So we have our dog 101 basics down: what to expect, important elements of training, and setting up your new puppy or rescue dog for success. In closing out our May series Dog 101, I wanted to address a few factors that every dog advocate should keep in mind. So let’s dive in:
According to the AHA:
Fact: 1 in 3 pets will go missing in their lifetime.
Fact: Over 10 million cats and dogs go missing or are stolen every year in the USA.
Fact: Less than 25% are reunited with their family.
Last Wednesday, we had the honor of hosting Shadow’s Founder for our Live IG chat. Shadow, a free app that uses the power of technology and Volunteers to help reunite lost dogs with their families, has been able to close that gap and reunite even more lost dogs. During COVID-19 alone, they have found 700 dogs. To listen to our chat, head to our Instagram (Posted on May 20th). Download the Shadow app today to help reunite lost dogs with their families!
So how can we prepare our dogs against flight risk? There are many factors to this. At the start of your relationship, it is critical to build a bond with your dog so they learn to trust you, even if that takes a tremendous amount of time. Do not assume a dog should trust you, especially a rescue. Work on that trust, and recognize the progress over time. Be prepared should your dog be the one in three that does go missing.
ID tag: Get one on the first day, or even beforehand. Major pet stores have machines that can create this within a minute; put your cell number on a tag even if you don’t have a name for your dog yet. Do that first, and purchase a fancy, more personalized one later.
Microchip: If your dog does not come with a microchip, request this process the next time you are at the vet’s office.
Use a separate collar for ID: clip the leash to their walking collar or harness, and have a separate collar that has their ID tags or ID inscribed on it (a big fan of this Orvis ID collar).
Good pictures. When a dog goes missing, pictures are needed. Have a few clear, simple photos of your dog that can be used.
Walking items: Is the harness or collar too loose? Does the collar’s clasp seem cheap or faulty? Has the leash latch lost its spring? You want to set up your dog to be successful on the leash and these are basic steps to ensure they do not come out of their collar/the leash latch fails you. I prefer a latch that overlaps to avoid a spring from loosening like this or a leash that has a carabiner to securely lock onto the dog’s collar/harness like this.
Leash Training: Is your dog calm and listening to their name, or scared and unable to pay attention? Be mindful of their needs on the leash.
How is your dog when you leave the house? Is your dog calm, lying on couch or in crate, or very frantic and trying to follow you out the door? If your dog is a flight risk of running out the front door of your home or a friend’s home, do not risk it -- put your dog on the leash if someone is entering/exiting, and if you are the one leaving, you want to teach your dog to settle in place while the door is open otherwise play it safe and use a crate.
Is your dog fearful of a certain type of human? Man, woman, child, etc. We had a foster dog who was terrified of men. On his first day in his forever home, our beloved Jimmy was spooked while on a walk with his new dad and got loose. Thankfully he was found and reunited but it’s a tough lesson: If your dog has a fear, do not push them into getting over it. Rather, work them, with patience and high praise and a total awareness that they will only learn to trust if they know you are the one protecting them and advocating for them.
Work on Departing and Returning
Normalize your arrival and departure: It's ok to leave and it's ok to return, neither moment should be a big deal. This will break down the idea that you being apart is bad.
Exercises in the home: The value of recall, in-home mind exercises, and practicing name recognition (“Finn”, he looks, “Yes, good” and then follow through with a command like “come” or “leave it” or simply have the name recognition serve as your teaching+bonding moment). I like to use a slip lead in the home and when working my own dogs with basic obedience training. Dogs want to learn, and they want to keep learning, so take advantage of 5-minutes of downtime and let them show off their intelligence and eagerness to please.
Use the crate! If a dog is terrified of you leaving, as stated above, you want to work the crate into your routine. It’s of tremendous importance and great value, and it could save your dog’s life.
Dog Walker, Boarder, or Other Caretaker
Set up your dog and the person watching your dog for success. Be honest of your dog’s behavioral issues -- this will ensure a successful relationship. If your dog is a flight risk, that should be made clear to their caregiver. If your dog fears people entering the home, do not forget to share that bit of information with the person entering it without you being home.
Be honest with yourself about where your dog is at. Do NOT sugar-coat it for the sake of your dog seeming to be in a better space than they are. We must do all that we can to protect them and see that they succeed in our home and under the care of those you are bringing into their lives.
Traveling, or in a new home: Do not give the same freedoms. This can be especially important for many NYC dogs currently staying in different homes outside the City during COVID-19.
For City dogs currently bunking up in the country or 'burbs:
- Work on calm walks around the neighborhood to orient them to their new environment.
- Do not leave them unattended in the yard.
- Use a long lead to teach recall -- leash pressure at a distance and follow through until they return to you for a treat and/or praise.
If more people are in the house, discuss the rules and boundaries. Get everyone on the same page, particularly when it comes to front door protocol, off-leash play in the yard, and on-leash triggers (i.e. squirrels, deer).
Stat: Since our City clients began to flee to their secondary homes or co-quarantine in a family member’s home, seven tbm dogs have gotten loose from these non-primary homes. In a new space, the same freedoms should not apply. Be mindful that your dog needs you to guide them and keep them safe. Implement new strategies and structures. Your dog does not know that running out of the house could result in a bad outcome -- help your dog understand where they are located and what the house rules are. Thankfully all tbm pups were reunited with their families!
Close the Gap
1. Get involved with a trainer. Link up with a professional you trust, and together you can build the language between you and your dog that you will use for their entire lifetime.
2. Work on “settle”: This doesn't mean endless attention, it means intentional attention. Use the slip lead to have them settle beside you, not to get pets or eye contact or conversation but to lie down, remain calm, and be comfortable in that situation.
3. Advocate for your dog: If they are scared of certain humans, do not push their boundaries without putting in the work. If they are anxious and unaware on the walks, do not divert your attention to your phone or other distractions. If they struggle being away from you, do not cater to this but set up short moments of time apart so they can work through that anxiety without a feeling of desperation or abandonment.
When we decide to bring a dog into our lives, we should do so with an expectation of putting in the work. While they are humankind’s best friend, they do not automatically come to us wired to understand commands, how to walk on a leash, why they should be comfortable on their own, etc. Be prepared to financially support your dog, through training sessions and group classes, pack dog walks and community events, veterinary assistance and holistic options (like water rehab, CBD, acupuncture, and more). We are here to be their best friend, too!
Tune in tonight, May 27 @ 6:30PM, for our IG LIVE chat with the Founder of Austin+Kat. Kat and Kara will discuss the benefits of CBD. For me, it's changed the lives of both of our dogs for the better -- whether an active dog like Chewy who needs relief post-exercise due to her health constraints or a senior dog like Lucca who battled with night terrors after losing her vision. At the end of the chat, we will have a giveaway which includes CBD and a live consult with Kat to determine which product would be best for your dog! Plus she will be offering our TBM community a discount code!
We've got this.
We're in it together, we're in it to advocate for our dogs!
Thankful for our k9 companions,