In the days following Valentine’s Day, while some rejoice over the love in their lives, others ponder past heartaches and wonder about old flames; the lost, the found, the rekindled, and the unrequited. While burning questions of “where are they now?” and “what went wrong?” are things we here at the Melrose Dog Society most likely can’t help you with, we CAN offer some tips on how to reduce the risk of one particular type of heartbreak: the heartbreak of having a pet go missing.
Today we bring you the first of a three part series about missing pets. We begin by focusing on preventing the heartbreak of lost love. Behold, some steps you can take to prevent your pet from going missing!
- Put Effort into Your Relationship - Much like love between two persons, the bond you have with your pet will grow when you put time and effort into building your relationship. Take the time to work on recall skills with your dog. Train them so that they learn an “emergency recall” command. It will come in handy when and if they ever run off.
- Stay Connected - It is the law in Melrose that your dog be on a leash at all times when on public property, other than in approved off-leash areas such as inside the fenced-in Melrose Dog Park at Ell Pond. Some owners may retort that their dog is well trained, and would never leave their side, leash or not. However, no matter how strong your bond is with your dog, there are unknowns that you can never predict: a startling crash, other animals (unleashed dogs or wildlife), and elements of nature such as lightening and thunder. There are a number of factors when outdoors with your dog that you simply have no control over and can increase the risk of your dog running off. Keeping a leash on at all times will help you and your dog stay connected for safety.
- Be Mine, Valentine - Lovebirds will often exchange gifts and jewelry declaring their affection for one another. While the love you have for dog is most certainly on a different level, don’t skimp on the bling. Make sure your dog has a well fitting collar/harness, complete with ID tags containing your phone number and address. Some ID tags even come with scannable QR codes, that allow others to connect with a whole online profile of your dog’s life and important information. Technology is so advanced now, there are even iPhone apps that can track your dog! Those high-tech methods of course cost some money, but the most economical, tried and true ways to show and prove ownership are licensing your dog with the town that you live in and microchipping your dog. Not only is it the law in Melrose to license your dog, but a registration tag may also help a lost dog find it’s way home. For the city of Melrose, dog license renewal begins in January, and late fees apply to those who don’t renew by March. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian about microchipping! A microchip is inserted into the neck fat in a dog and can be scanned by any vet or shelter. The chip will contain your contact information - so make sure to register your dog’s chip when he or she first gets it, and any time you move. Declaring ownership through ID tags, registration, AND microchipping will dramatically increase the chances of you being reunited with your dog if they do end up missing.
- Love that Knows No Bounds - To decrease the chances of your dog running off, take inventory of your home’s physical barriers and boundaries. Are there any gaps in your fence? Is your fence too low for your dog’s athletic prowess? Are there structures such as picnic tables or lawn chairs near the perimeter which your dog can climb and then hop the fence? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” take the necessary steps to secure your property and to prevent a doggy breakout. (Going to go on a mini-rant about about “invisible fences,” so please bare with us. If you have one of these, please remember that your dog will still require direct supervision when outside, as an invisible fence does NOT prevent other animals/persons from coming on your property and drawing your dog’s attention. Rather than stop short at the invisible barrier, a dog motivated by fear or by the thrill of the squirrel chase may run right over the perceived barrier, becoming disoriented and scared from the shock of the fence system itself. In winter months, when the snow layer is thick, these electric barriers may not be as effective. Invisible fences at best can only truly offer an expensive false sense of security. Phew, rant over!)
- I Just Called to Say I Love You - Keep a list of emergency phone numbers for your pet in a safe place. Melrose Animal Control has already made such a list - you just need to add your dog’s vet contact info to it! Make sure anyone who is dog sitting for you has access to this information as well. Time is of the essence when a pet goes missing, so having this info handy in advance will save both time and energy when you are getting the word out about your missing companion.
- Special Occasions with Your Sweetheart - 4th of July, the winter holidays, thunder storms; what do they all have in common? To your pet, they all introduce experiences unusual and stray from routine. Statistically, dogs go missing more often during specific times of the year or certain weather events, such as the ones mentioned above. Dogs can get spooked and run for cover during the loud fireworks associated with 4th of July or the equally epic booms of thunder storms. Holiday celebrations bring more foot traffic through people’s homes, which means your front door will be opened more often by people who aren’t accustomed to taking inventory of where your potential-escape-artist dog may be. So what to do? During loud noise festivities, securely keep your dog indoors. If your dog has anxiety related to fireworks or thunder, talk to your vet about strategies and interventions that might help your pal weather the storm. During parties or when there are more comings and goings than usual, confine your dog to a certain area of the house where he or she won’t be tempted to explore the great outdoors as each guest arrives or departs. And before any major event, try and take your dog out for an extra long walk/exercise session; a tired dog is apt to handle stressful situations in a much better manner.
- The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships - Today’s smartphones and digital cameras make it easy to have photos of your pets on hand. If your dog does end up going missing, you can fill out a profile on Granite State Dog Recovery’s facebook page. GSDR is a non-profit that uses the power of social media to help spread the word (for free, mind you) about pets both lost and found. Filling out a profile creates a missing dog poster, complete with a picture that can be printed out and also “shared” via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. With over 37,000 facebook followers who are ready, willing, and able to share missing dog photo posts that reach all over New England (and beyond), you have an amazing free resource at your disposal. So make sure you have at least one current head of shot of your dog, as well as a profile. Capture photographs of any unique features that would help you identify your dog. If you don’t have access to a smartphone or camera to take photos, ask a friend. It is better to be prepared and have such photos stored in a readily accessible place (whether it be on a computer or a physical photograph) so that you have direct and immediate access if they are ever needed.
Stayed tuned for our next post, where we will outline what to optimize the chance of a happy reunion in the event your dog does go missing In the meantime, take a moment to reflect on what steps you can take to help prevent the heartache of a lost pet.
MELROSE DOG SOCIETY
Responsible Neighbors & Happy Dogs