Pets that run away can be lost, injured or stolen. Although some dogs naturally tend to stray, there are many precautions you can take to prevent your furry friend from escaping.
Spaying or neutering your pet
Intact pets have an innate urge to reproduce, so hormones can override good sense. Males are likely to seek out a female nearby in the heat, and intact females are likely to look for a male partner. Spaying or neutering your pet when it is young eliminates the hormonal desire to roam. Most pets can be modified after an age of six months, but ask your veterinarian for the appropriate age for the size and breed of your pet. If your pet is older, your veterinarian may still be able to perform a spay or neuter procedure, but once established, hormone-driven behaviors can become a habit that can’t be changed by surgery.
Build a fence around the yard
Pets should never be allowed to roam freely and should be walked on a leash or let out into a fenced yard for bathroom breaks. Although electric fences prevent some pets from running away, if on the other hand your pet is something desirable, such as another dog, a squirrel, the postman or children playing, it may risk and run. Put up a tall, sturdy fence to prevent your pet from climbing or jumping over it to escape. Walk along the fence daily to look for possible escape routes such as holes, piles of snow and fallen branches.
Teaching your dog basic commands
Teaching your dog basic commands can be useful if he decides to chase something that catches his eye. Most importantly, teach him the commands “Come” and “Stay.” Start with “Come” and reward your pet with praise and treats if it obeys. After he has mastered this command, ask him to stay in one place by holding out his hand and saying “stay.” Expect your pet to stay for a few seconds at the beginning, then work for longer periods and issue the command from further away.
Providing adequate exercise opportunities
Pets with pent-up energy are more likely to run away, so offer daily exercise options to stimulate them physically and mentally, such as:
Walking through the neighborhood
Play a game of Frisbee in your backyard
Hiking in your favorite park
The solution of interactive food puzzles
Hidden treats in the house so that your dog can find them
Construction of a sandbox for digging
Providing safe outlets for your dog’s energy makes it less likely to run away in search of adventure.
Protect your pet from loud noises
For dogs with a noise phobia, fireworks are anything but funny, as shelters are overrun by dogs running away at noisy festivals. An unexpected loud noise can cause your dog to panic and bolt before you realize he is gone. Never take your dog to celebrations involving fireworks. Instead, leave it in an interior with closed doors and windows to cushion the noise, distract it with a toy filled with peanut butter, and use a “calming” jacket or shirt to apply pressure.
Other loud sounds, such as thunder, gunshots and backfiring cars, can also frighten noise-sensitive pets. Keep your dog safely on a lead or in the enclosed yard so that it cannot walk if it is frightened by a loud noise. During storms, bring your pet inside and follow the tips above to reduce noise and keep him calm. If your dog still becomes anxious during fireworks or storms, ask your AAHA-accredited veterinarian for antianxiety medication.
Get your pet ready for the worst
Even if you take reasonable precautions, your dog could still run away, so be prepared for the worst and make sure it is properly identified. Your pet should always wear a collar and identification card with your current contact information. Consider investing in a GPS tracking device that has a long range and battery life.
GPS Pet Tracker$37.39
A permanent option is the implant of a microchip in the skin between the shoulder blades of your dog. Microchip implantation is a simple procedure your veterinarian can perform during a routine office visit. After the procedure, your data will be registered with a microchip company so that you can be contacted if your lost pet is found or ends up at the shelter.