Shih Tzu happens and dogs get lost. You think it won’t happen to your dog, but it happens every single day. Our dogs can’t navigate all the dangers around them, they rely on us to keep them safe. Short of keeping them locked in a bubble, how can we keep our pets safe? These 9 tips can help you keep them safe.
TAGS + MICROCHIP = Get Home Safe. It amazes me how many people remove a dog’s collar for one reason or another; they don’t like the noise it makes when the dog shakes, they bathe the dog and forget to put the collar back on, or any number of other reasons. I’m also amazed at how easily a dog can slip out of a collar or harness when highly motivated. I have seen terrified pooches slip out of collars and harnesses as their flight drive kicks in. Your dog should always wear a collar with updated tags. If a collar breaks off, which is not uncommon, a microchip can identify your pet. A microchip is tiny and takes only seconds to put in. Any veterinarian or shelter can scan for a microchip. It’s administered similarly to a vaccination, any vet can do it and most shelters offer it for about half the price of a vet, which ranges from approximately $20 – $75. Do you love your dog twenty bucks worth? Micro chipping and a collar with tags together can make the difference between your pet being linked back to you and getting home safe… or not. Make certain you update your phone number and address with the Microchip company if you move. Nothing screams “I’ve been abandoned” louder than a dog with no collar and tags. People will often pick up a dog wandering around without a collar and tags. If they like the dog enough, they may justify keeping him to themselves. A good samaritan may think your dog is abandoned or lost and deliver him right to the nearest animal shelter.
PLAN AHEAD FOR UNEXPECTED OCCURRENCES IN YOUR HOME. When something unsettling is happening in the house it can stress your dog out and potentially cause him to run off and get lost. Dogs may become frightened if workmen are in the home doing work, if furniture and boxes are being packed up for moving day, or a group of family or friends unexpectedly visit the home. Guests or workers often inadvertently leave doors or gates open long enough for a dog to slip out. Leave your dog with a trusted family member or friend, place him in doggie day camp, or board him until the household is calm and back to normal.
KEEP YOUR DOG LEASHED. I know people love to let their dogs off leash so they can be “free to run”, but don’t take chances. If signs tell you to keep your dog leashed, please keep her leashed. Not only can your dog get enticed by a number of small animals, people running, or other distractions and take off, but off leash dogs can be picked up by Animal Control in public places where they are supposed to be leashed. An unleashed dog is scary to most people, even the authorities. They don’t know that your dog is loving and friendly and is only bounding towards them at warp speed to say hi. Their reaction might be to defend themselves against your sweet pooch. Don’t let your beloved dog become a statistic – always obey leash laws and regulations both close to home and everywhere else.
PAY ATTENTION AT THE DOG PARK! I love taking my dogs to the dog park and I enjoy chatting with the other dog moms and dads there. My girl Isis loves to greet new dogs as they enter the park, so I’m always on guard if she gets close to the gate. Lots of dogs are just like Isis, they love to crowd the entry gate as new dogs enter. It’s easy for someone to open the gate and not realize, or not care, that your dog has slipped out while you are at the other end of the park deep in conversation with other dog parents. It only takes a second for a dog to slip through the gate and run off.
TEACH THE WAIT AND EMERGENCY RECALL COMMANDS. In addition to teaching your dog to reliably come when called, teach the “wait” command and have an “emergency recall” command. These simple commands can save your dog’s life. If your dog spots a bird, squirrel, or other moving object they may dart across a street, hop a fence, or jump out of the car and lay chase for many blocks. They can be hit by a car, injure themselves while running, or quickly lose their sense of direction. Make sure your dog reliably comes when you call him. One of the keys to this is not calling your dog when it’s time to leave the park, have a bath, or go to the vet. That can reduce their positive reaction to you calling them, so when it’s bath or vet time rather than calling your dog to you, go and get him instead. Teach your dog to always wait at the door or inside the car until you give the go ahead for him to exit. In the event that something is just too enticing and your dog takes off, tuning you out, have an emergency recall command. This is a one or two word command that immediately snaps them to attention and makes them run right to you because the reward for coming to you is irresistible. My dogs’ emergency recall is “Danger! Danger!” They know that whenever they hear that phrase they will receive delicious bacon. It is the only time they get bacon, which is what makes it different from the “Come!” command I use on a near daily basis. It really gets their attention, even if there’s a squirrel in their sights!
