Realizing that your dog has gone missing is every pet owner’s worst nightmare. Whether your dog digs a hole under the backyard fence, takes off chasing after a squirrel or breaks free from his leash, it can be hard not to panic when your pup pulls a vanishing act.

So, how do you find your lost dog? First, let’s take a look at why dogs run away from home in the first place. There are a number of reasons why a seemingly happy dog may suddenly go missing.

Boredom, loneliness, curiosity, or the urge to find a mate can all motivate your dog to venture out of a door or gate that was accidentally left open. Another thing that commonly causes dogs to run away is fear. According to the ASPCA, nearly 20% of pets go missing after they are frightened by loud noises like thunder or fireworks.

Losing a pet can be an incredibly traumatic and devastating experience. However, if your dog has recently gone missing, there is some good news. A 2012 study found that most lost dogs eventually get reunited with their owners.

What should you do if your dog has escaped out of the backyard? There are several actions you can take to ensure your pup ends up back at home safe and sound. Here are some tips that can help you find your lost dog.

Preventative Measures to Take Before Your Dog Is Missing:

ID Your Dog

Before your dog is missing, there are steps you can take to increase the chances of recovering your furry friend. Dogs with identification tags have a much higher chance of being returned to their owners. So, the first thing you should do is make sure your dog has the proper identification. Both outdoor and indoor dogs should wear a collar with an identification tag that includes your pet’s name, your name, your address and your contact information.

Also, it’s not a bad idea to microchip your dog in case his collar somehow falls off or is removed. A microchip is a radio-frequency identification device that your vet implants in the loose skin between your dog’s shoulder blades. It is a safe and relatively painless procedure for your pet that offers a permanent, reliable way to recover them.

Use a Location Tracking Collar

Another thing you can do is equip your dog with a GPS enabled collar. Fi Smart Dog Collars are a great choice. It has features like activity and real-time GPS tracking which you can view through an app on your phone.  Some things that set Fi apart from other smart collars include its sleek design and its extended battery life. The battery in Fi Smart Dog Collars lasts weeks longer than other collars on the market. So, if your dog goes missing, you'll have time to track him down and get him home before the GPS dies.

Steps to Take After Your Dog Is Lost:

Search Your House

As soon as you realize your dog is missing, start by doing a thorough search of your house. You should ask family members and roommates about where and when they last saw your dog. Make sure to look under furniture, like beds and couches, as dogs often like to hide or nap in dark places. Also look inside of closets, basements, garages, and around your property. Sometimes, your dog may follow you to places he doesn't belong and end up getting stuck in there. If you find your dog hiding in your house, you can lure your pup out using some of his favorite treats.

Patrol the Neighborhood

Your next step is to search the neighborhood. If your dog has only been missing for a short time, there’s a good chance he hasn’t gone that far. Dogs usually stay within two miles of the home, so make sure to drive or walk through this area calling out your pet’s name. While scoping out the area, check places that your dog frequently visits, such as the dog park and the route of your daily walks. Don’t forget to look in bushes, beneath cars, under porches and in other outdoor places where your pooch might be hiding.

Community awareness is key, and people will help! Bring a recent photo of your dog with you and ask neighbors if they have seen your pup as you search the area. Also, ask them to keep an eye out for your dog and to contact you if they have any information on the whereabouts of your pet. Don’t be afraid to ask the community for help as well. You can cover a lot more ground if you have multiple people helping you search for your missing dog.

Dogs like to hide during hot parts of the day, so the best time to search for your dog is either early in the morning or in the evening. With a tendency to be much more active during these hours, it makes it much easier to spot their movement.

Contact Animal Hospitals and Local Organizations

Expand your search by contacting animal control centers, humane societies, and rescue organizations in the surrounding area to see if they have found your missing pet. Website information is not always correct and up-to-date, so checking the shelters in person for your dog is a necessity. Alongside shelters, people often bring injured strays to nearby veterinary hospitals and animal clinics, so make sure you file a missing pet report with these organizations. As much information as possible will be helpful, so it’s important to include a description of your dog, his microchip number, a recent photo, and your contact information. That way, they can be on the lookout and give you a call if your dog is brought in.

Create a Flyer

Another fast way to get the word out about your search is to create a flyer for your missing pup. When making the flyer, you should include a large, eye-catching headline that reads “MISSING DOG”. Beneath this should be a clear photo of your dog and a detailed physical description that includes your pup's name, breed, color, sex, age, weight, and location last seen. It is also important to include the day your pup was lost, as this will let people know that they are currently lost.

To avoid being tricked by pet-recovery scammers, leave off one or two identifying characteristics that you can ask the person who finds your dog to describe. Be sure to include your contact information as well as a second person’s contact number in case the person who finds your pet has trouble reaching you.

Try and make big, brightly colored signs as well as single sheet fliers. Hang these big, neon signs at major intersections that coincide with the way traffic flows so that they are visible. Keeping these big signs simple will allow people to take them in as they drive by, and with more detail on the single sheet flyer next to it, if anyone has anymore information they can use that to reach out to you.

Create a Scent Station

Dogs have a very strong sense of smell and leaving a scent station outside will help draw your lost dog home. Putting something that smells like you, or that your dog will easily recognise, such as your dirty laundry or the dog’s bedding, can be very in helping to guide your dog back home.

Use Social Media

In addition to physical paper flyers, you should also use social media to spread the word about your lost pet. You can use the information from your flyer to create “missing dog” social media posts. The ASPCA has a free mobile app that allows you to create a digital lost pet flyer that you can share on social media. Ask your friends and family to share the missing pet flyer on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to get the community involved in your search. Be sure to share the digital flyer with local Facebook groups as well as lost pet and rescue websites, too. Posting on neighborhood apps such as NextDoor can also attract the attention of the local community, as many people use these platforms to post loose dog sightings; which could potentially be yours.

Place an Advertisement

There are several websites, such as Center for Lost Pets, Lost Pet USA, and Fido Finder, where you can find online listings for lost and found dogs. Post an advertisement for your missing dog on these sites and check them frequently to see if your dog shows up. In addition to online websites, you can also place an ad for your missing dog in the local newspaper.

Be wary of scammers who demand money wired upfront for the return of your missing pet. Always ask the person who has found your pet to provide you with a description of the dog’s identifying features or the information on your dog’s ID tags. If they have your dog, they should be able to tell you the key characteristics you left out on the flyer.

Don’t Give Up

Searching for your pet with little results can make you feel frustrated and hopeless. However, it’s important to stay strong and don’t give up on looking for your lost dog. Even animals that have been missing for months have managed to find their way back to their owners. So, stay hopeful and keep searching. Your pup will turn up eventually!