It is the feeling every dog owner never wants to experience.

Your dog is loose, and is on the run. It’s all-in-one panic and paralysis for you. Do not let these emotions cripple your search for your dog. Gather your senses, your allies, and your social media network.  Prompt reactions make for immediate results. The first 24 hours is critical.

1. Assign someone to answer the phone. The ID tag on your dog should prompt a call to the phone number you provided. ID tags are critical in matching dogs with owners. Including the dog’s personality on the tag may help someone who has found your dog to understand if your dog is “excessively shy”, “overly friendly”, or “very skittish”.  If no one is available to answer that phone, have that number forwarded to your cell phone.

2. If you have had your dog micro-chipped, then your contact information stored in a database.  Any vet or shelter can scan and search a database. Have someone inquire with local animal shelters, veterinarians, the police department, and the animal control officer. A lost pet can roam the streets and woods for weeks or months. Some people who find lost pets may keep them for several weeks before taking them to a shelter. Do not give up. It may take time to reunite with your dog.

3. Go to the spot where your dog was last seen. Leave anything with your scent on it, especially unwashed clothes. If your dog can notice this scent, he will return and rest on your items. Frequently check this spot to see if he has returned.

4. Create flyers and handouts. Use the most up-to-date color, close-up picture of your dog’s face. These photos are easy to see from a distance.  Insert a full body picture as well, especially if there are distinctive markings on your dog.

5. Use a font that bolds clearly. Use an attention grabbing header, like $ REWARD $ or Yellow Lab.  Use few key words : DROOPY EARS, WEARING BLUE COLLAR, DO NOT CHASE.  Include details about your dog: age, breed, microchip/tattoo ID’s, tags, scars, and handicaps.  Provide a phone number that can be used any time of day.

6. Print poster size (11” x 17”) to hang and smaller (8.5” x 11”) to hand out. Hang flyers at major intersections, right below stop signs, and (with permission) stake on neighborhood lawns. Canvas a 3-mile radius from where the dog was seen last. Increase your radius daily if there are no sightings.

7. Create an electronic image of your ad to email to the neighborhood and community. Utilize social media sites and post your image frequently to help recover your dog.  Maine Lost Dog Recovery is a great resource in creating ads and getting the word out that your dog is missing.

Remember, your dog needs you to not give up hope. Recently, a facial recognition website and app that uses technology has been successful in reuniting dogs and their owners. By keeping a database of photos from the three county shelters, it tries to match eight distinctive facial markers on dogs with images uploaded by users searching for lost pets. Over 7 million pets go missing each year. Thunderstorms, fireworks, loneliness, boredom, instinct. Whatever triggers dogs to run away, know that there are viable means to find your dog, and that happy reunions most often result from a community effort.