How to Find a Lost Dog at Night? 8 Best Ways to Get Him Back

Last Updated on July, 2024

Losing pets can be a terrifying experience for pet parents, especially when it darkens out.

Your first instinct will probably be to get out there and run around shouting for your dog. But while this may satisfy your need to do something, it may not be very effective.

However, don’t fret because according to a survey conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 93% of lost dogs return home safe and sound.

So with the right game plan, the chances of you finding your dog are very high, even if it is nighttime.

Continue reading this article to find out the most effective steps to take when trying to find a lost dog at night.

Quick Summary

The most important thing you can do if your dog goes missing at night is to search your home thoroughly before you do anything else.

It is also important to alert your neighbors, local veterinarians, and local animal shelters as soon as possible.

When searching for your lost dog at night, it is helpful to bring a flashlight and leave a scent trail.

How to Find a Lost Dog at Night?

a dog sitting on the road at night

Search Your Home First

You must first search all the nooks and crannies in and around your house before you freak out and raise the alarm.

There is always the chance that your missing dog may hide somewhere close to home, so you must rule out all the options systematically. Check inside closets, cars, sheds/garages, etc.

If you still haven’t found your dog, you can expand your search according to the steps detailed below. 

However, always leave someone your dog is familiar with at home as there is always the chance that he may wander back.

Figure Out a Search Route

Instead of haphazardly searching in random spots you think of off the top of your head, you need to get a hold of a map.

Mark up a search radius centered around your home or the last place he was seen.

You need to be smart when figuring out how big your search area should be.

Consider your dog’s fitness level, your dog’s temperament, etc. Is your dog very energetic and active?

They would then most likely be able to cover a lot of ground. If your dog is more of a couch potato, you can make your search radius a few miles smaller.

a man holding a map

Take time to also think about all the possible places your dog might wander off to. Are there any parks nearby that might have intrigued him? Or perhaps there are woods that he might have wanted to explore.

Search smarter by marking all these possible locations on your map and ensuring to check all of them systematically.

Recruit a Search Team

It may be tempting to immediately run out of your door and try to cover a ton of ground yourself.

However, it is much more effective to take the time to reach out to neighbors and alert local veterinarians and local animal shelters.

Print out a stack of fliers with your dog’s photo and your dog’s information and put them up in pet stores, around your neighborhood, etc.

You can also post ads on lost pet sites and use social media to spread the word.

men standing on the ground and showing the search team board

Contact rescue organizations (like the Humane Society International), and hit up the police department. Ask around at pet shops and animal hospitals in your area to get leads on your pet.

Alerting nearby vets and local shelters is especially important. If someone finds your dog, they will most likely turn them into the veterinary offices in your area or the local shelter.

Get together a search party of family, friends, and neighbors and split up into groups to cover the entire search radius much faster.

It would help to have people your dog is familiar with on the search team as they are more likely to respond to people they are accustomed to.

Bring Flashlights Along

Dogs that find themselves alone feel naturally inclined to return home and are more active during dusk and dawn. 

So searching for a lost dog at night is a practical move. When going out at night, ensure your search party has strong flashlights.

Strong flashlights will help illuminate a larger area and will help ensure you don’t leave a single place unsearched. 

a human holding flashlight

Leave a Scent Trail 

Lost pets react to familiar scents. To lure your lost pet back to safety, you can leave food, water, treats, and other things your dog loves (like your dog’s favorite toy) around where he was last seen.

The scent trail might just lead your lost pet home!

Revisit the “Last-Seen” Spot

Suppose your pet went missing while he was away from home. In that case, you should make it a point to revisit this location multiple times during the day (and even at night), as your dog will most likely return to this spot. 

Leaving food and water in the “last-seen” spot will also help you find your lost dog. If the food has been touched, your dog is probably somewhere close.

Let Other Animals Help

If you own other dogs, you should allow them to help the search party.

Many dog owners have reported instances where their lost pet has been found with the help of another family dog.

Hearing a familiar bark or catching a whiff of a scent he recognizes will help your dog find his way back home.

