Is there anything in the world more heart-stopping or pants-poopingly terrifying than when your dog Houdinis their way out of the house or yard?
These great escapes are inevitably followed by you running after them and tackling them like a linebacker in your neighbor’s yard, or trekking into the the night in your slippers. Or worst of all, they evade all your attempts at luring them in with a violently shaken bag of treats, and suddenly they’re just… lost.
As a dog parent to a husky (notorious escape artists), I can tell you that the above scenarios are 100% real-life experiences, and 100% going to leave any dog lover with a pit in the bottom of their stomach until their best friend is home safe. So how can we make sure our dogs find their way home? From basic first steps to the newest tech, this guide has everything you need.
1. Get An ID Tag With Your Contact Information
One of the first things pet parents do when they bring a new dog home is outfit them with a collar and tag, but don’t mistake this for a fancy piece of doggy jewelry just to show off their name! At the very least, put your phone number on it so you can be reached if your dog gets lost. We cannot emphasize this enough—your dog DOES NOT know your phone number!
Flat ID Tags Work, Too
Is your dog a weirdo who can’t stand a jingly tag on their collar, or tries to chew their tag for fun? Your goofball isn’t alone, and one of the reasons flat ID tags were invented. These silent tags attach flat against your dog’s collar, so they don’t jingle and can’t be chewed, but should fit all your important contact details.
2. Always Have An Up-To-Date Microchip
A microchip is a tiny transponder about the size of a grain of rice implanted beneath your dog’s skin, and it has its own unique identification number. BUT, unless you register your contact information with the appropriate database, no info will show up at all if someone takes your lost dog to get scanned at a vet or shelter. Always update your info if you move to a new address or get a new phone number!
3. Use Technology To Your Advantage
It already rules the world, it might as well bring your dog home.
BlueTooth tags add an extra level of protection for the day your dog decides to head out in search of The Holy Grail of Sticks and finds themselves lost along the way. These affordable trackers use Bluetooth technology to help locate your dog via an app on your phone.
Attach one of these bad boys to your pup’s collar, set up the app, and you’re all set! Most Bluetooth tags are water resistant and have a battery life that can last nearly a year. The biggest downfall is that they rely on nearby phones to ping the location of your dog, so if your pup is lost in a remote area, they may be hard to track.
Apple AirTags are one of the newest Bluetooth-powered devices to keep you from losing everything—wallets, purses, and growing in popularity, DOGS! AirTags have a built-in speaker to help locate your dog if the connection to your phone is lost, and are water-resistant with a long battery life.
They’re compatible with iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch, but like all Bluetooth trackers, they record locations by pinging signals off of nearby Bluetooth devices (phones, usually). If it is unable to detect your dog’s precise location, their last known location will be shown via the app.
You can get the Apple AirTag and BARK cover and collar attachment free when you sign up!
Other Bluetooth Tag Options:
Cube Pro, $29.95
For seriously crafty escape artists, a GPS tracker may prove invaluable. Their price tags are a little thiccc and usually require a monthly subscription for the app services, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind.
GPS trackers snap onto your dog’s collar and connect with an app on your phone to allow you to locate your dog in real time, even if they’re lost in the most remote areas. Many of them will alert you when your dog leaves a designated territory, so even if you’re not home, you’ll know they’re up to no good! Some GPS trackers even have fitness and health features to help track your dog’s activities, like distance walked and abnormalities in their habits, like excess scratching and licking.
Whistle Go Explore, $129.90
Cube Real Time, $29.95
GPS Collars take it up a notch. Instead of a GPS tracker that attaches to your dog’s own collar, this tracker and collar are sold as one unit. For some of them, that’s because they have extra features that can be activated remotely, like an LED light that keeps your pup visible in the dark. Others include vibration and sound training technology, but all succeed in the most essential task: locating your dog.
Fi Smart Collar $109.74
Garmin TT 15 $299.99
Dogtra Pathfinder TRX $244.99
Sportdog TEK Series 1.5 $429.95
Link GPS $135
Whether or not you have some type of tracker for your dog, it’s always important to have a backup plan to help locate them, especially if they lose their collar. They’ll still have their microchip, but that leaves you waiting for someone to turn them in. When all else fails, try these proven methods:
4. Lure Them With Treats Or Toys
If you saw your dog run off, there’s a good chance you can catch up to them. Grab their leash and favorite treat or toy to try to lure them back while searching on foot or driving around.
5. Alert Neighbors, Family, And Friends
You may need to make some calls, send some texts, or fire up some smoke signals for backup from local friends, family, and neighbors. The Nextdoor App is also a valuable tool if it’s popular in your area, so you can let locals know to keep an eye out.
6. Use Social Media
Don’t underestimate this resource! Make a post to let your friends and family know to be on alert for a pup out on the town, sans human. But don’t stop there—search for local lost pet groups on Facebook and post there, too. Share photos with local animal shelter and vet office pages. Even groups dedicated to specific breeds are known to go to great lengths to help search for missing dogs. Spam everyone with your pup’s face until they’re home safe!
7. Alert Local Animal Shelters And Animal Control Offices
Don’t forget to give your local shelters and animal control a call to let them know your dog is missing in case someone surrenders them. Even better if you can send them a picture to keep on hand.
8. Put Up Good Ol’ Fashioned Flyers Around Town
Don’t neglect the tried and true methods! Print flyers with clear photos and a description of your dog along with your contact details. Try to splurge for colored prints if you can, they’re more likely to catch someone’s eye, and will help make your dog more recognizable.
9. Don’t Let Your Dog Go Naked
We all know how fun it is to take our dog’s collar off and tell them “YOU’RE NAKEY!” No one knows why dog parents do this, we just do. Try not to leave their collar off if they’re prone to sneaking away; the ONE day you decide to let them run naked around the house is going to be the day they happen to slip out the front door.