Vet and Dog with Microchip implant

5 Ways to Avoid Your Dog Becoming a Stray

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I am sure I am not the only dog owner whose worst nightmare it would be to lose their beloved pet.

It’s impossible to know exactly how many dogs go missing every year, but it is estimated that 1 in 3 pets get lost at least once in their lifetime. According to Sainsbury’s pet insurance, around 60 dogs and cats go missing every hour in the United Kingdom alone. That is just over 10,000 per week. A lot of these pets are never reunited with their families, and will end up in shelters, in an accident or worse.

There are a number of things you can do as a precaution, to minimise the risk of losing your dog and maximise the chance of your pet being found if it does get out. Here are 5:

1. Microchip your dog

A microchip is a small chip, about the size of a grain of rice, which is inserted between the shoulder blades of a dog using a sterile needle. The first thing shelters or vets do when a stray dog is brought in, is scan the dog for the presence of a microchip. The chip holds contact information of the dog owner so your pet can be easily identified as yours. Microchips play a big part in getting dogs reunited with their owners after getting lost. To relieve the pressure on the animal rescue centres, various countries are in the process of making it mandatory for dogs to be chipped. From April 2016 chipping your dog will be mandatory in England. Pet owners who do not chip their dog can be fined up to £500, but what is worse, they may never see their darling dog again when it gets lost.

2. Get the correct collar

It is important to get your dog a well-fitting collar. I have heard quite a few cases where a dog got startled by a loud noise or a sudden movement, slipped their collar and ran off. There are so many types of collars that it can be overwhelming. The US Humane Society and the PAW Rescue organisation both provide some excellent assistance to help get the right collar for your dog. Whichever collar you chose, make sure it is functional and adjusted to the right tightness at all times – you should be able to fit 2 fingers between your dog’s neck and the collar.

3. Attach an ID tag

Once you have a well-fitting collar, you should always attach an ID tag with your –up to date!– contact details. ID tags are an easy way for an honest finder to contact the dog’s owner. Please bear in mind that an ID tag is not a substitute for a microchip, as tags can be much easier removed.

Some people think they don’t need to add an ID tag to their dog’s collar, as they are sure they will never let the dog out of their sight. But what happens if a visitor comes and leaves the door open? Or if your house gets burgled? Your car stolen with your dog in it? There are lots of situations you cannot plan on happening, but in which you will be glad you did get that ID tag on your dog. ID tags are readily available, but I got both my gorgeous dog tags from www.collarsandtags.co.uk.

4. Teach your dog basic obedience

Teaching your dog basic obedience is not just useful to avoid losing them. It is a good idea all round for your dog to be able to respond at least to basic commands and their name. Teaching you dog to come when you say so, or stay when you say so, can help keep your dog near you and not rush out past the parcel delivery guy! Teaching a dog to respond to their name will make sure you can always catch their attention, provided of course they are close by. Dogs can also be trained not to go through doors before you, not to go out of the gate or not to rush to the door when the bell rings. All these skills can help to keep your dog at home, where it belongs.

5. Be aware of “risky” situations

  • Don’t leave your dog outside a shop. The dog could get taken or it could get loose and escape, or make a run for it when startled by unknown noises or objects.
  • Don’t leave your dog in the car unattended. Apart from this being a bad idea for temperature reasons, I have heard of a few cases where a car got stolen with the dog still in it.
  • Prepare your dog for particularly noisy situations. Whether it is New Years Eve or another celebratory occasion, dogs often don’t feel as festive as the loud fireworks go off around them. There are different techniques to help your dog respond calmly in these situations, and it depends on your dog what will work for him. Ask a vet or dog trainer for advice.
  • Secure your home or garden. Fit a fence, chicken wire or anything that is needed to stop your dog from escaping.

One could argue that most of the items above are common sense, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Clearly not all people are aware, as if everyone stuck to the above, the number of strays picked up off the streets would be significantly lower!

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