Loss Prevention Tips


The person responsible for a dog’s safety can lose it by accident or through carelessness.

Dogs get lost while under the care of loving families, foster homes, new adopters, kennels, breeders, doggy daycare, groomers, shelters, rescue workers, Vet hospitals, car accidents, rescue transports, and pet sitters (professionals, family, or friends).  


#1 TIP: Always keep the dog on a leash when outside your home. 

#2 TIP: Your dog should always wear a collar with current license, rabies, and ID tags.

#3 TIP: Your dog should be microchipped.  


Micro-chip implants  Ask a vet about this fast, easy, and permanent way to identify your dog.  Smaller than a grain of rice, implants are manufactured by several major companies.  The vet inserts the implant via a needle (immunization shot size) between a dog’s shoulder blades.  When a stray comes into a shelter without ID, it is scanned for a microchip whenever possible. 

A hand-held scanner is passed over the dog’s shoulders, and if a chip is found, it reads the information imbedded on the chip.  The company who makes the implant will have a record of the owner’s contact information and full description of the pet associated with the chip. 

NOTEYou must register a pet’s implant with the microchip company for this system to work.

Lost for months, even years, dogs with microchips have been reunited with their families.  


Tattoos  A permanent, visible identification where a series of numbers and/or letters are located inside a dog’s ear, or on its underside, like an inner thigh.  The person with the dog must know enough to look for a tattoo, which is easy to find upon examination.  There are many Registries, both here and abroad.  The tattoo may be a mix of letters and/or numbers that doesn’t conform to any Registry format, which makes it harder to associate and trace back to the pet’s family. 


A shelter facility might not have a scanner but will check for tattoos.  A person might not know much about either but will try to trace old tags through town/city clerks and vets.  Found dogs do slip through the system, but a permanent ID will help decrease the odds of this happening.


Collars  It’s easy for a dog to slip a collar – just ask someone who was left holding the leash.  Slipped collars waiting to happen are squirrels need to be chased; an unleashed, intimidating dog running towards you; strangers approaching you in a direct manner; trying to lead a dog where it doesn’t want to go; and sudden loud noises like fireworks – see “Big Noise Events.”

You should be able to fit two fingers between a collar and the dog’s neck.  Check frequently and adjust to ensure a snug fit – puppies grow and adults gain or lose weight, just like us humans.

If the dog was recently bathed or groomed, put the old (or new) collar back on immediately.

Put on old tags, rather than none, and go get new, updated tags ASAP.  A fluorescent or brightly colored collar makes a dog more visible, especially at night.  Buy a custom ID collar, and add a 24/7 number when giving the maker details.  Collars with flashing neon LEDs make for safer walks at night.  A collar with tags is still the most popular way to identify “strays” but there’s no guarantee a dog will still be wearing it when found.  Give pets a safety net with a permanent ID.


Tags  Current license and rabies tags should always be securely attached to a dog’s collar.

The rabies tag must be valid – strangers need to know the found dog was recently vaccinated.

Countless strays are found with a collar, but no tags or ID, and not reunited with their family.

Some people don’t like to hear noisy tags clinking – go to a pet store and buy tag covers.  Easy.

Outdated/expired tags, and disconnected phone numbers are difficult or impossible to trace. 


LOST DOGS                       TIPS TO PREVENT LOST DOGS                          Page 2 of 4


Your dog’s been found but the licensing agent (Town Clerk) is closed as is the Vet (rabies shot) so tags can’t be traced until they reopen.  An ID tag with your number (or two) lets people call immediately.  It’s easy to get ID tags!  Big chain pet stores have automated machines that make custom tags for a nominal cost in minutes.  Choose the color, size, and shape, the information to be imprinted, then watch the machine engrave the tag.  For temporary fixes on transports or emergency situations, put contact info on sticky labels and affix on inside and outside of a collar.  Use a sturdy round paper tags with metal rings or small luggage tags.  Tags get lost, scratched, worn and unreadable, especially if the dog’s been lost and wandering a long time.


Leashes and cable runs  Check often and replace immediately if frayed, worn, or chewed.

Many dogs get lost with a leash or cable still attached to collars.  Either one can be dragged around for weeks, or snag immediately, hitching the dog to a place you might not find easily.  

