Lost Dogs: Hows, Whys and Lowering the Risk

A dog that loves you can still run away! Barley, the German Shepherd next door, loves his owner. It's not uncommon to see him jump on his daddy, give him a great big kiss, then sit dutifully at his side. It's also not uncommon to see Barley unattended, in the street; or as he was just three nights ago, wandering up our driveway. "Barley!" I yelled out the window, driving very slowly into the carport. "What are you doing?" He jumped on the side of my car, all 100 pounds of him, to say Hello. Fortunately, he's friendly, so I was able to lead him up to our landing, where my neighbors and I were able to leash him and call his owner, who showed up minutes later. The talking-to we gently gave him about the frequency of this game is another matter, but the fact remains, Barley likes to run. Dogs, given the slightest chance, will get lost. Yes, there are dastardly sorts out there who will steal dogs, abandon them, do anything but preserve their well-being, but aside from that (and I understand that's a big "aside"), dogs are hard-wired to roam. They can be our most loyal, most loving friends, but it's important to remember that even our most attentive dogs can be prone to exploring. It's nothing personal. It's instinct. Walking around our neighborhood, Ringo and I see signs for "Lost Dogs" all the time. Here's what else we see:
  • Dogs enjoying the outdoors - in inadequately fenced yards
  • Dogs without visible ID tags (to review a great post on the subject, read Tag your dog!)
  • Dogs walking alongside their owners - offleash (I don't care what anyone says, I think this is a bad idea)
  • Dogs walking in and out of doors without supervision (there's this one chihuahua that actually comes out into the street to bark at us whenever we walk by; to me, this is no different from letting a toddler walk outdoors at his own discretion)
  • Unaltered dogs - which increases the chance of wanderlust (literally!)
A break in a fence or a casually opened door is an invitation for a dog to go exploring, hunting, maybe even running if a dog gets scared for any reason. Remember, dogs are descended from wolves, who find great rewards in scouting away from their home base... and just like their ancestors, our dogs aren't immune from getting distracted or even bored. There's a whole world out there, and it's tempting. Talking about this to an online community of PackPeople, I realize I may be "preaching to the choir"... but there is no harm in overstating the obvious, even if only to share it outside of our circle, to get more people aware of the precautions they need to take with their little friends. Maybe we can get those who are mere "dog owners" to start thinking about the attentions their dogs need, to get them to that next step of thinking about the relationships they have with their dogs. Together, we can lead them to their packs... and help them stay together!
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