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What to do if your dog goes missing?

24/02/2022 - Puppy & Dog Training Advice

What to do if your dog goes missing?

According to the pet insurers, “More Than,” at least five dogs go missing in the UK each day – these are based on reported figures, so the actual number may be even higher. Some may have been stolen, others may have run away – whatever the cause, with 10% of dog owners having been through this experience, we can’t assume it could never happen to us. So, what can we do to keep our dogs safe, reduce the chances of losing them and increase the chances of being reunited if the worst should happen?

Not only is microchipping your dog now a legal obligation in the UK, it is also one of the quickest and most effective ways to ensure your dog is reunited with you if they get lost. Make sure your dog is microchipped and that your contact details are kept up to date – out of date contact details will render your dog’s microchip useless!

ID Tags
It is also a legal obligation for dog owners to ensure their dogs are wearing an ID tag with their owner’s name and address on the tag. A phone number is also a useful piece of information to include, to enable anyone who picks up your dog to contact you as quickly as possible. If you or your dog dislike the jangle of a noisy tag or your dog has a habit of losing them, we at BBDT highly recommend Flexi Tags, which can be easily attached to a collar or harness.

Well Fitted Harness
Many lost dogs have slipped out of harnesses and collars unexpectedly, particularly when spooked, so a well fitted harness is a great way to ensure our dogs are secure. We recommend a harness with a Y-shaped chest piece, such as the Perfect Fit, as these are both more ergonomic for your dog and more difficult to slip out of than a harness with a straight bar across the chest. If your dog is a bit of a Houdini, a harness with an extra girth strap such as this one adds a bit more security!

Recall Training
Investing time in training a reliable recall is a wonderful way to decrease the chances of losing your dog. A strong recall is invaluable in ensuring your dog doesn’t stray when distracted by something exciting or even something scary. They are also less likely to approach strangers who may have ill-intentions. It’s important to also note the importance of general training to create an engaged dog who is able to listen to cues, respond and stay focused around distractions – all training helps to improve your relationship with your dog, and can cover key skills such as impulse control and checking in.
Our Puppy & Dog training classes offer a comprehensive, progressive training course designed by a qualified and experienced behaviourist. We also offer a dedicated Recall Masterclass for when you’re ready to focus on creating the Ultimate Recall!

Avoid Fireworks, Thunderstorms, etc.
It’s important to remember that even the best trained and most reliable dogs could become frightened and panicked in some situations. Things like fireworks and thunderstorms commonly lead to an increase in lost dogs, who become spooked by the loud and sudden noises. Try to avoid walking your dogs during storms or when you know fireworks are likely to be being set off, and definitely don’t risk letting them off the lead – even if you think they have the perfect recall! A panicked dog won’t be making a conscious choice to ignore you – they will be running away from a perceived threat and may be completely disoriented and have no idea where you are by the time they calm down. 
No dog has ever died from missing a walk, so don’t worry if you’re unable to walk your dog earlier in the day on bonfire night or a storm rolls in just as walkies time approaches. Take the time to do something different with your dog! Things like Kongs and other puzzle feeders are great enrichment. Training sessions at home or even just extra snuggles together on the sofa are also great alternatives to a walk.

Secure Your Property
This seems like an obvious one, but it’s all too easy to become lax about these things! Ensuring you have a sturdy 6ft fence and regularly checking for any damage or holes forming and making sure gates are securely bolted/locked are a couple of ways to ensure your dog doesn’t slip out undetected one day. A secure garden is also less attractive to any would-be dog thieves who may be scouting your area – with dog theft sadly on the rise, it’s more important than ever that dog owners are vigilant.

What if your dog DOES go missing?
Should the worst happen and you and your dog become separated, there are a few things you can do to raise the alarm:
  • Register on DogLost: This is a free service which spreads the word and helps to reunite lost dogs. 
  • Contact the Dog Warden: Dog wardens are there to seize straying dogs. Particularly if your dog is nervous and difficult to handle, the dog warden is an invaluable asset. There is also a strong possibility that, if your dog is picked up or spotted by someone, they will alert the dog warden and your dog may end up in their care. 
  • Contact Local Vets: Stray dogs are often taken to local vets and they are another great community hub, so it’s useful to make sure they’re aware that there is a lost dog in the area.
  • Post on Local Facebook Groups (but beware of dog theft): Local facebook groups are a great way to quickly spread the word that there is a lost dog and for the local community to let you know of any sightings quickly – there are many heart-warming stories of people rallying to help rescue a lost dog. However, do be mindful of how much detail and what information you choose to share to mitigate the risk of dog theft.
  • Contact your Microchip Company: It’s important to let your microchip company know that your dog is missing or stolen, and some companies such as PetLog offer a premium service and can send out an alert for missing pets. 
What if you find a lost dog?
What can you do to help if you come across a stray dog? There are a few steps to take to help reunite them with their worried human:
  • Be Wary: For both your safety and the dog’s, be cautious before approaching or trying to catch them. The dog may be frightened or even injured, and we don’t want to spook them further afield, towards roads or provoke a bite. Be calm and inviting and see if the dog will approach, but see our suggestions below for how to help if you’re unable to get hold of them.
  • Check the Tag: If you’ve managed to get close to the dog and it is safe to do so, checking for an identification tag which may contain contact details is a great place to start.
  • Check on DogLost/Facebook Groups: Have a look on the Dog Lost website or local community facebook groups. DogLost itself may have a local facebook group you can join, such as DogLost Norfolk & Suffolk. If you are posting about a found dog or responding to a lost dog post, make sure to withhold identifying information and ensure that the person you are speaking to is able to prove they are definitely the dog’s owner before handing them over.
  • Take to a Local Vets: Local vets may be aware of the lost dog, and will be able to scan the dog for a microchip which will hopefully have up to date contact details for the owners.
  • Contact the Dog Warden: If it is not safe or possible to approach and catch the dog, contact the local dog warden for help.
  • Contact the Police: If the dog is near a road and poses a safety risk, you can also call the police for help in containing the dog.

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