Losing your furkid is one of the worst nightmares for any paw parents - the initial shock, pounding heart, and the sinking feeling in your stomach when you realised that your dog is missing. As a paw parent, if you do find someone else's missing pup, it is only natural that you want to reunite the dog with its family soonest possible. Even if you are not a paw parent, you may still want to help. Unsure where to start? Read on!
You can't help the dog if you become injured in the process. So, safety first. If you happen to come across the missing dog while driving, look in your rear-view and side mirrors before braking. Pull your car off the road and park safely before attempting to approach the dog.
How to get the dog out of a busy road
A lost dog standing in the middle of a road is in danger of getting hit and killed. It might also cause an accident that leads to people getting injured. The first thing to do is to try and get the dog safely out of the road. Try to get the dog’s attention. For example, try whistling, clapping, loudly calling to the dog, or making noises, like clicking your tongue.
Once the dog notices you, try to coax the dog to you. This may be difficult if you are a stranger. Squat down into a welcoming position and say things like, "Come here, buddy!". Make sure your voice is calm and friendly. Do not scream or shriek frantically at the dog as that may cause it to panic. If you have food, tempt it with food. If the dog is reluctant to come to you, leave the food on the side of the road, away from the traffic. Wait to see if the dog will come out of the road towards the food.
If all attempts to get the dog to notice you fail or the location is not a safe place to stop your car, then honk your horn or shoo the dog in the opposite direction – a direction away from heavy traffic – before you attempt to stop the car and approach the dog.
How to approach the dog
Dogs respond to our emotions, so it’s important to stay calm and approach with caution. Look for signs of distress or aggression like a stiff body, hard stare, growling, barking, or snarling. Do not approach if the dog is aggressive. Instead, take a photo or video of the dog and the location where the dog was found. Contact the owner and share this information with the owner. It will aid the owner in finding their beloved pet. If you do not know the owner, consider posting the photo/video on social media groups, especially groups on lost & found dogs. Please call the SPCA at 6287 5355 or the Animal Response Centre (ARC) at 1800 4761600 to report your sighting.
If the dog is friendly, approach the animal slowly and calmly with your body turned to the side. Turning your body to the side is less intimidating to the dog than a head-on approach. Squat down and reach out your hand so the dog may smell you. You may use food to coax the dog closer. Once you feel that the dog is calm and friendly, happy to be by your side, clip on a leash to secure the dog from running away.
Perhaps it was not your intention to look for a missing dog, but you just happened to be at the location where the animal is. If this is the case, you will have to make do with whatever equipment you have on hand like using a rope, cord, or even a belt as a dog leash. Otherwise, it’s advisable to bring along some basic doggy items when you go dog searching.
Here’s a simple no-choke collar; the Red Dingo Martingale Choke Prevention Dog Collar.
You may want to consider a slip-on dog leash like this Zee.Dog Gotham Slip-On Dog Leash. This slip-on dog leash combines collar and leash in one adjustable, easy-to-use piece. Great if the dog doesn’t have a collar on.
Dog’s favourite food or some strong-smelling food
See if you can find out the dog’s favourite food or treats. Alternatively, bring along a tin of tuna or wet dog food, especially a fish-based wet food like this Bronco Salmon Pâté Dog Wet Food Tray. Wet dog food emits a stronger smell. Use this to entice and befriend the dog before putting the leash on it.
- Fresh water and a water bowl
Dog’s favourite toy Ask the owner for the dog’s toy, especially one that squeaks and rattles. Use this to get the dog’s attention and encourage the dog to approach you.
Dog crate (optional, but useful!)
Here’s Dr. Cage Foldable 3ft Dog Cage. It comes with a large door for easy opening and closing
Check for identification and contact the owner
Now that you have the lost dog contained, contact the owner. If you do not have the owner’s contact details, the first thing you should do is check for an identification tag. The animal may have a tag on its collar with information like its name and its owner's contact details. If the dog doesn’t have an ID tag, bring the dog to the nearest veterinary clinic to have it scanned for a microchip. Any veterinary clinic will have a scanner. Alternatively, call SPCA and bring the newly found dog to SPCA. You can further help by making a post on social media – in the dog lost & found groups – to help disseminate the good news that the dog has been found.
Prevention is best!
Here are five vital tips to ensure you won’t lose your precious pup.
- Microchip your dog
- Get a collar with ID tag
- Keep your dog on a leash when walking or outside your house. If you want to give your dog the freedom, more room while walking, use a multi-functional, adjustable length leash like this Ruffwear Crag™ Reflective Multi-Function Dog Leash For Dogs. It can be fully extended to 6 feet or shorten to 3.5 feet. It can be hand-held, waist-worn, or secured around a tree or post.
- Secure your yard and pay attention to where your dog is before opening the gate
- Make sure to spay or neuter. Pets that are not spayed or neutered have a higher tendency to try and escape during mating season!
In summary, if you do come across a missing dog, approach the dog with caution for the safety of all parties – yours, the dog, and passersby.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.