Since my “other” job in life is as a Licensed Veterinary Technician, I have an opportunity to see many pets in a clinic situation. Two NON-veterinary things can EASILY be done by pet (especially dog) owners to save your pet from VERY preventable emergencies.
1. Have Sufficient Identification For Your Pet
Too often, I see dogs, puppies and cats walk through our door wearing a very cool collar with NO TAGS! All it takes is an INSTANT of fear on your pet’s part (or the perception of fun, even – “I think I want to chase that squirrel.” for example). People laugh at me with all the “jewelry” my dogs have on their collars: home ID, cottage ID, clinic ID, Home Again ID Chip ID, Therapy Dog ID, and License. No matter where I am, if my dogs gets away from me, I want whoever finds them to have the easiest way to contact me. I put ALL information on the tags: dog’s name, phone number, and address (I once returned a dog to an owner who was right around the block from where I was, which saved me taking the dog 10 miles away to my home and calling). Some people avoid putting the dog’s name on their tags – however, sometimes that may be the key to that stranger even getting their hands on the dog as opposed to watching the dog run into the street. If you must, you may want to put something like “REWARD” on the tag. I also make sure the tags are easy to read – especially from a distance. Some dogs become very frightened and unapproachable when they are lost. A bright plastic readable tag means that the dog just needs to be seen, not caught, for someone to call. Plastic tags can be broken or chewed (I’ve also seen chewed metal…), so I just do regular tag maintenance and replace any damaged ones. Remember, licenses alone don’t count as ID. Don’t rely on cities to keep adequate records and remember, lost dogs are usually found on weekends or after 5PM – when the city hall is closed.
You may have noticed that I mentioned a “Home Again” tag. I have ID chipped each of my dogs because it is PERMANENT information as well as POSITIVE ID that the dog is mine. A small chip the size of a grain of rice is implanted by your vet and can be scanned if the dog is found. In addition, an ID tag with a toll free number allows the person who found your pet a quick and easy way to locate the owner. Tattoos are OK, but I, for one, wouldn’t have the slightest idea where to call if I found a dog with only a tattoo! Ask your veterinarian about permanent ID options.
2. Always Have Sufficient Control
With cats, this means a carrier – period!! The clinic where I work is on a quiet side street, yet once a very mild-mannered cat clawed up her owner’s shoulder and ran away because a large, noisy truck rumbled down our street at just the right time.
Whatever you train your dog in, is what he should ALWAYS leave the house in. The same people I have taught in obedience class, clip their leash to their dog (some have no leash at all – and their dog “won’t listen”) on their buckle ID collar and the dog drags them all over the clinic. THIS IS ONE REASON TO TRAIN YOUR DOG – to behave in strange, scary, or different situations! If you train in a slip (“choke”) collar, or a head collar, or a pinch collar, or a no-pull harness then THAT IS WHAT YOU HAVE ON YOUR DOG EVERY TIME YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE! First, you have the control you trained with, and second (and MOST important!) the collar /harness you use then also becomes symbolic to your dog. Because of this meaning to your dog, you may not even have to USE it – your voice control may be all you need – but the collar is there to reinforce. This is what training is all about – so the reinforcement becomes much less, and all they need are reminders.
There you have it. Two very simple – yet potentially life-saving – tips to protect your pet.