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How to resettle a lost or stolen dog

Written in partnership with Natalie Light, Joii vet expert and behaviourist

If your dog has been stolen or strayed from home, you will have been through quite a stressful ordeal and the same can be said for your canine companion. Whether they have been a stray, kept in an unfamiliar home, in kennels or being transported around, even the most well socialised and confident dog may experience fear and anxiety associated with being away from home and in strange surroundings.

They may not have been kept in good conditions and so their welfare could have been seriously compromised relating to nutrition, exercise, enrichment and their physical and mental health.

If you’re lucky enough to be reunited with your lost or stolen dog, there are some steps you can take to help them readjust to life at home with you.

Give your dog time

It is important to give them time to settle back in at home. Your dog will need time and space to adjust to its new environment, even if it’s still familiar to them.

Allow them to settle back in over a few days, avoid going on walks or letting them off lead in the short term and if you feel they may have some physical or emotional issues, speak to your vet for a health check or some medication. Be guided by your dog and don’t rush into doing too much too soon. You may also be surprised by their reaction to being home and try not to take this personally as it may take them a while to realise that they are home and safe again.

Provide a safe space

They are likely to be exhausted, malnourished and may show aggressive or defensive behaviours even if they were previously a happy go lucky, friendly and sociable dog. A private, quiet, comfortable space, with access to a safe, secure toilet area or garden should be set up so that your dog can rest and relax.

Keep introductions calm

When reintroducing your dog to members of the family or existing pets, it’s important to keep them calm and controlled. We know it will be an exciting time for you and your family and friends but having too many people over at once can easily overwhelm your dog.

Once your dog has become used to you and the other people in your house once again, you can start to introduce other people one at a time.

Establish some routines

Dogs are creatures of habit, so by providing consistency, you’ll help your pooch ease back into their new routine. Try to keep walks, meals and bedtime around the same time every day. This will help your dog feel safer and more confident in their surroundings as they’ll know what to expect from you each day.

Forget your expectations

We know that being reunited with your dog is amazing but try not to develop any unfair expectations. It’s only natural to feel disappointed if things don’t go as you imagined, but your dog will have frustrations of their own so try to work through these together.

We are so happy that you were able to be reunited with your lost dog and wish you a lifetime of happiness with your beloved canine companion. If you need further advice about how to help your dog recover from any trauma they may have experienced, be sure to consult an accredited, qualified professional trainer or behaviourist.

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