Little dogs live the longest – if they stay safe at home.
The outside world is a dangerous place for our littles.
Before I moved to California and got a chihuahua-mix, I had no idea that birds of prey frequently attack and attempt to fly off with small dogs. Little dogs are also less visible on the road, making them more vulnerable to getting hit by a car.
It’s a good thing July is Lost Pet Prevention Month, started by PetHub. By no coincidence, July 5th is one of the busiest days of the year at most shelters in the United States – many dogs run away in search for cover when they’re spooked by neighborhood fireworks.
July is the perfect time to get your collar tags and microchips up-to-date, create a training plan, and secure your property.
We’ll be getting collars and tags from PetHub as thanks for our contribution to Lost Pet Prevention Month. If you need to stock up, check out their online store.
Escape Artists Are Not Failures… They’re Geniuses.
Dogs dig. Dogs jump, run, and flee when we most need them to stay.
If your dog attempts or succeeds at leaving your property, it’s not a sign that something is wrong with her. It does not mean she’s deliberately disobeying you. Most of all, it does not mean that your dog does not love you, or does not enjoy living with you and your family.
It simply means your dog wants to get out… and does it.
Which is extraordinary, if you think about it.
We have thumbs. Huge brains. Language. Hundreds of years of innovation.
And yet, our dogs are still outwitting us when they escape.
The sooner you make a conscious decision to stop getting angry, frustrated or disappointed in a dog that escapes, the sooner you’ll make progress.
Secure The Border
When it comes to your backyard barrier, take a page from Donald Trump’s notebook: build that wall… but not just any wall: a great, great wall. But not down by Mexico. Around your yard.
Or, built a fence – provided that the gaps between the slats are narrow enough to keep your dog from slipping through.
Prevent the possibility of digging under, even if your dog has never tried it… yet. The key word here is yet.
Add rocks or bury a section of fencing right along the border. Make sure your barrier is taller than your dog’s most impressive couch-jumps – and then some.
But good luck on getting your dog to pay for it.
Train With Love
When training your dog to keep her from getting lost, be realistic.
A dog’s natural instinct compels her to leave her home. Wild animals don’t have mortgages. They rarely stay in one place for years and years.
It’s not quite natural for your dog to stay in her yard. She must be managed and trained to keep her instincts to roam from getting her into trouble.
A dog can be taught to stop on a dime and return to her owner when called, even if she’s on the verge of escaping or already across the street.
Positive reinforcement is the best way to teach your dog to come when called. This means working with your dog using rewards they love – not fear or punishment. If your dog fears you, of course they’ll want to get away from you. Avoid punishment and fear in every aspect of your home training.
If your dog always has a good experience when she returns to you – even if you had to call her 20 times, even if she took forever – she’ll be more likely to come back next time.
Practice recall in your yard, as well as in areas that your dog is likely to escape.
Use a long line, a few leashes clipped together, or a tie-out cord to keep your dog safe. Not being able to rely on your dog off-leash is totally normal and expected, not a sign that you’re failing at training them. Even the best trained dogs should wear a leash or long line when they’re in new areas.
Many escapee dogs simply need more adventure in their lives.
After playtime or a long walk, a thoroughly tired dog is unlikely to have the will to run away.
A pent-up, under-stimulated dog will escape at her first chance.
This is why I don’t mind if Matilda rings her potty bells just to go out, even if she doesn’t have to pee or poop. If she’s ringing, she’s communicating to me that she needs some adventure.
Give your dog a way to remind you to give her adequate exercise, and she may decide that she prefers accompanied adventures over escaping.
A walk, training session or playtime with you should be more fun than sneaking out. If you’re not quite there yet, get creative using your dog’s biggest motivators. For Matilda, it’s peeing on a specific pee tree. Our pee tree outings are filled with treats and fun training opportunities. This has really helped lessen her urge to flee.
Get Tagged And Chipped
Complete, accurate identification makes it much more likely that your lost dog will be returned to you. Many shelters have holding periods of just 3 days. If your dog can’t be quickly identified, they can get adopted or put to sleep. All of your pets should have multiple types of ID.
A microchip is undeniable proof that your dog belongs to you. For a one-time fee, your contact information will be available to any vet or shelter worker that scans your dog.
But microchips can migrate through your dog’s body. The facility might have a scanner that does not scan your dog’s brand of microchip.
You can’t let your dog go without a collar just because they’re chipped. Collar tags with your phone number and address allow anyone to easily return your dog.
You can also attach tags to a harness, as long as it’s an accessory that your dog wears all the time.
If your dog uses a doggy door or dashes outside, she needs to wear a collar at all times, not just when she’s outside.
Don’t Lose That Dog!
If getting a proper fence, identification, or taking time to train your dog seems time-consuming or expensive, that’s understandable.
But you must imagine how you’d feel if your dog got lost and didn’t come back.
Wouldn’t you be heartbroken?
If you love your dog, do whatever it takes to keep her safe.