While I’m out running, off-leash dogs approach me more and more often it seems.
Two large mutts ran at me recently when their owner wasn’t paying attention. The next day a border collie charged because his owner had no control. The same afternoon a pitbull followed me for three miles.
All of these dogs got back to their owners safely, but that isn’t always the case.
The people reading this are responsible dog owners. Still, anyone who owns dogs knows it’s possible for the dog to slip through the door, slip through his collar or get away from a friend. It even happens to responsible owners.
Tips to prevent your dog from getting lost.
1. Practice calling your dog every day.
Carry treats in your pockets if you have to. My dog has always loved “checking in” while he’s off leash because he knows he’ll get a reward. I make a game out of it. Sometimes I run in the opposite direction yelling, “Wooooo!” I look like an idiot, but Ace always comes running. See my tips on getting a dog to come when called.
2. Give your dog weekly off-leash playtime and training.
A lot of dogs do not get enough exercise, so when they find themselves loose in the front yard, all they want to do is run. They’re like, “I’m free!” Being off leash won’t be such an event for the dog if he gets off-leash play and training several times per week.
3. Address your dog, then answer the door.
Whoever is at the door can wait 30 seconds while I address my mutt. Like most dogs, Ace gets excited when he hears the doorbell.
An out of control dog is much more likely to slip through the front door. I have not been consistent at correcting Ace’s excited behavior before I answer the door. Because of this, Ace likes to run to the door barking. In order to stop my dog from barking at the door, I have to enforce the same rules 100 percent of the time, not sometimes.
4. Keep all new dogs or visiting dogs leashed.
Keep all new dogs on a leash when you are indoors and supervising.
Your house is new and exciting to foster dogs, newly adopted dogs or visiting dogs. An excited dog is more likely to bolt through the front door or run away while outdoors. He’s less likely to listen to your commands, and you are less likely to predict his behavior. At least if he’s wearing a leash, you can hopefully grab he end or step on it if he bolts.
5. Keep a bell on small dogs so you can hear them.
It’s easy for toy dogs and other small breeds to slip right through the door without anyone noticing. It’s also harder to grab a little dog, and they tend to be more skittish. If the dog is wearing a bell, you will be more likely to hear him coming.
6. Teach your dog to sit and stay when people come to the door.
A dog trained to reliably sit and stay in one spot when someone comes to the door is not going to run out. I am terribly inconsistent on this one.
My mutt Ace does not sit nicely when someone comes to the door. He would be much safer sitting and staying in one spot. This would also allow me to focus more on my guests rather than on my dog.
7. Train your dog on an invisible fence.
An electric fence for dogs is a great tool because the dog will easily learn to respect the boundaries of his yard without a physical fence. Ace is trained to know the boundaries of my parents’ electric fence, and I never have to worry about him getting loose when we visit. If your dog digs under fences, climbs fences or knows how to unlatch gates, an invisible fence for dogs is a good option.
8. Put up a baby gate to block the front door.
A baby gate blocking off an entrance to the front door can prevent dogs from getting out, especially if you are distracted by visitors.
9. Make sure all gates and doors are securely locked.
You may want to padlock gates from the inside so no neighbor kids come over and unlock the gates, especially if you ever leave your dog in the yard unattended. Some dogs are smart enough to figure out how to unlock latches, so a padlock is a good backup.
10. Microchip and ID the dog.
Too many dogs end up in the pound. The best way to find a lost dog is to contact all the pounds in the area. But hopefully your dog wears ID and will easily get back to you before you get to that point.
Without identification, whoever finds the dog has no way of contacting the dog’s owner. The pounds in my area keep dogs for three business days. That is not a lot of time for someone to track down a lost dog.