It’s every dog owner’s worst nightmare: Your dog slips his leash on a walk and disappears into the woods, or you arrive home to discover your dog has somehow escaped.
The thought of your dog running away is terrifying, but you can take steps to reduce the chance of this ever happening. Plus, by putting a prevention plan into place, you’ll be better prepared to handle your dog running away and increase the chances of bringing him back home again.
Take Steps to Prevent Your Dog From Escaping
Start by making your home and yard as safe and secure as possible. Walk around and look for ways that your dog could slip out. Be sure to check these common problem areas:
- Check that all doors in your home latch securely and are strong enough to keep your dog from jumping through them.
- If your dog tries to race through open doors, create a plan to keep the dog in a crate or another room while people are coming and going, or install a second door or fence outside to keep him contained.
- Make sure that your yard’s fencing is deep enough to prevent digging, as well as high enough to prevent jumping.
- Pull yard furniture and other obstacles your dog could jump onto away from the fence. When it snows, make sure that your dog can’t climb snowbanks to jump over the fence.
- Check that fence gates close and latch securely.
Good training can also help to keep your dog from running away. Train your dog with verbal cues for “come,” “down,” and “heel.” These verbal recalls can help to get your dog to come back to you if he does escape. While you’re working with your dog, make sure that his collar or harness fits him well, and that he can’t easily slip out of either.
Recognize Risky Situations
You can take many steps to make your home, your daily walks, and every other element of your typical life safe for your dog. But the instant something changes, the risk of your dog running away could increase.
Stressful events, like firework displays, can panic dogs, causing them to run away. Pet safety on the Fourth of July is a major concern — more pets go missing in America on this holiday than on any other day of the year. If your dog is afraid of fireworks, plan how to keep him safe. Give him plenty of exercise before the fireworks start, then keep him in your home — not in your fenced-in yard no matter if he’s never escaped before — when the fireworks start. Set him up in a secure room with some music playing and keep plenty of treats at the ready. A ThunderShirt or other anxiety shirt may also help to calm your pup’s anxiety.
If you know your dog suffers from anxiety, talk with your veterinarian about ways to control it. Anxiety can prompt some dogs to run away, but medications may be able to help. CBD oil may help your dog to relax and better cope with his anxious feelings, so talk to your vet and see if this, or another medication, may be an option for your dog.
Does your family go camping with your dog? It’s a great activity that gives your whole family the chance to explore a new area, enjoy time together, and be active outdoors. But if you take your dog camping, keep him on a leash at all times and brush up on his obedience training before your trip.
If you do go camping, you can take extra steps to keep your dog from getting lost. Investing in a GPS tracker can help you to keep track of your dog, especially when you’re out in the woods. With a tracker on your dog’s collar, you can monitor just where he is at any time with your smartphone and go find him if you have to.
Have a Plan if Your Dog Runs Away
Create an emergency plan now, just in case your dog ever does run away. If that happens, it will be difficult to think clearly, so the more prepared you can make yourself now, the better.
If your dog does run away, do your best to stay calm. Resist the urge to chase him, which may make him run away faster. Try to recall him with your “come” command. If that doesn’t work, see if telling him to “lie down” can stop him from moving away from you. If your dog does obey and lies down, get down on the ground yourself with a squeaky toy or some treats to encourage him to come to you.
Plan for what you’ll do if you lose sight of your dog, too. Make sure you have up-to-date photos of your pup on your phone so that you can quickly post “lost dog” posters and show others what your dog looks like as you search. Have him microchipped if he isn’t already and make sure that your contact information in the microchip registry is updated. Familiarize yourself with local animal shelters, especially if you’re traveling with your dog.
Hopefully, you never have to deal with your dog running away. But if you do, having a good plan in place can increase the chances that you’ll be quickly reunited with your best friend again.
Maggie Potter is a muggle from the Pacific Northwest who writes from time to time and covers a variety of topics. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a good book. You can connect with her on Twitter @MuggleMagnolia