PARTY HEARTY BUT SAFELY. If you throw a party, keep your pet in mind as you plan the party. Graduations, birthdays, and holiday parties are wonderful occasions that enrich our lives. However we can easily get distracted while hosting our event. Pets can find it unsettling to see their home fill up with people, some of whom they don’t know. Fireworks on the 4th of July and trick-or-treaters on Halloween can be especially frightening to pets. Loud noises and people wearing hats or costumes are things that many pets find scary. Have a plan to keep your dog safe and secure during parties. This is another good time to consider boarding, pet sitting, or day camp. If you don’t want to remove your pet from family festivities, designate one person to keep an eye on the dog at all times. Don’t load that person up with other party duties as well. If you decide to just lock your dog in another room, place a large sign on the door to ensure no one opens it by mistake, and check on the dog often!
AN UNATTENDED DOG IS AN INVITATION FOR DISASTER. If gardeners, housekeepers, or workers of any kind are in your home or yard be sure to double check that all doors and fences have been secured after they leave. Every time. Don’t expect them to reliably remember to close & latch gates or doors – ultimately it’s your pet and your responsibility, not theirs. Never leave your dog unattended in the yard, in the car, or tied up outside a store. It’s a sad fact that not only do dogs get lost every day, but they get stolen every day as well. According to Petfinder, http://www.Petfinder.com as many as 2 million animals are stolen each year. We have even had puppies stolen from the shelter! What kind of person would steal an animal from a shelter? What kind of person would break into your car and steal your dog? What kind of person would steal your dog right out of your yard? What kind of person would reach over to pet your dog outside a store, unclip their leash and make off with him? Your dog doesn’t need to be an expensive purebred to tempt unscrupulous people to justify snatching him. “My girlfriend always wanted a dog like this”. “I got it for my Mom, she’s lonely”. “They left that poor dog tied up in the yard, hot/cold car, or outside a store, they’re cruel and don’t deserve him”. Don’t give unscrupulous, misguided people any opportunity to steal your precious dog!
NEVER, EVER LEAVE YOUR DOG ALONE IN A CAR. A dog can quickly get into trouble when left alone in a car. They can get heat exhaustion or freeze in only a few minutes. They can also be stolen out of your car. In addition, in many states you can be charged with Animal Cruelty for leaving your dog unattended in a car. That could cost you a bundle, it’s not worth it. On a recent trip we were at a gas station. A woman and her daughter left their Chihuahua in the car with the windows open a few inches. As soon as they went inside the dog jumped right out the window, narrowly missing a truck pulling out. The poor little thing just needed to relieve himself and just couldn’t wait long enough for them to return. Their dog was nearly flattened by that truck! They should have taken turns going inside to use the restroom instead.
SPAY AND NEUTER! Spaying and neutering your dog will help prevent the enormous number of unwanted puppies that end up in shelters every Spring and Summer, which is puppy and kitten season at shelters. Neutering reduces your dog’s desire to get out and roam the neighborhood, and can reduce unwarranted aggression between males. Dogs that are spayed/neutered have fewer health issues as well. Spaying and neutering can also curtail theft, since a dog that is spayed or neutered cannot be bred for profit, which is a goal of some thieves. You don’t have to wait for a dog to be a certain age to spay/neuter, they just need to be about 4 pounds in weight. There are many common myths about spaying and neutering. For example, people used to think it was healthier to wait until a dog has her first heat or her first litter, but that is a myth. Also, the risk of an unwanted litter gets higher the longer you wait to spay a dog. A male dog can scent a female in heat from as far as 3 miles away! Check out the Humane Society’s web site, http://www.Humanesociety.org, for more reasons to spay and neuter and to see a list of common myths about spaying and neutering.
Practice these safety tips to keep your precious dog safe at all times!
Catherine Armato, Extreme Dog Lover
For more tips and stories please visit my blog, Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them, a blog for dog lovers and the dogs who love us, at http://www.Dogsluvusandweluvthem.blogspot.com