If you're a dog parent, there's a chance that your dog could get lost. Whether it's an accident or the result of an intentional act when a dog is missing, it can be incredibly stressful for both the owner and their pet. This article will help you take the first steps toward finding your lost dog as quickly as possible by providing some basic strategies for finding your dog.

What are your chances of finding a lost dog?

If your dog is microchipped and registered with the national database, then the chances are very good. The American Kennel Club recommends that all dogs be microchipped and wear a collar with identification tags. You can also put an ID tag on your dog's harness or backpack.

If your dog isn't microchipped, then it will still be possible to find them if they have been identified by another means, such as having their picture taken by startled strangers. However, this process could take longer than usual because of the lack of ID.

If you have a GPS tracker on your pet (such as Fi), it makes finding a lost pet even easier since its location can be tracked remotely in real-time via an app.

One of the biggest factors in determining how easy it is to find a lost dog depends on their breed. Dogs that are more likely to wander off, such as terriers or hounds, are usually easier for people to spot and, therefore, more likely to be returned.

Some dogs are also easier to recognize than others. If your dog has a distinctive coat color or pattern, then it is more likely that someone will be able to identify them.

Why Dogs Run Away and Where They Go

The most common reason dogs run away are:

  • Loneliness or boredom
  • To find a mate if they have not been spayed or neutered
  • As a response to a sudden frightening event
  • Curiosity when windows, a door, car door, or gates are left open
  • When they are in a new environment
  • They are looking for a former home or former owners

How far a dog or cat goes when they run away depends on the pet. A large dog can run five miles or more in a stretch. Small dogs may only be able to wander half a mile. However, it’s worth noting that most lost dogs are found within a two-mile radius of their home.

Outgoing and social dogs tend to search for humans and other dogs that can provide them with comfort. Public parks and neighbor’s yards are more likely places to find these dogs. Older dogs, or dogs who don’t trust strangers, are more likely to hide under bushes or cars.

Most of the time, dogs will try to find their way back home. A small minority gets found by a predator. Most lost pets are found by a neighbor and taken in.


Make sure your dog is actually lost

Before you start to search for your lost dog, make sure the dog is missing. If your dog is hiding in the bushes or chasing a squirrel and hasn't been gone long, your dog may be perfectly fine and just needs a moment to come back home.

If you can't find your dog on your own property, walk around the area where it was last seen. Check in with neighbors and friends. Check under porches and deck railings; look in garages; check open gates and doors on other properties nearby—if your pet has run off before, there are likely places where he or she likes to hide out!

It's also possible that someone else might have picked up your pet if they saw it wandering around by itself, but even then, there are steps you can take to help get him home. Any time a stray animal is found by someone who isn't an experienced professional animal rescuer (and sometimes even then), they should try following these guidelines:

Verify your dog's microchip information

If you have a microchip, the first thing to do is check the information on your dog's chip. Make sure it's registered correctly and that it hasn't expired. If possible, contact your microchip company to verify that their record of this information is correct. Update any address or contact information changes right away so they can be reflected in all records.

How to find a lost dog with a microchip

If your dog has a microchip, there's a good chance it will have the information of where you registered the chip on file. The chip should have at least some registration information on it, including your address and phone number. Call the hotline to check if this is true for your dog—if it is, then they're an easy way to get in contact with you!

Determine Your Search Radius

The area where you can realistically expect to find your dog depends on the type of dog, its behavior, and the terrain it's familiar with. Terrain will be especially important if your dog is used to spending time in mountains or forests.

If your dog is a city dweller, start by checking the usual hiding places. Pets can squeeze into small spaces, so search under bushes, deck chairs, and cars. If you have a fenced-in yard or garden, look for piles of dirt or freshly dug areas that might indicate where your pup has been excavating new tunnels.

Once you've checked around the home and don't see any sign of your pet within his usual territory—and no one else has found him—it's time to expand your search radius beyond that known area.

If your dog is an outdoor dog, he will probably be able to find food and shelter on his own. If you're in a rural area, search near farms and barns; if you live near homes or businesses, look for places like backyards and porches where people might leave out food scraps or trash.

Hamburg puppy

Search the area the dog went missing

After you’ve established that you have a missing dog, search the area around where it was last seen. The dog may have wandered far from its original location, but it might also be hiding behind a building or in a yard. Try using a flashlight at night to help with your search. If you think the dog is nearby, go back to the location where you last saw it.

Report your dog missing and contact local shelters and vet clinics

Call the local animal shelter, vet clinics, and animal control. Ask them to check their lost and found lists for your dog. If they find your dog, they will contact you immediately, so that you can pick up your pet.

Take a photo of your dog with you wherever you go in case you need to show it to anyone who may have spotted him wandering by himself.

Use social media networks

Now that you've got a good idea of what to do when your dog gets lost, let's talk about how to find them.

We've mentioned social media networks before, but let's go over the basics again. You want to use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to spread the word about your lost pup. Use hashtags like #lostdog or #findingfido on each post, as well as any photos you share of Fido (more on this later). Be sure that you create and include a description of him/her and whether there is a reward if found. The more information available, the better chance someone will see it! Social media is a valuable resource when trying to find your lost pet or lost dog.

Create lost dog posters and distribute them around the neighborhood

  • Print out several copies of your dog's photo. Attach those with your contact details to brightly covered posters so they are more noticeable.
  • Place the fliers in local businesses and post them on telephone poles, trees, mailboxes, and doors. Make sure the posters outside are big enough for a passing car to notice while driving by.
  • Keep an eye out for people who are interested in or asking about your lost pet—they may be able to help you find him! If someone has found him, ask if they would be willing to take a picture with their smartphone so that you can see exactly where he was found (and make sure that person has contact information).

