Home > Lost Dogs, Missing Pets, Pet Safety > Lost Dogs – Is your dog at risk?

Lost Dogs – Is your dog at risk?


IMG_6838I’m often brought to tears by stories of lost dogs that have been found.

Just this past weekend, a ten-year-old dog was found after being lost and out on her own for several days in frigid temps. As I read her owner’s teary and thankful response to all those who helped her get her dog back, I wept.

I remember the powerful waves of emotion that swept over me when I finally had Cupcake back in my arms again – relief, gratitude, and extreme happiness. Even though it has been three years since Cupcake went missing, I have never forgotten those twelve days she was gone. I have only to read another lost dog story or see another missing dog posting, to feel all the fear, worry and sadness all over again.

Losing a dog (no matter how long) changes you. It makes you more cautious, and more attentive. It also makes you less likely to take risks with their safety.

IMG_6569I used to be so ignorant about all the risks I took with my dogs. Jasper was allowed off-leash all of the time. Both Daisy and Jasper were allowed to hop up into the car (and out) while out in the driveway. Neither were leashed in those moments. My first Sheltie went with me to watch the our local fireworks at the park near our house (my mother tells me now that Alicia was very nervous and scared of the sounds back then). My last dog, Aspen, was a runner, but I often forgot to keep her away from the front door when people came for a visit. I can’t count how many times I chased her down the street with a bag of pepperoni in my hands.

My guess is that every dog owner engages in some type of risky behavior where their pets are concerned. We are all one mistake away from losing our best friends.

So how much risk do you take with your dog? Do you engage in risky behavior in regards to your pets’ safety?

Here are some frequent ways in which owners have lost their pets. Check all that apply.

If you selected 10 or more, you have a extremely high risk for losing your dog. Take action to minimize your risks as soon as possible (today would not be soon enough). Also, study up on the Lost Dog Action Plan from Lost Dogs-MN so you know what to do when your dog does go missing, because chances are high that they will. (In addition, if you selected “I let my dog outside to go to the bathroom without making sure he/she is on a tether or in a fenced yard.” , count yourself in the “extremely high risk” category  no matter how many others you selected. This is the number one explanation given when a pet goes missing. The common response is “they have always come back before”.)

If you selected 5 or more, you are at a higher risk for losing your dog. Try to find ways you can reduce the number of items on the list as soon as you possibly can. Ensuring you have a high recall with your dog is highly recommended. I would also recommend you read the the Lost Dog Action Plan from Lost Dogs-MN so you know what to do if your dog does go missing.

If you selected 2 or more, you are at a medium risk level for losing your dog. Consider what items on the list you can change and take action now to minimize the risk.

If you selected 1 or did not select any of the items on the list, consider yourself a dog owner who knows how to keep their dog safe. Your dogs are in the lowest risk group for being lost. This does not mean he/she will not get lost through some weird set of circumstances, but you have done all you can to reduce the chances of it happening. Congratulations!

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  1. January 5, 2015 at 12:43 AM

    Reblogged this on DoggyMom.com and commented:
    I really like the checklist in this item. Sometimes, without thinking, we put our dogs at risk. Losing a dog would be one of the most heartbreaking things that any of us experience – let’s re-think our habits before it is too late.

  2. January 5, 2015 at 5:27 AM

    It’s a nightmare for me if Easy gets lost. Maybe I’m overcautious, but Easy has to stay on his leash when we visit unfenced areas. Always, without exception. Our backyard looks like Alcatraz, but I think that’s ok, because we live near a road with a lot of traffic.

  3. kenzohw
    January 5, 2015 at 5:35 AM

    Great idea to create such a list, to do a little checkup … and I am guilty of answering “yes” to one! Darn it 🙂

  4. maabbott3
    January 5, 2015 at 5:43 AM

    Great list. Thank you for posting.

  5. January 5, 2015 at 5:49 AM

    Mom had the perfect dog and had no fears about losing a dog until, Kuvasz Katie arrived. She took every shred of confidence away from Mom. Thankfully they lived in Germany in an area where there weren’t a lot of dog dangers. We are always on leash or in a fenced area, no more chances. These days Katie sometimes is off leash, but she is too old and slow to make it more than a few yards so no worries. That one time you just let the dog out without a leash “real quick” is when something will race by and grab their attention, it’s Murphy’s Law, so unless we escape, we are always on leash. Mom never wants to lose us.

  6. January 5, 2015 at 8:14 AM

    I checked the going outside to potty and hiking without a leash, But for us, the dogs don’t stray from the RV very far. If Torrey gets too carried away while we hike, she is on a leash right away.

