You’re sitting outside in your fenced in backyard, enjoying a cocktail with friends and watching your dog roam around your yard. It’s a warm evening, with a crescent moon and a few stars. All seems right with the world, until the unthinkable happens. Right before your eyes, your dog sees or hear something and just like that, uses the small chair or large rock to jump clear over the lowest part of your fence. Before you even realize what’s happened, your pup is out of sight, leaving your dumbfounded as to how this happened, and more importantly, how to get your dog back.
Whether it’s scaling a fence, getting loose from a leash, or dashing out the front door, a pet parent’s worst nightmare is the moment they realize their precious fur baby has gone missing. Having your dog go AWOL (absent without a leash) is one of the scariest and most dreaded moments of owning a pet. However, as helpless as you might feel, there are actually certain things you can do to help ensure your dog comes home or is returned to you as quickly and safely as possible.
Most importantly before it happens, make sure your dog has a visible tag with contact information. There are several great, inexpensive options. We like PetHub tags because they provide an on-line profile where all your dog's information is stored along with multiple points of contact if you dog does go missing.
Here are the Top 10 to do when your dog goes AWOL:
- Stay Calm. Even though your heart is racing and you are desperate to have your fur baby back in your arms, you must stay calm. Many actions and decisions made while in a panicked state of mind can actually make the situation worse. So, the first thing you need to remember is to stay calm with a level head.
- No Running. If you see your dog, it’s never a good idea to run directly toward him. This can either scare your pet or make him think you’re playing. Both scenarios will have your dog running away from you, and most likely away from your home, thus having the opposite effect of what you desire.
- Have Your Pup Come to You. Remember those games you play with your dog that have him running to you? Now is the perfect time to use those games as strategies to get your dog to come to you. While running after your dog is a big no-no, having your dog run to you is the perfect way of getting your pup home quick and safe.
- Open Your Home. Many dogs will come home after they’ve had enough of exploring the street and neighborhood. Make sure your gates and doors are open to allow for easy access into your home. Otherwise, your pooch might come back and be as close as your front yard, but then without seeing a way in, may be easily distracted and run off again.
- Pull Out Your Dog’s Things. Dogs respond to scents, therefore putting out your dog’s favorite toys, food and bedding may entice him to come back, as well as, offer him a trail to follow as a direct path toward home.
- Bring Treats. This is the perfect time to bring out your dog’s favorite treats as a way of getting their attention and hopefully enticing them to follow you back home. If their favorite treat is the expensive one you only pull out on special occasions, this is the one to bring out now.
- Use a Slip Leash. A dog will often get scared or nervous when they are outside of their element. That’s why the easiest way to get your dog back under your control is a slip leash. While most leashes have a latch that must be clipped onto a collar or harness, a slip leash uses a loop system that easily loops over your dog’s head and then tightens when pulled, to act as a collar. It’s a simple way to get a loose dog back under your control, requires the least amount of fuss, and can be done from a slight distance if your dog is hiding under a porch or between two large objects.
- Hang Signs. Put up lots of signs throughout your neighborhood with a clear picture of your dog and your contact information. Do not include your dog’s name as that may lessen the chances of getting your dog back since dogs tend to be more welcoming and accepting of people who know their name. On the other hand, your neighbors can also be great assets in helping you find and get your dog back. Chances are, your neighbors are also your friends or even if they are just acquaintances, they know your dog, and more importantly, your dog knows them. So, if they see posted signs that your dog is missing, they will be on the look out for him, and will make an effort to corral him into their home or yard, to make it easier for you to be reunited.
- Rely on Friends and Shelters. Invite your friends and family to help you look for your pooch, and don’t forget to check local shelters. If someone who doesn’t know your dog finds him, there’s a good chance he will be taken to a local shelter where he will be put in a holding cell until he can be reunited with his owner. Unless your dog is microchipped and/or has a proper identification tag (both are highly recommended), the shelter staff will have no way of knowing who the dog belongs to and will need the owner to contact them to identify the dog.
- Be Patient and Positive. It may take a few tries and even several days to get your dog back home and safe in your arms. It’s important to stay patient and remain positive. Just like staying calm, being patient and positive will help you make smart decisions that will help ensure your dog’s safe return.
While there are no guarantees that you will be reunited with your lost dog, following these easy steps will definitely increase the odds in your favor. Dogs are known as man’s best friend, and so it’s important to believe that your dog wants to be back in your arms as badly as you want him to, and maybe even more so. It’s a big and sometimes scary world out there, especially for a dog who is lost and possibly scared or timid. As hard as it might be, these are the moments when you must be the clear, level headed adult, and make smart choices to hopefully get your dog back as quickly and safely as possible.