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Posted on Mon, Aug 22, 2011 : 12:45 p.m.

The chance of your pets becoming lost is minimized with these easy tips

By Lorrie Shaw


Lorrie Shaw | Contributor

A very worried-looking woman approached me, leash in hand as I was walking a client's dog recently.

"Have you seen a dog wandering around?" she asked. "Tye is a Lab mix, about 70 pounds. He went missing after he was spooked by thunder from that storm that was coming last night when we were out for a walk."

After chatting for a couple of minutes, I learned more about what had led to the situation, as well as some disheartening details that would make it more difficult to get him home safely.

I'll use the predicament that Tye was in to illustrate common problems that are seen when a pet becomes separated from their humans, as well as simple, inexpensive measures to help reunite companion animals and their humans:

Tye was not microchipped. Pets cannot tell an unfamiliar human where they live, and a microchip can give a facility that has a microchip reader, like the Humane Society or a vet's office, the specifc information they need to help reunite pet and owner.

The missing pooch did not have identification tags on his collar. This is a must-have for any dog and cat. I run across a handful of dogs each month when I am dog walking, that have escaped their owners' watch and are running loose. A few have clearly marked identification tags that contain basic information like the pet's name, their human's name, street address and telephone number. Some, even indicate any health problems or medication needs. (I suggest that my pet sitting clients have a tag made up with my contact information on it while they are away.)

ID tags, along with the dog license tag and rabies tag should always be attached to a pet's collar. For dogs, I recommend using nylon collars that have a side squeeze buckle for easy fastening and unfastening. Click here for more on cat collars.

It's as easy as a telephone call to get a pet reunited with its human if they have identification — but if not, it really complicates matters. Consider taking a few minutes to get a tag made at a local pet store for a small fee.

The retractable leash that Tye's human was using snapped when the scared pooch bolted upon hearing the sound of thunder. Retractable leashes certainly have their place, by as a rule, I am not a fan of them, espcially for larger breed dogs, or even those who are smaller and are really strong. Retractables do have a tendency to snap easily — regardless of the manufacturer.

For that reason, I do not use them. I recommend the use of a harness and traditional leash. Whether you use leather, fabric or nylon, check those leashes, collars and harnesses often for wear, stretching or weakening. (I provide any dog that is in my care an Easy Walk body harness to wear while we are outdoors, and I use a nylon leash that is comfortable to hold, and is super strong and reliable.)

Additional food for thought

Train your pooch to not exit the door unless you say it's okay.  It can be hard for some dogs to contain their excitement when the door opens to go outside. Amy Samida offers simple tips to help teach your dog to refrain from bolting outside. Click here to check out her recommendations.

Have current photos of your pets on hand, and be sure to take several of them doing different things. The old adage that a picture says a thousand words couldn't be more true than in a case where a pet is missing. Click here for more on that.

Most pet owners can relate to the phrase "things happen" — pets do wander off or get lost, even with responsible pet owners. The Huron Valley Humane Society offers an online tool to help owners get the word out that their furry friends are missing, as well as providing an avenue for those who have found pets to help reunite them with their families.

The Lost and Found page on the HSHV website is accessable 24/7, and is complete with pictures. Click here to access the page.

The pets section will post a piece each week, complete with a link to the Lost and Found webpage.

Lorrie Shaw is lead pets blogger for Connect with her on Google+ or e-mail her directly.


Smart Logic

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 12:35 p.m.

Lorrie, great article. Good, practical, affordable, effective tips!

J. Sorensen

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 9:31 a.m.

Also I have my cell phone number on their tags instead of my landline, so if my dog becomes lost and is found whilst I am driving around the neighborhood looking for her I am reached directly. One of my dogs ran off less than a week of moving into my new neighborhood and I was literally driving by the house where she was found just as they were dialing (she saw an open car door and was waiting in the passenger seat when I arrived, hoping for a ride back to the old neighborhood no doubt!)


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

Do they make a GPS chip for pets? If I lose my smart phone, I can track it down using GPS. I imagine the chips being discussed are only for identifying an animal, not for tracking. Please educate me.

Adam Jaskiewicz

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 10:44 p.m.

Well, it's not exactly a "chip". The microchip that the article talks about is a tiny capsule that is actually implanted just under the skin on the back of your pet's neck. It's the size of a grain of rice, not the size of a beeper.

Smart Logic

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

Sure they do. Just search for 'pet GPS' in Google. They get mixed reviews and have limited battery life, but if you get to a computer in a reasonable time you can get some ideas.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

Thank you

Adam Jaskiewicz

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 3:26 a.m.

Not likely. The microchip is just a passive RFID chip as far as I know, sort of like a barcode that can be read with radio waves rather than visible light. All that the chip stores is a unique code that can be looked up in a computer database. A GPS tracker would need a battery, an antenna to receive the GPS signals, and some way of transmitting your pet's location back to you (probably via the cell phone network). You best bet is probably a rooted Android smartphone strapped to your pet's neck, charged via solar cells on your pet's back, tweeting your pet's location every five minutes or so.


Mon, Aug 22, 2011 : 11:10 p.m.

We do a lot of camping and a dog that goes with you needs to be chipped because you never know if the animal might wander off and you do not even know it. I do agree with chipping.

Ron Granger

Mon, Aug 22, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

I have a special way of keeping track of my dog. I allow him to bark constantly. That way, he's easy to find. The AAPD even help! And they're so nice, they've never issued a citation despite this going on for years. My neighbors also help. Whenever he wanders into their yards, they're always quick to let me know. My neighbors are the best!


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 12:07 p.m.

Good one! You must have the same dog trainer as my neighbor. Their dog is very easy to track.

Deborah Kern

Mon, Aug 22, 2011 : 3:43 p.m.

These tips are very helpful and so important. It's important to remember that all stray pets found in Washtenaw County will be taken to the Humane Society of Huron Valley. If your pet has no identification at all, it can be placed up for adoption after 4 days. Please do not wait to contact HSHV. Go to <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> and click Lost &amp; Found under the shelter tab, or call the HSHV Lost &amp; Found number - (734) 661-3545.