Updated: Jul 3, 2020
Going back to the analogy of the fire drill: If the unexpected happens and your dog disappears, you don’t want to go into panic mode and scour through paperwork trying to find the information that will help to identify your dog if found.
Several years ago a friend was walking with her very shy, “people nervous” adopted dog (we’ll call her Peanut) off leash in a courtyard. (Why not? Peanut would never leave the owner’s side.) They were with a friend and another dog when the friend’s dog raced toward a group of people ahead of them. After Peanut’s owner helped to sort out the incident, she turned, and Peanut was gone. Peanut was terrified of the group of people and ran for home through the streets of New Haven; but when she got to their security apartment, the doors were closed. The owners were distraught and drove through the night trying to find Peanut, who kept running until she was hit by a car on a highway onramp. So the errors here: (1) never allow your dog off leash on the assumption that your dog will never leave your side; (2) just as you would never put your baby down in order to help someone else, never become involved in an extraneous situation before you have made certain that your dog is safe. What they did right: not only was Peanut microchipped, but she was wearing a collar with her owners’ phone number. A passerby stopped, checked the information and called Peanut’s owners. Peanut was rushed to an emergency vet hospital; initially her hind quarters were paralyzed and she was in shock. She needed surgery for multiples fractures of both back legs, and also had multiple pelvic fractures. Peanut’s loving owners saw her through thousands of dollars of surgeries, extensive physical therapy and orthopedic devices. The happy end story here, is that Peanut, although with some physical awkwardness, survived her ordeal and is once again running happily with only the slightest limp.
Things happen. How can you plan ahead? In addition to the suggestions to avoid ever losing your dog in Part One of this blog, here is how you can make certain that you are ready if this ever happens to you.
1. Microchip your dog. And have the information readily available in a paper or digital file.
(a) Know your dog’s microchip number.
(b) Know which company your dog is microchipped with.
(c) Submit your current contact information to the company (i.e., if you have adopted or purchased your dog, change the information from the rescue/breeder to you; if you change your number, update with the company).
(d) Double check with the company after the information is submitted; a brief phone call will confirm that the information has been entered correctly.
(e) Have your dog’s microchip information readily available.
2. Have a visible identification tag on your dog's collar. Your dog should always wear a collar with a tag that gives your contact information. If your dog is found by a passerby (such as in Peanut’s case), they most likely will not have a microchip scanner on hand. A physical identification tag is the most immediate contact form. If Peanut had not had visible identification, it is likely that by the time the police came and she was transported (with no owner information) to an emergency center, she might not have survived the ordeal.
3. Have current picture(s) of your dog. If your dog goes missing, you want to be able to create flyers, and notify the local police, animal control officers and neighbors.
4. Be certain your neighbors know who your dog is, so that if they see your dog (without you!), they will know to contact you.
5. Keep a record of your Animal Control Officer and non-emergency police phone numbers.
6. Always have your dog’s current vaccination schedule (including rabies) available. (Easiest way: take a picture on your phone. This information is usually on your last vet’s bill.) You will need this information if your dog is found, has any injury and is taken to an emergency vet center.
7. Teach your dog a great “stay”. If your dog is racing after something and might be in danger if called back, teach your dog a solid stop and stay in place. How to do this? Some good training concepts:
Zak George: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAziMECDxD0
Victoria Stilwell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urYGYIGhi38
8. Train your dog to have a great recall. When your dog starts racing off, if you have practiced ahead of time, you can call them back…and they will come. There are many ways to train this. Check out:
Chirag Patel’s “counting game” as a fun way to stimulate your dog’s interest. Like any other animal, dogs are curious and when there seems to be something interesting going on they can’t help wondering what is going on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra8TKCwTDbk&t=8s
Investigate Susan Garrett’s free “recallers” resources: https://recallers.com. Susan teaches games to teach your dog a great recall.
Check out Lisa Waggoner (Cold Nose College)’s training videos with her young dog Cailie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PcksNow_l8&list=UUewd5oabcc6KB9QYRq1M9QA&index=50
If you follow these suggestions, if your pet goes missing, these suggestions will help you to recover them.
Part Three of this blog will review recommendations for what to do if the worst happens, and your dog goes missing.
Michele McLeod CDBC, CBATI, CPDT-KA, VSA-DT
Sirius Positive Dog Training
203 788 7647
About the contributor: Michele provides private in-home training, behavior modification solutions, and board/train using positive reinforcement-based methods for clients in the tri-state region. Her professional certifications include: Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants); Certified Graduate of Distinction (Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior); Certified Behavior Adjustment Trainer (Grisha Stewart BAT); Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer; and Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CCPDT). She lives with her horses, donkey, dogs and cats at Rainbows End Farm in Sandy Hook, CT.