5 Things to Know if Your Dog Gets Loose


Above: A common reason a dog can slip away from you is that they see wildlife and want to chase it.  So make sure you have a tight grip and are not distracted by cell phones, etc.  The martingale collar I used on this walk helps to prevent slip-outs.  Read on for 5 things to know if your dog gets loose.

1. Let's Start with What NOT to Do If Your Dog Gets Loose

After several years and thousands of dog walks as a pro, I've found a few things that work well for me.  I'd like to pass them on.  This is the first of the 5 things to know if your dog gets loose.

Some of these points are not unique--they are commonly taught.  So I guess I am saying that I agree!

One thing is, that it may not be best to yell or act nervous the second your dog gets away.  

And it is advised chasing after the dog can be futile.

Every dog is different, and every situation is different, but it is generally advised to NOT do these two things if you dog's leash slips out of your hands or if she runs out of your yard, for example.

Read on for some OTHER noises you can make and things you can say, besides yelling.  And for other methods besides chasing, that might be more beneficial.

And please don't place your attention on your device while walking.  This is a super common reason why dogs get away when people are caring for them, either by wandering off or by slipping away.

Please be advised that I am not a certified dog trainer, dog behavior expert, vet, etc.  I am simply providing information that I learned from my own experience after being on thousands of dog walks over several years.  Please consult a dog trainer or other dog behavior professional if you have any questions or doubts about what I've written, or if you want to be sure to do the proper thing for your specific dog breed, etc.  This is general information and not catered for every situation.

Above:  This leash actually broke on me while walking a client's dog--I hate these type of leashes, by the way.  It's not always because a leash slipped out of your hand, or that you weren't paying attention.  Sometimes, equipment can be defective and it was no fault of your own.  So be prepared even when paying close attention!  

Collar ID:

A couple quick notes about collars and leashes.  This topic is endless, but here are a just a few things to think about:

Prong callers, which have links that fasten together, can un-fasten!  The very nature of the links, is that they can be taken apart.  So be careful and maybe have a back up connection (see image below) besides just the prong collar.  And please study how to use these sometimes-controversial collars the correct way so as not to harm the dog.

Martingale collars have two functions:  a ring that makes the collar tighten when pulled, and a ring that acts like one on a typical collar.  These collars are great to prevent slip outs, especially with dogs with small heads like hounds.  But remember, you still have to hold the leash tightly in your hand and pay attention.

Speaking of collars, always have tags for identification.  You can also have your phone number embroidered on nylon collars, and other ways to have your dog ID'd, besides just tags.

Slip leashes are great as a sort of back up.  They go around the dogs neck without the need of collar.  I do NOT advice only using this leash without another type concurrently, or if you are walking for more than just a short distance.  They work great in addition to another leash and collar, especially if you have a nervous or new dog.  You would typically leave slack on the slip leash and have it ready in case the other leash or collar proves faulty.  

In terms of harnesses, all things being equal, I have always preferred a front-clasping harness.  For dogs that pull, and to give you a great amount of control, having the ring in front (near the dog's chest), makes it difficult for them to continually pull...it sort of twists them from side to side if they try to pull.    

**None of these options are perfect for every dog.  You may try one and have it not work at all for your dog.  Ask a pet store if you can try it out first, and make sure your online store has a good return policy.

Above:  I walked this dog for a client who provided three different collars and various connections.  I mentioned in the box above to have a "connection" to another collar.  You can see this back up connection in this picture--the leather leash connects in two places. 

2. Train with a Unique Phrase and a High Reward

I learned this from a dog training class several years ago.  And I strongly feel that focusing on recall of your dog is one of the most important things you can train your dog to do, and one that will make your life easier as a dog owner:  

While training for recall of your dog, have a super-unique (and even silly) phrase or word ready, as well as a super-high reward treat to give after you say it during training.

The point is that you need something to say that you don't typically say to recall your dog in "normal" circumstances, so it retains its special effect. 

And when they come back to you during this training, you treat it like it's the biggest party in the world!  Get all excited, love them up, and give them a couple pieces of bacon dripping with fat, or whatever other treat that puts your dog in a euphoric state!

Make them learn that when they hear that phrase, that absolute heaven awaits when they come back to you.  Do NOT overuse this technique in real situations where your dog isn't about to enter into danger.  This needs to be a special recall method and subsequent treat. 

And I believe it's OK if you don't actually have the super special treat on you at the rare time that you actually need to use this technique.  Think about it.  Your dog might be upset to find that you don't have the party treat when she returns, but at least you may have saved her life!