A retractable leash does NOT provide optimal control and is often dropped when a dog bolts unexpectedly.  This type of leash hits the ground with a noisy clatter.  A dog can be frightened as the leash retracts and by the sound of the handle being dragged over pavement.  If it doesn’t retract, the line will get entangled and anchor the dog to a small area.  Some dogs will chew through a leash, line, or cable holding them.  Dogs don’t always bark for help and may instinctively remain still and quiet to avoid attracting the attention of predators – wild or human.  Yes, we can be scary to a lost dog.  Use a sturdy nylon leash to walk your dog, hold the loop tightly, and wrap the leash around your hand or wrist a few times.  Harnesses have become very popular as they are adjustable, comfortable, and stylish.  Use both harness & leash!   


Doors  Dogs dash with surprising speed through open doors.  Newly fostered and adopted dogs quickly learn the location of every exit.  Some bolt upon arrival, while others wait days, weeks or months.  Family, friends, delivery people, and tradesmen (painters, plumbers, etc) inadvertently leave a door open too long or forget to close it entirely.  Many “escapes” happen when children constantly go in and out of the house.  You’re closing the door and not paying attention because the dog’s nowhere in sight.  In reality, the dog is nearby, very alert, and ready to take advantage of this opportunity.  It bolts out before you can open your mouth in disbelief.  Most dogs excel at pushing on a partially opened door to get outside, with or without you.  Don’t slam doors shut. 

A dog can be startled, injured, or frightened enough to run away.  Don’t open an exit door while trying to leash a dog – open after the leash is on and you have a tight grip on it.  


Big Noise Events  Dogs can be scared by unfamiliar loud noises or ones that never bothered them before now.  Huge numbers go missing during the July 4th and New Year’s holidays due to fireworks celebrations.  Thunderstorms can be an old or a new phobia.  Watch exit doors and don’t leave a dog outside and unattended.  Construction noises like nailing guns, delivery trucks, and landscaping power tools all make scary sounds.  Other triggers include motorcycles, gunshots, exhaust system backfiring (sounds like a gun), sirens, boat horns, and loud parties.


Fences  A fenced yard doesn’t guarantee a pet’s safety without proper monitoring on your part!

Gates are left open or unsecured by family, friends, landscapers, meter readers, and general contractors.  Don’t assume a gate has been closed, look to make sure it is, before you open the door to let the dog outside.  Dogs disappear from yards by digging under, jumping over, and climbing up and over fences.  To keep a dog in, and other animals out, backfill holes, replace rotting or missing boards on wooden fences, and repair chain link.





LOST DOGS                                TIPS TO PREVENT LOST DOGS                  Page 3 of 4


Fences – continued

Watch the “escape artist” dog climb up the chain link fence and leap down the other side.  Amazing.  Fences are supposed to enclose and protect our dogs from harm, yet predators manage to get inside.  A tiny dog “safe” inside a fence looks like a food source to predators like hawks, owls, and coyotes.  Snowbanks and hard pack drifts can dramatically reduce fence heights.  They allow a dog to jump a fence that was previously too high and a predator to climb or jump inside to grab your pet.  A doghouse placed next to a chain-link fence provides a nice launch pad for an agile jumper.  The evergreen on the other side is a “ladder” to the ground.


An electronic fence does not prevent other animals or people from entering your property and won’t protect a dog from outside harm.  Dogs with electronic collars still bolt from yards despite “positive” reinforcement training.  Seems they just had to chase that rabbit or maybe wearing something chased after them.  A dog wearing an electric collar bolted through its perimeter chasing a rabbit and later entered a yard on the same frequency.  The dog chose to be “trapped” rather than “zapped.”  It got discovered quickly and happily reunited with family.


Never leave your dog alone in a vehicle or alone in a vehicle with the engine running. 

Your dog could be stolen by someone who thinks they would be a better owner, someone who wants to give it to a friend, someone who wants to sell it for money.  Your dog could get lost if a thief breaks into your vehicle to steal a camera, purse, or other like items.  Yes, it happens. 

Your dog will go for a ride with the thief who steals your vehicle, unless the thief takes the time to try to get the dog out of the car.  Would you like to gamble on this scenario? 


New Home

Don’t leave a pet at the old, empty home while you’re moving furniture into the new one.

It’s easy for a dog to get confused and nervous if both family and furniture has disappeared.

