Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shih Tzu happens and pets get lost

You think it won’t happen to your dog, but it happens every day.   Barely a day goes by volunteering at the shelter where a devastated pet owner isn’t walking up and down every aisle in tears, looking for their precious lost dog.  Invariably, they are shocked that it happened.   Short of keeping them locked in a bubble, how can we keep our pets safe?  If the unthinkable happens and a beloved pet disappears, how can we be prepared to act quickly?


TAGS+ MICROCHIP= GET HOME SAFE 
Always have your pet wear a collar with updated tags.  It amazes me how many people remove a dog’s collar for one reason or another; they don’t like the noise it makes when the dog shakes or they bathed the dog and forgot to put the collar back on.  Even so, collars can get lost or damaged.  If a collar gets snagged on something, it can break off.  A microchip is tiny and takes only seconds to put in.  Any vet can do it and most shelters offer it, usually for about half the price, which can range from approximately $20 – $75.  Do you love your dog twenty bucks worth?   Micro-chipping plus tags together can make the difference between your pet being linked back to you and getting home safe … or not.  You may also consider tattooing your pet, or using a GPS product that allows you to monitor your pet’s activity and location.

UNEXPECTED OCCURRENCES IN THE HOME CAN CAUSE DISTRESS 
When something unsettling is happening within the home it can cause pets to freak out and possibly wander off and get lost.  Pets may become frightened if workmen are in the home, if furniture and moving boxes are being packed up, or if strangers visit the home.  Workers and movers often leave the front door open to make it easier to cart items in and out of the house.    When kids go back to school after a long break, it can cause anxiety for the dog.  They miss the kids, worry that they won’t come back, or simply get bored without them.  Give him a new toy or something else to keep him occupied as the kids leave the house in the morning.   Consider doggie day camp, boarding, or a pet sitter if unexpected occurrences are happening in the house and you can't keep a close eye on your dog.

KEEP YOUR DOG LEASHED AT ALL TIMES IN UNSECURED AREAS 
I know people love to let their dogs off leash so they can be “free to run”, but be smart about it.  If signs tell you to keep your dog leashed, then do it.  Not only can your dog get enticed by a number of small animals, people running, or other distractions and take off, but off leash dogs can be picked up by Animal Control in public places where they are supposed to be leashed.  There’s often some mean biddy  with animal control on speed dial.   Sadly, dogs have even been shot by authorities in park or camp grounds where unleashed dogs are prohibited.   It’s unfortunate, but an unleashed dog is scary to many people, even the authorities.  They don’t know that your dog is loving and friendly and is only bounding towards them at warp speed to say hello!  Their reaction might be to defend themselves against your sweet pooch, especially if the dog is large or perceived to be an aggressive breed.  


PAY ATTENTION AT THE DOG PARK!  
I love taking my dogs to the dog park and I enjoy chatting with the other moms and dads there.  My girl Icy loves to greet new dogs as they enter the park, so I’m always on guard when she gets close to the gate.  Recently, a mother and her two kids came into the park, just to see all the dogs.  They didn’t know to ensure both gates remain locked at all times and one of the kids left the interior gate open.  A Beagle made his way over and slipped through.  Several folks tried to coax him back into the dog run, but the dog snarled when a guy tried to grab him.  We yelled out trying to locate the owner but no one responded.   I finally clipped my own dog’s leash on, and walked him around the dog park shouting “who owns this little guy?!”  The owner finally came forth.  She was in the back of the park yackin’ it up with friends, not paying attention to her dog. 

TEACH THE WAIT AND EMERGENCY RECALL COMMANDS  
In addition to a reliable come when called, also teach the “wait” command and have an “emergency recall” command.   These simple commands can save your dog’s life.  If your dog spots a bird, squirrel, or other moving object he may dart across a street, hop a fence, or jump out of the car and lay chase for many blocks.  He can be hit by a car or lose his sense of direction.   Make sure your dog reliably comes when you call him.  One of the keys to this is not always calling your dog when it’s time to leave the park, have a bath, or go to the vet.  That can reduce their positive reaction to your call, so when it’s bath or vet time rather than calling your dog to you, go and get him instead.  Teach your dog to always wait at the door or inside the car until you give the go ahead for them to exit.   In the event that something is just too enticing and your dog takes off, tuning you out, have an emergency recall command.  This is a one or two word command that immediately snaps them to attention and makes them run right to you because the reward for coming to you is irresistible.  My dogs know that whenever they hear "Danger! Danger!" they will receive delicious bacon.  It is the only time they get bacon, which is what makes it different from the “Come!” command I use on a near daily basis. 

