If you need any help, don’t hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-400-4001.
Dogs get lost more often than anyone wants to admit. The causes are numerous: fireworks, a slipped collar, a jumped fence. Whatever the case, it happens and we want to help.
If you’re someone whose dog has unfortunately gone missing, do not give up hope. It’s important that you remain optimistic and focused on the task at hand when you begin the search for your pet.
We started the Shadow app after our friend Brad lost his dog, so we know how difficult this experience can be. That’s why we’ve created this guide for how to find a missing dog, which outlines every step you should take to maximize the chances of being reunited with your pet.
For people who live in either Los Angeles, Dallas–Fort Worth, Houston, Phoenix, or the greater NYC area (including Long Island and New Jersey), you can also download our app and create a listing for your dog to simplify the process.
Before starting your search, it’s important to keep yourself safe. That means being careful near traffic and wary of scammers and paid services. If you decide to put up a reward, make sure to transfer the money electronically instead of having cash on-hand.
Putting yourself at risk does no one any good, least of all your lost dog.
Step One – Print and Hang Flyers
Beginning the search for your lost dog requires letting the world know you’ve lost a dog in the first place. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by printing and hanging flyers with your dog’s picture and information about their disappearance.
How many flyers should you print? We suggest you start by printing 200, because you’ll want to cover as much ground as possible.
On the flyers, be sure to include the following items:
- A color picture of your lost dog
- Your dog’s name
- When they went missing
- A phone number to reach you at
We recommend you hang these flyers around all the major intersections near where your dog went missing, as well as heavily foot-trafficked areas and the bulletin boards of nearby police & fire stations, grocery stores, dog parks, veterinary clinics, pet supply stores, laundromats, etc. You can do this while you’re out searching for your dog.
Note: Keep track of where you’ve hung flyers so you can coordinate with anyone helping. In the Shadow app, which automatically creates a flyer for you, you can even mark the portions of the map where you’ve flyered and share that information with friends, family, and Volunteers.
Step Two – Spread the Word Online
1. Take advantage of social media.
Social media can be a powerful tool, especially when it comes to spreading the word about your lost dog. How many successful reunion stories have occurred as a result of being boosted far and wide via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Nextdoor, and so on? They’re innumerable!
Where to post your lost dog’s story for the greatest impact:
- Your own Facebook page
- Your neighborhood and/or town page on Facebook
- Local lost & found pet pages on Facebook
- Craigslist lost & found (in your area)
- Nextdoor (in your area)
You can share your dog’s story and flyer on any social media platform directly from the Shadow app. And if you’re not on social media, that’s okay—have a friend or family member post for you.
The more people know about your story and lost dog, the more likely you are to be reunited with them.
2. Invite your friends and family to join the search.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, especially from friends and loved ones who want nothing more than to reunite you with your best friend.
If you’re using the Shadow app, you can send out an Amber Alert-style message to your friends and family alerting them to your dog’s disappearance with information about how they can help. In addition to sharing your dog’s story on social media, your friends can walk the streets with you, print and hang flyers, call shelters, and provide much-needed emotional support in your time of need.
Step Three – Check Local Shelters and Lost & Found Pages
If your dog is found without tags or a microchip, there are two likely outcomes:
One, the person who found your dog will keep them in their home as they search for you.
Or two, your dog will be transported to the nearest city shelter.
In the first scenario, the person who found your dog will probably do what you’re doing. They’ll post flyers. They’ll post pictures of your dog on social media, Craigslist, and local lost & found pet pages. They’ll download the Shadow app and create a Found Dog listing in hopes that you’ll see it.
So it’s important that you check every available page and platform to see if your dog has been posted.
If your dog is transported to a city shelter, they’ll receive what’s called a “stray hold.” That means that for a period of time—usually between 48 hours and seven days, depending on the city—the dog in question will be cared for while they wait for their owners to come retrieve them. But due to overpopulation and a lack of space in these shelters, after the stray hold is over, the dog’s safety cannot be guaranteed.
Fortunately, if you’re using the Shadow app, we automatically pull in photos of found dogs from everywhere they’ve been posted online (shelters, Facebook, Craigslist, local lost & found dog pages, and so on) to be matched with your dog, based on breed, physical appearance, and location. And as soon as your dog is in the app, Shadow’s amazing and dedicated Volunteers will be on the case, looking for matches just like you to try to help you find your lost dog.
Step Four – How to Approach Your Lost Dog Outside
Finding lost dogs is about patience and perseverance. It can take days, weeks, and possibly longer. Sometimes, you might receive a phone call from a person who spotted your dog in a particular area. Or sometimes, you might just track down the dog yourself.
If your dog has been living on their own for a while, they’re liable to be skittish and wary of humans, possibly even yourself. When their fight or flight instinct is engaged, as is common after having to fend for themselves, they might not instantly recognize you.
That’s okay! This is normal! The good news is there are ways to approach your dog that will make their safe retrieval far more likely.
1. Do not give chase.
Chasing a lost dog is probably the worst way to approach them. Instead, stay low to the ground and move side-to-side, never directly toward them.
2. Don’t call your dog’s name.
As tempting as this might be, you don’t want to raise the energy of the situation and frighten your dog off. Remain calm at all times.
3. Bring high-value treats.
Sometimes luring a dog out of hiding requires the one thing so many of us are powerless against: food. If your dog is particularly into a specific type of treat—hot dogs, cheeseburgers, whatever—then you might want to bring it along to tempt your buddy toward you.
4. Bring a dog friend to help.
Do you have another dog? Or does a friend of yours have a friendly, playful dog they wouldn’t mind letting you borrow for a couple hours? If so, you might want to try using them as a “magnet dog” to lure yours out.
Because dogs are pack animals, it’s not uncommon for them to be more interested in and trusting of other dogs, particularly in stressful situations. But again, make sure your magnet dog is friendly!
5. Use calming signals.
Calming signals are forms of body language that indicate you’re harmless to a dog. If you’re approaching your lost dog, avert your eyes, face away from them, yawn, lick your lips, smell or dig at the dirt, pretend to eat some of the aforementioned high-value treats (and accidentally drop some on the ground while you’re at it), and be generally as chill as possible.
6. Let your dog sniff the leash before looping it around their head.
Assuming you’ve managed to get close to your dog, let them make the final few steps. Let them smell the leash, preferably a slip lead. If all appears well, very gently, and very slowly, place the loop of the lead around their heads before (again, gently and slowly) tightening it.
7. If all else fails, use a humane trap.
We’re confident that the above steps will help you get your dog back safe and sound. But if not, a humane trap might be your best bet.
Step Five – Prepare Proof of Ownership
Not all reunion stories end with a dramatic showdown in the woods between you and your dog. Sometimes a perfect stranger just calls you up and says, “Hey, I found your dog!”
This is one of the best outcomes possible! But before you can get your dog back, you may need to provide proof of ownership. After all, the person who saved your dog might not want to inadvertently pass them off to the wrong person.
If you have veterinary or adoption records, make sure to gather them in advance, along with any photos you may have of your dog. If the dog is chipped, make sure the information (address, name of owner, and so on) is up to date.
Step Six – Never Give Up Hope
Obviously, there’s a lot of information here, and that’s on top of the fact that finding lost pets can be emotionally and physically draining. But it’s worth remembering the thousands of reunions Shadow has seen in just a short time. Trust us when we say you have every reason to be hopeful.
If you need any help, don’t hesitate to email email@example.com or call 1-866-400-4001.