Just like a jigsaw puzzle, there are many pieces that need to fall into place when looking for a lost dog. There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. Not every lost dog will need to be trapped, nor will every lost dog end up in a shelter. Not every microchipped dog will be found and scanned; nor will a tag and collar get every dog home because they can fall off.
From our experience we have seen a lot of lost dogs who may never be found because an owner or a volunteer group who is helping an owner puts “all of their eggs in one basket” and doesn’t consider the other pieces of the puzzle.
Here are a few tips:
1. Enter your dog’s information in a free national lost dog database like Helping Lost Pets or Pet FBI, even if you are working with a volunteer group that has their own local database or Facebook group. If your dog is transported or travels a long distance, you need to know that your dog’s information can be searched nationally and for an indefinite period of time. Facebook listings quickly slip down a page and are forgotten.
2. Invest most of your time and energy into hand delivering flyers in an ever-expanding area of where your dog was last seen. Even if your dog was picked up by someone who intends to keep him; somebody, somewhere probably saw something. Make an emotional connection as you hand out flyers. This will help people remember you and your dog if they later recall something or see your dog tomorrow.
3. If your dog is microchipped immediately contact the microchip company to “red flag” them as missing and to make sure everything is up to date. This will prevent a shelter, rescue or finder from trying to re-register the microchip to a new owner without you knowing about it. Remember, this could happen months or even years from when your dog went missing.
4. Consider humane trapping ONLY when you know your dog is hanging out in one area and is reliably eating at a feeding station. Rushing out to set traps before this happens is usually a fruitless endeavor and is a common mistake that can cause an owner to lose hope. Likewise, when an owner sits quietly at the feeding site while the dog is eating and also leaves scent items, a humane trap may not be necessary. The dog may approach on his own. Check for other things that the dog may be able to be trapped in: a shed, house, yard, tennis court, etc. This may work as well as a humane trap.
5. Owners should always have control of the “search”. Volunteer groups who work independently without the owner’s knowledge or approval may undermine efforts of the owner. Also, this additional pressure on the dog may make him leave the flyered area or run into traffic and be hit. If you are an owner and a local volunteer group is not letting you retain control, ask them to remove themselves. If you are still having issues and they are setting traps or changing numbers on your flyers without your permission, call your local police department to ask for assistance. This is YOUR dog. You have the right to make the decisions.