by Kelli McCoy (Senior Instructor with Partners Dog Training School, AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, Certified Trick Dog Instructor - Email)
After a long day at work you pull into the driveway wanting nothing more than to relax and enjoy the happy tail and sloppy kisses waiting for you on the other side of the door. As you approach you notice it is strangely quiet, no excited barking as you get closer to the door. You think to yourself, “It must be nice to sleep all day!” Once you open the door you expect your pup to come a runnin’! But there is no sign of him. You call his name, and start to search the house. Once you reach the backyard, you realize the gate is open. Your dog is gone. Welcome to every dog owner’s worst nightmare. As panic ensues you wonder what to do next? We are here to help!
First off, call family. Make sure no one has your dog, especially if you live with other people.
If your dog has a collar with ID tags make sure to have access to the listed phone number at all times. If you dog has a microchip go online and make sure all of your information is up to date with the company.
Set out your dog’s favorite bed, a few toys, and food on the front porch. If your dog is in the neighborhood more than likely he is using his sniffer to get back home.
Make flyers! Flyers are very important when it comes to lost dogs! Some information to include; a recent photo of your dog, gender, name, breed, if your dog has any serious medical conditions or needs daily medication make sure to mention that, as well as the location and date your dog was lost from. Also, be sure to include several different means of contact information (phone numbers, email addresses). Spread them all around the neighborhood, even go door to door in your community and let them know you are looking for your lost pet.
Put a poster in your front yard. People who find dogs often walk the neighborhood looking for the pup’s home. If you have a poster in your front yard that has all of the information you included in your flyer it is MUCH easier to find where they belong.
Turn to social media. Social media has been one of the largest support systems for reuniting lost pets. Post that you are missing your dog and ask friends and family to share and keep an eye out for your baby. There are several different groups, and pages dedicated to this cause. Some of which are Straydar, Lost Dogs of Arizona, and there are some specific to the different cities as well as counties within the state. One of the most effective tools on Facebook is Lost Dogs Arizona. They have a form on their website for you to complete, and they help circulate to people. They work with several different networks. These networks send emails to people within a certain mile radius of your area. The more people who are aware and looking the better! They also have volunteers who help look for signs of your dog and help link clues. Friends of Arizona Shelter Dogs is also a good resource on Facebook.
Post on Craigslist! Make a post on Craigslist in the Pets area as well as Lost and Found with all of the information you included with the flyer. Be sure to check Craigslist religiously. Look for people posting about your dog as they may not have found your posting about your dog being lost.
Petharbor.com is a website used by the county for lost and found pets. Check this website constantly. But do not be put off by the breed and or the age of the dog found. If you have a brief thought that it may be your dog go and see it. The breed and ages are merely guesses. They do their best but they aren’t always accurate!
Finally, and most importantly… Go to the pound. Physically walk the halls of Animal Care and Control. YOU are the one who will recognize your dog instantly. In Maricopa County there are two main facilities. West; 2500 S. 27th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85009 and East; 2630 W. Rio Salado Parkway Mesa, AZ 85201.
One of the things I cannot stress enough is the importance of timing! If your dog has gone missing DO NOT wait and see if he comes home! Act immediately. When looking for lost dogs time is of the essence. Here in Maricopa County, if your dog is turned into Animal Control (or picked up by the “dog catcher”) they go on a 72 hour stray hold. That’s it. You have 72 hours to find your dog if he ends up there. After the 72 hours they do an evaluation; your dog either goes up for adoption, or ends up on the euthanasia list. It is that fast.
Now, what preemptive steps can you take to ensure your dog’s return if they ever get lost?
Make sure your dog is wearing ID at all times. You can get a little dog tag with your phone number and their name anywhere now, next time you’re in Walmart get one made, they are only a few bucks! Seriously.... They are like 6 bucks... No excuses! Also, make sure the information is correct at all times. Get them an awesome collar, and don’t take it off!
License your dog with the county. This is required and goes along with the rabies shot anyway, but they will give you a tag that goes on your dog’s collar. That has a number on it which is linked to your information.
Get your dog microchipped! It is smaller than a grain of rice, contains a number that is then linked to your contact information. If your dog is picked up, they scan him and bam! There is your phone number. You have your dog back! They are available all over! At your vet’s office, low cost vaccination clinics, some rescues will even microchip your dog for a small fee. Don’t forget to register your chip and make it a point to keep the information collected on the chip up to date. Homeagain.com is an amazing resource for registering your microchip. If you do have your dog microchipped make sure to have the vet scan your dog to make sure it is working during their yearly check-up! Sometimes they migrate or just stop working. This way you can ensure your dog can be identified! I have also made it a habit of logging onto the website that day just to make sure all of my information is correct!
I hope this never happens to you and your fur-baby. But just in case it does, I hope that these tips help get your dog back to you safe and sound!