National Lost Dog Awareness Day - How to Keep Your Dog From Getting Lost

Lost Dog sign

April 23rd is National Lost Dog Awareness Day. We’re sharing tips with our readers on how to keep your dog from getting lost. Losing your furry best friend can be a harrowing experience, but there are some things you can do to help minimize the chances of it happening. And if it does happen, how to find them and bring them home where they belong.

What is National Lost Dog Awareness Day, and Why is it Important? 

Did you know that one in three pets will go missing?  According to studies performed by the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States, the estimates show that 40-60% of dogs in local animal shelters are someone’s pet that went missing.

Lost Dog Awareness Day was founded in 2014 by Lost Dogs of America to draw attention to these concerning facts above and urge you to micro-chip your pet.  Since its inception in 2011, Lost Dogs of America has aided 42,000 dogs in being reunited with their owners. Consider how many more need assistance.

How do Lost Dogs Behave?

Lost dog

Understanding lost dog behavior can help you locate your missing dog. How a dog behaves if he’s unable to make his way back home depends on his personality and how your pet was raised. Animal rescue professionals have closely studied the behavioral patterns of lost animals over the years.

Many dogs will go into "fight or flight" mode when lost. Many lost dogs will go into survival mode. Depending on their temperament will determine how soon they go into survival mode.

What is Survival Mode in Lost Dogs

So, what exactly is survival mode? When a domesticated dog gets lost and finds himself in unfamiliar territory, his baser instinct for survival kicks in. Dog behavior, when lost, is guided by his survival instinct in his search for food, water, and shelter, which helps him detect and protect himself from any potential threat. 

However, when survival mode is on, a dog forgets his life as a domesticated pet. Lost dogs may enter survival mode instantly, while it may take weeks before it kicks in for some. So, what does this tell you? The sooner you start looking for your dog, the more likely that he hasn’t been in survival mode yet.

Different Temperaments of Dogs

lost dog

Different temperaments of dogs help determine where you might find your lost pup.

1.     Gregarious dogs

Gregarious dogs exhibit friendlier lost house dog behavior. More friendly dogs are more likely to be picked up by a stranger. They might try to find the dog's owner or take it to a shelter. If your dog is friendly, it is possible that he has not gone too far from home.

2.     Aloof dogs

Dogs that are not interested in people and stay away from strangers are most likely to travel long distances. These dogs may go missing for weeks or months before they are found. When they are found, they often show signs of being injured, malnourished, or infected with parasites, giving the impression that they are strays or abused dogs. If your dog is one of these aloof dogs, you may need some help from experienced rescue groups to find them. Aloof dogs can be enticed by food but it may take some time and patience to earn their trust.

3.     Xenophobic dogs

The most fearful type of dog is classified as xenophobic. Dogs with a traumatic past are often scared by almost anything and easily give in to panic. Dogs with xenophobia will travel the farthest. If you think your dog is likely to exhibit xenophobic behavior after being found, humane traps would be the most effective method for capturing a xenophobic dog. You may also want to get help from other rescue dogs.

What to do if You Lose Your Dog

You can do several things if you happen to lose your dog.

  • First of all, contact your local shelters and vets. You'll want to provide them with current information regarding your dog, including a recent color picture.
  • Walk your neighborhood. Let your neighbors know as you search. It would be best to enlist their help if they are able, too.
  • Post notices in neighborhood grocery stores, gas stations, and local coffee shops. Take to social media and post information about your pet in local community forums.
  • It's unfortunate, but many dogs are stolen. If you think someone stole your dog, check advertising websites, you might recognize the description from the ad. Contact the police if you believe your dog was stolen.

What To Do if You Come Across a Lost Dog

Not all stray dogs are stray! Some are missing, with loving families that are searching for them. If you find a dog who looks lost, contact your local humane society officer or Lost Dogs of America.

Sharing the dog’s information on social media channels, such as Facebook, has also been very effective in reuniting dogs with their families.

Many dogs, even dogs that generally are not fearful at home, become terrified when they become lost. While some dogs will ultimately calm down and approach people, other dogs will continue to run from everyone, including their owners!

One of the worst things you can do is CALL a stray, loose, or panicked dog. If too many people have already tried to capture the dog, calling him becomes a “trigger” that can cause him to automatically take off in fear when anyone, including his owner, calls him.

Instead, you will want to use “Calming Signals” to calm the dog's fear and attract him to come toward you using specific body language and a food lure. MPP Founder Kat Albrecht demonstrates how to calm and lure a panicked dog. 

Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe and Secure

Keep your dog secure. Whether on a leash or in a fenced yard, your dog is less likely to wander if it is secured.

Training is valuable. Dogs who have been trained are less likely to go missing. Most importantly, they learn to recall commands. Formal obedience training offers owners helpful information that can lead to a better relationship between pets and owners.

Dog Getting Microchipped

Tags and microchipping help with the recovery of a missing animal. This should be one of the first steps completed when you first receive your new family member. While tags are inexpensive to protect your pet, dogs can slip a collar. It is essential to keep the information on the microchip or tag up to date if you move or get a new phone number.

Always supervise your animal. Dogs, especially expensive purebreds, can be stolen even from a fenced yard.

Spaying and neutering not only protects your dog from being impregnated by other males, but they also decrease the likelihood of them going in search of a partner. Furthermore, if your dog goes missing without notice, there's a chance that they have produced unwanted puppies.

Keep your records up to date on your animals. That includes photos, vaccinations, and valuable tags and microchips.