PARTY HEARTY BUT SAFELY! 
If you throw a party, keep your pet in mind as you plan the party.  Holiday parties, graduations, etc. are wonderful occasions that enrich our lives.  However we can easily get distracted while hosting our event.  Pets can find it unsettling to see their home fill up with people, some of whom they don’t know.   Loud noises and people wearing costumes can be scary to pets.  Be sure to work in a plan to keep your dog secure during parties.  This is another good time to consider boarding, pet sitting, or day camp.  If you want to include your pet in family festivities, designate one person to keep an eye on the dog at all times.     


AN UNATTENDED DOG IS AN INVITATION FOR DISASTER 
If gardeners, housekeepers, or workers of any kind are in your home or yard be sure to double check that all doors and fences have been secured after they leave.  Every time.  Don’t expect them to reliably remember to close & latch gates or doors – ultimately it’s your responsibility, not theirs.    Never leave your dog unattended in the yard, in the car, or tied up outside a store.   It’s a sad fact that not only do dogs get lost every day, but they get stolen every day as well.  According to Petfinder.com, as many as 2 million animals are stolen each year.   What kind of person would steal a dog from a shelter, break into your car to steal your dog, steal your dog right out of your yard, or reach over to pet your secured dog outside a store, unclip her leash and make off with her?  Your dog doesn’t need to be an expensive purebred to tempt unscrupulous people to snatch her.   “My girlfriend always wanted a dog like this”.  “I got it for my Mom, she’s lonely”.  “They left that poor dog tied up in the yard all day, or in a hot/cold car, or outside a store while they shopped.  They’re cruel and don’t deserve him!”   Don’t give unscrupulous, misguided people any opportunity to steal your precious dog!

SPAY AND NEUTER!  
As everyone knows, spaying and neutering prevents the enormous number of unwanted puppies that end up in shelters, especially every Spring and Summer which is unfortunately puppy and kitten season at shelters.  Neutering can reduce your dog’s desire to get out and roam the neighborhood, and can reduce unwarranted aggression.  It could also curtail theft, since a dog that is spayed or neutered cannot be bred for profit, which is often a dog snatchers goal.

Always practice these safety tips to help prevent your dog getting lost or stolen.   Don’t make it easy for a thief to snatch your dog and don’t give someone an excuse to keep your dog because they’ve convinced themselves she must have been abandoned, or that you must be an irrresponsible owner.  People can make all kinds of assumptions about your poor lost dog…. and you.   

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PET GETS LOST 
If the unthinkable does happen and your pet disappears, time is of the essence so act immediately.  Spend an hour or two searching the area, but if you can’t find her, here are some steps you should take:

·    If your dog is micro-chipped contact the recovery service right away to alert them that she is missing.  They may be able to assist in recovery by alerting area shelters and vets.


·    Keep good quality updated photos of your pet handy, especially when travelling.  Photos should clearly show the dog’s face and body and should be in color, a black and white photo isn’t very effective.   Place color photos on flyers with details of your pet and pass them out to all the neighbors within several blocks.  That way neighbors will have the photo to refer to if they should see your dog.  Post them in grocery stores, area veterinary offices, and other central places near where your dog went missing. 

·    Go online and post quality photos and details about your lost dog.  You can post on Craigslist, your local newspaper web site, Fidofinder.com  WherePetsAreFound.com and other sites.  Do a “lost and found dogs” search online to locate other sites you can post photos and details on.  Many fabulous shelter staff comb through Lost Dog sites online in an attempt to find a dog’s owner if there are no updated tags or microchip.  This works if your dog has unique attributes or is an uncommon breed.  A post for a lost Golden Retriever might be overlooked, but a Komondor probably won’t be!  For more tips on finding a lost dog check out this PetFinder.com page

·    Post signs throughout the area, especially near stop signs and traffic lights.  Don’t use white 8.5” by 11” paper, most of us can’t see them from a car!  Buy larger pieces of oak tag in bright or neon colors, post a color photo of your dog, and write details and contact info in black magic marker in large print.  Don’t cheap out, have color photos printed.
Keep your eyes open and keep your pets safe at all times!

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