What keeps you up at night? We did a recent blog post about the dangers of trusting your dog -- pounding home the point you should never let your Sighthound off lead. But the terrifying reality is that no matter how paranoid you are, one day your dog may get loose. It could be a faulty leash clasp or the foster who figures out how to open doors, but some day-- it will happen.
Do you know what to do? Your Sighthound is loose . . . now what?
Remember this . . . S.O.S.
S is for Sit. The first rule of a loose Sighthound is DO NOT CHASE. Trust us, they are faster than you are. Don't even try it. Instead of running after your 45 mph dog, sit down--or even lie down! Many times, they will come over just to investigate what the heck you're doing. This will also help you stay calm and keep any anger or stress out of your voice.
O is for Object. Find an object they're interested in. If you keep a racing squawker by the door (and we think that you should) that can work if your dog responds well to it. You can also use whatever is at hand including your car keys, the leash that just failed you, or even your car if you're close enough. Many dogs will return for "let's go for a ride" and hop right in! Just make the object interesting and keep your voice happy and excited.
S is for Slide. Do NOT snatch at your dog's collar the minute they come within reach. Be subtle! Slide your hand in that direction slowly and remember to sing their praises the entire time.
Here are some more pointers that might work right at that moment your dog is loose, but still within your sight. You have a precious few moments before something startles him and he takes off.
1. The happy voice. Your dog is probably frightened by the turn of events and not certain if they’re in trouble or not. It’s time to be cheerful. No, we have not lost our mind. Talking in a fun, high voice. “That’s my girl? What’s going on there? Let’s see what’s happening here. Oh, it’s so fun and exciting right here!” It might be enough to reassure your hound that it’s safe to come back to you.
2. Fake a seizure. Now you really think we've lost our minds! But seriously, this has worked! You just drop to the ground and start rolling around somewhat spastically, acting very strangely and making weird (but not scary) noises. A dog may get very curious and come check out what in the world is going on with you. Sobbing and crying might also might draw them closer, especially if they are a particularly empathetic hound.
3. Run the other way. This is against all your instincts, but turn away from your dog and start jogging or skipping in a very exaggerated way. They have a chase instinct. Make them chase you!
4. Dig around in your pocket and pretend you have a treat. (Better yet, have a treat with you!)
5. Use phrases that are part of your everyday vocabulary with your dog and that usually bring a positive response. “Dinner time!” and "Ready for a walk!" are popular. Leave the front door open and dig around in the bag of kibble as loudly as you can. Or “Where’s the stuffie?” or "Where's the ball?" Run toward your house like you’re going to get the stuffie first.
If none of this works and the dog takes off, you are now in search mode. It’s important to act now, before your dog gets too far away. Take a deep breath. Get on the phone. Call out the “cavalry,” and get searching immediately. Here is a link with good information on how to manage a search.
We hope that reading this article has been a complete waste of time and you never need this information, but just in case . . . we're really glad you did.
Update: We got so many good comments, here and on Facebook, about the importance of teaching a Sighthound to "recall" that we'll do another post just on that subject. So stay tuned and thanks for the good ideas.