Earlier this week, a new lawn guy inadvertently allowed my back gate to open, and I was horrified to find several of my dogs out of the yard. Two of them took off up the street, and while I was quickly able to get them back home, the frightening “What if” continued to play itself in my mind.

The minutes after your pet first goes missing are critical. Recruit friends and family members to help you look. Designate search areas, and use your cell phones to ensure you’re spread out sufficiently. Make sure searchers know to call for the dog in a happy voice.  If your dog is responsive to certain words, such as “treat,” use these as you call.  “Doggie, do you want a treat?”  If the dog is spotted, do not chase him.  Instead, whoever sees the dog should stop where they are, crouch down and call the dog in a calm tone.  If the person is not someone with whom the dog is familiar, the owner should be notified to come.

If you don’t find your dog immediately, you will need to take additional steps. The key to getting your dog back is getting word out.  Post on Craig’s List, take out ads in area newspapers, and read the “found dog” listings carefully.

Be aware that someone who finds your pet may not get the description correct. To many people, any black dog is a “lab mix” so if the ad you’re reading is a match in any way, it’s worth calling and inquiring. After a day or two on his own, your normally white and tan Lhasa might appear to be a gray and black mutt, so if the size and sex are correct, follow-up to be sure it isn’t your dog.

Use social media to your advantage. Post on Facebook and ask your friends to share the post on their pages. I was once part of a reunion where a dog training student saw a lost lab I was temporarily sheltering. When she got on Facebook, a friend of my student had posted about her cousin’s lost dog.  The friend’s cousin’s dog was the same one I was caring for, and we were able to reunite them.

Call all the vets within a large radius of where your dog disappeared, remembering a panicked animal can run farther than you might expect and dogs are often picked up in cars and driven to a new area.  Report your dog to the police and sheriff departments, as well as animal control.

Personally go door to door in the area where your dog went missing and make a point of talking with anyone who normally travels in that location.  Letter carriers, school bus drivers, school children who walk through the area and utility workers can all be valuable contacts.  If construction is being done, talk to the workers. Be sure when you speak to people you give them something with your name and number printed on it, so they can easily contact you.

It’s also important to visit any Humane Societies and/or animal control facilities in the surrounding areas.  Don’t just call them, go in person and ask to see both the dogs that have been brought in and any “found dog” reports that have been filed. I know of one instance where a found dog was taken to a shelter, a report filled out, and pictures taken of him. The finder called the shelter the next day to see if anyone had been looking for the dog, and was told no one had. In between these two contacts, the owner of the dog had been to the shelter to look for his dog, but he had not examined the reports himself and had been told none had been filed.

Had the owner given up at that point, he would never have gotten his dog back, despite both his efforts and those of the person who found the dog.

Fast, intense search is the key to retrieving your dog.  If your best buddy goes missing, don’t give up on him.  You know he wants to come home!

Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.