a small amount of kibble in a bowl and pour some tuna juice next to it , placed in an area the dog can access (and ideally an area you can frequently check).  If you have a security camera/Ring doorbell, place the bowl within view of it.  Check to see if the kibble has been eaten; if so refill and monitor it from a distance.

8. If your dog has not returned by day 2, place a load of your dirty laundry near the bowl with kibble.  Create a means to monitor for your dogs return (camera, trail camera, someone standing vigil in shifts, etc.).

9. Make lost dog posters (look here for making an effective poster). Start one mile from your house and place posters at intersections, highly visible locations, in businesses where possible, and give one to anyone you come in contact with.
As you get closer to your house, place them more densely.

10. Notify your local Animal Services agency, post on Craigslist, NextDoor, Facebook and other media related to your area.

11. Repeat above actions as appropriate.

12. Expand your actions starting with a Strategy and using proven Techniques.

1. Don't yell your dogs name. It can hear 300% better than humans, yelling will only scare it off.

2. Don't make noise when searching by foot, remain quiet while walking.  The dog will know you are near long before you'll ever see it. 

3. Don't hurry when searching. Make intentional stops to look around for movement. If you don't see your dog , try making a quiet whistle sound - the concept is to create a movement by the dog, not to attract it to you (if you live in a densely populated area you can try this at night when it's quieter).

4.  Don't solicit help from friends without being clear on what their task is and be sure to inform them of 1, 2, and 3 above.

5. Don't put your personal safety at risk by entering unsavory areas, crossing freeways, ascending/descending terrain in the dark and so forth. Have someone with you as deemed necessary.

6. Don't use online services, especially robo-call agencies unless you have fully vetted them out. The vast majority of these are scams and will take your money with no actions taken (some are valid, just be sure to check first).

7. Don't chase or run after your dog if you see it ! The dog should always be made to come to you. Get down on the ground (literally) and using your peripheral vision continue to observe you dog. Get your treats out and make sure your dogs sees them. Put a couple near you and pretend to eat them. When your dog gets close enough to you to acquire your scent, it should then approach you without hesitation.

8. Don't give up. Persistence is key to a successful recovery of your dog.