You probably think you would know your own dog anywhere, right? Most of the time, a pet owner can easily recognize a photo of their own dog. What if that dog has been missing for days, weeks or even months? You may be pouring through shelter photos and looking at many social media shares that friends are sending you. Don’t discount the dog by his or her look alone.
Photo Lighting is Deceiving
Most shelters and animal control centers use volunteers to take pictures of found dogs. The volunteers post these pictures on social media and anywhere else to help find the dog’s owner, or to help get the dog adopted. Flash lighting, florescent lighting, camera phones or even bright sun may make the dog’s coloring look different than what you know your dog looks like. A bright white dog may look tan or cream in certain lighting, while a darker dark may look lighter.
A shaved dog will look a lot different than one with a lot of long flowing hair. If you have always kept your dog well groomed and shaved short, he may look totally different with longer tangled fur. The same goes if your dog always had long hair and the shelter had to shave it because it was so tangled and matted.
Lighter colored dogs may darken if they haven’t been bathed in a while. The elements can even affect the dogs coat if they have been out in the extreme cold or the hot sun for a long time. The length of their hair can also affect color variations in their coat.
Don’t discount a missing dog that looks exactly like yours because the information says it’s a boy and you are missing a girl. Paperwork gets filled out wrong, or sometimes people just naturally refer to a dog as a he or she even if they don’t know for sure. Call the shelter or person and verify whether the dog is male or female.
Don’t rely on the breed they label the dog as either. Sometimes it is just a guess. Some shelters will not name the dog as a specific breed because they have no proof. You may have paper work that states your dog is a registered Chow, but the shelter can only guess and may call him a Chow mix.
Seeing is Believing
Look past a slightly wrong color when you view a photo to see if it’s your missing dog. Don’t decide because of the length or condition of the fur either. Try to judge the dog’s body shape and structure, but take into account that the dog may be thinner, or possibly heavier than your dog was when he got lost.
The best course of action is to go in person to see the dog, but if that is not possible, call the shelter or person who has the dog. Have them describe the dog to you. Ask them about certain mannerisms. If your dog has any specific markings or abnormalities, ask them to check for those. Has your dog had any surgeries, or injuries that may have left a scar? What about quirky little skin bumps or markings?
Ask them to call the dog by your missing dog’s name, or to put the phone close to the dog so that you may call the dog’s name. Offer to send them photos of your dog and ask if they will send you more photos of the dog they have. Never think that you could or would recognize a photo of your missing dog and know instantly. You may be missing a chance to have your dog returned to you just because of a camera lighting issue or a mistake in labeling.