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6 Ways to Prevent the Lost Dog Blues

Posted by Polly Godwin on

Get started searching for your dog the moment you realize he's lost.

Have you ever had a lost dog? You feel emotional turmoil that is practically indescribable. Your emotions run the gamut from a sick, gut-wrenching fear that feels like you were sucker-punched in the gut to incredible sadness. Throw in a mix of apprehension and even self-loathing for allowing your dog to get loose.

Yep. It really does feel that bad.

The fact is that dogs, while they are our best companions, are animals driven by instinct. They seek food, water, and shelter. In the case of unspayed or unneutered dogs, add to that the drive to procreate.

So, if dogs see a squirrel happily darting across your yard, they see it as food and might set themselves the single goal of catching and eating it for a snack.

As a dog parent, you can do everything in your power to minimize this potential. Dogs being dogs, they sometimes outwit you fair and square. This can leave you wondering how your dog escaped and praying for his or her safe return home.

6 Ways to Prevent a Lost Dog

1 – Inspect your doors

The lost dogs phenomenon most often occurs by dogs walking (or running) straight out an open door undetected. We hear from pet owners frequently who share stories that they hadn’t noticed how slowly the door swings closed or that the push handle on the storm door would pop open at even the slightest push of a paw.

Dogs are smart. Never underestimate Fido’s capability of working a door to slip outside and see the new poodle down the block.

2 – Fence your yard

Of course, a fenced-in yard is the safest yard for Fluffy. Even if you live on a relatively quiet block, the temptation to wander can cause your dog to end up miles from home facing traffic on a bustling street.

If space allows, an entirely fenced yard creates an ideal haven for your pet. If you are prohibited from erecting a full fence, consider a dedicated pet run area for her instead. Select sturdy materials. Be sure to include secure locks and latches that automatically close firmly but without pinching Fluffy as it connects.

Invisible fencing, when combined with the proper boundary training, can also be very effective. Bear in mind that even though you can keep your dog “in bounds” with an invisible fence, you can’t protect your dog from unfriendly dogs invading your yard.

A fenced yard helps contain your dog.

3 – Make your dog easily identifiable

Use pet ID tags to help your pets find their way back to you.

OK, so you can try to keep Rover from running off, but that’s just the first layer of lost dog prevention. You should also make your dog identifiable once somebody finds him.

Here are three products that can help reunite you with your dog if she does slip past you and escape.

  • Pet ID tags: Attach pet identification tags to the dog collar, and when somebody finds Rover, they will be able to call you right away. One caveat is that if he has run through dense brush or weeds, Rover might have lost his pet id tag.
  • Dog ID collar: A dog id collar has your contact information engraved directly on the collar, so as long as Rover hasn’t slipped his collar, a good Samaritan might be able to reach out to you once he’s found.
  • Microchip: A microchip is an implant about the size of a grain of white rice. It’s programmed with your contact information, and you can update it online or via an app. Think of this chip as a UPC code for your dog. The challenge here is that whoever finds your dog might not think to scan her to find your info.

4 - Training and socialization

The best pet ID tags in the world won’t do your dog any service if your dog is not socialized. If your dog exhibits aggression when someone tries to grab the dog ID collar and read it, that person will probably let your dog continue to run rather than risk a bite.

Two essential things you should do from a training standpoint to ensure that your lost dog behaves appropriately when found are the following:

Recall: Train him to come when he’s called, no questions asked. Then, when you need to call out to him when he disappears, he will find his way home if he’s within hearing distance of your calls.

Desensitizing to strangers: From as early as possible, teach your dog to accept strangers. Take her on walks and teach her to wait politely while you chat with neighbors. Invite neighbors to pet her, shake hands, and accept their friendship. This will enable strangers to safely handle your dog to read her pet tags for information.

A well-socialized dog can be handled by someone who finds him if he gets lost.

5 – Be aware of peak “lost dog” days

Here’s a lesser known fact. There are a couple of peak days for lost dogs. Fourth of July and Halloween.

Think about how your dog reacts to fireworks. While not all dogs are afraid of the loud cacophony of explosions on Independence Day, many respond by running away. Strong breeds break free of their dog collars or pull leashes right out of the hands of their owners in their panic.

Halloween is overly stimulating. The doorbell rings. Repeatedly, your dog goes crazy, every single time a little goblin rings that bell. Then, when you finally do open the door, the dog is greeted by strange looking creatures that smell like humans but seem out of place. It’s overwhelming to dogs, and they can push right past you to flee from these strange beings as out hand candy out the door to a trick-or-treater.

On those critical days, it’s best to close your dog securely in a quiet room with a favorite toy and his bed for comfort. Ensure he has adequate water and walk him firmly and carefully throughout the celebrations. It’s best to handle him yourself rather than delegating the responsibility to the children, as he could easily overpower a child during this stress.

Any date that you expect heavy traffic or changes in your routine, this is a practice to ensure pet safety. Whether you host a birthday party or Christmas festivities, isolating Fluffy might be the most humane way to handle the situation if she seems stressed out by all the noise and people. You’re not excluding her, you are protecting her.

