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What to do if you lose your dog

Losing your dog is every pet parent’s worst nightmare. One moment they’re in sight, the next moment they’ve disappeared. In most cases they’re back in the blink of an eye, but what happens if not? What should you do?

  1. How to prevent your dog from getting lost in the first place
  2. What to do immediately after you lose your dog
  3. What to do when your dog has been lost for more than two hours
  4. What to do when your dog has been lost for more than 24 hours

How to prevent your dog from getting lost in the first place

Man putting PitPat GPS on Border Collie's collar

Before you even step out on your walk, there are some preventative steps that you can take to ensure you keep your dog safe.

  1. Train a solid recall

If there’s one skill any off lead dog must have, it’s a solid recall. There are lots of ways to train your dog to come back on cue and some dogs pick it up more quickly than others. It’s always a good idea to join a local dog training class to ensure you and your dog start off on the right paw.

  1. Use a PitPat Dog GPS Tracker

Using a PitPat GPS along with training a solid recall is your belt and braces approach to ensuring your dog’s safety. If your dog ignores or misses their recall, their GPS tracker is there to help you figure out exactly where they’ve ended up. It’s the peace of mind that you’ll be able to track them down, even whilst they’re busy following a tempting scent.

  1. Make sure their microchip and tag details are up to date

You always need to ensure that your dog’s microchip and tag details are up to date. Not only is this a legal requirement, but it’s also going to make sure that your dog can be quickly returned to you should they run off.

  1. Use a lead or walk in enclosed areas

If your dog really struggles with recall, it may be best to keep them on a lead most of the time or select safe, fully enclosed areas for them to enjoy off-lead time.

  1. Make a scent article of your dog

If your dog ever goes missing, you may be able to call on the support of highly trained pettrailer teams. They need a scent article for their search dogs to work from, so it’s best to have this prepared long before you even need it, in case of an emergency. Read their article for information on how to take a scent.

  1. Know your dog

It may sound obvious, but it’s important to know your dog, and how likely they are to run off. Whilst some dogs will happily stick close to you for the entire walk, others can easily get distracted by the exciting things around them, like other dogs or small furry creatures. With that in mind, you’ll need to take a lot more care if your dog is likely to run off chasing a scent.

If it’s your first walk with your dog, it may be best to keep them on a lead until you reach a safe, enclosed area where you can see how they behave without it.

What to do immediately after you lose your dog

West Highland White Terrier in field
  1. Don’t panic

It’s easy to say, but in the immediate moments after your dog is out of your sight, you have to try to keep a cool head. You’ll be able to make more rational, better decisions that will help you find your dog more quickly.

  1. Check their GPS tracker

If you have a PitPat GPS tracker, now’s the time to use the ‘Find my dog’ button. There can sometimes be a short wait as the device communicates with your phone, and lots of pet parents will start it up at the beginning of their walk so they have a more immediate location. Once it’s found your dog’s location it’ll keep updating regularly, and you can start heading in the right direction to track down your dog.

  1. Check for danger

Quickly assess the environment – is there anything that could be dangerous to you or your dog, such as busy roads or steep cliff faces? Equally, is there anything that your dog could cause a threat to, such as livestock or wild animals?

By being aware of the risks around you, you can take steps to mitigate them.

  1. Persist with recall

Even if they seem to be ignoring you, it’s important to keep calling them back. Try not to sound frantic, or angry, as this may put them off. Lots of pet parents use a whistle that can carry over long distances, but you’ll need to train this beforehand.

  1. Alert other people

If you see other people on your walk, alert them that your dog is missing – that way, if they spot them, they can help get them back to you. 

What to do when your dog has been lost for more than two hours

Often, dogs who have been lost for more than two hours have been found by someone and are being cared for until the owner can be reached. 

  1. Call local dog wardens, vets and rehoming centres

Get in touch with the dog wardens in both the local authority where you lost your dog and the neighbouring local authorities and report your dog as missing. They’ll be able to take your contact details in case your dog is brought into them. Dog wardens keep all dogs that have been seized by them for at least seven days before sending them to a rehoming centre or having them humanely put to sleep.

It is also wise to contact local vets and rehoming centres in case your dog has been taken there.

  1. Post about your missing dog on local Facebook groups and lost dog groups

If you’re near any residential areas, find the local Facebook and lost dog groups and post about your lost dog on there. Try to include a recent picture and description, as well as the last known location and your contact details.

Make sure to check historical posts on these groups to see if anyone has found your dog already.

  1. Organise a small search party

If you’re able to, call on friends and family locally to come and help search for your dog. Cover both the last known location and as wide an area surrounding it as is practical. Be sure they know your dog’s recall cues and that they spend time listening for your dog barking as well.

  1. Leave out items that smell familiar

If it’s getting late and you need to go home, make sure you leave out clothing that smells of you in the area you lost your dog. Additionally, you could leave a familiar bed or crate, toys and their bowl of water – but don’t leave out food as it will attract other animals. Often, dogs will gravitate towards the familiar smells and settle there until the morning.

  1. Notify your dog’s microchip provider and pet insurance company

Many microchip providers and pet insurance companies have processes in place that will give you access to lost and found services, so you can spread the message as far and wide as possible. 

What to do when your dog has been lost for more than 24 hours

Border Collie sat in field
  1. Consider local pet trailer services

In the UK, Pettrailer UK can give you advice on finding your dog, and even send out a search team to scour the area if that’s the best approach. Whilst there is a charge for this, their dog and handler teams have been specially trained to find lost pets by following their scent trail and could be your best chance of finding your dog if they are hiding away.

  1. Put up posters in the local area

Posters may seem old school, but they’ll catch the attention of locals and dog walkers in the area your dog went missing. Make sure they use a clear, colour photograph, are laminated to protect against the elements, and are displayed at eye level.

  1. Set up trap cameras

Trap cameras are designed to take images when they detect motion and are commonly used for capturing images of shy wildlife. If you have an inkling that your dog is still in a specific area, it could be useful to set up trap cameras along their paths, especially in areas where you’ve left clothing or toys for them. If your dog is picked up on these cameras, you will know if they are still in the area and where they are frequenting.

  1. Check doglost.co.uk

Doglost.co.uk is a free to use site that keeps a database of lost and found dogs across the UK, with a searchable database so you can see if your dog has been found.

Losing a dog can be heartbreaking, and we hope you never need to experience it. That’s why PitPat GPS can provide the peace of mind that if your dog does ever go missing, you’ll be able to find them in moments. It’s completely waterproof, fits securely on their collar and has long battery life, so it’s always ready when you need it. Plus, with no subscription, it’s cost-effective too. Get yours today for just £149.

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