How To Prevent Your Dog From Going Missing

By Joe Wilkes

We depend on our dogs for love and companionship, and sometimes, even protection. But let’s never forget that protection is a two-way street. It’s a big world out there and dogs love to explore—and without the benefit of a cell phone, or GPS. Even the dogs who are homebodies are at risk. Dogs—especially purebreds—may be snatched from their own yard by a dognapper looking to make a quick buck. Here’s a checklist to make sure your dog doesn’t end up with his picture stapled to a telephone pole.

The eyes have it
The easiest and surest way to keep your dog safe is to be able to see where he is at all times. And notice we say “see” and not “know.” You may think you know your dog is playing in your fenced-in backyard, but if you don’t have an eye on him, he could have run out of a gate that was left open, dug a hole under the fence to freedom, or be stolen by a criminal. Likewise, if you’re walking your dog, don’t tie her up to the parking meter outside your favorite store or coffee shop while you run errands. Your dog could slip her collar, chew through her leash, or be stolen. Better to have the caffeine headache now than the headache and heartache of a missing pet later.

Get a new leash on life
Whenever possible, keep your dog on a good leash when out in the world. Even if you’re just letting your dog follow at your heels as you go to the mailbox, a stray squirrel or rabbit in the corner of your dog’s eye could cause him to bolt into traffic or down the street, and you are probably not going to catch him. It could easily result in your dog getting lost, the further he runs, or worse, injured or killed in traffic.

Also, while taking your dog into off-leash parks is great for fun and exercise, make sure you choose a park that is enclosed. Living in California, we have some beautiful off-leash hiking trails in the canyons, but “beautiful” is not usually the word that comes to an owner’s mind when he watches his pet race off the trail, disappearing into the brush or down the side into woods that are definitely not landscaped for humans. Your dog could easily become lost in nature or have an unfortunate encounter with wildlife, such as a skunk, rattlesnake, or coyote. If you don’t feel one-hundred-percent confident that your dog will come when called, we recommend a leash when out in the wild.

A dog by a different collar
A good collar that fits well is your best line of defense for two reasons: it keeps your dog from slipping out of it and getting loose; and it provides an easy way to ID your dog and makes your contact information available so you can get her back. It seems like fancy dog boutiques are popping up on every block so finding a good collar should be easy. But be mindful that the collar needs to be functional before fashionable. Your dog’s collar can literally save its life and it’s far more important that it stay securely on your dog and provide your contact info than alert the world in rhinestones that your dog has “Bieber fever.” Additionally, regularly check the fit of the dog collar as it is likely to stretch out over time or crack or fray depending on the material it’s made of, making it less secure. It may need to be tightened or replaced.

Microchipping—not just for computers
Microchipping involves implanting a tiny rice-grain-sized chip under your dog’s skin. It’s painless and can help your dog be identified with a scanner. Even if your dog loses his collar (or in the case of dognapping, has it removed), the microchip allows your dog to be positively identified as yours. This shouldn’t be regarded as a substitute for the collar and ID however. The microchip is a worst-case scenario for identifying your dog. It’s a lot easier for Good Samaritans to call the phone number that’s right there on the dog’s collar than to find a shelter or vet that can scan the microchip (if the Good Samaritan even thinks to do that). However, the microchip gives you a fighting chance your dog might be identified without a collar and provides excellent legal recourse should a dispute arise over who owns the lost dog.

Even if you take every precaution though, there’s still a chance that your dog may get lost or stolen. In What to Do if Your Dog Goes Missing, read what to do to recover your dog.

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