My Dog Ran Away and Never Came Back! What Should I Do Now?
Dogs running away is one of the biggest fears of any dog parent. One day your dog was goofing around with you, and the next day they’re missing. Now, you’re probably scared out of your wits and don’t know what to do. All the worst-case scenarios are currently going through your head.
In such circumstances, the first thing you must do is to keep a cool head. It’s tough not to panic. But remember, panicking will cloud your judgment, and you will miss out on a massive clue to where your dog might be.
By this time, you’ve probably looked through your house and backyard, the neighborhood, and even gone to shelters. You’re worried sick. But you need to clear your thoughts and take action. Follow these steps below, and all being well, you will find your favorite buddy safe and sound.
Reasons Why Dogs Run Away
This the primary reason why any pet tends to run away. Dogs are energetic creatures. They need daily physical activities. Otherwise, they will get bored and lonely and move around other places to find excitement. If something catches their curiosity, they will run after it.
Accessible Escape Routes:
Most people with dogs are careful with their gates. But sometimes we can make mistakes and leave a gate open. Dogs won’t understand why it is dangerous to go outside, so they will just leave and run around nearby. Sometimes large active dogs jump over fences or dig holes in the ground and escape.
Dogs have a great sense of smell and hearing. Combine those with a naturally inquisitive personality, and you have an energetic pet in your hand. These dogs like to chase and go after squirrels, cats, cars, or anything that catches their attention.
Even the most trained and well-mannered dogs can get these impulses and chase after another dog that catches their attention. Getting a smell of a dog they’re attracted to is enough for them to pursue it.
Neutered dogs have 90 percent less chance of sexual impulses. Male dogs are more likely to respond to sexual urges.
Scared and Anxious:
Agitated dogs will run away from whatever environment they’re currently in. Dogs have an acute auditory sense. Loud noises, bright light, crowded environments can panic your dogs.
This leads to them looking for a safe and quiet space. Dogs may take off suddenly if they’re getting too overwhelmed.
Steps You Need to Take To Prevent Your Dog Ran Away
Understand Your Dog
Some breeds like huskies and malamutes tend to be flighty. They like jumping, chasing, and running. If you have a breed that’s likely to run faster, you need to search faster because they can cover a small distance quickly.
You also need to think about the dog’s size. Smaller breeds like chihuahua and pomeranian’s won’t run as fast as a German Shepherd or Pitbull. Big dogs can run up to 5 miles or more at a time, but small dogs can run for half a mile or so. However, tiny dogs can hide in plain sight and make it harder for you to find them.
Fitness of a dog also matters because one with many health issues won’t be able to go as far as a physically healthy one. Dogs with anxiety will take shelter in places they are familiar with. Outgoing dogs will look for other people, dogs, or animals to play with, but introverted ones hide in small spaces or bushes.
Look and Ask Around Your Neighborhood
This is probably one of the first steps you’ve taken in your search. However, we tend to miss things hiding in plain sight. What you need to do is think practically.
Think about all the places your dog liked to go to, such as the neighborhood park, the schoolyard, the local game court, dog day-care, etc. Note down the houses they loved visiting and where their dog friends’ lives.
You also need to make a list of people your dog liked interacting with. Maybe they got a sausage from the local butcher once, the kids they liked playing with, or someone who feeds them every time they meet. Search around these places.
Remember to take their favorite toys and treats while you’re searching. These familiar objects will make them approach if you see them.
Alert Police Station and Animal Shelters
While losing your dog is an emergency for you, it is not a life-threatening situation. So, don’t call 911 or emergency hotlines just yet. Instead, try to notify your local police station and animal shelters. Leave your contact, dog’s photo, and information with them.
Also, try to contact your local animal control. Animal control could’ve picked up your furry friend, assuming it to be a wandering stray. Another critical place to notify is your vet clinic and the other local vet hospitals. If your dog somehow injured themselves, someone might take them to the veterans.
Search Nearby Neighbourhoods
If you still weren’t able to locate your dog where you live, you need to look into the other neighborhoods. Your dog could’ve run a great distance while chasing a cat or squirrel.
Search around nearby neighborhoods and notify their police and shelters as well. Unfortunately, animal shelters aren’t updated by other shelters, as there is no central organization. So, you need to cover your ground as much as possible.
Your flyers need to be eye-catching; otherwise, most people will just pass them by. Use big and colorful fonts. Put a recent picture of your dog and write out the description. If you don’t have their photo, search for the same breed on the internet and use the most similar looking one.
Mention their names, nicknames, collar colors, distinct features as well. Remember to describe where they were last seen and give your contact information. If you can offer a reward, that would be an added bonus.
