How to Track a Lost Dog With a Microchip: All You Need to Know

Key takeaways

A microchip does not contain GPS trackers, meaning you cannot track your dog's location using microchip scanners.

A microchip simply holds a unique ID number that links to your contact details in a database. This means if your dog is found, you can be contacted easily.

You can use GPS devices to track your dog, but these must be already clipped onto their collar before they go missing.

We'll explore other ways to track your lost dog, like through reported sightings, before diving into the best ways to find them yourself.

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. Important information for pet owners
  3. What does a microchip do?
  4. How can you track a lost dog?
  5. How to find a lost pet
  6. FAQs
  7. Final thoughts

Important information for pet owners

Unfortunately, many pet owners are under the assumption that their pet's microchip has GPS tracking built into it. In other words, they believe that they can track their dog through their chip.
This is not the case. A microchip does not report on your pet's location or contain GPS tracking. But don't despair. There are other options for tracking your pup that we'll explore later.

What does a microchip do?

A microchip is simply a small chip that contains your dog's unique ID number. This number will be scanned into a database where your details will be linked to it.
It has recently become law in many countries that dogs must be microchipped. But why? Well, unfortunately, with the rising numbers of animals in danger, animal shelters are overrun and underfunded.
This means that if they receive a dog or cat that doesn't have a chip, they can't contact the owners. If no one claims them, sometimes within a week, they may be euthanized.
It's a horrible possibility to consider. However, it is completely avoidable. If your pup is accounted for and linked to your updated contact information, you will be contacted straight away so you can have a safe reunion with your furry friend.
A dog having their microchip scanned by a shelter worker

Understanding your pet's microchip number

Your pet's microchip number is a unique 15-digit code. When scanned, the following information will be linked to it:

Your name


Mobile number

Landline number

Email address

As long as these are kept up to date, your dog will forever be associated with you. You can find this number by having your pet scanned at veterinary clinics or animal shelters.

How can you track a lost dog?

So, if you can't track your lost dog through their microchip, how can you? There are some options out there to make it easier to find your lost pet, so let's explore them.

Use a GPS tracking device

Tracking devices are available for pets, and they can be a great option for putting pet owners' minds at rest. They are small enough to clip onto your pet's collar without frustrating your pup and can monitor everything from their sleep patterns and wellbeing, to their exercise and location.
Using this kind of device means the next time your dog decides to go on a solo adventure, you can keep tabs on where they explore.
Top Tip: We recommend Tractive. As well as monitoring your dog's location, it also works as an activity tracker. It's easy to use and comes with an app that makes caring for your dog a breeze.
A German shepherd sat by a bench in a park

Through reported sightings

While a GPS tracking device is obviously the easiest way to track your pup and something to consider for the future, tracking your lost dog now is a tricky task.
One way you can do this is through reported sightings. Rather than sticking up a missing pet poster and hoping passers-by will take notice, you can start a digital search.
At PetRadar, we use social media advertisements for good. When you start a search with us, you select a radius around where your pet was last seen, and we create digital missing dog posters.
Then, we distribute these as sponsored posts on Instagram and Facebook, reaching over 4000 people in your area. This means as your neighbors are scrolling through their feeds, your pup's missing dog poster will pop up.
PetRadar's expert team sat with laptops and dogs
From this post, they can either report a sighting, send it to a friend, or save it for later. We will instantly notify you when any sightings are logged so you can act proactively in tracking your furry friend.
We also:

Provide you with a personal dashboard where you can manage your search, keep track of sightings, and increase the radius.

Offer constant personal support and guidance.

List your pet on our website.

Send you a free, expertly designed missing dog poster to print and distribute around your neighborhood.

PetRadar's free printable missing dog poster

How to find a lost pet

As a pet owner, the worst scenario imaginable is losing them. They are part of the family, after all. And without a GPS device telling you your pet's exact location, it's easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed. Instead, follow these 3 simple steps.

1. Report them missing

To find a lost dog, you need as much help as possible. The more organizations you report them missing to, the more people aware and on the lookout.
Use the following checklist to contact with your pet's description:

Microchip company: As you may have guessed, this is an important one. By calling your microchip company, you can double-check check the contact details on the chip are accurate and up to date. This will give you the best possible chances of being contacted if they're handed in somewhere.

Local shelters: Make sure the local animal shelter in your area and further afield are aware of your lost dog. Provide them with descriptions and, if possible, email them some photos. This will help them recognize your pup if they receive any reports of a stray or lost dog. They will also have microchip scanners so they'll be able to identify your pet's chip.

Dog warden: Most areas will have a local dog warden. It is their job to attend to any reports of stray dogs or unaccounted dogs. If they are aware your pup is missing, they'll be able to keep an eye out for them and contact you with any information they receive from the public.

Vet clinic: Your vet should be aware if your pup has gone missing. They'll be able to use the information they have, like your dog's medical records, to offer expert advice.

