If your dog is ever lost...magnifying glassor stolen...

The very best thing you can do for your Malamute in case it is lost or stolen is have permanent identification on the dog.  A collar and tags are good, but a tattoo or microchip is better because collars can come off and tags can be lost.   Microchips and tattoos are difficult to alter and provide legal protection should your Malamute end up with someone that doesn't want to return it.   Don't think it can't happen to your Malamute.  There are unscrupulous people who think nothing of stealing a Malamute from a backyard and selling it to a medical research facility.  Malamutes are considered a good commodity in this regard because of their high pain tolerance, they don't bark too much and have strong survival instincts.  The perfect research dog...

We all know about microchips, but tattoos are VISIBLE. Someone stealing your dog for research will think twice. Microchip all you want, but tattoo, too if possible.  It can sometimes be difficult to find someone to tattoo since it's so much easier to microchip, most vets will do it, but finding someone who can do a legible and lasting tattoo is harder. In some states it's a felony to hold a tattooed or microchipped dog without informing the owner.  Research facilities are supposed to not take dogs with tattoos or chips, and if they do they are supposed to hold them longer than a dog without identification.  On a coated dog, make sure the tattoo area is shaved so it's visible.  A negative side to chips is that most dogs are found by neighbors that don't have a scanner, so it's important to make sure your dog has a legible tag if it has a microchip!  A downside to tattoos is we had a litter that could not be tattooed!  We still don't know if it was their skin or the ink, and it happens rarely, and a poorly done tattoo can fade and become illegible.  Always NOTIFY your tattoo or microchip registrar that the dog is lost.  I understand with Home Again chips there are some issues with needing to call the AKC AND Home Again...I have not been able to verify this.  One thing I also suggest, is to call the number on the chip or tattoo tag and make sure it still works!  Registries, just like any other business can change phone numbers and go out of business.  If you find the number isn't valid, you will need to find a working number and have a new tag made.

Tags: 

I have heard several tag stragegies I'd like to share with you.  One is NEVER put the dog's name on the tag.  This makes it easier for a finder to keep the dog as it is more likely to obey someone who knows it's name.  If you need to prove it's your dog because someone doesn't want to give it up, knowing the name the dog answers and comes to is vital information.  A better option is to put YOUR name on the tag.  In our case all our dog's tags say O'Malley...not Mocha, Superman, Pod...just O'Malley and at least a phone number, preferably a couple of numbers.  A great idea for a shy dog that may be spooky with strangers is to put "I'm Shy" on the tag.  Often finders will think a shy dog has been abused and may not want to return it to the owner if they believe this is the case.  They may keep the dog thinking they are saving it from abuse.  I'm shy on the tag lets them know this is not the case.  You also may want to put the word "Reward" or "Microchipped" on the tag if there is room - but always make sure the numbers are as large as possible and legible. 

Put a cell phone number on tags - just in case your dog is found while you are out searching.   When Mocha, Superman and Simone made their great escape the finder called my cell phone and I was able to go immediately and pick them up.  Had she called my home number there would have been a delay and she may not have had somewhere to put the dog(s) until I could be contacted.

A Secure Backyard

Secure your yard with a good fence and never trust invisible fences!  Malamutes CAN jump a 4ft. chainlink fence...but most never will - they are more likely to dig under.  If your dog jumps it once, you will have to supervise all outdoor activity.  Once he knows he can jump, he'll try it again.  If you have the option of putting in a new fence, get a 6ft. if possible.  For years we had dogs that were good behind a 4 ft chainlink - then along came Superman - who lives up to his nickname "Man OVER steel" and effortlessly leaps over them.  He now only goes outside in the 6ft. fenced yard or on leash.  A small price to pay to keep him safe!

If your dog gets lost anyway...do this:

Start looking the SECOND your dog is discovered missing.  Minutes can mean miles.  Take your cell phone with you (see above). Notify your local police department.  If a dog is positively identified with a chip or tattoo they can get involved because you have proof of ownership.

Visit the pound, humane society, etc. at least every other day.  Do not attempt to just phone every day - most pounds and shelters will not look for a tattoo and many don't know breeds very well.  Your wooly Malamute may look like a Collie mix to volunteer shelter workers.  Though some state laws require they look for the tattoo or scan for the microchip, most won't, and nor will they tell you if the breed you are looking for is there.  Many workers are reluctant to force a strange dog roll over to look for a tattoo, and most scanners can't scan every type of chip so there is always the chance your dog is the one that wasn't checked.

