The American Humane Association estimates that over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the United States every year. This means, one in three pets will become lost at some point in their life. Yes, you read that correctly - one in three.
Yikes - that statistic is scary. What can we do to make sure our furry friend is not a victim of that data? Microchipping and registering your dog is a great start, but it’s also important to educate yourself on what you should do if you dog does happen to run away from you. Here are a few important tips:
Resist the urge to chase your dog
As humans, when our dog runs away from us, our first instinct is to run towards the direction they are running and catch them. While this makes sense intuitively, it may put fido in more danger, as he is likely to interpret this as a game. Instead, do the opposite - stand still, drop to the ground or run in the opposite direction.
This may sound silly, but it’s likely that your dog will notice your odd behavior quickly and come back out of curiosity. As a good rule of thumb:
- If your dog runs away out of excitement - stand still or run in the opposite direction. Your dog will become curious and head back your way.
- If your dog runs away out of fear - drop to the ground and curl into a ball. You will appear less threatening to your dog by remaining motionless and wrapping your hands around your head. This will draw your dog back to you.
Display non-threatening signals
Dog’s sense your body language and your tone. Although your first reaction might be fear or anger, try to remain calm. Yelling after your dog forcefully will likely scare him, and make him feel as though he is in trouble, and will not entice him to want to come near you.
Instead, try presenting yourself as non-threatening from a safe distance away. Some ideas are:
- Use high pitched, happy call sounds
- Drop food on the ground. If you don’t have food with you, pretend to drop food on the ground and act as if you were eating it
- Make your body appear smaller by getting lower to the ground
- Lick your lips or yawn
- Avoid eye contact with your dog and watch him out of the corner of your eye
Award your dog for returning to you
Positive reinforcement training can be so hard! But in this case, it is very important not to discipline your dog for running away or escaping from the yard. Scolding and punishing him when he returns may cause him to associate being near you with negative consequences. And the truth of the matter is, after your dog has returned to you, he isn't able to connect your discipline to his prior actions. He’s thinking, what am I being yelled at for?
Instead, act like he’s just done the best thing in world once he’s returned to your side. Shower him with love. And then focus your efforts going forward on recall training so he learns to come when called!
Let’s face it, with a one in three chance of losing your pet in his lifetime, it’s important to be proactive in training your dog and yourself on what to do if you are ever in that situation. To avoid the worst case scenario when your dog does not return, be proactive and research your options for GPS collars that will help you track his location.
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