  7. January 5, 2015 at 9:19 AM

    Great checklist. Thanks for sharing!

  8. January 5, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    Great checklist for those who are “NOT in the know”! I checked 4 but my dog is very reliable and 11 years old – would have been more at risk before I moved to the city when he was almost 5.

  9. Deb
    January 5, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    I had two, but really it was 1.5 answered, so i feel pretty confident in my dogs’ safety. Whew!

  10. Maggie
    January 5, 2015 at 12:52 PM

    I checked two, which surprised me! At first I thought, “OF COURSE my dogs are safe.” Have a little work to do! Because Lucas and Cooper are both reactive, I’m vigilant – it’s my biggest fear they would get loose and get in an altercation. When we first moved into our house, we locked the gate to the backyard and never used it. Twice it mysteriously pooped open. Then we zip-tied it. Months later, I looked out the window to see all three dogs careening down the road. The zip-tie broke and, as it turned out, erosion had shifted our gate enough so that the lock broke. Once I chased and, thankfully, caught all three, we bought titanium bike locks for the gate, which I check religiously. That will never happen again!

  11. January 5, 2015 at 1:23 PM

    Even though my dogs are in the lowest risk category I also make sure they have their clothes (tags) on when they go out. They are also microchipped. The only mark we had was about using crates in the car.

  12. January 5, 2015 at 1:49 PM

    Excellent post!!! Thank you for writing about this.

  13. cafall
    January 5, 2015 at 3:10 PM

    We have a runner and are always super aware of where he is at all times. Harlow we are working off leash due to being in agility, but I’m always 100% focused on her. I don’t let her off leash when I’m distracted or see activity in the immediate area. I always feel better when she is leashed again.

    Monty and Harlow

  14. January 5, 2015 at 4:13 PM

    We have a sort of digital neighborhood watch in my hood. Every day there’s a lost dog post that breaks my heart. Some are reunited with their owners, many are not. So sad and generally completely preventable. Thank you for reminding us simple safety tips. 🙂

  15. January 5, 2015 at 4:30 PM

    I’ve found the biggest risk to be how fearful the dog is. We have to be especially careful with some of the fearful dogs we’ve fostered. Because even if you don’t think a dog can get through your fence, if they’re scared enough they can do anything to try to get away.

  16. January 5, 2015 at 6:27 PM

    According to the checklist, Mr. N is high risk. If he’s scared, he runs towards me instead of away and he’s very velcro in general so he gets a certain amount of latitude. Our foster dog was shy though and I would not trust him off-leash.

  17. January 5, 2015 at 10:48 PM

    My dog is crazy. He’s tried to run away every time we’ve moved, except when we got to the house we live in now. Still, I’m cautious, because one time I saw him leave the house to go chase a squirrel he’d see go up a tree two weeks prior. TWO WEEKS!
    This is a great article. I’ll put it up on my portrait painting FB page – Pinter Portraits. (www.pinterportraits.com)

  18. January 6, 2015 at 8:48 PM

    I’m really good at making sure Chase is not in any dangerous situations

    I think you live and learn too… I grew up with a shih-tzu that ran away all the time… any chance she got she would bolt out a door and take off and there we were running after her or jumping in a car to chase her. Luckily she would take her walk route so we knew where to go and that we live in a low traffic area of town!

    So after those experiences, I am hyper vigilant with my own dog because I do not ever want to experience that horrible feeling in your chest when you realize your dog is out and running away!

    Also, Chase is not a runner! 😉 Personality wise and physically, he is not going to take off on me.

  19. January 10, 2015 at 3:52 PM

    My hubby and I just had this conversation…..again…..today! he often lets the dogs go from the house to the car off leash. Luke is fearful and I have to keep reminding him of that (I think I finally got through today!), that anything could scare him off and we’d be lucky to get him back if that happened.

  20. Katherine Chesney
    January 12, 2015 at 8:06 AM

    It’s important that you know your dog when engaging in these risk factors. My dog is very well bonded to me, is always checking back with me when outdoors, has been through obedience and has a very reliable recall. We live at the end of a quiet road, and he can be trusted to not be out of my sight while off leash. My foster dog, a hound, however, must be leashed at all times because she will follow her nose wherever it leads her.

    • Mel
      January 12, 2015 at 8:39 AM

      I completely agree Katherine. You absolutely need to know your dog and to know your dog’s breed tendencies too (like a hound’s need to follow their nose no matter what). Thank you so much for adding to the discussion!

  21. February 6, 2015 at 9:21 AM

    This checklist is awesome. Thanks for sharing.

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