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Guest column: 6 ways to keep your pet out of the shelter and safe at home

“Rescue Me” is a recurring column by Samantha Randall, editor-in-chief at Top Dog Tips. She’ll provide personal anecdotes and perspective about her life as a pet lover with a passion for cat and dog rescue. Today, in honor of National Dog Week, she offers tips on how to keep your dog safe and sound.

When you bring a new dog into your home, you want them to stay with you for the rest of their life. Sometimes, accidents or mishaps can occur that lead to your pup winding up in a shelter or rescue organization. Losing a dog like this can be very difficult. Here’s all you need to know about how to keep your dog from ending up at a rescue.

How Do Dogs End Up at Rescue Shelters?

One of the most common reasons dogs end up in rescues is because their owners can no longer care for them and elect to give them up. Though this can seem like a selfish decision from one perspective, there are times when this choice is made due to unavoidable circumstances. Sometimes, tight financial situations can lead to it being impossible for a dog’s family to pay for veterinary care. Or, perhaps, the owners might have to move out of their home into a place that isn’t dog-friendly.

Some dogs also wind up at shelters because they escape from their homes, run away while out with family or get stolen and then abandoned. Without any proper identification, the pup in question might end up stuck at a rescue with no way to get back to the owner. It’s the most heartbreaking way that a dog can get lost, and if you’re not constantly on the lookout, it can be difficult to locate your pooch again.

Finally, there are dogs that are seized from their owners by animal control groups due to owners’ mistreatment of the animal. But I’m inclined to assume that few of our readers will ever find themselves in that boat!

How to Keep Your Dog From Ending Up at a Rescue

No owner wishes for dogs to be rescued out of necessity, particularly if the reason is that the dog escaped from home. Here’s how to prevent this mishap from occurring:

  1. Ensure Proper ID

Ideally, your dog will have two types of ID: a microchip and a collar tag. The tag on your pup’s collar should clearly state his or her name, your name, and your contact details so that anyone who finds them can easily get in contact with you.

A microchip is even more important, and even essential, according to Aimee Gilbreath of Michelson Found Animals, to whom I spoke recently. It’s almost a failsafe for any dog because it cannot fall off or be removed easily. Although it can be higher in price than a collar, it’s a surefire way to ensure that if your pup ever falls into the hands of a shelter, they will be able to scan your dog and find his or her details so you can be reunited with your pup as soon as possible.

  1. Invest in a Good Collar

If you’re using a collar tag as a form of ID for your pup, make sure the collar that he or she is using is good quality. Collars that are cheap and flimsy might break, fall off or wear out. The ID tag is useless if your dog loses the collar.

  1. Don’t Walk Off-Leash

Yes, many dogs are capable of walking calmly and politely off-leash, wandering about freely on their own and trusted to return to their owners without fail. But even the most well-behaved dogs might get distracted by a darting squirrel or enticed to follow a stranger.

I’m not going to say that you can never allow your pup to enjoy off-leash adventures, but the best way to keep Fido safe is to keep them on a high-quality, secure leash at all times when outdoors, especially in areas far away from home.

  1. Make Sure Boundaries Are Secure

If your dog spends a lot of time in your yard, make sure that the boundaries around it (such as walls, fences and gates) are secure enough to keep him or her there. Loose, wobbly gates or fences with holes in them may be all a determined pup needs to wiggle free, especially if your pooch is known as a great escape artist.

Regularly inspect the boundaries around your yard where your pup stays to ensure that they haven’t been compromised and aren’t suffering from wear and tear. Take note of any impressions under the fence that suggest your pup may be trying to dig their way out. Refill them or find alternate places to keep your dog contained.

The same goes for indoor dogs who stay inside your house most of the day. Don’t leave doors that lead outside open, and make sure windows aren’t left open wide enough for a dog to escape through. Windows that can easily be pushed open should be kept locked or have a screen installed in them.

  1. Supervise Regularly

It’s understandable that you will not be able to keep an eye on your pet every minute, but make sure you’re able to check in on them regularly. Take a peek outside every 15 to 20 minutes if your dog is in the yard while you’re busy inside. Make sure that he or she is not up to any mischief or trying to escape. Not only does this reduce the risk of your dog wandering off, it can also prevent accidents and give your dog the attention and affection they need so they won’t act out.

  1. Ensure You Are Equipped for a Dog

There are few things more distressing than realizing you are unable to take care of your dog any longer and have to surrender him or her to a shelter. Before you decide to bring a new pup into your home, recognize that this is a huge responsibility, and do not commit yourself to this decision until you are certain that you will be able to properly look after and care for your new canine companion.

What to Do if Your Dog Ends Up at a Shelter

If your dog has inadvertently turned up at a shelter and you would like to take them back — typically because he or she has escaped and does not have a form of identification that ties them to you — don’t fret. There are several ways that you can show the shelter the dog is yours.

First, call up or contact the shelter and tell them about the situation. Explain how you know they have your pup — did you see a photo on Facebook or did a friend inform you? Ask if you can come to collect your pet. Many shelters will ask for some form of proof that the dog is yours, but staff is always happy to reunite a lost dog with their families. Understand that most shelters will do everything in their power to get your pup home.

Bring along whatever form of proof the shelter requires and some additional items. Perhaps you’d like to bring along a photograph of yourself with your pup or their favorite toy. Remember that a dog that ends up at a rescue might be very shaken or frightened, so bring them something you know will comfort them and help them feel more relaxed. Your dog will certainly recognize you, but he or she may be too stressed or overstimulated to show you affection right away.

It’s not the end of the world if your pup ends up in a shelter; they’ll take good care of the wayward wagger. But you can avoid the situation entirely by following our tips.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.

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