Lost Dogs: How to Prevent, How to Find

Written By Jenny Pavlovic
What You Can Do Now to Prevent Your Dog from Getting Lost and to Help You Find a Lost Dog

As spring arrives, I receive more and more notices about lost dogs. These stories break my heart because I know that many of these dogs will never find their way home, and that their loss could have been prevented. I learned a lot about lost dogs from my post-Katrina animal rescue experience. Today I’m sharing this information from the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book to help keep all dogs safe.
Nobody thinks they’re going to lose their dog, but please read this anyway. Planning ahead might help keep her safe. The panic and pain of losing your dog might be avoided completely by taking these steps now. If you do lose her, the tips below may help you find her quickly.
 
1. Socialize your dog: Help your dog get used to different situations, including people and loud noises. A dog that isn’t terrified may be less likely to get lost, and if lost, may be less likely to hide and thus easier to find.
2. Train your dog to wait: Teach your dog to wait while you go out the door first, and when you open the crate door. Use a release word to let the dog know when she is free to exit. This will keep your dog from bolting out the door or leaping out of the car before you can snap on the leash.
3. Train your dog to come when called: Teach your dog to come to you when called. When she comes, reward her with praise and great treats. Never scold a dog you have called, even if she takes forever to get to you. Always make coming to you a good experience.
4. Train your dog the drop: Teach your dog to drop to the ground on command, so that she may be stopped by your voice if running away and prevented from running into the street. Start by teaching your dog to drop at your side and gradually move away so she’ll do the drop from a distance.
5. Collar and ID: Make sure your dog wears a secure collar with current ID tags.
Include a phone number where you can be reached and a back-up phone number for a second person who can easily be reached by phone.
6. Microchip: Have an identifying microchip implanted under your dog’s skin at a vet clinic or humane society (*see detailed information on microchips below). Attach a tag with the microchip number to the dog’s collar. Register the chip and make sure the microchip company has your current contact information. Keep a record of the microchip number and the company’s phone number in a safe place (like your wallet) and add it to your dog’s file at the vet clinic and the local dog licensing facility. Contact the microchip company and the licensing facility if your dog is lost. Some microchip companies will issue urgent bulletins and provide special assistance if your dog is lost.
7. Photos: Take clear, current photos of your dog from several angles in good lighting. Digital photos are easiest to distribute quickly by e-mail. Store back-up copies with a friend or family member who can access the photos on short notice.
8. Description: Write a description of your dog as if writing for a person who doesn’t know dog breeds. Include color, approximate weight, and unusual markings or scars. For example, my dog Bandit has a unique cowlick down the middle of his face, a black triangle marking on his tail, and a toenail that sticks out sideways from an old injury.
9. Info packet: Keep information about your dog in your vehicle’s glove compartment. Include photos, a written description, microchip info/ID number, contact info, and a copy of recent vet records. A copy of the most recent information in your dog’s Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book could serve the purpose!
10. Contact person: Ask a friend or family member to be a contact person – someone who could easily be reached by phone while you were out searching for your dog. The dog could be lost in an area without cell phone reception, and you wouldn’t want to be sitting at home waiting for phone calls when you could be out looking for your dog.
11. Amber Alert for Pets: I recently learned of an online “amber alert” network for lost pets. I don’t have direct experience with this network, but you can find more information at www.FindToto.com.
12. The Missing Pet Partnership is a good resource for people who are searching for their lost dog, with helpful pet recovery and “Lost Dog” poster information on their website: www.MissingPetPartnership.org.
*What a Microchip Is and How to Use One
 
A microchip is a computer chip in a capsule, about the size of a grain of rice, that’s encoded with a unique ID number. It is permanently implanted and can identify your dog if she is lost or stolen. A microchip is the only sure way for someone else to identify your dog if the collar is removed or lost, and can provide security and peace of mind.
The microchip is painlessly injected beneath the skin of a dog, usually between the shoulder blades. The chip remains inactive until read by a handheld scanner that sends a low-frequency radio signal to the chip. The chip then transmits an ID number to the scanner. The technology used in microchips is similar to that used in human implants like  pacemakers. Since the microchip is powered by the external reader, it is off most of the time and does not require a battery. Thus, one chip is expected to function for your dog’s entire life.
A microchip can be implanted by your veterinarian or at a local animal shelter or humane society. Animal shelters and humane societies often hold low-cost microchipping clinics. If your dog has a microchip, you need to register your contact information with the microchip company. Include an out-of-state emergency phone contact since local communication may be difficult in a disaster situation. Keep your dog’s microchip information on file with your veterinarian and update your vet and the microchip company right away when your contact information changes. The microchip can only reunite you with your dog if people know how to reach you. For peace of mind, ask your veterinarian to scan your dog’s microchip at each visit to make sure it is still detectable.
Microchip
Microchip Basics
_____ Have a microchip implanted under your dog’s skin. Make sure the implanter scans and reads the chip before and after it’s implanted to verify that it’s working correctly. Record the chip ID number and company info and keep it in your dog’s Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book and/or your wallet.
_____ Register your contact information with the microchip manufacturer right away. Include an out-of-state contact as an emergency back-up.
_____ Enter your dog’s microchip information in the International Pet Directory at www.PetLink.net.
_____ Make sure the microchip number and company are filed with your dog’s records at the vet clinic. Ask your vet to scan and check the chip at each visit.
_____ Update the microchip company, your veterinarian, and www.PetLink.net  immediately when your contact information changes.
_____ Make sure your dog wears a collar with ID, the quickest way to identify your dog, especially for those who do not have a microchip reader. The microchip is not intended to take the place of a collar with ID, but it is valuable when other identification is lost.
_____ If your dog is lost or stolen, report the lost dog at www.PetLink.net and contact the microchip company immediately. Some companies already have networks set up and will issue an all-points bulletin to the vet clinics, impounds and animal shelters in your area.
Now that you’ve taken steps to prevent your dog from getting lost, and to make your dog easily identifiable if separated from you, the two of you can enjoy spring and summer activities without worries.
From the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book (Ó2010) by Jenny Pavlovic, www.8StateKate.net

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