Consider your options

  • Consider hiring a professional dog tracker.
  • Stay glued to your phone. It's easy to get distracted and forget about the search, but you have to stay focused if you're going to find your pet.
  • Sign up with an automated notification online services for lost pets (like Find My Pet) and make sure your family and neighbors do, too, so they can keep an eye out for any tips on your missing pet.
  • Run ads in local papers and post flyers in the neighborhood where you think he may be found, if you have time between searching other areas yourself or running errands that are important but not critical (like getting food).
  • Check animal shelters every day—they get new pets there every day! You never know when someone might drop off a lost dog. Shelter staff are often very busy, so they may not always have time to check lost pet reports. It's your job to continue checking.

Don't give up!

The first thing to remember is that you may not find your dog overnight. You may get lucky and find him or her quickly, but it's not always the case. Never give up searching!

So what does "never give up" mean? It means don't stop calling around to vet offices and animal shelters regularly even when things seem hopeless—there might just be someone who will recognize one piece of information or tips from another call they've received recently, or who knows how many other leads could open up because they're still willing to help!

Other tips for finding your dog

  • If your dog is lost, you will want to use a dog tracking device to find him or her.
  • Make sure your dog has ID tags on them at all times. This can help people identify the type of breed and may even provide a phone number for you in case they find your pup!
  • A GPS pet tracker is another great option for finding lost dogs and cats. These handy devices are small enough to attach to a collar. They send updates about where the animal is via Bluetooth technology (or cellular data if cellular service is available). Suppose an animal goes missing due to theft or some other crime.
  • In that case, this feature can be especially helpful for law enforcement officials trying to track down who took them in order for them to not only to get their beloved pets back but also to make sure justice is served appropriately against whoever did this wrong thing!

How to find a lost dog at night

  • When it's dark, use a flashlight to search for your lost pet.
  • If your dog is out at night, keep in mind that they are more likely to be attacked by other animals or injured by something else in the dark.

How to find a lost dog with a GPS dog tracker

If you've lost your dog and want to use a GPS tracker to find them, there are a few things to consider. For example, the size and weight of the device will determine how easy it is for your dog to carry around. You also need to think about how long the battery should last (batteries typically last between 2-3 days on GPS dog trackers. If you are in need of longer lasting battery life, you should look into the Fi GPS tracker as the battery can last up to 3 months.)

What to do if you have found a lost dog or lost pet

If you find a lost dog, make sure that it is in good health. If you can, you can also check for a tag on their collar to try and contact the pet parent. If they do not look healthy, call the police or animal control. If you don't know who the pet belongs to, contact your local shelter, vet clinics, and rescue groups to see if anyone has reported that their dog is missing in your neighborhood.

If all else fails, take the animal to a vet immediately so they can scan for a microchip.

You can also post on social media to try and help reunite the missing dog or missing pet with their owner. You can try posting on lost and found neighborhood social media listings as well. Many people post found pets or even a photo of a stray sighting on the app called NextDoor or Facebook. Those sites can be great online resources in helping a person who is searching for their pet online.

Beware of dog theft scams

If you think your dog has been stolen, report it immediately. If you don’t know where it went or if it was taken from a backyard, that’s okay. Just report the incident and let the police handle it from there.

If you have a GPS dog tracker on your pup, use that to help track them down.

If someone brings you their lost dog by mistake, be polite and take them to the nearest animal shelter or pound nearby so they can find their own pet. It's better for both dogs if they're not left in limbo until one is reunited with its family—if that's even possible!

Be careful about approaching strange dogs yourself; some people might try to take advantage of others' good intentions by passing off sickly pets as lost ones. A GPS device should protect against this scenario since all of our devices will be linked to the pet parent's account.

How to prevent your dog from getting lost

Microchip your dog. All pets should be microchipped, but if yours isn't yet, it's important to get this done right away. Microchipping is an inexpensive procedure that can save the life of your pet by making it easier for them to be identified when they're lost. You should also make sure your contact information is updated on the microchip company's site.

Keep your dog on a leash when walking outside and make sure they are wearing an ID tag with their name, address, and phone number in case they do go missing. If you don't want to attach an ID tag directly onto your dog's collar (perhaps because you have a small breed or one that dislikes collars), consider using a harness instead—these are not only comfortable for pets but will also help prevent any injury during an escape attempt additionally if you use one with reflective material on it so cars will see them better at night or during poor visibility conditions!

Maintain good fencing, good doors, and good gates. Double-check to make sure you close gates and doors behind you when you leave home.

Neuter and spay your animals. It prevents them from acting on urges to find a mate.

When bringing in new pets or moving to a new house, be aware that you need to be extra vigilant. It takes pets a while to adjust to new surroundings, and they commonly escape to find old, familiar places and people.

Make sure your dog gets adequate exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom.


If you’ve lost your dog, don’t panic. There are plenty of things that you can do to try and find them. First, head to the nearest animal hospital or rescue groups where they may have taken their pet for treatment. If none of these options work, call the local police station or call up your local animal shelter to see if anyone has reported anything about a lost dog matching yours.

If all else fails, don't give up! It is important not to give up hope on finding your pet. Hopefully, the information contained in the article above gives you an action plan to get them home.

For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at TryFi.com.

Want to know more about TryFi.com? The Fi Dog Collar is a GPS tracking collar that not only keeps track of your dog’s location, activity levels, and sleep patterns, but it also alerts you if your dog escapes your backyard. This is the fastest way to find your dog after an escape. Try the Fi Dog Collar today!