What would you do if a dog or cat you were sitting for ran off and you couldn't find them?

I’m sure there are some epic stories out there. I’d love to hear yours, as well as discussing what the standard protocol for sitters should be in situations like these. I had a close call today and it left me reviewing all of my rules and procedures so I can be sure I’ll never let down someone who is counting on me to keep their beloved pets safe and sound.

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I’d walk the neighborhood looking and then I’d ask the HO if this is common and what their favorite hiding places are. It depends a bit on the type of pet and whether they normally roam around freely or if they escaped the house unintentionally.


Ah, yes - this happened to us this year.
We did a repeat sitting but there was a new dog - a Newfoundland who was young and nervous of most things.
We were on the enclosed local beach when he became agitated with a large lobster drum which had been washed ashore. He bolted off to the end of the beach. We weren’t worried as there is no way out of the beach, or so we thought…
We couldn’t see him at all and were not able to scramble over the rocks to the next cove as we were cut off.
We returned to the house to ring the Coast Guard who then looked out over all of the coves with his binoculars. We kept in telephone contact with him which wasn’t easy as the phone signal in the house was bad. We drove off to the town and we asked the pub there to let us know if he was brought in.
We kept returning to the beach to see if he had returned; how can you lose a Newfoundland?
We tried ringing the police but were in a queue. I found a website about lost dogs and was completing that when the Coastguard rang. He could see a couple of men walking along the beach with a large dog! We rushed down to the beach and welcomed them all. The dog was covered in mud and the men had found him wedged into a crevice in the next cove while they were scrambling over the rocks at low tide.
The dog was non the worse for wear and enjoyed being washing and dried.
We emailed the owners once everything was under control. The dog was missing for 3 hours and it was a worrying time.
They have asked us back so all was well in the end.


What a traumatic experience @Itchyfeet but a happy ending! I think this is definitely one of the situations that, as sitters, we dread to happen.


Not nearly as scary a story-
I just finished a sit with a pair of mini Schnauzers in Sussex. Big yard supposed to be totally enclosed and a back yard that was enclosed within the big yard. Public footpaths along the outside of the fence.
The dogs both had good recall, especially when I shook a small container of hard treats.
Well the younger female didn’t return when I called her from the yard so I walked out to the gate (electronic with a button) and she was on the outside - as soon as I opened it she came in. She was probably out for 15 minutes.
So I kind of kept and eye on them when they were in the big yard after that, but then a few days later, they were both on the other side of the gate.
I kept them in the smaller yard after that unless I had them both on leads. Tried walking the perimeter fence but didn’t figure out where they got out. Let the HO know there was a gap somewhere in my ending note!


What is “recall”? Not sure I’ve heard this term used before (in the US). Do you typically ask the HO about how to handle this situation when starting a sit or expect it to be covered in the welcome guide if there are dogs?

They come when called.

‘Recall’ means coming when called to me. Not sure where I first heard it used.
“Reliable recall” refers to the act of calling your dog to come and always expecting them to respond. Training games like “find me” or “hot potato” are fun, effective ways of teaching your dog to recall. Patience, practice, and positivity are all important aspects when working on reliable recall training. RSPCA Victoria – I seem to find the reference on UK www sites - maybe a Brit thing?

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Any tricks to get dogs you are only with for a short time to respond better to you calling them to come back? One of the dogs I am sitting for now is incredibly sweet and affectionate inside the house, but clearly doesn’t even register when I am calling her name while outside on walks and I’m a bit nervous (but being extra careful she doesn’t escape out the door before the leash is on).

Not actually a sitter story, but I had to look after my son’s very expensive Shiba Inu for 6 months while they were preparing to move to Sweden. Anyone who knows the breed will know that recall is not their best attribute, although he recalled to me better than anyone, (I had known him since he was 6 weeks old) Anyway, my son brought him up to me and then left the next morning to drive over to Sweden, which coincided with my husband going away for a week, so I was left with the four dogs. All was fine, although he was used to having his harness off overnight and didn’t wear a collar, so I made sure not to remove it til I had finished going out with them. The five of us went out for walks and to the local cafes, normal life for us here…… Then…… my husband returned……:roll_eyes:
The first evening he was home, we’d fed the dogs and settled down to watch TV, after a couple of hours, about 7pm my husband wondered where Yoshi was, I said he was probably upstairs as he’d taken to sleeping on the landing…. But no, he wasn’t there…. A search of the house and garden did not result in us finding him to my horror! I couldn’t understand how he wasn’t in our secure house and garden. It transpired he’d followed my husband out of the gate without him noticing, and he turned back in and shut the gate not realising Yoshi had followed him out, when Yoshi found himself shut out he went off exploring! I immediately rang my friends and we split up and set off our into the neighbourhood to try and find him…… Luckily my friend suggested FB and I posted on our local page. By the time we discovered he was missing he’d been out for about 2 hours!!! He is not an approachable dog and there was no way he would ever go to a stranger but there were lots of reports of him being seen around the area. I was walking round with our lurcher, whilst my friend and her kids searched a different route and my husband took our twin patter jack terriers in the car. After I had been searching for about 2 hours, and the light was fading I headed to a local park where he’d been seen recently…… I set out across the park still whistling like mad and what did I see but a little sandy coloured dog coming charging up the full length of the park to me……. I don’t know who was happiest, me or him!!! Of course at this point my lurcher who had patiently been trudging round town with me for 2 hours now wanted to run around the park, and Yoshi shot off with her before I could get his harness on!! Luckily her recall is excellent and he’d obviously had enough of being out on his own in a strange area! So it all had a happy ending…… I didn’t tell my son and dil until I’d got him back…… there was nothing they could do in Sweden apart from worry!
So my answer would be to check any local FB pages especially if there are any like round here for lost pets……


You need to know what command she recalls to, it she does, just calling her name doesn’t tell her what you want her to do, It would be like me just standing calling your name, you’d soon start ignoring me if I didn’t say what I wanted you for!

