Tips On Dog Safety: #1 Keep Your Dog From Going Missing

It’s easy to get too comfortable with letting your dog roam free, especially when they are well-trained and always on their best behavior. But even those dogs that have never ventured out of their yards for years will suddenly find a temptation they can’t resist.

In the country, we often think of dogs as belonging to one of two categories: Those that are road-wise and know to cross when there isn’t any oncoming traffic or those who don’t know the difference between the road and the front yard. When those in the latter category go missing, it’s often dogs that typically stay indoors or within a fenced-in yard and have somehow gotten loose. These dogs’ owners are often surprised when their pet uncharacteristically runs off.

The problem is that every dog is at risk of running off – either in pursuit of something or to get away from a perceived threat. Some common reasons are fear (such as loud noises from fireworks or storms), running after other animals (including squirrels or other dogs), or just having too much pent-up energy and getting bored.

Below are some dog safety tips to keep your dog safe and prevent you from going through the agony of searching for a lost pet.

1. Have Your Dog Spayed or Neutered

There is a growing debate over the pros and cons of having dogs altered. One study showed that large breeds are at a greater risk of having health problems, especially if they are neutered or spayed before they are one year old. Like most researchers, those performing this study suggest leaving the decision to the dog owner and their veterinarian.

For pet owners who want to breed their dogs, leaving pets intact is necessary. For other dog parents, discuss the pros and cons with your vet. The risks of having a dog escape from the yard or potentially being attacked by other animals might be greater than those of altering your dog. If you decide to keep your dog intact, you should take extra precautions to keep them safe.

Depending on the animal in question, dogs can smell a female in heat anywhere from one mile to five miles away. Once detected, a male dog will do almost anything to get to the female including climbing fences and fighting other male contenders. Reason and good training go out the window.

If you choose to leave your dog intact, you must keep a watchful eye whether your dog is a female or male. Letting a female in heat out in a fenced-in yard won’t stop males from getting to her. Remember, males from miles away can smell your dog so you end up with a lot of strays at your home.

What some dog owners don’t realize is that the female can also leave the yard in pursuit of a partner. I lost my dog when a female left our farm to pursue a mate before we realized she was in heat. My male followed her out but didn’t return home with her several days later. Until then, he had never gotten out of my sight.

If an intact male detects the scent of a female in heat, he, too, may escape the yard. Even a tall fence isn’t enough to guarantee your dog won’t get out. Since you can’t know when there is a female in heat within a detectable distance, Protecting your male can be even more challenging. The best way to do this is by only letting him outside with supervision. It’s always a good idea to keep a watch on any dog while outside your home.

2. Watch Out for Dog Thieves

Another reason to have your dog altered is to protect it from a horrific lifestyle. People sometimes steal dogs for breeding in puppy mills. They steal purebred dogs and use them to breed over and over.

This is one of the worst things that can happen to a dog. But it isn’t the only reason that people steal them. It never ceases to amaze me that while thousands of shelter dogs are at risk of being euthanized if they aren’t adopted, people opt to steal dogs with loving homes. Dog thieves know which breeds are high dollar and only want the dog to sell. They don’t care about the animal or the anguish taking it causes its family. They want the big bucks.

One family member has had their Yorkie stolen from their yard twice. Both times, they have found it listed for sale online. The thieves drove by and saw the dog in the fenced-in yard and grabbed him before the owner knew they were there. She was sooooo lucky to get her dog back not only once, but twice!

Don’t assume your dog is safe because he is a mixed breed or a mutt, either. Sometimes people “find” lost dogs or take them from their yards because they want one and can’t afford the high price. They might ignore the fliers you put up because they don’t want to give up the dog.

One of the oddest things dog thieves do is to pick up strays or steal dogs and take them to another area before letting them out. If your dog doesn’t have a good sense of direction, it might be impossible to find his way back home. If he’s far enough from home, your notices of a lost pet might never reach the person who has them.

No one should assume that a dog doesn’t belong to anyone or that it doesn’t have a family who is looking for it – but they do. That’s why you must take additional steps to ensure your dog gets returned if he gets out of the yard or breaks away.

3. Give Your Dog an Identity

You never know where your dog might end up – or who might take him. Sometimes people are limited to few or no resources for advertising a found dog if they try to find the owner. Some people just take a dog in and keep it without thinking twice about the owners. There are some things you can do that make it a little harder to ignore your pup’s identity including:

Get him Microchipped – It’s inexpensive, painless, and tamperproof. If your information changes after getting your dog chipped, make sure you update it with the registry company. Although there are many benefits to microchipping, everyone won’t take a found dog to the vet to have it scanned. Chipping is just an important first step toward dog safety.

Get an ID Tag – Most pet stores sell custom tags that they engrave on-site. You can print the dog’s name, your name, address, or whatever. The most important thing to put on the tag is your contact information. Anyone can read the tag and reach out to let you know they have your dog. There’s still a chance they won’t want to, but some people are honest and want to return lost dogs to their owners.

4. Use Well-Fitted Collars and Leashes

When you buy a dog collar, follow the size guide to ensure it’s a good fit. Check regularly to make sure your dog hasn’t gained weight or had fur growth that results in a tighter fit. Ideally, two fingers should slip easily under the collar and feel snug. If it’s a struggle to get two fingers underneath, the collar is too tight. If there is still some slack, it’s too loose.

Choose a leash of a longer length or that is retractable for walks in wide-open spaces without a lot of threats. This gives your dog more freedom to explore without danger. In more restrictive areas where there are people, dogs, or traffic, opt for a shorter length leash that gives you more control.

Always wrap the leash handle around your hand or attach it to your waistband or belt loop if appropriate. Holding the leash too loosely could cause you to lose the hold on your dog if he bolts suddenly.

5. Keep Current, Good Quality Pictures of Your Dog

If, despite your best efforts, your dog goes missing, you will need good pictures of your fur baby to use on fliers, paid ads, or online. If you’ve ever seen a flier with poor-quality pictures, you know how unlikely it is to recognize the animal the owner is looking for.

6. Invest in Technology

Thoughtfully placed surveillance cameras might catch a dog thief in the act. It could also get the license plate number of the thief’s car. Another new option is a GPS collar that uses an app to track your dog’s location. If he chases a squirrel around the block, you can see instantly in which direction he is going.

7. Train Your Dog

Even well-trained dogs give in to temptation and run off when the right lure comes by. But the more commands your dog learns and practices, the more likely he is to obey. Training any dog makes it more enjoyable and social around other animals and people. Learning boundaries might give your dog an edge over one who doesn’t know the difference between where he should go and where he shouldn’t.

You’ve heard the saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” That’s certainly true when it comes to preventing your dog from going missing. Pet owners prove time and time again that once a dog is lost, the odds aren’t good at getting them back. Take the time and invest in these steps to help keep your dog safe in his yard or out in public.

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