Today I saw a small dog slip its collar and run off in a parking lot. So many pet owners have been there, collar or leash dangling as Fluffy darts off towards a busy road. The family today was dealing with a baby, all their belongings, a dog who’s grown used to jumping from the car without waiting for permission, and – worst of all – a collar ring that was on its last leg. All these combined to lead to a perfect escape. As they ran through the parking lot in pursuit, calling her name and gesturing, the dog scampered to and fro – probably having the time of her life – at some points almost within reach and at others, just a few feet away from the highway.
One of the owners called over to ask for my help. I asked her to wait by the car while the other owner and I went around the building to see where the she’d run. Spotting her, I called – really excited and happy, like we were going to play the best game ever – while running in the opposite direction, back down the road and away from the busy main street. She turned and began to follow, only to turn again and dash off when the owner ran up calling and gesturing. I asked the owner to go sit on the ground by the car and wait (this will often encourage a dog to come to you; they want to check out what you’re doing on the ground), and I headed off again around the side of the building to see if I could figure out which way the dog had gone. Unfortunately, at that point, a couple of well meaning observers entered into the situation. Without understanding of the situation, or any knowledge of what I was already doing to handle it, they began calling out instructions to me and they also took off after the loose dog. While this could easily have made things so much worse, luckily for all involved, the dog had circled back around the building and entered the owners car, where she was safely re-leashed.
The entire episode got me thinking about those adrenaline & anxiety fueled moments when a pet slips a leash, runs through a door or yanks a lead from a hand. Fear and worry over a furry companion can lead to a knee jerk response of pursuit, which often can spur the pet to panic or further flight, thinking the chase is a game. On the other hand, though, if you see a loose pet scenario playing out in front of you, inserting yourself into the search to call out orders and instructions without knowing what else is being done can be just as problematic as chasing the dog blindly or even doing nothing and assuming it will return. A few seconds spent asking the pet’s name, if anyone else is looking and where they’re looking at can help you properly plan the next move.
This article is a great resource on some tips on retrieving a pet that has escaped or slipped collar/lead. Please note that these do not work for every dog, but may work for many. Often the response will depend on the environment – what may work for a pet who’s slipped out the front door and is loose in the yard can be different from a pet loose in a parking lot by a busy street, and different still for a pet loose in a crowded area who’s fearful of strangers or noise.