Alternatively, you can get in touch with pet detectives if you only own one pet.

a human and a dog on the floor

Pet detectives will help find your dog with trained bloodhounds, and you can easily look up pet detectives in your area.

Don’t Chase After Your Dog

In general, dog owners and pet owners should never chase after a lost pet when they’ve been spotted.

When you’ve found pets who got lost, they will likely be in a state of distress. If you run towards them or try chasing them, they will most likely get spooked and run off, even if they know you very well.

Then what should you do instead if you spot your dog from afar?

All you need do is calmly call your dog’s name and offer him food or treats. This approach will calm your dog and help him approach you himself.

Related article: How to find a missing cat?

Things to Take When Going in Search for a Lost Dog

some Things to Take When Going in Search for a Lost Dog

When setting out to look for your dog, ensure to keep the following things with you;

  • A pen and paper to write down your contact details.
  • Photos of your dog.
  • Your dog’s favorite toys and food.
  • A strong flashlight, especially for when you’re searching at night.
  • Your dog’s collar and leash to help secure your pet if he is found.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Getting Lost?

Basic Obedience

The “own the door” concept is a lesson of basic obedience that you can instill in your dogs. 

It will establish that your dogs are not to exit the house without you or their leash, and it will help ensure that they will not wander off even if the day is left open.

Keep Your Eyes on Your Dogs

Ensure to keep a lookout on your dogs when they are outside, even if you have a fenced yard, because one open gate and the next thing you know, they’ve vanished in the blink of an eye. 

Identification Tags

It is advised that you fit all your dogs with detailed identification tags. This ID tag lets whoever finds your dog quickly contact you.

These ID tags should contain your contact number, the contact details of an emergency contact, and your street address (but only if you are comfortable with it).


For a further level of protection, you can microchip your dogs. 

They are inexpensive, easy to insert, don’t harm your dog in any way (if you’re worried about that), and have helped double the amount of pets returning home.

However, keep in mind that microchips cannot be used to track dogs.

They only contain a unique microchip ID number that can help identify dogs and help people get in touch with their owners.

a microchip on human's finger

You can also let your microchip company know that your pet is missing, and they will alert local animal shelter staff.

GPS Tracking Devices

You can’t track your dog with a microchip, but you can with GPS trackers.

GPS trackers enable you to create safe zones and track your pet if they leave these areas.

Most trackers also include activity and health monitoring, so it helps keep your dog safe and healthy.

If you have no clue what tracker you should go for, I recommend you check out the Fi series 2 GPS tracker.

The Fi series 2 tracker is super durable, offers 24/7 location tracking and insight into your dog’s activities and is perfect for keeping your precious bundle of joy safe.

A dog is wearing fi collar and the collar lights are on

Chances of Finding a Lost Dog

The following are the statistical chances of finding a lost dog;

  • 93% of lost dogs are eventually recovered, according to the survey conducted by the ASPCA.
  • There is a 90% chance of recovering a lost dog within the first 12 hours.
  • 49% of dog owners found their lost pets by canvassing the neighborhood.
  • 16% of lost dogs find their way back home.
  • A microchip or an ID tag has resulted in the recovery of lost dogs 15% of the time.
  • 6% of lost dogs have been found at animal shelters.

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Hopefully, this how-to-find lost dog at night guide will help you find your pet if they ever go missing (god forbid).

Following these simple but effective steps should help eliminate inefficiencies in searching for your dog so that no moment is wasted while you and your dog are separated.

Ensure also to heed the preventive measures listed above to prevent your pets from getting lost in the first place.

Getting a GPS tracker for your dog is one of the most important things in this article that you should follow through with. To make sure you purchase the perfect tracker for you and your dog, check out our article on the 10 Best Dog GPS Trackers here

In the meantime, I hope you and your pets stay safe, happy, and healthy!


Yes, lost dogs typically move around at night or in the early morning hours.

Dogs may hide in bushes in nearby areas or parks, as well as under cars in car parks.

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Stefano Giachetti
Stefano Giachetti is always excited to share his knowledge and love of animals with you through our blog, IPetGuides. And he has always loved animals and has been blessed to have many pets throughout his life. Currently has a Pomeranian Dog Breed.

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