Losing your pet is every owner’s worst nightmare. Maybe you accidentally left your gate open or neighborhood fireworks caused your dog to bolt out the door at first chance. Regardless of why or how, it can happen to you. But with a little planning and prevention, you won’t have to worry about finding your lost dog.
That’s why we asked Sarah Sypniewski, an expert in finding missing pets and the former owner of Ninja Dog Concepts, to share her lost dog prevention tips.
Let go of the “it will never happen to me” mentality
Most cases start with “Fluffy’s NEVER done this.” Animals are unpredictable and surprising. So the first step is believing that it can happen to you and then taking the necessary steps to prevent it.
Keep your pets secure during parties or new environments
One of our lost dog clients, Piper, was on location with her owner in a studio. It was a new environment, and Piper just slipped out of the back entrance without anyone noticing. When bringing a dog to a new place or a party, make sure they are secure in a crate, behind a baby gate or closed door. If you are attending a party, consider keeping them on leash or at home. Also, keep reminding your guests to close doors behind them. It only takes one second for a pet to dart out of an open door.
Do not keep them alone in the back yard
Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. In this scenario, escape, theft, or being eaten are the top three likelihoods of what could happen to your dog if left in the backyard alone. They can push through unsecured barriers or dig under fences, and if spooked, could bolt. Depending on what kind of dog you have, someone might just steal them. If you live in the Los Angeles area, a coyote or even a mountain lion can snatch them–all in mere minutes.
Make sure pet ID tags are current and secure
Tags are the quickest and cheapest way to ensure your dog is returned to you. If you have a small, cute dog with no tags, someone might claim your pooch as their own. For large dogs, they could sit in the shelter for weeks and could end up euthanized. With proper tags, finding your lost dog is so easy. People will contact you immediately. Keep them in tiptop shape, check them regularly for correct fit, and replace them promptly when needed.
Keep your microchip information up to date
Do you even know who your microchip company is? Ask your vet to check for you and then log online and update your information. Keep your mircochip company’s information including your dog’s chip number in a place that’s readily available should you need it quickly. Here is a list of mircochip companies.
Use a professional, experienced pet care provider (like Fitdog!)
Find a reputable, experienced provider who will be especially careful. Check references, research them, and meet with them several times before booking the job. Many lost pet cases start when the pet gets loose from a pet sitter–even a professional one–because pets can become out of sorts while you’re away, even in the best of hands. Make sure there’s a plan in place if your pet does get loose or go missing while under their care.
Regularly check fencing and yard
Every 3-4 months, get in the habit of looking at every inch of your fence, privacy vegetation, and other barriers. Check for loose or decaying boards, warped chain links, walls that are losing height, or holes in shrubbery. Also inspect the ground below the fence—is there potential for your pet to dig under? Fix and fill in your yard promptly. If you keep your pet on a tethered leash in the yard (hopefully attended and NOT for extended periods of time, by the way), check to make sure it is still strong and not frayed.
Train your pet on a recall command that is 100% effective
This usually only works for dogs, but why not try it with your cat too? Putting the time in to teach your dog “HERE!” or another command that they respond to immediately and without fail is beyond worth it when it saves their life. Recall training class.
This article was originally published in 2014.