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K-9 Corner: Steps to take when your dog roams

By Helen Palmer

Contributing columnist

A reader called to inform me that her dog had pushed his way under the fence that afternoon and he still had not come home. She told me of her efforts to locate and retrieve him and was, at that point, feeling a bit hopeless.

I told her what she already knew, that dogs like to run and explore. Some breeds have a more pronounced need than other breeds (standard schnauzers are not noted for roaming, hunting dogs really love it). Even toy breeds will do their share of exploring.

The problem is how to find and get them back. There is a standard procedure if the animal hasn’t been gone long. You collect a collar (even if your dog was wearing one when it disappeared, it is best to carry one with you), a leash and a pocketful of canine goodies.

Then walk the area surrounding the place where the dog was last seen, whistling, calling and reminding him that you have treats for a good dog that comes back to you. This brings up the subject of how you greet the returning dog. You should never punish a dog that comes back to you, for you will be teaching him to be afraid of you. A dog’s brain works only in the present, punishment will be for the act he is doing that moment. So if you think you are punishing him for running away, you are not. You are disciplining him for coming to you. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

If the first walk doesn’t produce your pet, the next step is to take the car and go further a-field with the windows down so the dog hears you whistling and calling. Many dogs jump into the car when the door is open, so let’s hope yours does too. I cover areas in ever widening circles, but I return home occasionally since my explorers often head home when they realize I am looking for them. Sorry, you can’t discipline a dog that comes home on its own either.

Why do dogs dart out the door, or dig or climb out of the yard? They probably are bored and feel the need for extra exercise and something to stimulate the brain like lots of new scents, maybe something to chase like a squirrel, maybe food or another dog to pal around with. Maybe the owner needs to allot more time for exercise and playtime to help prevent exploring from becoming a habit.

Now suppose your search still hasn’t been successful. You should then go to the authorities taking a picture of your dog. By having several copies made, you can leave a photo at your local post office, the animal shelter and all the veterinarian offices close by so the personnel will know what to look for and alert you. It means more if you can tell these people that the dog is easily identified because it is wearing a collar and tags and also is tattooed or microchipped and the number is registered with a national agency.