Our pets are like family.  They are family.  When you arrive home and they are not there to greet you, you immediately get a sinking feeling in your stomach as you call their name and there is no response.  At least, I do.

Before you go into panic mode, make sure they are not somewhere on the premises. Check your yard and make sure they are not caught in the fence, or caught in something going after a squirrel or a rabbit or on your property somewhere.  Once you’ve satisfied yourself that your buddy is not at home, here are some steps to take.



Check within a 60-mile radius of your area and file a Lost Pet Report. In the Central Coast area, you should contact both the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County animal shelters.  Here are their addresses:


San Luis Obispo Animal Services

885 Oklahoma Avenue

San Luis Obispo, CA  93401



Woods Humane Society

875 Oklahoma Avenue

San Luis Obispo, CA 93401



Santa Maria Animal Shelter

548 West Foster Road

Santa Maria, CA 93455



Santa Maria Valley Humane Society

1687 West Stowell Road

Santa Maria, CA 93455




Collars …  Tags … Microchips

Don’t allow yourself the false luxury of thinking, “Well, he’s an indoor pet and does not need a collar, license or ID tags on or he is microchipped.  Save yourself some heartache and stress by having your pet wear a collar with an ID tag that has your Pet’s name and your phone number on it.

Microchips can be extremely useful in helping to reunite you with your pet.  In the event your pet slips out of the collar, a microchip is a great back up measure.



  • Take a photo of your pet(s) and have them handy on your phone.
  • If you don’t have a smart phone, take a picture.
  • Have several copies made.
  • Keep one copy at home, one in your car with your car registration and insurance info and in any recreational vehicles you may own.
  • Use a 5 x 7 color format so you can easily photocopy it and also include a physical description along with a brief personality description (i.e. he is shy and runs from strangers or is friendly).
  • Keeping the picture to a half page allows you to ft the description and personality description on an 8 1/2 x 11 format.  Put your contact information on the flyer.
  • Make the poster readable from a distance.
  • Use large fonts on your computer or use a black marker with a wide tip.
  • Include the following information:
    • LOST DOG
    • BRIEF DESCRIPTION: Breed, Color, Sex and Weight

When describing your pet, leave out one identifying characteristic and ask the person who finds your pet to describe it to you. This will help you avoid scam artists; unfortunately, they are out there.

Keep it simple and large enough to be read from a distance in a car by a passing driver.




Sheltie Mix

Female, White with beige ears

Approximately 35 pounds

Call 805-333-1234

Photo courtesy of:


If there are no animal control agencies or pet shelters in your area, contact the Police Department as well.

File a lost pet report with every shelter within a 60-mile radius of your home


Leave an article of clothing that you wore all day at the place where you last saw your dog. (Note: The longer you wore the clothing, the better; you should of worn it at least a day).  This will enable your dog to pick up your scent easier.

If your dog is used to sleeping in a crate, bring it to where you last saw him and leave it there.  Do the same with a familiar toy.  Leave a note asking that the items not be moved.  Also, leave a bowl of water there as well.  Do not bring food as this could cause other animals your dog may be trying to avoid.



 Go within the first 24 hours of your dog being missing. Visit daily.  A lot can happen within a short time period.  Go in person if at all possible, don’t just call the agencies and take the person’s word for it that that your pet is not there.

One person’s idea of a terrier mix could be quite different from your idea of a terrier mix. Go visit in person daily if at all possible.  If you can’t go, see if you can get a good friend or relative to go for you.






Where is he?

Most dogs are within a mile of their home.  However, they can travel miles before stopping to rest. Or someone could have picked them up and taken them home with them. Focus on the closest area first and widen your search as necessary.

If you have another furry family member, take them along with you.  Often times, they will smell or hear their buddy, long before you will.  The sight and sound of your dog in the car with you can encourage your lost dog to come out of hiding if they are frightened or scared.


Your Dog is Found by Someone!

Many folks who initially find a dog, will first give him water and food and make sure he is safe.  Often, they will keep the dog a few days before they decide to contact Animal Control, the Animal Shelter, a local vet or the internet.  They feel he is better off with them, rather than in one of these places.  This is why it is VERY IMPORTANT to get out as many Lost Dog Posters as you can!