And please know that typical "Come here buddy's" or "Stay's" or "Here's" can become watered down over time, or may not be strong enough to overcome their pray drive to chase after another animal into a busy road, for example.

Help Prevent it All Together

It baffles me that people let dogs off leash in their neighborhood or in places where it's not the norm to have dogs off leash.  And then feel devastated when their dog takes off, disappears around a corner, or even approaches another dog who is on leash or in its own yard, and a stressful interaction follows.

These owners say, "But my dog's friendly".  Duh, what about the other dog or other person?  I find this so selfish.

See the image below that is just ONE of the TONS of times I've had "friendly" off leash dogs approach me and the dogs I was walking, and caused a lot of stress, even though their dog is "nice".  Ugh!

3. Make it Known that You Have Something Special When Walking

I found that having a baggie or some tin foil in my pocket with a treat inside that is a bit more enticing than a typical dog biscuit can be, can be beneficial.

I do this on many regular walks, just so that they like to stay close because I might have it in my pocket on any given walk.  But it doesn't have to be on every single walk.  Just often enough.  And it doesn't even have to have a treat in it every time.

I'm not talking about the super-high reward party platter of grease-dripping grilled ribs which you would give in the scenario in number two above.  Nor am saying to incorporate that silly/unique phrase.

This is somewhere in between.  And it's used on a decent amount of walks (where there is no incident), just to keep them "informed" that you often have cool treats--as indicated by the wrapper...filled or empty.

The actual treat can be a little better than a regular biscuit or treat, but not a $50 porterhouse steak either.   And you don't have to give this cool treat every on every walk.

I believe the key here to just to let them know you have the wrapper, and that you have it on you a lot.  Remember, we're using this, and the special treat in number 2, as a recall method when you really need your dog to come back.

I guess I will deal with the "guilt" I feel when my dog returns from a hairy situation, only to find out that I don't have anything, or maybe it's just a normal treat, inside of the tin foil or other wrapper that I've used for the association.  I'm more concerned that they came to me.

Remember, these techniques are being highlighted for instances when your dog gets away and you really need him back.

Other Effective Phrases

You can also use other effective phrases that your dog associates a great outcome with, but maybe not the ultimate party reward that comes with the unique special phrase in number 2, or sort of cool treat in number 3.

If you have a phrase that you always use when you see a family member pull in the yard, and you use it to get her all fired up about their presence, this phrase can also be effective in cases where your dog starts to wander off.

So if your dog slips away, you can also try a phrase them makes them happy, but might not be "true" in this situation.  

The point is to say something that's more potent than "come here" or "heel" or whatever.

And again, I understand that the event that they think is happening is not true.  But at least you got your dog back!

4.  Step on the Leash

I have used this technique; it can be very effective.  

You need to think quickly whenever a leash is dropped by mistake.  It happens to the best of us. So it's great to have this option already in your mind, so it can be almost automatic when the leash accidentally leaves your hand.

One warning, when you lift up your leg or slide it forward, in order to step on the leash, this can make the dog flinch and maybe move even further away.

So if you step, then do it quickly and swiftly.  

In the Moment

Please know that this entire blog post is about the second your dog gets away while you are handling him, and does not focus on the multitude of things you should do AFTER you can't see him anymore.  There happens to be so much on this topic, that I didn't want to have this post be too long.  So PLEASE also research the actions to take if your pup does not come back.

5.  Lay Down or Head Back Towards Your House

This follows up on number 1, in that you have to fight your instincts to yell or chase after your pup.

So instead of chasing after him, it may be beneficial to actually run in the other direction--to invite him chase YOU.  But you may not want to run too far...in case it isn't working.

I've actually had luck one time when my dog ran through the invisible fence, by laying down on the sidewalk.  She came right back to me!

For any questions or advice, please contact me at BurkesPetCare.com.  Thanks, Brian.

One Last Note:  Please also be aware when you are driving with your dog in your car, or if you have an invisible fence in your yard.  These are situations that a dog can get away also, besides just when walking them or having them in an un-fenced yard.  Just pay attention.  For instance, leave your windows rolled up enough to where it's not easy for them to jump out, and not closed too much to where they might get their head stuck.

About the Author Brian Burke

I'm Brian Burke. After over 5 years of caring for dogs and other pets, Burke's maintains a perfect 5-star rating...and it's all because we love animals and love helping people. Contact us for dog walking, pet sitting and for advice and education on how to be the best pet owner.

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