Even older dogs may not have a clue how to find their way home, and puppies are at even greater risk of being injured by cars or picked up by well-meaning people who find them. According to the ASPCA, nearly one-in-five lost pets go missing after being scared by fireworks or other loud noises.
A lost pet can happen in an instant when the lawn mowing crew fails to latch the dog’s backyard gate, or Halloween trick or treaters leave the front door ajar when the doorbell rings. Holidays can be a stressful time for puppies anyway. Visitors may not know to keep baby gates latched and the new pup may not come when called by visiting family members.
Don't wait until your puppy becomes lost. Prepare for the worst and then take steps to prevent your pets from ever becoming lost.
In June 2014 the ASPCA released a free, interactive mobile app for pet owners, tailored to your specific circumstances and each pet's individual personality. That can help you know how and where to search if they go missing, build a digital share-able lost pet flyer that can be instantly posted online. The app includes advice for pet safety before, during and after a major storm or natural disaster.
If your puppy ever does go astray, follow these tips to help you find your lost puppy.
Visit the Shelter
People often take strays to the local shelter. Don’t call and ask about a missing Great Pyrenees puppy. Baby dogs often look different than adults of the breed, and the shelter staff may not always recognize your verbal description. You should visit several times to see if somebody has turned him in, and don't take the staff's word for it--insist on eyeballing the dogs. Your white fluffy baby may have rolled in the mud and now look brown, and you're in the best position to recognize your furry wonder.
Tell the Neighborhood
Alert your neighbors to be on the lookout for a lost pet. Kindly pet lovers may take in a friendly stray and watch for “lost” ads in the newspaper before taking them to the shelter. Go door to door, and ask permission to check outbuildings, under porches where puppies might hide or become trapped in an infrequently used garage. Holidays, when neighbors leave town, may mean the pet becomes trapped and not noticed for days or weeks.
Advertise Your Lost Puppy
Make posters or fliers to leave with neighbors or at the shelter that includes several photos documenting a close up of the face, full body shots from both sides and the back, and any distinguishing marks. Lots of folks have a Labrador or Golden Retriever but yours may be the only one with three pink freckles in a triangular pattern on a white tummy. Check with local newspapers about posting "lost pet" notices--often they do this for free.
Avoid describing pets as a Labradoodle or "whatever" cross when the combination can vary. Offer specifics: curly chocolate color fur, one ear up and one down, 45-pound neutered male, floppy (or erect) ears, docked tail -- answers to “Spiffy” and dances and spins when you say “wanna cookie?”
Get Identification for Your Puppy
It's ideal to have your puppy wear some type of identification. Up to seventy percent of animals that arrive at shelters have no identification, and as a result, a great percentage are euthanized. A metal or plastic tag with your contact information attached to the pup’s collar offers the simplest method of identification. A rabies tag serial number with clinic contact information also helps. People can call the clinic, where they look up the serial number to identify the pet and his owner. Tattoos and microchips are also common and effective forms of puppy identification.
Track Your Puppy Down
Search and rescue dogs have been trained for years to find missing people lost in disasters, or that have wandered off due to illness or simply becoming confused. Today, specially trained dogs also are available to track down missing pets. Because a pet's scent can fade over time, it's important to contact a tracking dog organization for help as soon as possible. You'll be asked to provide the puppy's favorite toy, a blanket or brush that smells like him for the tracking dog to scent and know what he's looking for.