Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What to Do When Your Dog Gets Loose

By Ruthie Bently

As a responsible pet owner you never want anything to happen to your dog, but what about those times you have no control over? We have a fenced yard for Skye, but accidents sometimes happen. A delivery person drops off a package and forgets to close the gate or Steve goes to work and forgets to latch it. Like most dogs, Skye loves to play and go for walks and car rides; an open gate is a different matter altogether.

To a dog an open door or gate means freedom – real freedom, not the kind of freedom they get at the end of a leash or at the dog park. It’s the “I'm on my own and can go where I want” freedom. All of the neighborhood smells are very enticing to dogs. The female dog in heat six blocks away or the smells coming from the neighbor’s garbage can; even the smell of something to roll in can trigger their wanderlust.

If this happens to you, what do you do when your dog gets loose? The most important thing is not to panic. You need a clear head to find your dog, and panic will only detract from you doing that in a timely fashion. Time is of the essence, don't waste it. Enlist your family and friends, as they can help you complete multiple tasks at one time. Call as many neighbors as you can, as well as any veterinary offices and animal shelters in your area. Contact the local police animal control officer and make them aware of the situation. They’ll want to know how long the dog has been missing and from where. Unfortunately, dog theft is on the rise and the more information you can remember, the better you can help the police recover your dog if this is the case.

If you have a photo of your dog, make up flyers with their picture as well as your contact information. Include your dog's name, age, gender, any scars your dog may have, whether or not they were micro-chipped or tattooed, and where they were last seen. Be as specific as possible. Get the flyers made as quickly as possible and begin distributing them. Make sure to get copies to the vet offices, shelters and police departments you contacted, as well as your neighbors. If there is a grocery store or mall nearby, ask the store owners if they've seen your dog or if they will put your flyer in their window. If you know which direction your dog went, take flyers, a leash, spare collar, dog treats and their favorite noisy toy with you. Get in the car and begin driving in that direction. Make sure you leave someone at home to man the phones in case your dog is found while you are out looking.

The best thing to do is to be prepared. If you have a plan in place before your dog becomes lost, you can accomplish finding them that much faster. Have a current photo of your dog taken and update it every six months. Write down a detailed description of your dog. Include the information mentioned above, as well as your current contact information. Make sure your dog's identification tag has your current address and phone numbers on it. You may want to have another family member's phone number on it as well. Take your dog for a walk in the neighborhood and stop and introduce yourself and your dog to the neighbors. Your neighbors will be less afraid of a strange dog wandering the neighborhood if they have already met it in person.

Consider a GPS collar for your dog. There's a company in Minnesota that manufactures one that you don't need a cell phone or monthly subscription to be able to use. It has a hand held GPS system that uses current satellite technology to find your dog. If your dog is not microchipped or tattooed, you might want to consider that. Shelters are required by law to have a microchip reader, and many dogs have found their way home due to this technology. Many veterinary offices also have chip readers and if a stray is brought in they'll do what they can to return your dog.

No one that lives with a dog ever wants to be separated from them. The emotions we feel for our canine companions run as deep as those for a human family member. By being prepared you can help bring your beloved dog home quicker, and the reunion will be that much sweeter.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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