How to Find a Scared Lost Dog In 3 Simple Steps

Key takeaways

A lost pet is a stressful situation, and a scared lost dog can be very hard to get back home. However, there are three main steps to take to increase your chances of finding them.

These include reporting them missing, using a tool like PetRadar, and physically searching for them.

After exploring these steps in detail, we'll offer our expert tips on the dos and don'ts of finding a scared, lost dog.

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. 3 Steps to find a missing dog
  3. Top tips for scared lost pets
  4. FAQs
  5. Final thoughts

3 Steps to find a missing dog

Finding lost dogs is difficult at the best of times. However, if they're shy, timid, or frightened, it can be even more difficult. Their 'survival mode' may kick in, causing a fight or flight instinct.
This will mean they'll avoid any contact with people, making them extremely difficult to find. However, don't lose hope. Over 90% of lost dogs are found, so don't lose hope! Just follow our 3 simple steps.

1. Report them missing

A scared dog is tricky to detect. This is why one of the first steps you should take is to report them missing to as many people and organizations as possible. The more people aware and on the lookout, the more likely you are to find them.
Use this checklist to leave no stone unturned:

Microchip company: Making sure your contact details are up to date on your dog's chip will mean they are accounted for if handed into animal control.

Local animal shelters: Make sure your local animal shelter knows your dog is missing, what they look like, and that they are scared. Leave your contact details so they can report any sightings to you.

Social media: Joining local neighborhood groups on Facebook and WhatsApp to spread the message about your missing pup can be extremely effective in getting them back home. Be sure to mention that they are frightened so people don't approach your furry friend if they see them.

A dog being treated at a vets after being lost

2. Use PetRadar

At PetRadar, we know your dog is part of the family. That's why we do all we can to get them back home and have already reunited 8000+ lost pets with their owners.
We use social media advertisements for good and spread a digital missing dog poster of your pup to over 4000 neighbors. This means while people in your area are simply scrolling through their Facebook and Instagram feeds, your dog's picture and description will pop up. They can report a sighting directly from the post, send it to a friend, or save it for later.
It's a fantastic way to let as many people as possible know about your best friend quickly. We also:

Set you up with a personal dashboard where you can monitor the sightings reported and manage the search

List your dog as missing on our website

Send you a free, expertly-designed, and personalized missing dog poster that you can print and distribute around your neighborhood

Offer personal support and guidance throughout the whole process

PetRadar's expertly designed downloadable missing dog poster

3. Search for them

The most effective way to find a lost dog is a thorough physical search. While distributing posters, starting a digital search, and reporting your pup missing are effective for spreading the message and receiving tips on where your dog may be, it's a physical search that will be the key to finding them.
If your scared dog went missing on a walk, follow these steps:

Search in the areas you have already covered: Rather than walking further, it's better to retrace your steps and look for them. This is because your pup will be able to follow your scent back to the car.

Use treats and toys: Using strong-smelling dog food and their favorite chew toy will help your dog find their way back to you by following the scent of their territory.

Visit animal shelters: Visiting local shelters and local vet clinics to look for your own dog is a useful and proactive activity, instead of just waiting to hear any news.

Be patient: Don't leave the walk and assume they'll find their way back home. If they are outside of their territory, this will be more difficult than you might imagine. Instead, keep physically searching for them.

Set a humane trap: To safely catch your lost dog, you should set humane traps in the area where your dog ran away. This will increase your chances of finding them.

Top tips for scared lost pets

Scared dogs are more difficult to catch than other dogs safely. There are specific things to do and specific things to avoid in order to be successful.

Call their name, but gently

Sometimes, you'll see advice for finding a scared dog that says not to call their name. While this is sometimes a good idea, as any sounds can frighten an already panicked dog, the sound of your voice is recognizable and familiar. This means they may be attracted to it and trust it.
To make sure this is the case, try the following:

Keep your voice calm and gentle

Don't let your frustration, anger, or panic come through in your voice

Only use a couple of memorable words so you don't confuse them

A lost dog with their ears pricked up to show they are listening to their name

Don't chase them

Our instinct as loving pet owners is to chase our furry friends when they run away. It comes from a good place, but it can make a bad situation worse. Seeing someone chase them can make them feel even more frightened and trigger their survival mode.
This means they'll only run further and are more likely to hide from you rather than trust you.
Expert Insight: Sometimes, our pups can even lose the ability to recognize us when they're in this survival mode. Don't worry, it's only temporary, but it can make getting them back home even more difficult.
An owner chasing their German shepherd dog that's running away

Keep calm

Dogs are sensitive to the moods and emotions of those around them. If you are panicking and getting frustrated, this may frighten your dog even more and may make it difficult for them to trust you.
By keeping calm and remaining still, you're telling your dog that they are safe and the situation is not dangerous.
If you find your dog, don't run up to them, assuming they will be pleased to see you. Instead, call their name gently and stand still. Try:

Sitting down so you are in a submissive position

Lowering your head and gaze so it doesn't feel confrontational

Slowly and occasionally moving towards them

Dogs are sensitive to the moods and emotions of those around them. If you are panicking and getting frustrated, this may frighten your dog even more and may make it difficult for them to trust you.

An owner comforting their dog


How do you catch a panicked dog?

To catch a panicked dog, you need to be patient and not chase them. When you find them, sit down or get low to the ground. Don't make eye contact, and use submissive body language. Slowly move towards them once you see them relax.

How do you get a scared dog to come to you?

To get a scared dog to come to you, you should use submissive body language and get low to the ground. Be patient and wait until they relax and begin to trust you. You can also use treats and strong-smelling food to attract them to you.

Where do dogs hide when lost?

Dogs often hide in quiet areas when they're lost, like backstreets, fields, farms, and woods. However, if you've got a confident and sociable pup, they may be making friends in the local park!

How long will a scared dog hide?

A scared dog will usually hide for around 24 hours. After this, their adrenaline will wear off and they should slowly relax out of survival mode and try and find their way home.

Will a dog come back if they run away?

Most dogs will come back if they run away. They have excellent homing abilities, which means they are able to find their way back to you after running away.

Can dogs find their way home?

Yes, dogs can find their way home. Their strong sense of smell, hearing, and sensitivity to the Earth's electromagnetic field means they can understand their location and figure out their route home.

What not to do with a fearful dog?

You should never chase or shout after a fearful dog. If they know you are frustrated or angry, they will become even more scared and are unlikely to come back.

Final thoughts

The most important part of finding a scared, lost dog is to be patient and remain calm. However, we know how distressing it can be when you're trying to find a lost pet. That's why we're here for you. At PetRadar, we'll make sure no stone is left unturned in your search for your best bud.
We've already reunited 8000+, so you know you'll be in good hands. If you're currently trying to find a lost dog, start a PetRadar search to find them as soon as possible.

Written by

Image of the author
Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

Language selection