How to Prevent Lost Dogs or Dog Theft

Safety Precautions to Protect Your Dog

It's every dog owner's worst fear: losing a beloved dog. Dogs that run off to explore may not be able to find the way home. They dig their ways out of fenced yards, slip out of leashes, or run from the car. Tragically, other dogs are stolen (especially expensive and popular purebred dogs). There is a black market for dogs, and thieves have been known to steal valuable dog breed so they can sell them. 

There's no doubt that the disappearance of a canine companion is devastating. Learn how to protect your dog from becoming lost or stolen and take steps to help increase the likelihood of your dog's safe return if the worst happens.

  • 01 of 07

    Be a Responsible Dog Owner

    dog leaning on owner's legs
    Fuse/Getty Images

    Being responsible for your dog means protecting her, supervising her and knowing where she is at all times.

    Avoid leaving your dog alone in the yard for any period of time. Dogs crave companionship and become easily bored if left alone. They may find a weak spot in the fence, jump or climb the fence, or dig out from under the fence. Additionally, a dog left alone can easily be stolen.

    Secure your fence and supervise your dog. Do not let your dog run off-leash in an unfenced area. Be careful when opening doors so your dog does not run out. Avoid leaving your dog in the car or tethered outside a place of business while you run in "just for a minute." A minute might be all it takes.

  • 02 of 07

    Keep Your Dog on a Leash

    Adam Sternin / Cavan Images

    It may sometimes be tempting to let your dog run off-leash. Maybe you are going from the house to the car and just know your dog will follow you. Perhaps you are at an empty park and think your dog will stay close to you.

    The truth is that every time your dog is off-leash in an unfenced area you are taking a risk. Even well-trained dogs may run too far away from you in the right circumstances. A small animal may evoke the dog's predatory instinct. A loud noise may scare a dog into running away. If your dog gets out of your sight, she might not find her way home. A wandering dog may be injured or even stolen. Using a leash is the best way to keep your dog safe and in your sight.

  • 03 of 07

    Keep a Collar with ID on Your Dog

    Two cute collars on two very cute French Bulldogs
    Two cute collars on two very cute French Bulldogs. Photo © Stacy Andrew

    Your dog should wear a collar at all times, and that collar should always have current identification. Sadly, many dogs are picked up by animal control and have no ID. Some of these dogs are never found by their owners.

    Take the time to find the best collar and ID tag for your dog. Keep them on her, just in case. If your dog is found, the ID will help her to be safely returned. Also, make sure to collar fits well so it will not slip off.

  • 04 of 07

    Microchip Your Dog

    Microchip For Dog - Photo of Microchip
    Microchip. Photo © Don Farrall / Getty Images

    A microchips is a computer chip that is about the size of a grain of rice. It can be safely implanted under the skin between your dog's shoulder blades. The microchip emits a radio signal that can be picked up by a special reader.

    Microchipping is a great way to permanently identify your dog, as the chip safely remains under your dog's skin for life. One of the best features of microchips is that they cannot fall off like collars. Your contact information is stored in the company's database and is associated with your dog's chip number.

    If your dog is scanned and a chip is found, it can be traced back to you. This not only makes it easier for you to get your lost dog back, it also proves that your dog belongs to you in the event she is stolen. Just make sure to keep your contact information current with the microchip company.

    Note that it is still important to keep a collar with ID on your dog just in case your dog ends up in a place where no scanner is available.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Train Your Dog

    Shaking Hands with Dog
    Shaking Hands with Dog. Photo Kane Skennar / Getty Images

    A solid foundation of training is essential for many reasons. If your dog is well-trained (the emergency recall command is especially valuable) you are more likely to be able to stop her if she starts to wander away.

    In general, it is a good idea to keep some treats handy at all times, just in case you need an incentive. Additionally, commands like stay or wait can help you keep your dog from taking off in the first place.

  • 06 of 07

    Travel Safely With Your Dog

    Terry Husebye/The Image Bank/Getty Images

    Traveling with your dog can be lots of fun, but travel safety is essential. Be certain that you take precautions when traveling. If your dog is flying, be sure the crate is secured and the identification clear and current. During road trips, use caution to keep her from running away when the car door opens.

    If your dog does run away, being in a strange place makes it more difficult for her to find her way back. It may also make it harder for you to be contacted.

  • 07 of 07

    What To Do If Your Dog Becomes Lost or Stolen

    lost dog sign
    Photo © Daquella manera on flickr

    If, despite your best efforts, your dog becomes lost or stolen, you must take immediate action. If you suspect theft, contact the local law enforcement. Post signs, contact local animal hospitals and shelters, canvass the neighborhood. Ask friends, neighbors and family members for their help. Post lost dog ads in the newspaper and list your dog online at lost dog databases. Most importantly, act fast and do not give up hope.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.