Arrange for pets to come with you or to be cared for during this stressful time of transition.  

Familiar sights, sounds, and scents are gone, and now there’s all new things to get used to.  Don’t wash the dog’s bedding or toys before moving – she will take comfort finding her scent in the new place.  Give a pet ample time and opportunities to investigate and get accustomed to the new surroundings.  Some dogs readily adjust to change, while others take longer to realize this new place is now “home.”  Walk the dog on leash along the new yard’s boundaries at least several times a day, more often if possible.


Vacations provide new sights, sounds, and scents, which can be interesting or very scary.

Have fun, but keep your dog leashed so she doesn’t get lost and gets to go home with you.

Imagine losing your dog two hours from home!  Or five hours away, in another STATE? 

Eventually you must go home, with or without your dog.  When taking a trip, have clear and recent pics of your dog stored on your phone and pack some paper photos in your suitcase. 

If your dog gets lost, use these to make fliers for posting in the immediate area.  If the dog’s staying home with a pet sitter (professional, friend, or relative), give firm, clear instructions:  “Abby must be leashed (or harnessed) when going out for walks, and her collar and tags remain on at all times”.  Don’t assume your dog will respond to commands from anyone but her own everyday family.  Don’t assume she will behave like she normally does with you.  Don’t assume everything will be fine because she knows and likes the pet sitter – the sitter is not YOU and your dog knows this.  Tell pet sitters if your dog is a “Houdini” and any prior record of escapes.  Absolutely no one needs, or wants, to learn about this type of thing the hard way.




LOST DOGS                             TIPS TO PREVENT LOST DOGS                            Page 4 of 4



Rescue dogs are special and deserve our love and attention.  Adjust your schedules to allow a few extra minutes each day to help a pet through the transition of the adoption.  Show the dog around the inside of your home and go for leashed walks along the yard’s boundaries several times a day.  A newly adopted dog needs time to bond with its family and to settle comfortably into a “forever” home.  Walks are a terrific way to start establishing a bond and helps a dog to realize that your “territory” is also now his/hers.  Any dog can be a high “flight risk” for the first few weeks upon arrival at a home and up to a month or more after – there’s no set time limits. 

Dogs can bolt easily if you aren’t holding the leash tightly or a door is left open a little too long.

Many families who lose a newly adopted dog say the dog didn’t love them – and so it bolted.

This is not true and is more that the adopters had unrealistic expectations about the new dog.


Foster Homes  Thank you for continually opening your hearts and homes.  Assume the new arrival is an escape artist (Houdini) – it’s just not going to happen on your watch!  The dog is coming into a strange place (your home) to meet strangers (you), with no idea what’s going on.  Do you have other dogs that aren’t enthusiastic, or some overly excited about the new dog?  Arriving at a foster home is a major change for rescues and a common time for them to bolt. 

Getting a new ID tag on the collar upon arrival is very important if the dog’s got out-of-state, expired tags, or (horror) doesn’t have any.  Many rescues use temporary collars and tags to identify a dog in transport, just in case it gets lost.  Now it’s up to you to update collars and tags with your own information to reflect the dog’s new location.  


Rescue Workers and Transporters

Thank you for making a difference in so many lives.  Without you….well, can’t even imagine.

Please, as always, continue to be careful transferring dogs from one vehicle to another, from kennels or crates to a vehicle, and when stopping at shelters, foster homes, or vet offices. 

Be especially vigilant during long trips when you do a pit stosp in parking lots or rest areas.  


No one ever dreams their dog will go missing – and it becomes a nightmare.   


“But I never put her on a leash!”

“But he usually comes when called!”

“He always goes outside to do his business…and he always returns …until last night.”

“The collar breaks the hair on her neck.”

“I only let her off leash for a minute.”

“I had no idea there were coyotes in the area.”

“I had no idea my dog would chase that deer.”

“I should have plugged up that hole in the fence.”

“We’ve been to this park tons of times without any problems…..until yesterday.”

“I don’t use a leash, my dog obeys me……..it was the other dog running at us.”

“The snowstorm damaged the electronic fence.”

“The coyote simply walked over the snowbank up over the fence and into our yard.” 

“I didn’t think.”

Debbie Hall   copy  2/2005
Debbie Scarpellini Revision Jan 2022



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