6 – Invest in a sturdy leash…and teach your dog how to walk properly

Every dog owner must have a sturdy leash for safe walks.

Too many times, we hear from pet tags customers that they are ordering because their dog recently had been lost and they were lucky to reunite. Frequently, we hear that they were walking their dogs on the retractable leashes which either popped out of their reel or tugged so hard that the owner lost grip.

On the surface, retractable leashes seem like a fun idea. After all, that little taste of freedom benefits your pup, right? Not so fast.

There are several pitfalls with retractable leashes, mainly:

  • The longer out your dog strays on this elongated leash, the less control you have as a handler.
  • Your dog can surprise you and pull quickly causing you to drop the leash.
  • The nylon cord that spins out of the retractable leash can slash right through the skin—yours or your dogs—if enough force is used.
  • Dogs who walk on retractable leashes don’t learn conventional leash manners like sitting and waiting when the owner lets traffic pass.

Instead, invest in a sturdy, durable leash that’s sized appropriately for your breed and won’t slip out of your hands easily.

What to Do if Your Dog’s Already Missing

So, while you might appreciate all the above information, what do you do if your dog gets lost anyways?

First, don’t panic. You’re upset and scared, but there’s no time to waste. The sooner you realize you have a lost dog, the higher the odds favor a happy reunion.

Begin the search for your dog the moment you realize he's lost!

1 – Call your dog

While this seems very simple, try calling your dog. Realizing your best friend is lost can be traumatic. As a first step, walk through your neighborhood (if this is safe) and try calling him. Be aware of traffic as you don’t want to call him into a congested area. Sometimes, dogs sniff off to investigate, one thing leads to another, and he ends up in the woods behind your house chasing bunnies while you are worried to death.

2 – Ensure microchip information is updated

If your pet is microchipped, hop online and ensure that your contact information is up-to-date in their database. It would be a shame if some kind person found your pet only to reach a disconnected phone number! Updates made to microchip registries are instant.

3 – Notify local animal control and dog rescue groups

Contact your local animal control officers and report your dog missing. Email a photo of your buddy over to them so they can print it out as they identify incoming dogs that are brought in to them.

Remember that dogs can travel miles every day, so fan out and contact animal control and pet rescue groups in all the surrounding areas to form a 60-mile radius.

4 – Be social

Post Fluffy’s latest photo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other social channel that you have. Ask your friends and neighbors to keep their eyes open and to share your posts. This will help you reach an enormous network of people in a short period.

4 – Contact veterinary offices

People who find lost dogs (or cats) often stop into veterinarian offices to see if they can identify the dog using microchip technology. Offer to email them a photo to have on hand, too. It might come in handy for them if someone does bring in your dog, especially if your pet is not chipped.

5 – Go old school

Create flyers and hand them out at shopping centers, your local senior center, pet stores, and community centers. Include a photo and your contact data so you can be reached asap.

6 – Include a reward

If you can afford it, offer a monetary reward for the safe return of your cherished pet. Sadly, some people find lost pets, become attached, and decide to keep them for their own family. A reward makes it more enticing to return your pet than to keep her.

7 – Never, ever give up

Even if you don’t find your lost dog right away, keep looking. Take that walk through the neighborhood and call your dog as you walk.

Continually share his photo on social and call back around to all the veterinarians, rescue groups, and shelters. This will keep reminding all those people that you still miss your dog and are actively seeking to welcome her home.

Steps You Should Take if You Find a Lost Pet

If you have found a lost dog, and you want to try to help it, here are the first steps you should take.

  • 1.Carefully coax the pet to you. Avoid direct eye contact as dogs see this as threatening. She’s probably stressed, so be careful you don’t get nipped. Treats can be very helpful!
  • 2.Make friends by speaking to her in a friendly, happy, calm voice.
  • 3.Once you’re certain she no longer perceives you as a threat, check to see if she’s wearing a dog ID collar or pet ID tags.
  • 4.If you can’t find an ID tag, install a microchip scanning app on your phone and scan between the shoulder blades for a microchip.
  • 5.By now, if you still haven’t found owner data, snap a picture of the pet and spread the word. Post her photo on social media. Also, email the photo to local veterinarians and rescue groups. The chances are excellent that the owner will be contacting them to inquire if she’s been found.
  • 6.Watch your social feeds to see if anyone is reaching out looking for her.

By following these tips, you stand a good chance of reuniting a lost dog or cat with their anxious owner.

Handle lost pets cautiously. They are under stress and could nip you out of fear.

The Bottom Line

A lost dog can be a traumatic time for your family. You will feel angst and sadness, but you must keep trying to locate your dog no matter what. Remember that persistence pays off!

Once you do find your best buddy, treat it as a teaching opportunity for your family. It’s time then to come up with a game plan to ensure that the conditions that allowed her to stray off are remedied, so you don’t need to face those circumstances again.