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What’s the Best Way to Find a Lost Dog?
Tech help includes a smartphone-scannable pet ID tag
Lily, safe and sound with her Greenie.

Last week, my friend John’s dog slipped her collar during a walk and sprinted off. It was two long, miserable days and sleepless nights before Lily was discovered, dirty and shivering not so far from where she had made her ill-advised dash. The man who discovered her wrapped her in his coat, created a little leash from string in his bag (à la McGyver) and took a cell phone photo that he sent to his girlfriend. She checked Craig’s List and made the connection. When John got the call, he was in a van with a professional dog-sniffing dog about to search the scene. Cue happy music.


Anyone whose dog has disappeared knows the horrible, sinking feeling and the response. Search the area. Call shelters. Place ads. Put up flyers. Even, hire a pet detective. In the last decade, technology has taken a growing role in the search. Craig’s List for one. Lost dogs are also posted on Facebook. And there are websites exclusively for posting lost pets, such as pets911.com. Community Leash is an iPhone app that sends out lost/found pet announcements. Several companies have created amber alert–type services, such as FindToto.com, that robocall all the phones in the area where your dog went missing.


A recent entry into the business of keeping track of your dog comes from a company in my neck of the woods. PetHub, Inc., of Issaquah, Wash., has created the Link ID tag that is laser-etched with a 2D barcode that can be scanned and read by a smartphone. The selling point on the PetHub tag is that owners can create a profile that can more easily be kept up-to-date and provide more detailed information than old-fashioned printed tags or even microchips.


At any time, the pet parent can modify the pet’s online profile and control what’s shown when that tag is scanned. PetHub claims that only about 5 percent of dogs in the U.S. have microchips and that 58 percent of those contain outdated information. The Pet Hub profile can also include timely information, such as the pet’s medications, vaccinations and medical history. There’s also a simple “Contact Pet Owner” button that won’t reveal the owner’s number but facilitates direct notification.


Here’s the thing: The idea sounds good, especially if you’re all about your smartphone, but it wouldn’t have helped Lily. She slipped her collar. All that technology would have just dangled at the end of the leash in John’s hand. (Now, she walks on a harness.) She was chipped, so if she’d ended up in a shelter or vet’s office, there’s a good chance a scan would have reunited the pair.


I like the old fashioned tag (although my dogs are also chipped): You’re not required to subscribe to an ongoing service, nor does the person who finds your dog need a smartphone to access all your pup’s data.


Of all the options out there, other than not losing our dogs in the first place, I wonder what is the most effective strategy for getting them back. And, is technology really making it easier. What’s your story?


Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com
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Submitted by Christine | March 16 2011 |

Local dog, Winston, had quite the adventure.

Gone for 44 days, and found 33 miles from home.

Video of his reunion:

Scads of local folks volunteered through his facebook page, put up flyers and scent strips at recent sightings, tracked them on google maps, scoured craigslist and other sites for found dogs.

Social media and online sites played a huge part in the search.

Submitted by Susan | March 16 2011 |

Two years ago I lost two dogs from two different vet clinics two months apart. Both dogs were microchipped and had collars w/tags. Both dogs were extremely shy and fearful. The first dog was caught by using a magnet dog (same breed, opposite sex) within 36 hours. The second dog was trapped after 30 days. Had over 40 sightings and the public had been educated not to approach or pursue her - just to call in sightings.

Submitted by Volunteer@YourS... | March 16 2011 |

The only thing I would add to this is, when distributing flyers, WORK YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD BY GOING DOOR TO DOOR! Making personal contact w/ your neighbors (and you might want to recruit friends or family to work a few blocks) may give you information you would other wise not have found out.

"My son was playing w/ little Johnny down the street and he said Johnny's family has a new dog they found." Believe it or not, some people just keep the animals they find.

"I saw a dog that fit that description being fed by some kids walking home from school. I thought the dog belonged to them." Now you go to the school and ask them if you might be able to leave them w/ some flyers.

In fact, the feeding the dog story is EXACTLY what happened to my neighbors when their Beagle went missing.

I work at a shelter and beyond Craigs List, the flyers distributed w/ personal contact is something I ALWAYS suggest.

Submitted by Anne | March 16 2011 |

Years ago, one of my friend's dogs got lost. The kennel she was being boarded at, while my friends were away, didn't shut the fencing properly. She was out for a few winter days - lost in a large tract of state forest land. Volunteers where searching for her and a tracking dog was going to be brought in the next day. My then boyfriend, and now husband, went looking for Resin with our dog Kipper. After hiking for hours, we decided to just start driving, stopping periodically, and calling out her name. Luck was on our side. At our first stop - an abandoned church - who should pop up over the snowbank but Resin! Of course, she was terrified and took off. I ran after her, tripped, and let go of Kipper. He caught up with his walking buddy and as soon as Resin realized it was Kipper, she high-tailed it back to our car and begged to get in! From my experience, it takes good friends, persistence, and bringing a doggy friend doesn't hurt either!

Submitted by Heather | November 2 2011 |

Thanks to Kipper (and you and Matt) Resin is a happy healthy 12 year old and was only lost that one time. You have to do everything you can - tags, microchip, friends, signs, TV, radio, email, FB, local community forums and web pages. You let anyone and everyone you can know about the dog, the more people out there looking, the better the chances of recovery.

Submitted by Cici | March 28 2011 |

One of the best things to come along are findtoto.com or lostmydoggie.com - they are robocall alerts that go out and get the word out fast! They helped our rescue to zero in on a newly adopted dog that jumped his fence the first night in his new home. Happy ending.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 29 2011 |

Last year around Christmas a medium sized dog appeared on our porch. He was very friendly and wanted to come in the house with our dog. We gave it some food and thought it would be gone after awhile.

In the morning, after a night of 20 degree weather, the dog was still there curled up in one of the porch chairs. We brought him in the house and feed him. You could tell he was used to being inside since as soon as it ate he jumped right up on the coach and laid down.

We kept him through the weekend and on Monday I had my son run him up to the area Vet. to see if they knew who he was. As soon as they walked in the door the receptionist recognized the dog and was able to call the owners to come get him.

He had gotten loose during a thunderstorm and lost his collar. He had been out for about a week. His home was several miles through the woods and across several main roads from our house.

Submitted by Jackie Phillips | April 12 2011 |

"Of all the options out there, other than not losing our dogs in the first place, I wonder what is the most effective strategy for getting them back. And, is technology really making it easier. What’s your story?"

There is not one effective strategy for finding a lost pet. All methods must be employed from posters/flyers, ads in newspapers and Craigslist, word of mouth, checking shelters, and using tracking dogs or a pet detective.

Even if the animal has visible ID and/or a microchip, all methods must be used since the animal may not allow people to approach them, but sightings can be relayed to the people. The animal may easily come to people they know, but won't approach strangers.

All animals are unique and their response to being lost is unique. The response that people have when they spot or find an animal is completely unique and will affect the outcome.

In my professional opinion as a pet detective, the quickest way to get your pet home, in general, is to always have visible ID on the animal, so if they do get picked up, a phone call can be made day or night. Microchips are good as a back up, but they require an expensive scanner that is only at a vet or a shelter. Visible ID with current information (so many people have outdated information on their pets) is the best and quickest way to get your pet home.

Submitted by ?//?//?//? | July 12 2011 |

some people do not have a code tatooed into their ear, or a gps or a smart phone. im one of them. the tips may help for some people but not me. well thats what u get for trusting a dog right. this page didnt help at all.

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