Action Plan

Where do I start?

Losing your dog is traumatic and overwhelming, but this search action plan will help you organize and conduct a search. If looking in your home/neighborhood fails to work find the dog, your job now is to get the word out. Remember you are your dog’s advocate.

Don’t give up!  Many dogs are found weeks or months after they are lost.

1.  Get organized

☐ Immediately, place a blanket and/or clothing that smells familiar to your dog along with a dish of food and some water outside where he/she was last seen.

☐ Assign one person to be the point person for communications and coordination.  Determine what phone number and email address to use in advertisements and on social media.

☐ Organize all current information about the lost dog (name, color of collar, tags, current picture, breed, description, microchip information, etc.)

2.  Create flyers and posters

☐ Submit the form to have your missing dog listed with Helping Lost Pets and posted on Lost Dogs of Wisconsin.

☐ Create posters that you will post as signs in the area, on poles, in stores, in your yard, etc.  We recommend using the large photo option provided by Helping Lost Pets (Flyer Template #3).  Attach to neon colored paper as a background. If you want to create your own, include date, where dog was lost, description and contact phone.  The photo and the phone number should be large for visibility from a moving car.  For examples, visit

☐ Create flyers that will be handed out to people.  We recommend the 4 per page option provided by Helping Lost Pets flyer service.  You may need to print as many as 200-500 flyers.

3.  Search

☐ Get a map of the area, divide the map into sections, at least 3 miles in every direction from where the dog was lost, highlight and assign each section to a volunteer to search, distribute flyers and hang posters.

☐ Each team member should carry tasty treats, water and a leash.

☐ If your dog is not micro chipped, put priority on getting flyers to nearby vet offices and places with scanners first, before the person who finds your dog does.

☐ Walk and drive the map areas, distributing flyers and hanging posters.  Hang posters at intersections.  Give flyers to delivery drivers (mail, UPS, FedEx, etc.), food delivery services, cab companies, bus drivers, neighbors and local businesses.   If you can safely do so, go door to door in your neighborhood.

☐ Look for “Found” signs.

☐ Remind your search team not to shout and chase your dog if they find him/her.  This may make your dog feel threatened and panic which could cause them to run even further, possibly into traffic.  Tell them to quietly sit or lie down, avert their eyes and lure the dog with tasty treats.

☐ Post a sign in your front yard

☐ Attach a poster to your car or use window markers to write on your windows.

☐ Check your posters often and replace them if they are removed or unreadable

4.  Notify

☐ Submit a lost dog report to your local animal control.  See our shelter list at
☐ Call your microchip company to report your lost dog and to make sure your chip information is correct.  Microchip company lookup:

☐ Notify local police departments and sheriff’s departments.

☐ Contact your veterinarian and other veterinarians in the area.

☐ Alert your Homeowners Association.

☐ Contact animal service businesses in the area – retail stores, trainers, pet sitters, kennels, etc.

☐ Notify your city government.  Find out who picks up deceased animals and contact them.   This might be the highway or public works department.

5.  Visit Shelters

Wisconsin shelter list:

IMPORTANT: In Wisconsin, the required stray hold is 4 days.  After 4 days, your dog belongs to the stray holding facility and will either be put to death or put up for adoption or transferred to another facility.  You must go visit at least every other day.

☐ Visit all county shelters in your county and in nearby counties if you live near a county border. If you live near a state border, visit shelters in your neighboring state.

☐ Visit other local shelters or rescues. Even though they aren’t official stray holding facilities they may have inadvertently taken your dog in and put him/her up for adoption.
☐ If you live near an Indian Reservation, contact and visit their animal control facilities

☐ Make sure you visit ALL kennels in the shelter.  Some shelters will have kennels that are not accessible to the public for injured or bite dogs.  You must ask about these.

☐ If your dog has been gone for more than 4 days, make sure you check areas and locations containing adoptable dogs, not just those containing strays.

☐ Post flyers in each location and check back often to make sure the flyer is still posted.  Also check posted “found” flyers.

6.  Social Media and Websites

☐ Post to Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Helping Lost Pets by submitting this form:  Check the map for matching found dogs.

☐ Post your lost dog on in both the Community/Pets and Community/Lost & Found sections, in your area and nearby areas.  Monitor craigslist for found dog ads and for “dog for sale” ads.  Make sure your post includes a photo, the date the dog was lost and the nearest intersection as well as your contact information.  If you use the craigslist email, make sure you check your email often, including your “spam” folder.

☐ Post your dog as lost on  Search shelter dogs listed in PetHarbor.  Scroll down to “search pets found by public” to search those.  Check adoptable dogs if your dog has been missing more than 4 days.  Remember that all information in PetHarbor can be incorrect so keep your searches broad and always visit the shelter.

☐ Monitor Twitter feeds if your county or municipality has one.

☐ Post on if it is available in your community.

☐ Post on local Facebook pages/groups (HOAs, Sell/Swap pages, etc.)

☐ Post and follow local Lost and Found Facebook pages and groups. Some of these are breed-specific (ie. Lost/Found Husky Dogs)   Do a search for others.  Make sure you check your posts often for comments!

☐ Post and check ads in local newspapers

☐ If your dog has been missing for more than 4 days, check rescue and shelter websites for adoptable dogs.  Also check adoption websites such as http://www.petfinder.com  You can also search for adoptable dogs on

7.  Check Sightings

☐ Use a separate map to record sightings of the dog.  Record the date, time and exact location of each sighting.

☐ If you have had multiple sightings in the same area, put out items that smell familiar to your dog in that area.  You can also add a feeding station and a trail camera in the area to verify a sighting.

☐ Avoid bringing in large groups to areas where there have been sightings as they may scare a lost dog and cause him/her to leave the area.

☐ Humane traps can be used to trap a dog but make sure you have the appropriate size and know how to use it.

☐ Do not chase a lost dog.  Chasing can cause a dog to run.  Approach slowly, use treats to lure.  Lost dogs may be frightened and may even run from their owner.

☐ If there have been no sightings, start from the beginning and expand your search area.

8.  Once Your Dog is Home

☐ Take your dog to a veterinarian to be checked over.

☐ Remove all flyers and posters.  Take down web postings and discontinue ads.  Let all agencies you contacted know the dog has been recovered and thank them for their assistance.

☐ If not already, make sure your dog is micro chipped and wearing tags on a secure collar or harness.

☐ Update the status of your dog on the Helping Lost Pets website/Lost Dogs of Wisconsin by changing to “Back Home” at