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Lost and Found: Expert Advice on What to Do (and not do) When Your Dog Goes Missing

Updated: Feb 13

There have been a lot of missing dog posts recently; dogs that have got spooked on walks and bolted, or dogs that can't find their way back to their human after giving chase to something, or even just dogs who have got lost when visiting new places.

No matter how well a recall you have trained, or how clingy your dog may be 99.9% of the time, planning for the unexpected is always worthwhile. The majority of dogs that go missing do so because they got spooked and then continue to be spooked whilst on the run so I thought it would be a good chatting point to ensure best practice is in place for all if such an event happens to you and your dog or you come across a dog that has been reported missing.

First Thing's First - Information is Key!

It is the law that your dog be microchipped and your information kept up to date on the database. I recently had a run in with a local resident whose dog continues to go missing and each time the microchip scans as unregistered. If you have lost your paperwork or never had it and don't know which agency to contact to update your information, ask your vet to scan for a chip and they will be able to tell you who to contact; it's that easy!

Vet scanning a dog for microchip

Additionally, all dog's are required by law to wear an ID Tag with the following information:

  • Owners Name

  • Owners Address

Anything else is a bonus, but I would recommend:

  • Owners Mobile Number

  • A Secondary Emergency Contact Number

  • Dog's Name

  • Medical Conditions (if any)

  • Vet Contact Number

It is quite rare for my dogs to wear collars, they are predominantly harness wearers so mine all have metal plates attached to the straps of their harnesses with the above information. However, on the rare occasion they do wear a collar they have tags on them too.

Their microchips are all up to date, and they are regularly scanned during vet trips to ensure they still work and are discoverable within the body. It's not uncommon for a microchip to slip or migrate; my old mastiff Pablo ended up with his under his armpit, so be sure to ask for a full body scan if the microchip isn't easily detected.


If you've been keeping up with the Cwtches Blogs and our socials for a while you will know just how big a fan I am of dog trackers, specifically Tractive. All of my dogs wear them and I recommend yours do too. Tractive dog trackers have GPS Tracking (on subscription) so you can track your dog live with no distance limit. You can set virtual fences so you get a notification if they step out of that boundary, and there's history tracking too so you can see where they've been and where their favourite spots are. There's even an activity monitor and health app element to it too. Oh yeah, and the battery life is AMAZING! I can't promote these enough, they are such an excellent tool. You can enjoy a 30% discount off your purchase on us

I have tried other trackers; PitPat, and Ubequee to be exact and I'm not promoting them so make of that what you will.

Air Tags are really popular on dogs and I am really surprised because honestly, as a dog locating tool, they are next to useless! Air Tags, as clever as they are can only be relied upon if there are iPhones nearby to bounce a signal from. You'd think being in London that would be fine but the signal range is only 30 metres, so if your dog is hiding from people or stuck somewhere inaccessible then an air tag is only going to show you where your dog is not! Don't waste your money!

Tractive App screen and woman holding her Dalmatian dog

What To Do If Your Dog Goes Missing

This advice is from DogLost, a free volunteer organisation that work to reunite dogs with their owners

DogLost logo


Before anything else - expect your dog to return on their own. Your dog will likely try to return to where they lost you, where the car is parked, or back home if it's nearby. Quietly walk the route on your own or with a known family member. Avoid groups of strangers searching, calling, making noise and confusing scents.

If your dog escaped from home

  • Leave the garden gate and/or door open overnight

  • Put the dogs bed and their food outside

If your dog escaped on a walk

  • Leave your car in the car park

  • Sit quietly watching & waiting

  • Leave back door or the boot open



  • It is vital to get sightings quickly

  • Include clear photos, location missing from, 2 phone numbers and DO NOT CHASE/ TRY TO CATCH message

  • Place all around the area that your dog went missing and in high footfall areas; roads and locations so that everyone can see

  • Posters help to bring dogs home!


  • Take details of every sighting; location, time, direction, behaviour

  • If current sighting, go alone or with family member, leave food and walk around quietly

  • Avoid lots of people going out; just known family and dogs

  • If an old sighting or dog running, get posters up around the area in case dog returns


  • Do not call, chase, or try to grab/catch them. Stay calm, still, and quiet.

  • Sit / lay down, carefully throw treats

  • Wait patiently. It may take a long time, but it is worth it - good luck!

If in any doubt, seek advice from the local DogLost or dog trapping team

DogLost information poster

What To Do If See A Lost Dog


  • Speak softly - don't call, whistle or chase

  • Contact the owner if you are actively looking for a missing dog

  • Use slow movements - show you are no threat!

  • Don't approach the dog head on or at speed

  • Sit, crouch or lie on the ground keeping the dog in sight

  • Don't look directly at the dog - avoid eye contact

  • Lure with food if possible throwing it away from you, but also not directly at the dog

  • If the dog runs away don't chase, follow from a distance, stopping and dropping if dog turns round

  • Don't attempt to catch or restrain unless you're confident that you will get them first try.

DogLost information poster

Liked this blog? Subscribe to the Cwtches Dog newsletter for more news directly to your inbox. You can also buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi... Diolch 🥰

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