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What to do when you lose your dog

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

There’s no worse feeling than losing your pet – even ten minutes can feel like an eternity, and all sorts of thoughts and anxieties are brought to the surface in the time that they are missing. If you have gone exploring, and suddenly lost your dog - we have compiled a list of things you can do to help you find your buddy again! Do not lose hope!

Don’t panic

First and foremost, when you notice your dog is no longer by your side nor coming when called, try to stay calm and retrace your steps to the last place you saw them, calling their name as you go. Chances are they could have just got carried away following a scent and wandered a little further along. If you have a GPS tracker on your dog, be sure to check the app for last sighting and enable live track if possible. In some cases, the connection where you are might not be strong enough, and you will need to rely on other methods.

WWYDD (What would your dog do?)

If calling your dog and the GPS tracker fails, you will need to stay in the area and start thinking like your dog - what would they do?

Are they nervous and likely to avoid encountering people and hide? Have they been neutered or spayed? If not, they may have wandered off looking for some tail.

Maybe your dog is especially food-driven? In this case, you will want to search neighbouring areas, rubbish dumps or possible areas of shelter, where your dog may have gone off scavenging for food and water. Does your dog like people or dogs? If so, they may search out other people and dogs, and if your dog is very social, a search party might be a good option. One important thing to remember is that dogs do not think like people and have a very different vantage point to us humans – they will not be mindful of boundaries, and may sneak onto private property or construction sites.

Call the authorities

Alert the authorities and nearby shelters of your missing dog. You may also call the SPCA, and report your lost pet to the Animal management Centre of AFCD by dialling "1823". It would also be a good idea to make a police report at the nearest police station, and keep a copy of the report.

Create a "Missing Dog" poster

If in the event, you are still unable to locate your dog the same day, try to return as soon as possible with a "missing" poster to alert locals and passers-by of your situation - if you can, try to get this in both Chinese and English. To take the stress out of thinking about the layout of your poster, Canva has some templates for you to chose from under "Posters", and the following information are some important things you should include:

  • Bio: Name of dog, age, what were they wearing at time of disappearance i.e harness or collar? What colour was this? Do they have an ID tag on?

  • Last seen: Date, time and location your dog was last seen

  • Recent photo: One that shows their face clearly, and any distinguishing markings

  • What to do if seen? What is your dog like? Are they skittish? Do they come when called? Can people approach them, or is it best for people to take a photo and contact the owners?

  • Contact Numbers: Who to contact when sighted or found

It’s also a good idea to share the above information via social media to help spread the word – tag @exploringdogs on Instagram, post in Hong Kong Dog Owners or Hong Kong Pet Owners Facebook groups, and tag other local animal shelters to ask if they can help you spread the word. When hanging your posters, you may wish to consider laminating or putting your poster in a plastic sheet (upside down) to avoid damage when it rains.

To reward or not to reward?

There are conflicting opinions on whether to add rewards to your Lost posters or not – some people think it can help incentivize people to help you find your lost dog, whilst others think it can attract the wrong kind of attention and some unfriendly methods to try capture your dog. Whether you choose to do this or not is down to you.

Camp Out

If, in the unfortunate event, you are not able to find your dog before nightfall, you may want to consider camping out (if feasible). Obviously if the dog has been lost in a busy location or in the city, this is not feasible, and chances of sightings by people are higher, and therefore probably not necessary. In more remote areas, however, you may want to consider setting up camp where you last saw your dog, if possible.

Get technical

If in a remote location, and staying overnight is not possible, you may want to consider setting up motion activated cameras within a certain radius of where your dog was last seen. The radius in which you set is dependent on whether you think your dog is likely to be on the run or seek a hideout and stay in one location. If you opt for motion activated cameras, you will also need WIFI eggs( or dongles) and SIM cards to set this up, in which case you will also want to secure your equipment with cable ties, and cover with clear plastic Ziplock bags, whilst containing your WIFI eggs in a dry bag. Leave signs up near your equipment to let people know why it’s out, and ask for people not to remove or tamper with them. Power banks for your equipment and phones is also ideal, especially if you are in a secluded area.

Food stations

If you’re not close to civilization, you may wish to set up food stations near your motion activated cameras to lure your dog in the hopes it will trigger your cameras for a recorded sighting. *Though do note, if you lay food out, you may attract other animals to the area.

Trap Cage

In some cases, nervous dogs, for whatever reason, won’t even respond to their owners calling them, and so a Trap Cage can come in handy in these cases, particularly when the dog has recently been sighted in the area, since being lost. Once a sighting in the area has been confirmed, set up a trap cage with some food to lure them in.

Got more pointers? Leave us a comment below or join a forum and start a discussion

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