Your New Rescue Dog Ran Away — Here’s How to Get Him Home

Follow these five steps to give your rescue dog the best chance possible of returning to you.

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I recently wrote about how to escape proof your home for a new rescue dog, but some pooches will find a way out of even the most secure areas. Whether anxiety about his new home causes him to bolt or she just has a history of running away to explore, the first few hours after are critical. Here’s what to do if your pup does get out and how to help a finder return him as quickly as possible.

1. Confirm your dog’s microchip information

Make sure her microchip has been transferred to your name and address (especially if the rescue is out of state), and get your dog a current ID tag. These two things will make it much easier for a finder to return your dog! If he seems to have separation anxiety or is particularly jumpy during thunderstorms or fireworks, get a positive reinforcement trainer involved to help with these issues and to lower the risk of an escape.

2. Stop and think

Once you realize that your pup has escaped, take a minute to think about where he might go. Is the neighbor dog in heat? Does she really love playing with the pup (or child) down the street? Most dogs stay within a couple miles of their home, but a rescue may not realize that he is “home.” Healthy, fit dogs can go anywhere from .5 miles to 5 miles away, so consider your pup’s size and health condition when planning your search.

3. Pick up the phone

Before putting up flyers, call local shelters and the rescue your dog came from to ask if she has turned up. Also call around to local vets, groomers, kennels, animal hospitals, and even pet stores. Post a missing dog alert on Facebook and ask friends to share, and check any lost and found groups for your area. Spread the word far and wide!

4. Make flyers

Make colorful signs with “REWARD” in big, bold letters to hang around the neighborhood. Put a picture of your dog on it; if you don’t have a picture yet, ask the rescue to share one. Be sure to include the location where your dog was last seen, and if you live in a bilingual neighborhood, put some of the main details in both languages.

Post the signs high and low because children are more likely to notice the flyers than adults. You can also drop off fliers at local dog businesses (vets, shelters, etc.) so they have a visual in case your dog shows up there. Expand your search area as the days go by.

Woman with dog by Shutterstock.
Woman with dog by Shutterstock.

5. Don’t punish your dog for running away

Once your dog comes back, don’t punish him! Even if you are really upset, act excited and happy! The first few months a rescue dog is in your home are especially crucial for building a great relationship and creating positive associations.

Top photo: Border Collie by Shutterstock.

Abbie Mood, Dip. CBST

Abbie lives in Colorado with her dogs Daisy, Sadie, and Buster, and can usually be found outside with one of them. She is a dog trainer and freelance writer who loves to explore environmental and animal rights issues. Find out more about her at and Follow her on Twitter @abbiemood and Instagram @abbiemood.


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