By Kristie Bulger
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” – Agnes Sligh Turnbull
This article is going to be a 2 part series about lost dogs and how to get them back home. But before starting at “lost", I’d like to make some suggestions on how to keep your beloved dog at home in the first place. The next article, in a couple of weeks, will be about how to recover your dog.
* The most important thing is to have your dog spayed/neutered. Pets that have been spayed/neutered are much less likely to wander off. Over 90% of the dogs that end up in our shelter are unaltered.
* Get your dog licensed and when outside keep his/her collar, with tags, on at all times. A license is the quickest, easiest way to get a dog back home. Here’s a link to Newaygo County license information.
* Get your dog microchipped. Shelters and vet offices will scan found dogs/cats for a chip at no charge. There are stories of dogs that have been missing for years and then have found their way back home to their owners because they were chipped. It’s relatively inexpensive to have done. Bellwether Harbor in Fremont only charges $17.76 for cats and dogs. They’re having a microchip clinic on June 4th and will be having other clinics throughout the summer. You can get updates on their FB page here: https://www.facebook.com/BellwetherHarbor
* The very best way to keep your dog from becoming lost is to not let her/him outside off leash and unsupervised. The best containment option is a physical fence but even that is not a 100% guarantee. You have to know your dog and understand its breed. That cute little Doxie or JRT will probably not jump over your 4’ fence but they certainly will dig under it. Some of the herding breeds think climbing 6’ fences is no big deal and then there are huskies…..who just seem to be Houdini’s who can get out of any kind of fence.
It’s important to check your fence frequently to make sure your dog is not digging under it, that your gate is latching properly and that there are no trees leaning on it. People lose their dogs after winds/storms because they didn’t know their gate blew open or the fence was damaged.
Quite a few people are firm believers in underground fences and have great success keeping their dogs home. But there are dogs lost every day because their e-collars are not charged. Some breeds do better than others in underground fences. Once again, the huskies, with their thick fur and high prey drive, are notorious for running through electric fences. And what Beagle can ignore its nose? The other thing to remember is that while your underground fence may keep your dog in the yard, it won’t keep predators like coyotes and aggressive dogs out. Another containment option is a tie-out or cable. Once again, it’s important to check your tie-out to make sure it’s not getting weak or worn in places.
If you have more than 1 dog, never tie them out close enough to get entwined with each other. I personally know of a dog that was choked to death when she was playing with the other resident dog and the cable accidentally became wrapped around her neck.
Anyone who has been involved with rescue will start to see patterns in when/where/why dogs most frequently become lost. In my opinion there are 4 situations in a dog's life when they are most at risk for being lost. Let's look at these.
#1. When we ride in a vehicle we are required to wear seat belts and to make sure our children are also safely secured. But our dogs are just left loose to wander our vehicle. In a car accident, dogs are ejected out of the vehicle or are mistakenly let loose by the First Responders who arrive on scene. Every day FB has stories about terrified dogs that have gotten loose during an accident. There are lots of good options for canine seat belts and I highly recommend using one for your beloved dog. The info is readily available online.
#2. Many dogs go missing from their babysitters which is extra difficult because their owners may not be available to help look for them. Your dog may love to visit your parents/friends/neighbors/family so it’s perfectly understandable to ask those folks to babysit your dog while you’re away. But your dog knows that you’re not there with them and that they are not at home. This is another high risk time. When dogs are at a babysitter’s, it’s important for them to always have their tags on and to be on leash.
#3. Adopting a dog from a shelter or a rescue is a wonderful thing. While you may be instantly “in love” with your new pet, they may not be quite as sure. Dogs don’t know that they now belong to you. Their love develops more slowly. When a newly adopted dog gets away from a new owner, it can be especially difficult to get them back. These dogs do not know where they are or who they can trust. For the first few months, a newly adopted dog should be wearing tags and kept on leash at all times. Some people use martingale collars and slip leashes, at the same time, to make sure a new dog does not go missing.
#4. Unfortunately a lot of dogs go missing when they are quite old. Owners think that since they’ve been letting their sweet old dog out in the yard for 15 years that it’s ok to keep doing it. But dogs can suffer from senility and can get easily confused. They can get lost in their own backyards. Chances are your old dog is also suffering from some hearing/vision loss so they are even more vulnerable and difficult to find. It’s a myth that old dogs wander off to die. They do not. Here is a very good article about senility in dogs and cats. https://valevets.com/senility-faqs/.
I hope these suggestions help you to keep your dog safe at home. My next article will be about getting your lost dog back home where she/he belongs.
Here’s a link to our FB page "Friends of Newaygo County Shelter” where you can see all our available animals:
The adoption fee for dogs is $90.
This fee includes spay/neuter, deworming, heartworm test, rabies & DHLPP shots, flea & tick treatment and license.
The adoption fee for cats is $65
This fee includes spay/neuter, rabies vaccine, feline distemper combo vaccine, FIV/FELV testing, deworming and flea/tick treatment.
Newaygo County Animal Shelter
78 N. Webster
White Cloud, MI 49349
Monday - Friday 11-1
Appointments welcome and available upon request
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