An empty plastic dog crate lying on a table with the door open.

What better traveling companion than a dog? They won’t complain about the accommodations, even if it’s a leaky tent. They’re happy to do anything you suggest, whether it’s hiking, swimming or just wandering the city. And they’re not fussy about where they eat.

Even so, dogs have been known to wander away from campsites in pursuit of wildlife. Or bolt at the sound of fireworks. They may even escape after a car accident. So how can you track down your dog when he or she gets lost while you’re away from home?

First, try to be calm. If your pet has a current ID tag and a microchip, there’s a good chance a good Samaritan will call you shortly. And the odds are in your favor: 85 percent of lost dogs are recovered, according to a recent survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Here are some tips to help you be reunited with your best friend as soon as possible:

  1. Scour the neighborhood. Most lost pets don’t go far unless they are chased. Make the rounds several times a day and bring your pet’s favorite squeaky toy or treat, if possible, to lure them closer.
  2. Create flyers. Chances are, your pet’s photo is on your cell phone. Use this image to create a “Lost Pet” flyer with your contact information. It may help to offer a reward. Keep the description brief and omit one characteristic that callers will need to identify to help eliminate pet recovery scams. (Ideally, ask pet finders to send you a photo of the dog.) Post flyers in the surrounding area.
  3. Enlist the help of neighbors. While you’re searching the neighborhood, alert people you pass about your dog and consider dropping off flyers in doorways.
  4. Call your veterinary clinic and your microchip company. Notify them that your pet is missing. If your dog’s ID tag has been lost, it may be possible for finders to use the rabies tag to track your dog to your usual clinic. If your dog has a microchip, make sure the company has your most current contact information.
  5. Contact local animal control agencies and pet shelters in a 60-mile radius. If possible, send them a digital copy of your poster.
  6. Reach out to local veterinary clinics and animal emergency hospitals. People often take wandering dogs to their local veterinary clinics so they can be scanned for a microchip.
  7. Consider a pet recovery service. For a fee, these services will contact local shelters and veterinarians for you so you can keep up your search of the surrounding area.
  8. Use automated facial recognition technology. Websites such has Petco Love Lost enable you to upload a photo of your pet which is then digitally matched against photos of found pets in the area.
  9. Post on pet recovery websites. Sites such as Fido Finder can get the word out quickly.
  10. Use other online resources and social media. Alert local residents by using Craigslist, Nextdoor Pet Directory, Facebook and other outlets.

Or, if you took preventive steps before leaving on vacation, perhaps your dog is outfitted with a GPS tracking device, which will make the hunt all that easier. Either way, hopefully you and your dog will be back together, happily snoozing in the same damp tent, before you know it.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.