This is one of every pet parent's worst nightmare but just like all other worst case scenarios, knowledge is power and knowing what to do in case your beloved dog or cat goes missing can be the difference between finding them or not.
These tips are from a combination of multiple resources. Some of these life saving bullet points come from Teddy Henn and his incredible CERTIFIED tracking dog "Winston" and the team from Long Island Dog Search & Rescue. Thank you Lynn Fodale & Charmain too for the great info and for your tireless efforts! You are amazing!
The first thing most people will do is walk their neighborhood in the hopes that their dog or cat is in a neighbor's yard or in a local park.Be sure to check underneath decks as well as in sheds. These searches are often successful, however, it is important to be prepared for the next step if you don't find them within a couple of hours.
The next step is reaching out to your local shelters, police station and rescues with a description and pictures. Where were they last seen, how old they are, color, breed, weight, name and if they were wearing a collar with tags, etc... It is also imperative that you physically visit the shelters and walk through the kennels to search for your dog. Leave nothing to chance.
Flyering/papering your neighborhood is huge! Both Teddy and Lynn of Long Island Dog Search & Rescue attribute flyering a neighborhood to be a bout 95% successful.Many times, a good samara tin will have lured the scared pup into their home with some food and they may not know how to locate the owner. A 2 mile radius is suggested when papering AND it's essential to have a large print phone number with the words "LOST DOG. DO NOT CHASE!" and if feasible "REWARD".
Another great tip from our friends Teddy & Lynn is to leave a scent trail on your block to help them find their way home. Place clothing that has been worn (the longer the better). For cats, put their littler box outside along with a garment of clothing you wear. For dogs, leave scent articles along the sidewalk/curb line leading to your home. It's important to understand that dogs go into "survival mode" and that they're often so scared, they won't even recognize their own humans by any other means than scent!
On our episode "Finding Fido" Teddy also mentions Pawboost and "Lost My Doggy" - two websites that are great tools to help get more eyeballs on your missing pet. Lost My Doggy even has additional tools such as Facebook ads and a large network of veterinarians, shelters and people who sign up for their local email alerts. You too can sign up for their email alerts and be a part of their life saving network. I just did.
Important to keep in mind that if you are the one who locates a missing dog that you should not chase it or call it's name. I just learned this and it definitely goes against our natural instincts but this is what the experts say. Yelling their name can scare them and cause them to run.
Hiring a tracker. Just like all other walks of life, there are good and bad in all professions. We highly recommend that you don't spend and potentially waste your money on self-proclaimed trackers who often charge a lot of money upfront but may not find your dog. There are in fact training organizations that provide a rather lengthy education and high standards that must be met in order to claim a dog and its handler are "trackers". Please note Teddy Henn and his hero dog "Winston" are MAR trained. (Missing Animal Response) and unfortunately, there are people out there who are taking advantage of others in their most desperate time of need. We strongly recommend visiting the Missing Animal Response Network Website to locate a fully trained pet detective.
Last but not least, we must mention that an ounce of prevention often equals a safely returned pet. Be sure your pets are microchipped and that the information is up to date. Please keep tags on their collars which include your phone number. Invest in a GPS collar. These may be more expensive than a regular collar but they can literally pinpoint your missing pet's exact location...and isn't that worth every single penny?