My heart aches every time I see a post on Facebook or a sign in the grocery store about a lost dog. While some ‘lost dog’ stories end up happily ever after, others are not so lucky. Often times if a lost dog is found and the owner cannot be identified, the dog will end up in a shelter or the pound.
However, the most important thing to remember is that you can avoid this tragedy! Here are a number of steps that you can take to avoid losing your pup.
1. Microchip your pup
Microchipping is when a chip with the owner’s contact information is inserted into a pet’s shoulder area in a harmless procedure. The ASPCA strongly recommends that dog owners always have their pets chipped. The chip can be read by a scanner at most animal shelters and is a wonderful way to reunite a lost dog with his family.
While an ID tag on a collar is very important, if a dog were to run out of the house without their collar on, or if their collar were to fall off as they were running away, the chip will always be there as a second source of identification.
2. Always keep an eye on your dog
Dogs are mischievous little rascals! No matter how well behaved your pup is, there is always a chance that something outside of the fence or backyard will interest them enough to run. When you let your dog outside to play, keep an eye on him. Don’t leave him out for an extended period of time without hooman supervision.
Dogs are like teenagers – while they’re self-sufficient, they will also find any free moment with their parent’s back turned to cause some trouble!
3. Always keep your dog on a good leash
It’s important to find the best kind of leash that works for your pup. Big dogs might need a stronger leash, and small dogs need a leash that is a bit shorter in length. Do some research! A rope leash and a chain leash are both good, strong choices for a dog that pulls.
Try to keep your pup on a leash at all times. Not only is it a law in most states, but even the most well behaved dog could get distracted by a squirrel that you don’t see. If you want to let your dog off-leash at a park, make sure it has a fence around it.
4. Be aware when you open the door of your car
The safest way to travel with your pup is with a doggy seat belt, or in an enclosed area (like the back space in a hatchback or a secure doggy crate). However, if you do travel with your dog freely in the car, make sure to keep the windows shut far enough so that only a breeze comes in. While it’s cute to see your dog stick his head out the window, it can be dangerous!
God forbid he gets frightened and jumps out, or his paw hits the window “up” button and closes his head. Also, be aware of your dog when opening your car door. He will be anxious about you leaving him for even just a moment to come around to the other side, and some dogs with try and jump out after you.
5. Get a good collar with an ID tag
This is crucial! Make sure that your dog’s collar is not too loose and not too tight. Check to see that the material is both comfortable and durable. Also, make sure that your four-legged friend is wearing both of his tags – one with his name, phone number, and address and another with his vaccination records!
6. Check the entire length of your fence
Every few weeks you should check the entire length of your fence. Make sure that your dog didn’t try to dig a hole, and also check to make sure that your dog isn’t able to jump on something and then jump over the fence. Remember that pups are escape artists!
7. Get your pet spayed or neutered
You might wonder how this could possibly be relevant. A dog who isn’t fixed is anxious to find an, uh, “partner.” Your pet is still producing all of those crazy hormones that makes him into the heart-eyed emoji every time a lady pooch walks by. If a dog wants to get out of his fence to rendezvous with the neighbor dog, he will do almost anything to get out!
8. Choose to double leash
If your pup is a particularly good escape-artist (hey – it happens!), try double leashing on walks. This gives the owner more control while also keeping the dog safe. Use a slip leash as well as the clip-on. That way, if your dog slips out of one, he still has another defense mechanism.
9. Teach the ‘stay’ command when a person enters the house
Use treats as a motivator! Sometimes simple training is the best bet when trying to stop your dog from running out the front door. Practice having someone enter the house, and having your dog stay when the door opens. Keep them distracted by the treat until the person closes the door behind them.
10. Be especially wary of taking your dog outside during the Fourth of July or any other time when there are loud noises
If you’ve ever had a dog, you probably know that the first week in July is a terrifying time for them. When I was a kid, the neighbor’s dog used to run across the street to our front porch every time there was a thunderstorm.
We never found out whey he came to us when he was stressed out, but dogs are known to flee when under pressure. Keep a close eye (and snuggle!) on your pups during these stressful times for them.
11. For the first few weeks after adopting a dog, always take that dog out on a leash
A new dog will be wary of their new surroundings and if they get out, they won’t realize that it is their home they are running from. It takes time for a dog to realize that they are in a new home, especially if they are coming from a shelter and have been in and out of multiple homes.
For the first week or two, take your new family member out on a leash to sniff out all corners of the yard and mark his territory. After he seems super comfortable, let him free (in an enclosed yard) to roam and explore.
12. Use a short wire fence for small dogs
If you have an exceptionally tiny breed (Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, etc.) and your fence has wide openings, try lining the bottom of the fence with chicken wire. This is a simple fix so that you don’t have to completely tear down the old fence, but still can feel safe letting your dog run around.
13. Be neighborly so people recognize and get to know your dog
No matter how many precautions you take, sometimes a dog will get away. Hopefully, he won’t roam too far before you are able to find him. Make a point to introduce your dog to neighbors when on walks so that they can recognize him and return him if they see him running around without you.