A Loose Sighthound — The Owner’s Nightmare

The dog got out. Now what?
The dog got out. Now what?

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.


sosO 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.

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6 thoughts on “A Loose Sighthound — The Owner’s Nightmare
  1. “Cookie” is a magic word around here. Or we move toward the car, may open the hatch…they all love to ride. “Wait” is the best word we ever taught them. Doesn’t work every time but very high percentage. We practice it almost every day.

  2. A couple years ago I discovered that my dogs had found a loose board in our back fence and had gotten into the youth center yard behind us. Then to my horror I see that several had actually gotten out of that yard and were on the street! A woman had stopped and was trying to corral them, but only my old guy would come to her. At that point, I jumped our tall fence and ran over to the youth center front fence. The woman was able to get my old guy and hand him to me over the fence, but the 3 young ones were darting around. I saw where they had squeezed under the fence, laid down there and acted happy, playful, saying cookie. All 3 scooted back under the fence and came right to me. Happy ending to a potentially tragic story. Italian Greyhounds!

  3. The advice above is good and helpful. We also need to add “train your sighthound to come on command even in the midst of great distractions”. Use clicker training to train this in baby steps, and keep it “tuned up” with regular practice sessions using a super light long-line.


  4. I have two rescue Galgos ( spanish greyhounds) both had been abused in the past. Burglers got into my home during the night- threw stuff at the dogs to intimdate them then let the door open – the dogs both took off. Cutting a very long story short – I was beside myself. After two hours one came back but the female was not with him. Then I spotted her fields away she thought she was in trouble, she wanted to come to me but I could see she thought she was going to be beaten. So I sat down on the ground and turned my back on her, holding my hand out to the side of me with some sausage pieces. I didnt say a word just sat still. After about 10 mins ( it seemed more like an hour) she just trotted over and took the sausage. Now I always keep cooked meat in the fridge and turn away from them when they are scared it works everytime – dogs turn away from each other when they want to show non agression towards another; just use their language!

  5. while pet sitting my crew of IGs, my mother forgot to secure the front gate. the IGs wasted no time in finding their way out. in a panic because they were literally running in all directions, she opened all the doors on her van sitting in the driveway. every one of the dogs jumped into the van. smart lady!!