Dogs are inquisitive, high-energy animals, and there is the potential for them to get into plenty of trouble when left to their own devices.
Here are a few pointers to keep your best friend safe:
- Get Her Microchipped or Tattooed –
If your dog gets lost, a veterinary microchip or ear tattoo could bring her home safely. Animal shelters routinely check strays for microchips or tattoos against online databases. If you move, make sure the microchip database contains your new address and phone number.¹
- Basic Obedience Training –
Basic obedience training can save your dog's life. A dog who consistently responds to sit, heel, stay and return commands is less likely to run into traffic, get into a mix-up with other dogs, or run away. She should also be well-trained on both leashes and harnesses. Carry a few treats with you when out walking to periodically reinforce good behavior.²
- Know Your Dog –
Dogs retain many of their wild instincts, despite how long they've shared life with humans. As mid-sized predators, they're quick to investigate possible prey, and they can be wary of anything that might prove to be a larger predator, including humans.
Dogs are also pack animals and assume everyone they meet — human or canine — has a place in pack hierarchy. Any questions about hierarchy in the wild would be resolved with snarling, intimidation and, if necessary, biting and fighting.
Different dog breeds retain different wild instincts. Some are inquisitive hunters, quick to bolt after anything that might be prey. Others tend to be aggressive toward other dogs or people, and they need firm reminders of their place in the family pack.
Knowing the characteristics of your dog's breed — and her individual personality — can help you keep her safe. Learn what triggers undesirable or unsafe behavior and either avoid such situations or train her to respond in a different, more appropriate manner.²
- Heatstroke –
Dogs overheat faster than humans, which is important to remember on hot summer days. Avoid exercising your dog in the heat of the day — mornings and evenings are safer.
Heatstroke is a medical emergency. A dog suffering from heatstroke will have a bright red tongue and red gums. She'll breathe rapidly and produce thick saliva. Keep your dog in a cool, shady location and bring her body temperature down with wet towels, fans or a gentle mist of water until you can get her to a vet. Bathing her in cool water can help, but avoid using very cold water or ice, both of which can send an overheated dog into shock.
On a related note, never leave your dog alone in a parked car. Even in cool weather it only takes 30 minutes for the internal temperature of a vehicle to reach lethally hot temperatures. Cracking a window has little, if any, effect on the car's temperature.³
- Know Your Holidays –
Human holidays can be exciting times for dogs – but they can also be terrifying. Celebrations such as July 4th and New Year's Eve are especially frightening, with all of the loud noises and strange smells produced by fireworks.¹ Even the best-behaved dog can panic and run away when confronted with firework explosions.
Keep your dog inside on such holidays, in a quiet room, if possible. Make sure she has her favorite blanket or toy and keep activity in the room to a minimum. Make sure she doesn't get outside — dogs running from fireworks can wind up miles away from home.
- Swimming Isn't Necessarily Natural –
If you enjoy water sports, make sure your dog is protected. While some breeds are excellent swimmers, others are, for all intents and purposes, furry bricks. Don't assume your dog can swim or even enjoys the water. Doggie life jackets are available and a wise investment if you enjoy boating.³
- Never Let Dogs Run Free
No matter what type of dog you own, don't let her roam the neighborhood. A free-roaming dog is subject to all types of dangers; including other dogs, urban wildlife and people who see stray dogs as a nuisance. Secure your dog at home with a physical or wireless fence, for her safety and your peace of mind.
¹ Tips to Prevent a Lost Dog, LostDogSearch.com
² Obedience Training a Dog or Puppy, PerfectPaws.com
³ How to Keep Your Dog Safe in the Summer, PetSide.com