About 10 million pets are lost annually in the United States, and millions of them find their way to already overcrowded shelters around the country. Unfortunately, dogs without tags only have a 15% chance of being reunited with their owners. Your dog is probably one of your best friends in the world. You want him to be safe, happy, and know he's loved. Use these tips to lower the chances of him becoming lost and raise the chances that you're reunited if the unthinkable happens.
1. Install a Fence Around Your Yard
Never let your dog run free in the yard, especially if you aren't paying close attention to him. Even well-trained dogs have been known to bolt if they see a squirrel or a neighborhood cat or dog, and running off is even more likely if something spooks them. Installing a fence around your property helps to protect your pet, especially if he loves to run free.
Choose a fence the reaches all the way to the ground to prevent small dogs from crawling underneath them, and teach your dog not to dig in the yard to prevent him from digging under the fence. If you have a large dog or one that is particularly athletic, install a privacy fence that is at least six feet tall and avoid keeping garbage cans or patio furniture near it, as he may be able to jump over. Some dogs are also climbers, so avoid chainlink if you think yours may try to scale it.
2. Get ID Tags for Your Dog
Even with a good fence, some dogs manage to escape the yard or slip their collars when out for a walk. If your dog does become lost, you're more likely to be reunited with him if he has an ID tag. Choose a tag that displays his name, your name, and your phone number. If you change your phone number, be sure to purchase a new tag with the correct number on it. In addition to an ID tag, always attach your dog's registration tag or rabies vaccination tag to your dog. This helps to show he is a pet and not a random stray and makes it easier for any veterinarians or shelters to get in contact with you or know whether he needs vaccinations.
3. Microchip Your Dog
Even with ID tags, it is always a good idea to microchip your dog as well. If he gets loose without his collar, you'll still have a chance of reuniting with him if he has a microchip. Your veterinarian can quickly and easily microchip your dog. When scanned, the chip shows information such as your name, address, phone number, and email address. This makes it much easier for people who find your dog to get him back to you. Of course, if you move or change your phone number or email address, it is important to update the microchip to reflect that. Many pets with chips still don't find their way home because their owners forgot to keep the information updated.
4. Use a Sturdy Leash and Harness
Sometimes, a collar isn't the best idea, especially if your dog is an escape artist. If you'll be taking your pet on a hike or to an event with a lot of crowds, opt for a sturdy harness and strong leash instead of a traditional collar. Harnesses go over your dog's back and chest, attaching under his stomach and making it much harder for him to slip out of your grasp. Harnesses have a ring to attach tags to, so remember to transfer them from the collar to the harness if necessary.
5. Travel Safely in the Car
Many dogs love car rides, but it is important to travel safely with your pet. If you have automatic windows, ensure the child locks are on to keep him from putting the window up or down by himself. Dogs that are prone to jumping should be kept in a secure crate, a dog car seat, or on a dog seatbelt strap that attaches to a harness and to the seat itself. Never allow your dog to hang freely out the window or to sit in the back of a truck bed freely. If he sees something he wants to chase, is scared by something, or if you get into an accident, he could run away or be seriously injured.
6. Spay or Neuter Your Dog
Your dog is more likely to try to escape your yard if you have a female going through a heat cycle or a male who can tell a nearby female is going through one. If you spay or neuter your dog, he or she will be less likely to try to escape. Additionally, spaying and neutering helps to prevent aggression, ensures there are no unexpected litters of puppies, and can help to prevent certain types of diseases as your dog ages.
7. Teach Your Dog Basic Commands
Whether you allow your dog off-leash at a dog park or he runs out the front door while you're bringing in groceries, teaching your dog basic commands is essential for his safety and your sanity. Teach him how to sit, stay, and come on command. Work with him daily until he obeys the command nearly 100% of the time (no dog is perfect). This will help you to catch him if he does make a run for it.
Teaching your dog commands, building a fence, and keeping him leashed will help you to prevent him from ever escaping. Even so, sometimes the unexpected happens. Updated tags and a microchip will raise your chances of seeing your best friend again if he does go on an adventure by himself.