  • Walk or drive thru the neighborhood. If you have an additional dog, take them with you.  They may spot or smell their buddy before you are aware they are in the area.
  • Ask neighbors, the postman and delivery people if they’ve seen your pet.
  • Contact your newspaper delivery person, give them a flyer of your pet. Ask them to distribute to their fellow carriers.  These folks are out all the time in the neighborhood doing deliveries in the early morning hours and re-deliveries in the morning hours.
  • Go to the local post office and put up a flyer.
  • Put flyers up on light poles and telephone poles.
  • Go to Fed Ex and UPS and ask them if they can hand out a flyer of your pet to the drivers.
  • Do the same with the pizza delivery crew.



Post notices at:

  • Grocery stores
  • Community centers
  • Veterinary offices – Folks who do not own a dog themselves, may take your dog to the vet because they know the vet knows how to take care of dogs. Therefore, let the vets know in your area, that your dog is missing and you are looking for it.
  • Dog Parks – Visit the Dog Parks and post your Lost Dog Flyers. Talk to people who frequent the parks. Talk to people who are walking their dogs.
  • Contact Pet Sitters – They are out in the area daily and know other pet lovers who can also keep an eye out for you.
  • Check out Breed Rescue Organizations — Do a Google Search to look for Rescue Organizations for your Breed of Dog or Breeds of Dog that are similar to your dog’s appearance. Contacting these folks lets them spread the word amongst other dog owners. They also read online Dog Forums where dog lovers are communicating on a regular basis.
  • Traffic intersections
  • Pet supply stores
  • Other locations like the Fire Station, Library, Community Parks, Dog Parks
  • Advertise on radio stations, the newspaper and Craig’s list.



  • Pet Amber Alert
  • Craig’s List
  • Center for Lost Pets – The Humane Society of the United States
  • Fido Finder
  • Lost Pet is an organization that will contact homes in your area.



  • Have Someone Stay Home – This way if someone finds him because he had the address on his I D Tag they can return him quickly and someone is there to answer the door.
  • Bring a Flashlight – even if its daylight now. As darkness approaches, it will save you time and stress not having to return home to get the flashlight. It will help you look under bushes, cars, etc.
  • Bring a Picture of your Dog with You — This way you can show people you meet while searching. If you don’t have a picture, and your dog is a particular breed, take a picture that looks similar to yours.  For example, a yellow lab.  Ask if they’ve seen a “dog that looks like this?”  Many folks do not know the difference between a Golden Retriever and Yellow Lab.  If your dog is a breed that is not super common, describe him as looking like a more common breed that is similar.  Example:  If you have a Whippet, describe it as a “small Greyhound”.
  • Take a Whistle — Bringing a Whistle, a Squeaky Toy or a Clicker if your dog is used to responding to those items. These items could get his attention if he is out of sight, but actually close by.  Also, the familiar sound may encourage him to come out of hiding.



Unfortunately, there are some less than stellar people out there who will try and capitalize on your stress over your lost pet.  If someone calls claiming to have your pet, ask them to describe your pet thoroughly.  If they don’t include the identifying characteristic you left out of the advertisement, be wary of their claim that they have your pet.  People who insist that you give or wire them money for your pet, are probably not legit.



Offering a reward can motivate people to look for your dog more so than they would if there is no reward.  While this may seem like a commercialized approach to a heart rending problem, it can be quite effective.  The more people interested in helping you locate your dog, the better chance you have of being re-united.  However, don’t  specify an amount for the reward.   Why?  If someone thinks the amount is too low, they may not be motivated to help you find your dog.  If they think it is high, they may be motivated to sell your dog, because they think it is valuable and would have a high re-sale price.



If after a few days of intense searching, give yourself a break.  Check out websites online to check for other avenues to pursue in searching for your dog.  Then revisit all the places mentioned above.

It is my hope, that the information included in this article will help you reunite with your dog, quickly!


Wishing you and your furry family a Happy Day,