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What should I do if my dog goes missing on vacation?

What should I do if my dog goes missing on vacation?

What if my dog goes missing on vacation?

What should I do if my dog goes missing on vacation?  No one wants to ask this question.  It’s a very scary and terrifying situation to find yourself in. As more and more people decide to take the family pet on vacation, especially their dog,  there is a greater possibility you may find yourself or someone you know in this position.


Here are six tips you hope you’ll never have to use, but let’s review them for that “just in case situation” we are hoping and praying doesn’t happen.
It’s terrifying and heart wrenching; staying in control is important. You will probably have a moment of not believing what you’re confronted with. But, before you panic, stop and take a deep breath, because success in finding your dog, will depend on your clear-headed and quick actions.

What should I do if my dog goes missing on vacation?
Use your emergency call in an emergency situation. Quickly he is back with you.


Tip 1. If the dogs slips the collar or leash, use the emergency call right away
An emergency call is a code word or combination of words, that you have taught your dog and practiced several times before finding yourself in an emergency situation. The emergency code is a word or word pair that you only use when you want your dog to stop, turn and come to your immediately. Train your dog to respond to this emergency code using a treat that he/she will only receive in the training situation.  Your dog will associate this yummy, special treat with the words and will come immediately to get this rare treat.

You want to do this right away, while you can still see your dog and before he/she is injured or leaves your sight. But what if you notice that your dog is missing and out of sight. Maybe they were there when you fell asleep the night before or your dog can go missing while under the care of a family member or friend.  You suddenly find yourself looking for your dog and not sure when they wandered-away.

If you are staying in a hotel, notify the staff right away. They may know areas around the property where your dog may be more likely to wander. They also will have access to surveillance cameras and may have footage of your dog. Camera footage may also  identify the time your dog was in a certain area, allowing you to be more aware of how far he/she may have traveled and where to start your search.

If you are saying at the home of family or friends, notify them and ask if there is a neighborhood communication email or telephone connection used for emergency situations. If so, have them set it in motion right away. Your dog will most likely wander around the neighborhood and stay close by before moving further away.

Head out right away to start searching the neighborhood. Ask others to help and be on the outlook. If you dog is not found within an hour, start putting together posters and placing them around the neighborhood. Someone may have seen your dog or have helpful information.

Distribute the flyers at businesses in the area, vet clinics, shelters and pass them out to people in the area.
Tip 2.  Contact local shelters and Vet offices
Make a list of local shelters, vet offices, and animal control in the area. Contacting local shelters and vets should be top of your list of things to do. Also add calling animal control to your list. You may hate to think of your dog being picked-up by animal control, but most people are more likely to call animal control when they see a stray dog than approaching it and taking it to a shelter or vet’s office. In this case your beloved furry family member will be seen as a stray.

Go and visit shelters yourself. This is important stuff… don’t leave it to a phone call.
Shelters see multiple dogs matching your dog’s description on a daily and weekly basis. And, we may not want to always admit it, but the person who seems to be putting in the most effort and energy to accomplish finding their pet will also make others more attentive too. Create a sense of urgency without being rude or pushy. This will encourage others to want to help you and go that extra mile.  Help them sense the importance of your dog to your family.

What should I do if my dog goes missing on vacation?
Have your dog microchipped when they are puppies. It’s never too early or too late.


Tip 3.  Contact HomeAgain – the data base for microchips
If you dog is microchipped and you have registered him/her call 1-888-HomeAgain right away to set everything in motion.  This notification starts the process of HomeAway sending out their Rapid Lost Pet Alerts.
This includes your lost pet poster shared with animal shelters, vet clinics and volunteer PetRescurers within a 25-mile radius of where you are and your microchipped pet was lost.  If your pet is found they will be scanned and your pet’s personal ID is read at the facility where they are taken when found.  By using your personal information connected to your pet’s ID, you are contacted and reunited with your  fur baby.

HomeAgain has reunited over 2 million pets & owners and is an option for not only dogs but cats too.
Tip 4.  If possible, place a favorite item in a safe place for them to return to – Place something like a toy, their dog blanket, clothing with your scent. Dogs respond positively to scent and smell. And, they want to return home. Placing something with a familiar scent can help a lost dog find her way home. Dogs sense of smell is 10 to 100 to 1,000 to 1,000,000 times better humans.  Different breeds of dogs have a stronger sense of smell than others.

Place them in safe areas away from traffic – both foot and car traffic. Your dog will need to feel safe and secure coming back.

Dogs usually stay close by where they go missing. They don’t generally wander off on a long journey. That’s more of a Hollywood story. However, if they are chased or scared away because of abuse, they may run further away. And, in search of food, they may continue to go further away.

What should I do if my dog goes missing on vacation?
You’ll find hundreds and thousands of dog lovers on social media who may be helpful reuniting you and your dog.


Tip 5. Go on Social Media
There are many online pages and sites dedicated to pets and dogs. Most people who frequent these pages are huge dog lovers and many have networks around the nation who may help you get the word out about your pet.  And if you must return home before finding your dog, many of these networks can help you get your pet back home. Don’t be shy about posting. You may be amazed to find how many people are in your corner to help you be reunited with your dog.

Also go online to sites like or and the Center for Lost Pets. Check out these pages each day and if you see a dog which looks like your dog, call immediate and ask for more details. Stay calm and don’t get too excited. The process of finding your dog can be a roller coaster of oooh and awww and disappointments too. You want to remain positive but also realistic as possible during the process.

Tip 6. Visit dog parks where your dog maybe attracted to because of the scent of other dogs and because they see other dogs there.  Other owners in the park may know of other resources in their area to help with your search.  Share your flyer with them and ask them to share with others, show them pictures and talk with them about your pet.  Throughout this process you want to personalize your dog so that it’s not just another dog, but a beloved pet, missing their family as much as their family is missing him.

What should I do if my dog goes missing on vacation?
More and more people are traveling with their pets. It has become a normal way of vacationing.


What should go on the flyer or poster?
Make it Large and BOLD –  write LOST PET or LOST DOG
Include a recent photo of your dog
Your dog’s name
Your telephone number
A very, very brief description without technical info. Avoid information which may not be understood by everyone. A young child might be the person who spots and finds your dog after reading a flyer. You should mention any medical conditions which may be vital to helping your dog stay healthy and alive – shelters and vets will not know this information without your help. This is especially true for older dogs.
Mention – Do not chase your dog.  A missing family dog can become very protective and self-reliant, and trust must be rebuilt even with people they know.

What to do when you get the call your dog has been found or spotted?
Ask for a description – keep in mind if your dog has been missing for several days he could have scratches, cuts and have lost significant weight.
Ask them to text a photo of the dog to you
Set up a meeting place
Do not go alone if you are meeting an individual you do not know.  Plan to meet in an open location or at a business.  You can also ask them to meet you at a vet clinic for safety reason and also to have your dog checked by a vet right away.

As travel with your dog becomes a very popular and regular occurrence, these tips are good to bookmark for future reference.  So  many people are starting to travel with their pets.  According to the American Pet Products Association, more than 37 percent of pet owners take their pet on the road.  This is up from 19 percent about 10 years ago.

There are website which can help you find accommodations, resources and services while on the road with your fur baby.  Sites like offer a wealth of information and having their app on your phone will help you find what you need when you need it.

Websites to help if your dog is lost-

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