Monday, June 14, 2010

Don’t let your dog go

I noticed one of my previously dogless neighbors walking a little dog the other day.
“They’ve must’ve gotten a dog,” I said to my husband. He nodded. There’s not much else to say, right? Another young couple like ourselves, probably looking to start a family without actually starting a family, I figured.
The neighbor stopped by last night and, being that I’m crazy about dogs, I was happy for the opportunity to ask some questions about their new pooch.
“Didn’t we see you guys walking a dog the other day?” I asked him.
“Yeah, we kinda got a dog,” he said. “I found it a couple weeks ago.”
He went on to explain that he found the little guy running around in state park land; no collar, no tags, no nothing. He brought the dog home and the couple set out to find if the dog had an owner, calling the county shelter and contacting some local veterinarians for help. They’ve had no luck.
“I’m starting to think someone just dumped him out there to get rid of him,” he told us. “So, he might be our dog now.”
The unneutered little guy is very friendly, he said, and has been adjusting to their home. He’s hesitated to go on carpet and up stairs, which indicates to me that these are new things that he probably hasn’t been exposed to before.
What our neighbors did is great and my guess is that the little dog will pay them back tenfold in affection for his loving new home. But, there are lots of morals in this story.
1) Don’t let your dog go. It’s a pet dog — not a wolf, not a coyote, not a fox. Dogs do not adapt well to living in the wild, especially in the actual wild as in a large, natural space. A dogs’ best chance to survive in the wild is actually in a city environment where it can at least scavenge through garbage cans and beg outside restaurant doors.
The theme of many recent blogs has been the differences between pet dogs and wolves. Pet dogs lost a lot of the skills their ancestors have when humans and dogs came together because they no longer needed those skills; they had us.
Further, research indicates that while some behaviors, like the kill-shake a dog does after having caught a squirrel or something, are innate and instinctual, the eating of the prey is a learned behavior. So, a dog may successfully catch and kill prey, but does not know to then eat it until it has been taught to view the animal as food. And most dogs are not taught that.
2) Spay and neuter your dogs. Unneutered males are especially likely to roam in search of a mate. This may not be the case in our neighbor’s particular situation, but even so, it’s one more thing you can do to keep your dog alive and in your yard.
3) Use collars, dog tags, get a dog license or even a microchip. All these things can help you get your dog back if it happens to escape your yard.
4) Keep your dog in your yard. There are fences and invisible fences, collars and leashes, zip-lines and other methods to assist you in keeping your dog in your yard. Remember that every time your dog wanders out of your yard unsupervised, there is the chance of it being hit by a car, getting into something that could poison it, getting into a fight with another dog or creating other problems for your neighbors.
The bottom line: There’s lots of things you can do to ensure your dog stays your dog. If you no longer wish to own your dog, give it a chance at continuing to live by dropping it off at a shelter or rescue — don’t give it the boot in the middle of a forest somewhere.
Most dogs don’t get as good an outcome as the little guy picked up by my neighbor. Thank goodness for big-hearted people!


  1. Although a dog's best chance at survival may be in a city environment, you also need to take into consideration that there are cars there and it runs the chance of not only being hit and killed or crippled, but also causing an accident that can take a human life. The best alternative is ALWAYS a shelter or rescue, never being let loose to fend for itself.

  2. I absolutely agree and I wish more dog owners would think about vehicle accidents even when letting their dog outside in their own yard. Unfortunately, a lot of people where I live believe in letting their dogs "run" and I have a feeling this has a lot to do with the disproportionately high number of missing dog signs that get posted on the back roads where I live.