Spirit staff Pet Advocate
It should come as no surprise that during the summer months more pets go missing. While a study recently conducted by the ASPCA suggested that as many as “93 percent of dogs and 75 percent of cats reported missing” did make it back home safely, we all know too many people who, sadly, have lost a pet that never came home.
There are some simple tips that can help you keep your pets safe while at home and while traveling.
1. Make sure your pet’s collar fits correctly. A properly fitted collar should be snug around your dog or cat’s neck, allowing just enough room for you to slip two fingers underneath. Collars that are too loose can slip over your pet’s head if they suddenly shift into reverse. Also, check the buckle for wear and replace the collar if necessary. After all, the ID tag on your pet’s collar is his first line of defense!
2. Leave your pet’s collar on. Taking your pet’s collar off when they’re lounging around the house, or when you go to bed at night, may prove to be a habit worth ditching. Especially when you and your pet are in an unfamiliar environment, it’s safer to leave your pet’s identification tags on at all times … just in case.
3. Check your leashes. Like everything else, leashes wear out and need to be replaced, especially if your pup thinks it’s a chew toy. Check the latch regularly to be sure the spring is operating properly, and examine the entire leash for damage. This is especially important for people using retractable leashes, because it’s hard to notice weaknesses. Once a month, attach your leash to something stationary, walk back to the point that the leash is fully extended, and give it a good tug – at least twice as hard as your dog would pull in pursuit of a squirrel. If it snaps, you’ll know it’s time for a new one.
4. Use a harness to walk your dog. One of the benefits of harnesses is that they provide some extra security for your dog. It’s a lot harder for a pup to wiggle out of his harness than it is for him to slip his collar.
5. Be mindful of how you hold the leash. Dog walking requires dexterity. If you find yourself juggling multiple leashes, a handful of treats, and a full waste bag in search of the proper receptacle, it’s easy to get careless with your grip on the leash. If you slip your hand through the handle, so the loop rests around your wrist, and then grab the leash, you’ll have a little leeway in case of a sudden attempt to bolt by your dog.
6. For pets in the car, develop a routine. You may think that once your pet is in the car, he’s safe. But what if someone opens the door on the other side of the vehicle and your pal scoots out before you get him secured in his seat belt? When it’s time to leave, put your pet in the car, fasten his seatbelt or get him in his carrier, and then remove his leash. When you arrive, reattach his leash and then remove him from the carrier or unbuckle his seatbelt. This procedure applies for all stops.
7. Skip the off-leash playtime when traveling. Your dog may come to you every time you call him in your backyard, but with new sites to sniff and friends to make, his recall may not be as good away from home. If you have a big dog that really needs some space to exercise, look for a fenced, off-leash dog park, or get a long-line leash that will allow him to play, without being in danger of getting lost.
8. Sometimes you have to fight your instincts. If your dog somehow gets away from you, do not panic. Think quickly. If you can take a few quick steps and grab the leash, do it. But, if your dog is running away from you, the best thing to do is to stop, drop to the ground, and lie there. First, running bent over trying to catch a dog is impossible. I speak from experience. But worse than potentially injuring yourself, chasing your dog may only encourage him to keep running, potentially into a life-treating situation.
9. Even if you do everything right your pet could still end up lost. To increase your chances of getting him back, make sure your pet’s ID tag is up-to-date and has a phone number where you can be reached at all times. Have your pet micro-chipped, so he can be identified if his collar breaks and his ID tags are lost. Keep a current photo of your pet or set up an on-line profile for him, so you can easily make “Lost Pet” posters. Reach out to every shelter, animal rescue, dog pound, and veterinarian in the area to inform them that your pet is lost. Ask your friends to share the information about your lost pet on their social media networks.