It’s every pet owner’s worst nightmare: you leave your dog alone in the yard for a few minutes, and when you go to the door to call him inside: silence.
Or maybe you’re enjoying an evening stroll together when a truck rumbles past, your pup gets spooked, and he slips his collar in a moment of panic.
The team here at Atlas Pet Co. knows exactly how you feel, so we put together the best tips to make sure you never lose your best friend out there in the wild.
Prep your pup
Take a cue from the Boy Scouts and Be Prepared. There are a handful of things every dog owner should do to equip a pup for a lifetime of safety and security.
- Microchip that mutt
It’s never been easier or cheaper to get one of these tiny trackers implanted in your pup - in fact, some shelters and breeders will even include the procedure in the cost of adoption. If not, though, getting one is simple and shouldn’t cost more than around $50. A lot of veterinarians offer the service as part of their spay/neuter package, so be sure to ask if that procedure is in your new puppy’s future. (It should be. We’ll get to that.)
This genius little device is about the size of a grain of rice and gets inserted between your dog’s shoulder blades with a large needle - don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt any more than a standard injection. Once implanted, your pup’s chip is linked to your family’s contact info, registered in a national database, and works for life. How cool is that?
- Fix the odds
It’s a force of nature: dogs that have not been spayed or neutered are much more likely to fly the coop. Intact male pups often can’t resist the urge to find a suitable mate, and sometimes this means wandering far and wide when the urge strikes - fences be damned. Lady dogs in heat are notorious for busting loose in pursuit of a suitor, too.
While it’s tempting to imagine how adorable your best friend’s puppies might be, we think it’s even better to envision a world with no unwanted pets. Not only does this essential procedure keep your pup safe in your loving home, it ensures that many others never have to live without one.
Good to know: Neutering or spaying your pup reduces the risk of certain, hormone-related cancers in dogs.
- Grab the Right Gear
Now that your pup is protected with the best medical technology out there, you’ll want to equip your best friend with the low-tech gear that will work hard to keep him safe.
The best collar to keep your dog from getting lost is strong, weather-resistant, highly-visible, and easy to slip over his head. We’ve covered all of these bases with our Lifetime Collar, which comes in a rainbow of vivid colors to help your pup stand out in the wild - and in a crowd.
Our Lifetime Leash and Collar are made with professional-grade rock climbing rope - the same stuff that extreme athletes use to rappel down granite faces. If this stuff can support a 250-lb man dangling off the side of Half-Dome, you can bet that it won’t snap off of your pup’s neck.
Don’t let that collar give you a false sense of security at the end of a leash, though. We don’t recommend tethering your dog by his neck in general, and if your pup is skittish, prey-driven, or a puller, you’re going to need a sturdy harness for leashed adventures. Our Lifetime Harness is practically impossible to slip out of when fastened and fitted correctly, and - bonus! - puts far less wear-and-tear on your dog’s neck than a standard collar would.
- Invest in education
Some days, despite your best efforts, chaos rears its ugly head. Your dog is having naked time without a collar, the wind blows the front door open, and a pair of squirrels are engaged in a wrestling match across the street. At times like this, when everything goes wrong and the universe seems to be conspiring for your pup to run away, there’s only one safeguard that stands between you and a lost dog: training.
“High five” and “roll over” are crowd-pleasers, but there’s one trick that will keep your dog safe by your side: recall. Teaching your pup how to come to your side when you say the word is invaluable in an unpredictable world.
If you’re completely clueless about how to start, a few professional training sessions are your best bet. If you want to go the DIY route, that’s great, too! There are many great online resources that will guide you through teaching your pup a reliable recall. The most important thing to remember is that it will take time and repetition; one session of recall training won’t keep your dog from busting loose, but consistent practice will make the skill second nature.
Tip: recall training can make your outdoor adventures more fun, too! A dog who always returns on voice command can be trusted more often without a leash, giving him the freedom to explore and you the peace of mind that you can protect your pup from danger as long as he’s in earshot.
Secure the perimeter
Now that we’ve covered hazards at the canine level, let’s uncover the weak spots around your home.
- Fortify your fence
Does your pup have a fenced backyard to call his own? Lucky dog! Dedicated outdoor space is a luxury for your four-legged friend; some light yard work will protect that privilege and keep your pup from busting out of the joint for years to come.
A word on fences: get ‘em, make ‘em high, and keep ‘em mended. Some dogs - even the little guys, like terriers - can jump as high as a grown man’s head. That’s why we recommend that you invest in fences that are a minimum of six feet tall.
Have a shorter fence? We can work with that. Fence-mounted planters, lattice screens, and coyote rollers are all inexpensive and effective ways to increase the height of your backyard border.
- Maintenance is key
Got that all covered? Great! But you’re not quite done. It can be easy to assume that once you’ve built a fence, you’re set for life on yard security. The fact is, outdoor spaces are vulnerable to wear from weather, wild animals, and - gasp - your own dog. Make it a habit to perform a monthly perimeter check (more often if you have a digger or chewer on your hands). Walk the fence; check for splits in the wood or damage to the iron. Make sure the gate still closes securely. Look down for holes in the ground that need to be filled - pups who shimmy under the fence are equally big flight risks as jumpers. That sixty-second stroll around the yard is worth the peace of mind that your best friend will be safe and secure for another month to come.
- Divert door dashers
We’ve all met a dog who, every time the front door is cracked open, tries to hurl his body through the gap in search of adventure. We get it - that’s how the Atlas team feels about being outside, too! But it’s best if your pup doesn’t get his kicks out there without you.
The best way to prevent a door dasher is the most obvious one: put your body between your dog and the door, open it just far enough to slide your body through, and close it quickly. Not the most elegant move, but it usually works.
For more persistent escape artists, you’ll have to get creative. One friend of Atlas who has a crafty Jack Russell has taken to only exiting and letting guests in through her garage door. That way, if her little Houdini slips past her, she still has the security of a closed garage to keep her pup close. Have a food-driven runner? Keep a jar of treats by the door and throw a few in the opposite direction each time you exit. The distraction should help buy you a moment to slip out while your beast feasts.
A dog’s world can be chaotic - there are so many impulses, triggers, and environmental factors out there that you just can’t control. But planning for the worst can help your pup be his best, and with a little effort, you can keep your best friend safe and by your side for years to come.