It’s a nightmare come true, you’ve come home and there’s a hole in your fence or the gate is open and banging against the fence after being blown open. The heart wrenching panic begins to set in as you frantically check the back yard whistling and calling your dog’s name. An oppressing silence settles over your ears as they strain for any sound of claws clacking on the street or the panting of your best friend happily running back with a happy grin on their face seeing you home. But no, no claws, no panting; your dog has officially run away or become lost and is scared and alone.

Why do dogs run away?

Prey Instincts:
There are several triggers to cause a dog to run. Some have a prey instinct that causes them to chase squirrels, cats, birds, or other dogs. For some dogs it is so strong that they will dig under or climb over fences in order to continue their chase.
Environmental factors:
If the wind does manage to blow open a gate, the chances are it was a very strong wind and caused a lot of noise, motion, and could have caused something to fall and break scaring your dog enough to run. A high wind on its own can be enough to stress a dog out to the point of running.
Behavioral issues:
Some dogs will try and escape the house or backyard in an attempt to find their owner or are new to the house/yard and are not comfortable in the new environment. Moving or having someone dog sit can spur a normally well behaved dog to attempt an escape and run away.

How to prevent an escapee

The first thing to check and easiest thing to alter are the physical barriers that are containing your canine. When leaving your dog in the yard at a new house or after a long winter, do a perimeter check to make sure no fence boards are loose, holes, elevated areas, or gaps. Make sure to check both the inside and outside of the fence as the new perspective can help you find overlooked issues.
Reinforce the fence where need be and if your dog is a digger, consider burying chicken wire to create an “L” shaped barrier next to your fence. This will prevent your dog from being able to dig under the fence without harming them. A similar tactic can be used if your dog can climb or jump the fence. Create a bulwark of fabric or chicken wire that slightly extends over your yard. Another option is to purchase a Coyote Roller which makes it near impossible to hold on at the top of the fence.
Remember when building your physical security, if your dog is scared and you’re security isn’t placed properly they can be hurt in their attempt to escape. Above all else, make sure your dog is in a safe and stress free environment when they are left alone.

Identification Methods

The best way to increase your chances of being reunited with your dog after an escape or natural disaster is to have proper identification; both attached to the dog and on hand at home. Keep a current photograph of your dog at home to be distributed as flyers and also to be submitted to the local shelters with contact information. This will help increase the amount of eyes looking for your dog and prevent them from being placed in the shelter or pound without you being contacted.
Additionally, social media is a great tool to use in spreading the word about your lost dog. Facebook is great to alert your friends, but Amber Alert for Pets has a national network of dedicated pet owners willing to help reunite lost pets with their owners. Having a current picture of your dog is even more helpful in this situation.
Regardless if you’re home or not, always have a collar and tags attached to your dog. This serves a two-fold purpose: identification and control. It is much easier to control/hold onto a dogs collar than it is to any other part of their body. In many states, it’s required by law to have current rabies tags showing when your dog is in public areas and including a personal contact information tag is self-explanatory.
With current mobile technology, tags can serve an even larger purpose than they did before; FurCode provides a QR code on their tags that can be scanned by a phone. The QR code will present the dog’s online profile complete with owner contact information, dog allergies, address, and Vet information. This is an excellent and cheap alternative to GPS chips being implanted under the skin.
It’s important to take the necessary steps to prevent a dog from running away. Know your dog and their behavior when moving or having a friend look after them. If your dog does manage to escape, it’s very important to get their information to all the local shelters as quickly as possible. The faster and wider you can spread the word, the higher the chance of someone recognizing your companion.

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