I have this issue often, both my cats are chipped and they sometimes wear a GS collar, however, it is hard to leave the collar on 24/24 hours, as it needs to be recharged. Unfortunately, apart from this, I have not found another solution yet. I have two cats and one is an escape artist, the other one is not allowed outside, but I am not taking this for granted. Kitsune, who goes outside does not go far and stays in the garden, which is a relief. As for Tanuki, who is an indoor cat for the time being, that would be an issue. I make sure I know all their hiding places and inform my sitter(s) about them. I would equip my pets with a collar with their name and telephone number on it, so people will notice they belong to someone and are not feral. It is definitely a delicate situation, though!

Has anyone thought of getting one of those bluetooth tags you can track via a phone app and putting it on a dog’s collar when you start the sit, so you can track them down in a pinch without having to stress the owner needlessly?

Is there a pet-specific product like this yet I could look into if it’s not too large an investment? I thought of having a cheap metal tag with my number on it to temporarily add to their collar for longer sits, but not sure that feels right and I would definitely never take off their real tags w/owners number - just add mine on and then at least there’s a chance if they are lost and found, I would get the first call.

I lost a dog on my very first sit through THS, in Cyprus. The dog had previously run away from the house but returned in its own time. HO had said she would do this. I had taken her on various new walks away from home and had no problems with her. She was very good at recall. I took her to the snow fields and off we set on a circular walk. Half way through she ran off into the snow covered tree area and didnt return!! I called and waited for 30 mins. Then decided to go back to the car to see if she had returned there. By now it was late afternoon. I was only dressed for a warm summers day not a cold night in the mountains. I drove around and stopped at open venues, restraunts etc leaving them my mobile number. I even drove to the military post at the top of the mountain to ask if they could scan the ski slopes in the area. Oh and she was a white coloured dog!! Beginning to think about going home, 2 hours drive away, getting more clothes and coming back. I had left an old blanket in the car park where we had initially started the walk in the hope she might stay put if she found her way to the car park and the car was gone. Dusk was falling quickly. My phone rang and one of the restraunt owners said he had seen a dog sitting in the middle of a ski run with a km walk in. So off i set calling her name. Now its dark and suddenly here she is by my side. Like others not sure who was more happy her or me. Owner was great said he would rather loose her out and about (she was a street dog initially) than not taking her out at all. HO also asked me to return the following year.


Oh my gosh @Creaturecomforts my stomach was doing somersaults just reading your account …

We “lost” Woody a Springer we were looking after for three months on the South Downs in Sussex, he was an ex army explosives sniffer dog, fully trained he unfortunately failed his last test and his recall was “perfect” or so we were told and actually had experienced EXCEPT when a deer scent was involved.

Last thing we saw was Woody’s aeroplane like ears flapping in the distance and our shouts of “Woody Come … BACK!!” falling on flapping deaf ears.

After what seemed like an eternity he finally came sloping back over the horizon, not having caught anything, thank goodness.

I have always been a leash on sitter, he was our one exception … not after that episode, Woody sealed his “freedom” fate.

Thank you for sharing your story, so glad it had a happy ending.

On my first TH sit, in Anchorage, AK, I had a cat go missing for a couple of days. I contacted the owner as soon as the cat did not show up for dinner and they said not to worry about it. Astra would return on her own, they said. All I could think about were Moose and other wild animals about, waiting for her to wander by. I made flyers, contacted the Humane Society there, etc. The owners just kept telling me to “chill”. They said not to worry until day 3. On day 3 Astra came walking up to the door meowing for breakfast. You never know.

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Losing a pet is my nightmare. As house sitters, this was a cat who was nervous and wouldnt always come home at night. Frim that dxperience, we hVe learnt to ask thorough questions about the care of pets. Owners like to suggest areas where dogs can be off leash. Hzving tried thst once, not going to happen again. It is not worth the risk or the anxiety that goes with it for the duration of 2 weeks. Im happy to walk pets but offleash, not worth it.

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On one of our sits the owner said the routine was to let the 2 dogs out for their morning pee in the small unfenced back area and that we could just stay on porch in our jammies. First day was fine but second day the smaller dog saw a cat and took off. Worst feeling in the world, running down the street in our jammies calling for him. Luckily located him quickly and he was full of the joys of life. That was the last time he was out with no leash on.


I’m an HO not a sitter, but I’ve been in this situation many years ago sitting for my sister-in-law. We’d been warned it could happen and that Reggie would come back within half a day. I stood out in the rain calling for about half an hour, then gave up and went home, and he was back a few hours later.
I’d alert the owner, who may be able to put out an appeal on local social media such as Nextdoor or a local Facebook page, plus contact neighbours. Then police.
But a good idea for us owners perhaps to give details of whichever tracking service the animal’s chip is registered with!

First I would panic and cry. Then I would contact the host and let them know. Then I would panic and cry some more while also: 1) Checking with local animal shelters and pet hospitals (micro chips very helpful). 2) Knocking on door of neighbors. 3) Hanging lost pet signage in the area asking for people to check their garages or any other place an animal might wander in and get locked in. Hopefully at the end of this story I am calling the host to tell them Fido has been found!