dog escaping a flood

Cesar and Junior practicing safety with the police
and their dogs while filming “Leader of the Pack.”

By Cesar Millan

When natural disaster hits dogs suffer as well. I’m sure many of you saw or heard stories of dogs being rescued from floods and the heroic efforts of animal welfare groups to evacuate as many shelter animals as possible before the storms arrived..

But there’s another story about dogs and disasters that cannot be told often enough, and that story is how to help them survive.

How to Help Your Dog Survive a Natural Disaster

Whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, fire, or flood, the most important thing you can do for your pets is be prepared. Of course, you should already have the basics in place whether you have dogs or not — an emergency kit, a plan for both evacuation and to shelter in place, flashlights, batteries, and enough food and water for at least three days.

Dog Emergency Kits

If you do have dogs, then they’ll need their own emergency kits, including portable food and water bowls, extra collars and leashes, first aid, and enough food and water for 72 hours, sealed in air-tight containers.

An absolute essential for your dogs is proper identification. They should have at least a collar with secure ID tags, if not a microchip, and you should have all of their paperwork in one place, ready to grab and go, including vaccination records and license.

This is not something people might think of, but it’s also very important to have recent photos of your dogs with every member of your family. If you do become separated, these pictures can be essential in relocating your dog, as well as proving that it is your dog.

Have a Plan of Evacuation for Your Dog

You will also need to know in advance where your dog will go if you must evacuate, because many disaster shelters do not allow pets. Be prepared with a boarding kennel, dog-loving friend or family member’s house, or a pet-friendly hotel. Many veterinary hospitals also offer boarding services.

What To Do If You Have to Leave Your Dog Behind

If you do have to leave your dog behind, leave them inside your home with enough food and water for several days, and tack evacuation cards to all exterior doors with information and instructions for rescue workers. You should never leave your dog outside in the yard, and especially not chained, in the case of an emergency evacuation.

Emergency preparedness experts tell us that we should rehearse our evacuation plan regularly with our family, and our dogs are no exception. Using repetition and positive reinforcement with high-value treats, you can train your dogs so they will know what to do when disaster strikes. If they’re prepared to instinctively join in the evacuation, then that’s one less thing for you to worry about.

Some disasters, like severe weather or fires, can give us enough time to escape them, while others, like earthquakes or flashfloods, can come without warning. Either way, the more prepared you are in advance, the better you and your loved ones, including your dogs, will be able to survive.

If you’d like to donate to help those humans and animals affected by Irma and Harvey, visit our special guide.

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