Maintaining a Lost Dog Search

If you are not getting any leads or sightings of your lost dog, you need to maintain your search using some of the methods listed below.

Microchip

If your dog has a microchip, make sure that your chip stays registered and your contact information is kept up-to-date.  Some dogs are found with microchips months or even years after they go missing.  If you end up with a long-term search, make sure to check and update this information periodically (at least once a year).  I would recommend registering the chip with several registries, especially if you have an Avid microchip.  I recommend using the Found Animals Registry, which is free, and/or Home Again.  Any microchip can be registered on either site.  Home Again charges a small registration fee and recommends (but does not require) joining their membership services.

Posters

Posters are one of the most effective methods for finding a lost dog.  Make sure that your posters stay up within your search area.

Update your Posters

Replace posters periodically.  If your posters look old and ratty, people may assume that your dog is long gone or that your dog is found and you forgot to take them down.  Consider making changes to your design to catch people’s attention:

  • Change wording from “Lost” to “Still Missing”
  • Change colors of poster board
  • Change photos on the poster
  • Change the size of your posters – bigger is usually better, but if cost is an issue and/or if your posters are being taken down, consider switching to a 8 1/2 x 11 poster.  If designed effectively these can still work in many places.

Add a Reward

A reward is NOT recommended for dogs that are likely still running loose.  The Missing Animal Response Network has found that rewards in these situations encourage people to chase the dog, which can result in the dog being scared further away or worst case being hit by a car.  This is primarily recommended for when you suspect that someone has your lost dog.  A reward can increase people’s interest in looking for your missing dog.  You will get more interest if you specify an actual reward amount.  Be sure to include the words “Reward for information leading to return” if you want people to call with just a sighting and not think that they have to actually have your dog in order to get the reward.

Expand your Poster Area

Frequently, no sightings mean that your dog is now outside of the search/poster area.  Consider expanding your poster area over time.  How far you expand the area will depend a lot on your dogs breed, age, temperament and the environment where they are lost.  Consider starting with 3-5 miles.  If you live in a rural area and/or your dog is a high energy breed, you may want to expand your poster area ten miles or more.

Flyers

Keep flyers up at local businesses and places where people walk.  Update these as you did with posters.  Consider expanding to more stores or other locations where many people visit such as drive-thru coffee or fast food establishments.

Get creative!  Take advantage of local events such as tag sales or fairs.  Ask permission to put out a stack of flyers on an existing table, distribute flyers yourself by hand or put them under windshield wipers on cars.  If trick-or-treating still takes place in your community, pass out lost cat flyers with your candy.  If you are going to print off a lot of flyers, you might consider reducing them to 1/2 sheet or 1/4 sheet of paper (as long as they are still easily readable).  Other people create lost pet business cards to hand out.

Online Postings and Lost Pet Databases

Consider expanding the number of sites where your dog is listed and make sure to re-post on popular or local sites.

Local Sites

Craigslist – Repost your lost dog weekly on craigslist under Pets and Lost & Found.  On a long-term search, you might change to bi-weekly or even monthly depending on the volume of postings on the site.  You don’t want people to have to scroll too far and you want them to appear on the first page of results.  Don’t forget to check for “found” or “for sale” listings that look like your dog.

NextDoor.com – If you have a Nextdoor.com neighborhood, consider reposting at least 1-2x per month for at least the first few months.

Facebook – If there are any local lost & found sites, repost your lost pet 1-2x per month.  Also comment on your existing postings to reach more people.  Consider creating a Lost Pet Page for your missing dog on Facebook and/or boosting a post about your lost dog.  A boosted post will be shown on other people’s timelines as a sponsored post (for a fee).  You can select people to see your ad through audience targeting based on location and interests.  For more information see: How to Boost a Facebook Post for a Lost Pet.

National Sites

Make sure that your dog is listed on as many national lost pet sites as you can find.  For an updated list of national lost pet sites, see Online Posting.  Some of these sites, such as LostMyDoggie and FidoFinder will only keep a free post up for one week, so you will either need to re-post periodically or upgrade to a paid listing.  LostMyDoggie paid postings come with a 30-day money back guarantee if you don’t find your dog.  This does not apply to phone call services.

Some of these sites also provide notifications, if a dog matching yours if found.  Make sure that you are signed up for these services and that you add their email to your safe sender list.  If someone responds to these postings that they have information or have found your dog these emails may end up in your spam folder.

Keep in Touch with Local Groups and Agencies

Don’t expect these groups or agencies to get in touch with you.  Many are over-worked and under-funded.  If you previously used a service that called, emailed or faxed these groups for you, now is the time to contact them personally.  Likewise, if your dog has a microchip, do not depend on that alone to get them home.  Contact all the groups below at least once and preferably several times in the first month your dog is missing.

Shelters/Rescues

Make sure that you have contacted AND received a response from all local shelters and rescues within at least 10 to 25 miles.  Check in with them a minimum of once per week for the first month.  This is important even if your dog has a microchip because it could be missed and some small rescues don’t have scanners.  For the larger shelters/rescues, I would recommend going in person at least 1 to 2 times per week for the first month.  Find out what the minimum hold time is for new dogs before they are adopted out or euthanized.  When you visit, ask to see all dogs and not just those on the adoption floor.  New arrivals and sick or injured dogs may be under quarantine elsewhere.  Make sure that they still have a copy of your flyer or lost pet report on file and ask if you can view found pet reports.

Animal Control

Make sure that your local animal control officer (ACO) is aware that your dog is missing and that you are still searching.  Also contact ACOs of other local towns if within 10 miles of where your dog went missing or there have been sightings.  Ask or check online to see what your town’s policies are regarding found dogs.  Also find out if they pick up deceased cats.

Veterinarians and Emergency Vet Services

Make sure that your vet and any other vets within 10 to 25 miles are aware that your dog is missing.  Also check for the closest one or two emergency vet services.  If possible, give them a flyer to put up in the waiting area and/or their employee break area.  However, be aware that most vets do NOT check new dogs for microchips unless the person bringing them in requests this done.  They are also very unlikely to call you about someone bringing in a new dog that matches your dog’s description unless that person states that it is a found dog AND they are looking for the owner.  This is a matter of client confidentiality.  Re-check once or twice in the first month to make sure that they are aware your dog is still missing.  Visiting is best, but at least email them a reminder and new flyer.

Department of Public Works or Transportation

One of these departments may be in charge or picking up deceased animals or it may be done by animal control.  This will likely be a very stressful call, but don’t put it off too long.  Some agencies do not keep good records and you may be relying on employees’ memories.  If your dog is microchipped, find out if they scan found dogs.  You may also want to look up your town’s policy regarding deceased animals.

Get Creative and Try New Methods of Advertising

Car Tagging

Buy neon window markers and write a lost dogcat ad on the back window of your car.  Be sure to include a taped photo as well.  For more information on how to tag your car, see MARN.

Intersection Alerts

This method involves creating extra-large neon lost dog posters and getting several volunteers to hold them up at different corners of a busy intersection.  If it can be safely done, you also want to hand out flyers to stopped cars.  This method can generate a lot of attention, and you might even consider contacting local media.  For more information on how to conduct an intersection alert, see MARN.

Post Cards

If you don’t have the time and/or energy for a mass distribution of flyers, consider mailing postcards.  Learn more about lost pet cards here.

Robocalls and Paid Online Advertising

Find more information and a list of companies under Amber Alerts.