Photo: Patrick Hendry on Unsplash
Occasionally, while I am out for a walk, I will hear someone yelling for their dog (and sometimes for their child). Or I will come across a “Dog Lost” poster stapled to a telephone pole. Sometimes there is a reward offered. I feel my heart break for the person who has lost their pet. When there are children involved, it is even sadder.
This article will address prevention as well as action to be taken if your dog is lost.
Let’s begin at the beginning.
PICKING YOUR DOGS NAME
The first thing you want to think about when you get a dog is how his name sounds to him and to other people. You don’t want to be out on the street yelling “Porkface, Porkface where are you?” As for me, I am glad my little dog named Mr. Bean has never got away on me. It would be dreadfully embarrassing to be on the street or in a park yelling for Mr. Bean.
On the other hand, although you don’t want to saddle your dog with an awful name, you might want something original that your dog will instantly realize is his name.
ENSURE PEOPLE RECOGNIZE YOUR DOG
Walk your dog around your neighborhood often so people get to recognize that he is your dog. That way if he gets away and someone captures him, they will know where to bring him. Or, if they see him running loose, they can alert you. Even better, you might want to get him a tag with your phone number on it.
KEEP YOUR DOG INSIDE DURING NOISY OCCASSIONS
Dogs are most likely to run away if they are scared. Thunder and fireworks are particularly upsetting for some dogs. Keep an eye on your dog during loud events or in boisterous crowds as dogs have been known to get off their leash and start running without direction because they are afraid of loud noises. A dog can even be set off by a vehicle backfiring.
Even a leashed dog can slip out of your hand and be frightened by the leash snapping up and down behind him on the ground. Keep alert and keep a good grip.
IF YOUR DOG WON’T BE MATED, NEUTER HIM (OR HER)
Another reason for them to go on the loose is love. When a bitch goes in heat, every unneutered male dog within 1000 acres will know.
My father was appalled by the idea of neutering his male dog. He was an old-fashioned man, and he claimed it was an unnatural act. Besides, Dad was convinced that he had escaped-proofed the yard. The dog managed to get out anyway, and after an intensive week-long search, dad finally located him in a railway yard hiding behind an abandoned piece of farm equipment. The dog was with his one true love. (And all this time, Dad thought the dog loved him.) The dog was dirty and scrawny and had lost so much weight that my father hardly recognized him. His best friend would not come to him no matter how much my dad begged him. He growled when my father approached him. When he was finally able to rescue his dog, my father promptly had the dog neutered.
And how many puppies did that stray give birth to? Did she even survive the ordeal? The minute Dad’s dog was removed from the scene, another male dog took his place and he too became protective, vicious and dangerous.
When a dog wants out of a yard, he will dig his way out, climb his way out, or jump his way out. When I was a child, we had a dog who was a Houdini at getting himself out of his collar.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR DOG GOES MISSING
So, someone spotted your dog running around on the loose, looking determined but confused and they called the dog catcher. Now what?
You are probably in a panic. The kids are crying because their dog is gone. Your mate is in no mood to be empathetic.
First you need to calm down. If you make a plan and look in control everyone in the household will have much more confidence in you. Immediately call all the shelters in your area and let them know that if they see him, he is not a stray, he has a home and a loving family.
You should be prepared with a good description that includes the height and weight of your dog and any distinctive markings.
If your dog has a tattoo, know what it is. (Most often a number and some letters.)
Does your dog have an implanted microchip?
Next, visit the shelters in person. If you can’t go to the shelters, see if they will take an email from you or if they have a Facebook page where you can post a Lost Dog ad. Include a picture.
In fact, make sure you have a clear picture of your dog and take it with you everywhere — make copies.
Post, post, post. On the internet, on telephone poles, in the newspaper, on the supermarket memo board.
Be prepared emotionally to take calls about dogs that look nothing like yours. Even if your dog is a pure poodle, people will call you about everything from a collie to a beagle. This will be very hard on your kids so be prepared to shield them from disappointment that may repeat itself. Also, some people like to see others suffer and they may cruelly suggest that you dog has been picked up for use in experiments at a lab or it has been taken down by a wolf. Yes, dogs of value are sometimes stolen off porches to be resold (check the want ads) and dogs in the country are occasionally picked off by coyotes, but I don’t think that these are common occurrences. I think it is much more likely that the dog is scared and hiding.
The next thing you will need to do is start a search yourself. Look for places where your dog might hide like old sheds and abandoned cars. The dog may not want to come out if it has been alone a while and become fearful. Bring favourite treats. (Ham is a great one. I don’t know a dog that dislikes it.)
SPRING YOUR DOG FROM JAIL
If your dog ends up at a shelter, they won’t just hand him to you. Bring evidence that he is yours like a picture, the record of his adoption (which will include details like breed and tattoo or microchip). You will likely have to take out your wallet to pay for things like a fine or boarding so be prepared.
Finally, here are a few websites that have some excellent ideas.