Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Keeping Dogs Safe in New Surroundings - A Repost

In the past month I have seen at least eight lost dog ads on my facebook newsfeed for dogs who have been with their families or foster families for less than two weeks - in three cases, just one or two days. Add to that another two or three dogs who were visiting friends or travelling with their families and took off in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. These are just dogs on Vancouver Island, and just those who have come to my attention via two or three specific facebook pages. Who knows how many more have gone missing?

Spring weather means more people walk or hike with their dog, travel, or simply decide to buy or adopt a dog. Sadly, they don't always take sufficient precautions to ensure the dog's safety. 

So, I'm once again posting an article I wrote about five years back - Feel free to share.

Keeping Dogs Safe in New Surroundings
© Jean Ballard, 2011
These guidelines apply to the first several weeks of the dog’s relocation, and are specific to preventing lost dogs. They do not deal with other dog safety issues such as introductions to other animals, aggression or training. The timelines are minimum recommendations - very nervous dogs may need the process stretched out more slowly. I am not a dog trainer – just a person who has spent too many hours looking for too many lost dogs, many of whom have been lost within hours, days or weeks of arriving at a new home. The same safety precautions should also be applied when taking your dog on vacation or visiting with friends.

A change of home or circumstances is stressful for any dog, and even a dog with a wonderfully calm temperament may suddenly bolt. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind whenever a dog is being moved to a new location:
1. Use a Martingale or Silverfoot training collar, or a harness with a double safety connection, properly fitted. Use it for life, not just for a week. Inspect it regularly for signs of damage, especially checking all clips, rings and fasteners. Make sure the leash is attached to the correct ring.  Many dogs can back out of a flat collar in the blink of an eye. Do not use a metal choke chain or prong collar as these can damage the trachea of a strong puller and can cause permanent neck problems. And before you put that collar or harness on for the first time, attach an ID tag with a current phone number.  That means you need to purchase a tag before your dog arrives at your home.

2. Keep BOTH hands firmly on the leasha safety collar or harness are useless if there isn’t a firm hand holding onto the other end of the leash;  two hands are even better.  While some trainers tell you not to wrap the leash around your wrist in case the dog bolts and breaks your wrist, it is better for a person to break their wrist than a dog become lost or killed. A wrist mends; a dead dog doesn’t.
3. For at least the first month, assume that the dog IS going to bolt, given the chance - no matter how nicely your new dog walks on leash. Make sure you have both hands on the leash before opening a car door or opening a house door.

4. Do not let children walk the dog for the first several weeks. A dog who tries to bolt is STRONG and QUICK.

5. Make it clear to everybody in the house that they must put the leash or securely confine the dog before they answer a knock at the door or open it to grab the paper from the porch. Put signs on the doors to remind them, and hang spare collars and leashes near every door. Keep the doors locked to help prevent people from coming in without first having someone inside confine the dog. Where possible, put up a secondary barrier, like a baby gate, to prevent the dog accessing the door. 
6. Spend the first 24-48 hours in your home with the dog. Your dog needs to become familiar with the smells of the house and the people in it. Your dog needs to start to figure out that this is his or her new pack. Take the dog for very short outings at quiet times of the day or evening – first just into your yard (on leash, even if you have a high fence!) or, if you don’t have a yard, just a couple of hundred feet in each direction from your apartment building.*
*Note: While this is a time for you and your dog to bond, you also need to help the dog know you are going to be reliable. From the first day home, begin doing graduated leaves - leaving the dog in the house for five minutes, five times on the first day, then ten minutes five times on the second day, then slowly increasing the time and decreasing the frequency until the dog is comfortable being left alone, secure in the knowledge that you will return. Confine the dog to a secure area such as a crate or xpen or babygated room during this time – you don’t want them to slip through your legs and bolt when you re-enter the house!

7. Slowly increase the length of the walks over the first week or two, but always within your neighbourhood – first around the block, around two blocks, going the reverse direction, varying the route. You want the dog to become familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells of its own neighbourhood – that way if the dog should escape (because some burglar broke the window or because the dog slipped out as  paramedics came in when you had a heart attack, for example)  he/she may be able to find the way home, or at least may stay in the area. Gradually expand the dog’s horizons and exposure to new situations – new sounds, new places, new people, new surfaces like bridges, gravel, pavement.

8. As tempting as it is to want to show off your new pet or foster to all your friends, neighbours and relatives – DON’T. At least, not for the first week or so, and then  gradually introduce the dog to new people and places. No matter how wonderful your new pet is, he or she has been through a stressful time – losing a human and/or canine family,   possibly wandering loose, possibly staying in a shelter or rescue or foster home, and now another new situation and new people. Do not increase the dog's confusion and anxiety through over-stimulation – let the dog chill with you, become bonded to you, learn about his new home, and gain confidence before adding too many new events to the dog’s life.

9. Don't be lulled into complacency by the dog's good behaviour. A newly placed dog often has a honeymoon period, where he/she seems to have settled in perfectly. Then, after a few weeks or more, the dog may begin testing you, become more challenging, or simply see an opportunity to run.   The dog you have three months from the time of adoption is often quite different from  the dog you saw during the first week or two – don’t get complacent about the doors, leashes, collars, etc.

Let’s keep dogs safe in new surroundings.

The above information may be copied and/or circulated freely as long as the following is cited as the source:  (c) Jean Ballard, 2011 .


Sheryl said...

Very good article, Jean. It always amazes me how many dogs go missing from a new home.

CarolineA said...

Thank you for reposting this Jean! There are too many missing dog posters (and missing cats too) out there and there need not be when one takes precautions.