Print out at least 100 pieces and post them around your whole neighborhood. If you live in a diverse community, you could write the post in the most common languages. Use google translate or other translation apps for this.
Use the Internet
Nowadays, the easiest way to ask for help is through social media. Post the same information that you used on the flyer—post on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and use tags such as #lostdog. Don’t forget to post on your neighborhood group, friend groups, community watch, vet clinic group, and local animal group forums.
Another way to use the net to your advantage is to search the website of your animal shelters. Most shelters these days have pages where they post pictures of the strays which they’ve taken in. Filter your search and go through their list. They also regularly update their sites.
Don’t Chase Your Dog
This is a huge mistake many people are inclined to make. If you find your dog or have them in sight, never chase or yell for them. Since they already left home and are in a panicked state, they are likely to run away from you when chased.
If you see them, put out their favorite treats and toys. Let them see it and come towards you. You can also sit down next to the treats. Call them friendlily by saying something such as “Come on, buddy. Come here, sport!” or call their name fondly. Dogs can pick up the tone of speech.
This will create a relaxed environment for them, and dogs are more likely to approach. Get your dog to play with you if they refuse to come near.
Also, it is essential to note that when you find your dog, do not scold or shout. Doing this will make your dog associate loud scolding with you and your home, which will lead to them running away again. Try to be patient and kind.
Considerations To Make When Your Dog Ran Away
When to Search:
Most dogs are more active in the morning and night-time. Although looking for them at day is easy, it’s difficult to spot them after dark. Take torchlights with you and search all their familiar places. Chances are they could’ve gone there to sleep.
Take Care of Yourself:
While it is difficult for you, don’t burn yourself out while searching for your favorite buddy. Understandably, you’re upset, but you need to take care of yourself physically as well.
Allot a specific time when to look for them. Don’t wear yourself out by walking around the neighborhood all day.
Set Shelter in Your Backyard:
There is a chance that your dog might come back after many days on their own. For that reason, you need to put out some food and blankets in your backyard for comfort. But, try to put it in a place your dog liked sitting or playing to decrease the chances of attracting other animals.
What to Do If You Never Find Them
This is an unfortunate conclusion, but sometimes people don’t find their lost pets. Your dog was maybe injured and taken to a clinic, or they were mistaken as stray and been adopted. While there’s a small chance, they also could’ve been stolen by someone.
If you’ve searched for a month or so and found no lead, you need to accept that likelihood of them coming back is very low. There’s also the unfortunate possibility that your beloved dog may have passed away.
You need to remember that it is healthy and necessary to grieve over animal companions. No matter how long you had them for, there was a bond and relationship between you.
Don’t beat yourself over, leaving a gate open or thinking that you didn’t pay enough attention. Mistakes happen, and beating yourself up over something that has already happened can be severely detrimental to your health.
Don’t blame the family member or friend who made a mistake. Occasionally humans are forgetful and make careless mistakes. Don’t hold a grudge and ruin your relationship with others over this.
It’s natural to feel anger and resentment. Let yourself feel those negative emotions, but don’t take your anger on others. It’s a terrible situation that nobody wanted. The blame game isn’t going to benefit anyone.
Coping with Uncertainty
This is one of those situations where you will never know what has actually happened. Is your dog in this neighborhood or somewhere else? Did someone else adopt them, or were they stolen? Are they even alive? These are questions you will never find the answer to.
It is more difficult to cope with unknown conditions, but we have to move forward. While it is good to keep out hope that they might return someday, it is still necessary to accept the inevitable after a while. There’s no time limit, after which you stop searching and accept it.
For some people, their pets were their best friends or life-long companions. Dealing with their loss is just as profound as losing a friend. You need to allow yourself to feel the sadness rather than bottling it up.
Cry out your sadness if you feel the need to. It’s absolutely necessary for your mental health that you let yourself feel sad. Take your time in grieving. You need to understand that it is a life-long process.
Some people take up hobbies like crafting, drawing, running, woodworking, etc. to cope. Some might prefer professional help to deal with the loss. Many people adopt another animal companion after a few years.
There’s no rule on how to deal with such circumstances. All you can do is find what works for you and gravitate towards it. They will always be in your heart, but working towards a healthy life is vital.
Having a runaway dog is a terrible situation. However, how you search for them can make all the difference. Hopefully, these tips can help you to find your beloved companion. Go through the steps carefully, and don’t try to miss any if you can help it.
If you manage to find them, consider using a GPS tracker collar on them, updating your fences, and locking your doors more carefully. Although, if you don’t find them, it’s completely okay and necessary to grieve over your dog. Take your time to cope, and don’t blame yourself.