A dog being treated by two vets after being found

2. Physically search for them

It's still proven, time and time again, that the most effective method of finding a lost dog is through a thorough physical search (source).
It may feel like an impossible task, but if you search methodically, you have a high chance of locating them and getting them home safely.
If they ran away from home, use the following checklist:

Your neighbors' houses and gardens: If your dog has become bored, they may want to socialize. Often, this means hopping the fence and exploring your neighbor's house and garden, looking for new friends.

Outbuildings: Our furry friends are neophilic, meaning they are attracted to new smells (source. If they've picked up on an interesting scent, they will follow it. Outbuildings like sheds, garages, and bin stores are easy to become trapped in if they've gone exploring.

Local park or walk: Your dog has most likely memorized the route to their favorite park or walk. If they've chosen to have a solo adventure, then it's quite likely they'll head to those familiar and fun places.

Abandoned buildings, fields, and farms: Even though your dog has chosen to run away, they may find themselves lost and become scared. When their 'survival mode' kicks in, they'll find somewhere secluded and isolated to hide. Abandoned buildings, backstreets, farms, and fields all make great spots to wait and hide.

A lost dog sitting by a neighbor's house
If they ran away on a walk, follow these steps:

Don't chase them: Although it can be in our instincts to chase our dogs when we see them go running, it can actually make a bad situation worse. If your pup sees you chase them, they may become fearful and distrusting of you, making them run further and less likely to return to you.

Gently call their name: Don't shout or sound overly frustrated or angry. This may scare your dog and make them think they're in trouble. Instead, stand still and calmly call their name in a gentle tone. Only use their name and one or two other words to prevent confusing them.

Retrace your steps: Your dog will be able to follow your scent trail, so rather than walking further and confusing it, you should retrace your steps while looking for them. They will be able to find their way back to the start of the trail.

Set humane traps: If you've been looking for hours and still have had no luck, it's worth setting some humane traps overnight before you return to the trail the next day. These are a safe and easy way to trap your pup while you're not there.

Two dog owners searching for their missing dog in the woods

3. Lure them home

Dogs are incredibly intelligent animals with the ability to find their way home from miles away, even when it's outside of their territory.
Their powerful nose means they can pick up on scents up to 12 miles away, in perfect conditions (20km) (source). They also have impressive hearing and can pinpoint the exact locations of sounds and hear high frequencies. Alongside this, they can even tap into the Earth's electromagnetic fields to figure out their location, like an internal compass.
A lost dog sat next to a food bowl after being lured by the smell
While they can find their way home, we shouldn't assume they will. Outside factors like fear, anxiety, and poor conditions like adverse weather can make it difficult for our pups. To help them out, you can take steps to lure them back home:

Leave strong-smelling food outside: If your dog is in survival mode, they'll be focused on trying to find food. Even if they aren't, they're likely thinking about a tasty snack. Leaving food outside can help your dog find their way home by following the scent.

Open up doors and windows: The most recognizable sounds to your pup will be those of their home. By opening your doors and windows, you'll allow the everyday noises to travel further and hopefully reach your lost pet.

Leave toys, blankets, and clothes outside: The strongest smell to your dog, aside from food, is their territory. The items that will carry this scent most strongly will be toys, clothes, and blankets. Keep them outside so your dog can pick up on them.

A dog sat by a bowl of food


Can you track your dog with a chip?

Unfortunately, pet microchips aren't GPS devices, so you cannot track a dog with a chip. They simply hold the owner's contact information.

What if my dog is microchipped and lost?

If your dog is microchipped and lost, make sure the owner information is up to date on the microchip. You can do this when you prove ownership by providing the registration number to your microchip company.

Can you scan a pet microchip with your phone?

Yes, if your pet is registered with specific microchip companies, then you can download an app that can scan the chip and show you the chip number and contact information.

How can I track my dog's location?

You can track your dog's location using a GPS tracker. These usually come in the form of a GPS-enabled collar and can tell you your pet's whereabouts at all times.

How can I track my pet?

GPS tracking devices can track your pet, monitor your pet's health, and give you live updates on your pet's location.

Do pet chips have GPS tracking?

No, pet chips do not have GPS tracking. Getting your pet microchipped means they are recognizable if they are found after running away. However, if you want to see your dog's location, you'll need to invest in a GPS tracker.

Can a lost dog be tracked?

A lost dog can be tracked through reported sightings. If they have a GPS tracker attached to their collar, then you will be able to monitor their location live.

Final thoughts

When your beloved pet goes missing, you'll want to do anything in your power to get them back home safely. It may feel frustrating that the microchip can't tell you where your pup is but don't panic. It will be extremely helpful if they are found and handed in to a shelter.
GPS trackers can be a great investment to put your mind at ease next time your best bud decides to take off on a solo adventure. In the meantime, start a PetRadar search. We'll do all we can to get your pup back to you safely. We've already reunited 8000+ pets with their owners, so you know you'll be in good hands!

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.

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