3 Steps to Take Immediately if Your Dog Gets Loose
Nobody expects their dog to get loose. Unfortunately, it happens.
The absolute best way to handle the situation is to be prepared for it. Train a rock solid recall. Plan for a worst-case scenario by creating a list of emergency phone numbers (shelter, vet’s office, animal control, etc.) of people or groups who can help you look for your loose dog, and have that plus a recent picture of your pet saved to your computer and your phone. Bonus points if your dog is microchipped.
However, even if you are prepared, here are three things to do immediately if your dog gets loose.
It’s instinct: Your dog takes off; you take off after him. Don’t. For some dogs, getting chased by a bunch of people can be terrifying. For others, it can be a super fun game of “Who Runs Fastest” (spoiler: the dog, always). Check out this thorough blog post that explains exactly why that isn’t a great idea and recommends other, better methods—like, “Stop, drop and lie down.” Also, in the heat of the panicked moment, don’t forget to actually call your dog! Often, when a dog takes off, an owner forgets to even utilize that recall that they worked so hard to train.
If your dog is gone, call that list of numbers you have on hand. Notify your local shelter in case your dog is turned in. Call animal control in case they pick up your dog or spot him while making their rounds. Call your vet’s office, your neighbors, anyone who can potentially help look for your dog. If your dog is microchipped, notify the microchip company. Many will issue an alert immediately via text or email to other microchip customers who live in your area with the relevant details and a picture of your dog.
One day my shepherd Lucas tore out of our back gate as our neighbors stopped in to say hello. I did everything wrong because I panicked. I tore off after him shouting just about everything except “Lucas, come!” The incident ended with me getting a tetanus shot (and, actually, he came back on his own a short while later). Bottom line: You can’t take all the appropriate steps and ensure your dog’s safety if you’re panicking. While you’re doing anything else to bring your dog home, stay calm.
Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.