Can a Dog Be Traumatized After Being Lost?

If your dog has ever gotten separated from you, you’ll know the terror that elicits, and the fear he’ll be hurt or lost forever. How does your dog feel?

A dog can absolutely be traumatized after being lost. If it’s scary for the normally calm dogs, imagine how terrifying it is for dogs that already suffer some degree of anxiety. When your dog is back home, give him plenty of quiet time to de-stress from his ordeal.

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What to Expect When You Get Your Lost Dog Home

Here is a list of some things/behaviors you may see once your dog is home.

  • Sore feet/raw pads
  • Limping – due to terrain he walked on, distance travelled or being hit by a car.
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Ticks
  • Wounds – may have gotten into a skirmish or hurt himself on a branch
  • Worms – depending on what he may have eaten
  • Diarrhea – from something he ate or stress
  • He may be skittish and more anxious
  • Clingy, afraid to let you out of his sight or just wants extra cuddles

♦ A trip to the vet is a good place to start, especially if he’s been missing more than a few hours. Give them a call, let them know what happened and they’ll advise you.

♦ Keep visitors away and the house as calm as possible for at least a few days. Except for pee and poop breaks, make sure your dog has a nice quiet place to rest. Play calming music, look into buying an Adaptil diffuser and Rescue Remedy to help with anxiety.

♦ Give small amounts of food and water frequently.

Can a dog be traumatized after being lost

Preventing Your Dog from Getting Lost

Accidents happen, but there’s still a lot we can do to prevent our dogs from getting lost.

Be careful when opening doors

• You looked around and didn’t see anyone, so you thought it was safe to open the door. Next thing you know, he’s running past you and not looking back.

• Always look around and make sure your animals aren’t around.

• Never linger with the door open.

• Consider putting up a baby gate in front of your door, inside the house. It will add another layer of security.

Educate the kids!

As soon as your children are old enough, teach them not to leave doors open. Drill the message into their heads, until they get it. That goes for their friends as well.

Secure your garden

If the dog plays in the backyard, make sure:

  • The entire fencing is secure
  • It’s tall enough so he can’t jump or climb over
  • No loose boards
  • No spaces underneath
  • Gate lock is secure

Satisfy your dog’s needs

A bored or restless dog will try and make a run for it when they can, so be sure and provide him with plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation.

  • Walks, not just a quick pee and poop break
  • Hiking
  • Dog parks
  • Walk down a different street, or drive to a different park for a change of scenery
  • Visit doggy friends
  • Do some training – teach new skills or brush up on old ones

If your dog is super anxious and can’t go out until your desensitization training is further along, this article is for you! “17 Ways to Exercise Your Anxious Dog Indoors

can a lost dog be traumatized

How to Find Your Missing Dog

Okay, so you do all of this stuff, and your dog still goes missing. What now?

Make flyers

• Find a recent picture and make as many flyers as you can. Don’t forget to include all your contact numbers, but no need to post your name or address. Offering a reward may help motivate people.

• Hand them out to passersby, give them to people you know to hand out, post them on poles, in shop windows, community bulletin boards, libraries, dog parks, gas stations, local businesses, and anywhere else you can think of.

• Don’t limit yourself to a few blocks around your house. Dogs can cover long distances in a short period of time.

Scour the neighbourhood

Have as many people as you can knocking on doors, asking home and business owners to check backyards and garages. If they don’t know you or your pet, hand them a flyer.

Spread the word

Call local animal shelters, animal control facilities and veterinary offices. They’ll want to know the area, a full description of the animal and contact details. Keep the list handy and have someone call often.

Don’t take chances and rely on anyone to call you back. Things get busy, wires get crossed and mistakes sometimes happen. You wouldn’t want the unthinkable to happen to your pet,

Call the microchip company

Letting the microchip company know your dog is missing, will prevent anyone who finds him from trying to change details. Also, if a vet or animal shelter finds your dog and scans him, they will get in touch with the company.

Use social media

Post your lost dog alert on all your social media accounts and ask everyone to share. There are many pet finder sites on Twitter and Facebook, specifically set up to help spread the word about a lost pet. You might want to follow and friend them in advance so if you need them, you’re all set up and ready to post.

Inform the police

If you suspect your dog was stolen, go to your local police station and be sure to bring a flyer with you.

Make it Easy for Someone to Return Your Dog

Even if you do everything, accidents happen and you can’t prevent them all. So why not make it as easy as possible for someone to return your dog to you.

• Always microchip your dog, and keep the information current. If you move or change/add a phone number, contact the microchip company and update your records.

• Have a well-fitting collar with id tags, or a collar with the name and number stitched right on the collar. Remember to update that information as well. NOTE: There are people who don’t think it’s a good idea to include the dog’s name on a tag. They feel someone with bad intentions could call your dog over and steal him. You’ll have to decide what feels right for you.

• Prepare an emergency pet recovery plan by sitting down as a family, and deciding what steps you would take if your dog ever went missing. That should include having a list with addresses and phone numbers of local vets, shelters, rescue groups, animal control facilities and police humane units.

• Are there friends, neighbours or other family members you can go to for help? Make a list.

• Keep those lists in an easily accessible place, and be sure everyone knows where they are. Why not take a picture and keep them stored on your phone?

Having a plan will save valuable time, when time is of the essence.

How to Catch a Lost Dog

If you do spot your dog, or another you know is missing, Kat Albrecht, the founder of Missing Animal Response Network, has an interesting video on what you should and should not do, when trying to catch a lost dog.


Have you ever had a dog go missing? What changes, if any, did you notice when you got your dog back home? Sharing helps others, so leave your experience in the comments below.


I’m a dog trainer specializing in helping shy, fearful and aggressive dogs.

Does your dog go after other dogs and people while on a walk? Is he or she petrified of fireworks and thunderstorms? Does he growl or even nip when someone goes near his food bowl or treats? Is he scared of the vet? Men? Children? Visitors to your home?

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Get in touch today to book your FREE 15 minute, no obligation call. It will give you the chance to let me know what’s going on, and we’ll talk about how I can help. I can be reached via my FB page or website.









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