Opinion: How to not lose your dog

  • A pit bull named Buddy from Aurora, Colo., looks on at a dog park. David Zalubowski/ AP

Published: 7/5/2022 7:02:53 AM
Modified: 7/5/2022 7:00:15 AM

Maurice Regan of Pembroke is a psychologist who runs Companion Dog Training.

The online posts are heartbreaking to someone who owns a companion dog and more tragically, one who has lost a dog that was not recovered.

These posts include a picture and describe the lost dog and the location of the disappearance. Shared repeatedly on Facebook and other platforms, this information is often followed by news of a happy reunion. But sometimes not.

Though accidents and unintended consequences happen, I’ll outline several areas that will increase the probability your dog will spend a protracted and pleasant life in your company.

First, know your dog. Certain breeds and mongrels, though wonderful pets, have varied interests in complying with their owner’s commands in certain environments. Basenjis are aloof, beagles like to hunt, and terriers and hounds like to hunt and kill.

Greyhounds, when not sleeping on the couch, will wander off and do what coursing dogs do, chase game. Working breeds, particularly those with high prey and retrieving drives, are less likely to ignore commands. Yet, for a high-drive doberman, shepard, or Belgian Malinois, deer, turkey and other game can be irresistible. And if your cross-bred seems to look mostly like a certain breed, that does not mean your dog will have that breed’s behavioral characteristics.

Second, identify your dog with a buckle collar, tags, and a microchip. Keep a current picture available just in case.

Third, train your dog. By training, I don’t mean luring your dog to behave with a pouch of food hanging from your belt. I mean teaching the time-tested, obedience skills of heeling with automatic sits, sits and down stays in distracting circumstances, leaving a distraction on a single command, and coming to you when called. Not only is a well-trained dog a constant source of pleasure, but that dog is also far less likely to run out the open door and into the wild or leap from the hatchback into traffic.

Fourth, use effective and modern training equipment. Constriction and e-collars are tools to teach dogs necessary skills. The common alternative, a harness, teaches your dog to pull you around randomly. If you are hiking or engaged in an activity where your dog is off lead, consider a GPS collar with an e-collar function.

Such collars cost nearly $400 but have a better range and more accuracy than the cheaper, GPS devices that rack up monthly fees. This may seem like a lot of money. Now imagine your lost dog with futile searches over days with sleepless nights. Now that collar seems cheap.

Sometimes we buy them as puppies, sometimes we buy them later in life. We want a lifetime of pleasure with our dogs. We should take advantage of modern training and technology so we won’t lose this valued companion.

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