Help! My Dog is Lost – Lost Dog Search Tips

Steps to take BEFORE your pet is lost

  • Microchip your pet.
  • Have a recent close-up and full body  picture of your pet.
  • Be aware of your neighborhood  surroundings, which pets belong to which neighbor, and any danger areas near your home.
  • Teach your pet to respond to a whistle for treats or canned food goodies.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with an I.D. tag or an embroidered collar with your current phone number. Cats should wear a quick-release collar.
  • Pet-proof your yard fence so your cat or dog will be safely confined.
  • Keep fence gates securely locked.
  • Never allow your pets to roam free in the neighborhood.
  • Always transport your cat in a carrier and your dog on leash or in a carrier.
  • Ensure the YOU can be located if your pet is found.
  • Spay/neuter your pets. Both males and females will be much less likely to wander if they are “fixed”.


  • Do not put your name or address on your flyers.
  • If possible use a color photo of your pet.
  • Use fluorescent paper for high visibility.
  • List the date and place your pet was last seen, including a major cross street. List your pet’s breed, sex, age, weight, color, markings and your telephone number.
  • If you offer a reward, don’t list an amount.
  • Withhold at least one identifying mark to verify your pet has been found by a caller.

Post flyers at waist level on telephone poles and at eye level in such places as vet offices, pet shops, barber & beauty shops, grocery stores, community bulletin boards, churches, pizza parlors, Laundromats, convenience stores and school bulletin boards.

What to do if your dog is lost:

  • First, search your property thoroughly.
  • Walk the neighborhood, talk to everybody and leave your phone number.
  • Make some noise while you walk around the neighborhood- use the whistle your dog is used to responding to for treats.
  • Bring a powerful flashlight, (even during daylight hours) for checking dark spaces.
  • Place strong smelling articles outside your home to attract your pet. Place a dog’s bedding and favorite toys outside. Place some unwashed laundry of the family in a box outside. If it’s warm weather, crate other family pets and place them outside in a safe and secure area.
  • Call PAWS 206-842-2451
  • Post an ad with Kitsap Lost Pets.
  • Post Lost Pet Flyers
  • Check the Kitsap Lost Pets Lost Pet pages, and the found ads in the classifieds.

Reasons Why Dogs Leave

Opportunistic journey is when a gate or door is accidentally left open. While some dogs will remain in their yards or at their homes, most simply can’t refuse the temptation to explore when presented the opportunity. Although these dogs might not actively attempt to leave, their noses just lead them on a journey that can take them blocks or even miles from home.

Wanderlust is a common problem in intact male dogs of any breed as well as certain breeds like hounds. These dogs will actively attempt to escape by climbing, digging, or wiggling to escape their yards. They will also bolt out a door or pull to get away from their handler if the opportunity presents itself. Wanderlust is responsible for the displacement of many dogs and a major contributing factor to the stray populations in our shelters.

Blind panic is a situation in which the “flight” instinct (from the hardwired “fight or flight” response to stimuli) kicks in and a dog runs in what we call a blind panic. This can happen for three reasons: xenophobic (skittish) temperament, loud noises (thunder, gunfire), or traumatic incident (involved in car accident, explosion, etc). These dogs are the most difficult to catch since they will travel far, travel fast, and avoid human contact, even with their own family members!

Owner Behaviors That Create Problems: Dog owners often behave in ways that actually inhibit their chances of finding their lost dog. They develop “tunnel vision” and fail to find their dog because they focus on wrong theories. They experience “grief avoidance” and quickly give up their search effort. They feel helpless and alone, often discouraged by others who rebuke them and tell them “it was just a dog” and “you’ll never find your dog.” But one of the biggest problems is that dog owners typically focus their search efforts by posting lost dog flyers and by searching the cages at the local shelter.

Although these techniques are important and should not be overlooked, the primary technique to recover a missing dog should be to obtain permission from all neighbors to enter their yards and conduct an aggressive, physical search for the missing dog (and to set baited humane traps there when necessary). Simply asking a neighbor to “look” for the lost dog is not sufficient! Neighbors are not going to crawl around on their bellies under their decks or houses to search for someone else’s lost dog!