Dog Blog

How to Prevent Your Dog or Cat From Getting Lost

The American Humane Association estimates that nearly 1 out of every three pets will go missing in their lifetime and that close to 10 million dogs or cats become lost or stolen each year. The worst part is that the Coalition for Reuniting pets and families estimates that only 23% of these lost or stolen pets will be reunited with their families. Many of the dogs and cats who don’t find their way back home end up in shelters across the country where nearly 64% end up euthanized. These statistics really are grim and for many pet owners, losing their dogs or cats will be their worst nightmare come true.

However, not all hope is lost and there are plenty of things that pet owners can do to prevent this grim nightmare from becoming reality. Once a pet is lost, there are also several steps the owners can take to increase their chances that their pet will be reunited with them. I’ve shared some of them with you below.

Create a secure and enriching environment

Make sure all doors and windows are locked or properly secured so that you’re dog can’t squeeze through or jump out. Additionally, if you provide a happy, healthy, and enriching environment with plenty of exercise, love, and stimulation your dog or cat will be less likely to want to explore the wide open spaces outdoors. Finally, when you’re transporting your dog or cat, make sure their carrier or crate is properly secured and always keep them on a leash.

Get your dog or got microchipped

As soon as you bring home your new cat or dog, make that you get them microchipped and that you register that clip through whichever service your microchip comes through. Your local veterinary office or clinic can do this for you. If you adopt your dog from a shelter, they might already come chipped. All you have to do is register your information. If you have an adult dog or cat that isn’t chipped, consider getting it done at their next vet visit.

Keep an ID tag on at all times

Your dog should always wear his collar and that collar should always have an ID tag clipped to it. Have your pet’s name inscribed on the tag along with your name, phone number, and address if you can fit it. That way if a stranger finds your dog wandering lose they can give you a call right away.

Never let your dog out off leash

If you’re taking your dog out, he should always be on a secure leash. Never, ever take your dog out in an unsecured area without a leash and be cautious when you’re out in parks, near the road, or other crowded areas. If he sees a car, person, or other animal he wants to chase, he just might run off. Make sure the collar or harness that the leash is clipped to is properly fitted to reduce the chance that your dog will slip out. Additionally, if you do happen to have a fenced in yard or if you’re taking them to another fenced in area, never leave them unsupervised. While unlikely, it’s still possible your dog could jump, crawl under, or squeeze through gaps in the fence. Finally, refrain from using retractable leashes as they are less secure and likely to snap.

Work on recall and other commands

Teach your dog to call when called. That way, if he ever slips loose or run off, you can use your recall command. Work on strengthening your other commands and set healthy boundaries for your dog. Dogs who know which behaviors are acceptable and which are not are less likely to run off.

Spay and neuter your pets

Fixed dogs and cats are less likely to roam.

What do I do if my pet gets loose?

Don’t wait

Mobilize right away. The quicker you move towards finding your pet, the greater the chance he or she will be returned to you.

Contact your local shelters and animal control

File a missing pet report with all local shelters and your local animal control. Provide a description of your pet and a clear, up to date photograph. If you think your pet was stolen, contact the police. After you file your initial report, check back with these shelters frequently.

Search your neighborhood

Start by searching the areas your dog is probably most familiar with. Call your dog’s name and check his or her favorite places. You can also leave out a can or bowl of his favorite treats or food to lure them home. Let your neighbors know your dog or cat is missing and ask them to keep a vigilant eye out. You can also tack up lost pet posters around the neighborhood with your dog or cats picture and your phone number. When my neighbors lost their dog, their left out his favorite toys and snacks and scattered traps around the neighborhood in hopes they would catch him. They ended up finding him in a trap a few days later. Finally, you’d be surprised how far pets can roam. Don’t be afraid to expand your search outside of your neighborhood.

Let the world know

Put up your lost pet posters, flyers, or signs throughout your community in heavily trafficked areas like shopping plazas, community centers, libraries, businesses, and veterinary offices. You can also places advertisements on bulletin boards or within newspapers. Post on any relevant community Facebook neighborhood pages or groups or in and lost and found pet groups. You can also post to Craigslist or check out relevant sites like Center for Lost Pets, Fido Finger, Lost Dogs of America, or the missing pet partnership. Make sure the community knows what your pet looks like. Include a description and an image if possible.

Never give up

Pets have been returned years even a decade after they’ve gone missing. While the stats on reuniting pets is grim, never give up. You never know where or how you and your beloved fur friend might be reunited.


  • Cara

    There’s a lot of great advice here and I would echo all of it.

    I foster a lot of dogs, and if I have a skittish dog who can panic in unfamiliar situations, I always use a martingale type collar on the dog to prevent him from backing out of his collar or harness. It keeps him secure. I’ve experienced a lost dog before and it is simply the most awful situation (thankfully all of mine were found safely!). I advise new adopters to use a martingale collar or a slip lead for the first few weeks until the dog understands he/she is safe and where home/mom is.

    During one of my lost dog scenarios, the site Nextdoor (a micro social media site for a specific area) helped me recover my dog quickly because it sends the message to a specific area. If you have a Nextdoor group in your area, I’d join it so if the unthinkable happens, you’re already connected to a web of neighbors.

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