The time to prepare for the possibility that your dog can go missing is now, when he’s safe at home. Here are a few things you can start to do today:
Identification tags. Make sure your dog wears identification tags at all times. The ID tags should have current information and be easy to read.
Microchips. The use of identification microchips has become popular, and for good reason. Microchips have helped reunite many lost dogs and their owners. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted under the loose skin on your dog’s shoulder. These chips contain identification information that can be read by scanners located in animal shelters, vet offices, and rescue groups around the country. When the chip is implanted in your dog, you register the chips number/letter code and your contact information with the microchip company’s registry. The code number will then be recorded in a shared database that can be accessed by the organization using the scanner.
Prepare a LOST DOG kit. Your kit should include recent pictures of your dog (both paper photos and electronic photo files for Internet posting), ready-to-post LOST DOG flyers with your dog’s photo, an accurate written description of your dog, and a phone number where you can be reached at any time. You may want to think twice before publicizing your name and address because making sure you stay safe during your search is an important part of bringing your best friend back home.
Close off areas of possible escape. Check and double-check your home to ensure that there aren’t any open doors, windows, or gates that your dog could slip through. Check around your fences to make sure there aren’t any craters or tunnels under your fences that lead to the world outside. If your dog is small, remember that he may be able to squeeze through very tight places to make his escape.
Check your dog’s leash and collar. A loose collar, broken leash fastener, or a threadbare leash could allow your dog to get loose when you’re out for a walk and he gives it a tug. Invest in a quality leash and collar—and make sure you use them properly.
Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.
The benefits of play
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:
Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.
How to play with your dog
There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.
When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.
When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.
Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!