How to prevent your pet from getting lost – 6 Tips

Large brown dog lying in grass with ID tag
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According to American Humane, approximately 10 million pets are lost or stolen every year just in the United States alone. Millions of them end up in animal shelters.

Here’s my heartbreaking story:

When I was a child (many moons ago), we had a beloved Irish Setter named Isaac. What a sweet dog he was! He just loved roaming outside with my brother Greg on our 50 acres of woods and fields (Isaac had especially bonded with Greg).

Irish Setter in field
An Irish Setter like the our Isaac. If I can find a photo of Isaac, I'll upload it here.

Then, one summer (around 1980), we had to move to a different area temporarily for my dad’s job – to a house in town. At least it had a huge yard, which my brothers and I, along with our dogs, loved to play in.

One weekend, our family had to go out of town for a couple of nights. A friend would stop by to check on the pets and feed them.

When we got home, Isaac was missing. Our other dog was there, in the back yard. We frantically asked the neighbors if they had seen him. They hadn’t.

We called the local pound. They had picked him up. Apparently, an animal control officer had seen our dog on the front porch, knocked on the door to tell the owner that the dog wasn’t allowed to be loose. When no one answered, they took Isaac into the pound.

 This was good news, right; at least we could go pick him up? NO. They had already euthanized him. Or should I say killed our beloved pet. I don’t think it had even been two days. Our hearts sank. This memory makes me sick whenever I think about it. I was so heartbroken and angry about it.

Remember, this was a long time ago – things were a lot different then. Boarding facilities weren’t abundant. There weren’t cell phones, much less Facebook or NextDoor app or Twitter to spread the word about a lost pet. No-kill animal shelters weren’t really a thing; going to the pound – dog jail – was pretty much a death sentence in some areas.

Apparently Isaac had jumped the fence while we were out of town, which he wasn’t known to do. But he wasn’t picked up wandering the neighborhood, or getting into trouble. He was merely sitting on our porch.

How can you prevent this from happening to your beloved pet?

Here are a few tips to help prevent your pet from getting lost:

  • If you have a yard, inspect the fencing to check for holes or gaps through which your dog can escape, as well as broken wood slats that can be pushed open. Make sure gates can’t be opened by your dog – some dogs are smart and will learn how to push the gate latch! 

Also, make sure that your fence is high enough for your breed of dog – some are known to scale high fences. If your dog is a digger, you may need to reinforce the bottom perimeter of your yard.

  • Make sure your pet’s collar or harness fits properly, so he can’t wiggle out of it. You don’t want it to be so tight that it’s hurting him, nor so loose that he can slip out.

A standard that has been around for decades is being able to fit two fingers under the collar. It’s a good idea to try using a new collar or harness in a safely enclosed area to see if your pet will be able to slip out of it as you’re testing it out.

  • Get to know your neighbors. Let them meet your dog. Give them contact info in case they spot your dog roaming about on his own. There will be a better chance of them recognizing your dog if he gets out if they know him.

One way you can do this is by taking your dog for a walk regularly, and being friendly with your neighbors. They could just be the key to getting your pet back if he is lost.

Pet ID Tag: I'm lost - somebody call my Mama
  • Make sure your pet has an ID tag on his collar with updated contact information, so that if someone does find him, they can contact you. Even if your cat is indoors-only, having an ID tag on him can help you get him back if he escapes the safety of his home.

  • Have your pet wear a GPS collar or bluetooth tracking tag. These have an app through which you can track your pet, and some have escape alerts if your pet goes outside of the boundaries you set.
  • As a backup, get your pet microchipped and registered with the microchip company, in case your pet’s collar comes off. (This shouldn’t take the place of visible ID tags that anyone can look at, however.) Make sure your contact info is current with the microchip provider.

Some bonus tips:

  • If you hire a pet sitter, make sure they always leash your pet before taking him for a walk. If you have a pet that likes to bolt out of the door, emphasize to the pet sitter to be extra careful when opening doors. It may be a good idea to add a temporary ID tag to his collar with the pet sitter’s phone number if you are not able to be reached easily.
  • If you board your dog while out of town, make sure you do your due diligence in searching for a reputable kennel. Visit the facility before booking your pet’s stay to make sure that you feel comfortable that he will be safe and secure there.
  • If you board your dog while out of town, make sure you do your due diligence in searching for a reputable kennel. Visit the facility before booking your pet’s stay to make sure that you feel comfortable that he will be safe and secure there.
  • Take extra precaution on vacation if you bring your pet with you. Remember, he is most likely far from home in new surroundings, and may be confused. If you are staying at a family member’s or friend’s house, check their yard fencing, and keep an eye on him if you let him out into the back yard.
Walking the dog on moving day
  • The same goes for when moving – take extra precaution. It’s easy to get caught up in the activities of moving, and to be excited about exploring your new home and surroundings, but your pet won’t know it’s home yet. So keep him secure.

By using one or more of these methods, you may be able to prevent your pet from getting lost, save your pet’s life and avoid the heartbreak of losing him, like my family did.

Let me know in the comments if you have found other solutions that work for you.

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