Post flyers at grade schools, rec centers, pools, ski areas, and other activities where kids go.  Malamutes and kids tend to find each other so likely a neighbor kid has seen your dog.  One of the most effective resources for finding a lost dog or cat is small children. It has been suggested that you visit the local elementary or primary schools and put flyers up on posts and walls near all entrances. Hand out flyers to kids (you may need to get permission from the administration first).  Kids pass the info around in their own circles very quickly. Do not be afraid to offer a REWARD. Don't specify an amount nor indicate just how desperate you are or you may end up the victim of  opportunists. Do this relentlessly day after day, morning and afternoon at every school in your area. 

Put flyers in stores, Malamute shops, grooming shops, gas stations, telephone poles, wherever there is a steady flow of people.  Post signs within a 25 mile radius - Mals can travel long distances in a short time. Once three of our puppies (1 yr and 8 months) got out and were more than a mile away in no more than 10 minutes. Often multiple dogs will stay together - but don't assume they will. When it happened to us, they stayed together for the first mile, then the 2 girls found something interesting and took off and got separated from the third.  One difficulty is knowing where to look.  If it's winter, look for tracks in the snow, or in mud, anything that might give you a clue.  Many dogs will run toward barking dogs in the distance or follow a jogger they see running once they get out.  Ask everyone you see if they've seen your dog.  The most unlikely person might give you the best clue.

Post signs at post offices in a 50 mile radius and talk to the employees.  Postal employees are aware of most dogs on their route - many have been bitten!

If there is a secondary language in your area, get someone to translate and print flyers in that language too.

Your dog should have a collar and a current license tag on at all times, but be aware these can come off.  Have a current picture of your dog in case you ever need it for flyers.  Print REWARD in large letters on the flyers, but do NOT give an amount.  Always print flyers with a recent photo if possible. Describe your dog as  "an Alaskan Malamute, which looks like a LARGE husky" or a "husky-type dog".   Even better, add that it's NOT a wolf or crossed with wolves.  You don't want it shot as a wolf or coyote and can only hope it stays out of the neighbor's henhouse.

There is an increase of theft of dogs and cats in the spring.  It gets worse every year and Malamutes are one of the breeds they target.  Dogs are stolen for dog fighting, bait, cults, ransom, resale, research, breeding, furs, guard dogs, etc.  Your Malamute is an important commodity in illegal trafficing. 

Run an add in the lost/found of major newspapers and your local paper.  Don't give the dog's name or amount of reward if you offer one.  Don't give the numbers if you say it's chipped or tattooed.  Watch the found ads too. Be careful about people that respond to your newspaper ad.  Never meet anyone alone.  Con-artists may or may not have your dog. 

Scared dogs can travel fantastic distances. Make sure you're search area is at least 20 miles in every direction. Of course, you'll search more intensely closer to home, but cover the whole distance, perhaps even farther. I've heard of malamutes traveling over 50 miles in 24 hours. A shelter may not connect him with the lost report because the distance was too great. 

People pick up strays then lose them somewhere else, or take them home where they escape again.  They may pick them up on the road and take them where they are going rather than the closest shelter (and most shelters don't communicate with each other). There are all kinds of ways dogs get much farther than anyone expects. I had this happen with Buddy, my whipMalamute mix - .he was picked up by someone near my house then they called a shelter in downtown Detroit that picked up and delivered.  Fortunately he was still wearing his collar and they called me!

 Many dog enthusiasts, no-kill shelters, rescue groups, etc. will not put up fliers, call shelters, make reports, etc. when they find a lost dog, especially if the dog could be mistaken for abused or neglected (like if he were filthy and scared). They wait to see fliers. They do this because they don't want to return a dog to an owner who doesn't care. In their minds, if the dog were loved, they'd see fliers. This is just one reason why your fliers have to be everywhere. Calls won't work. You have to deliver posters to every vet, kennel, shelter, Malamute store, rescue, etc. within 20 miles, and notify all of them within 50 miles. Get them in the windows of convenience stores, grocers, etc. If they won't allow it, post them on the power poles outside. If that's illegal (I do it anyway) then buy a bunch of tomato stakes and jam then in the ground like political posters on election day. Keep a list of every place you put a poster so you can clean them up when AR is found.

People forget. You need to keep the dog fresh in people's minds. Keep calling the vets, no kill shelters, Malamute stores, etc. every day. Put small versions of your poster on every car in every driveway and every parking lot you can.  Use the business card setting in Word and print on cardstock and cut apart. It's better to annoy people by repeatedly putting notices on their doors or cars than it is to have them forget. You might get a few annoyed callers, but it's a small price to pay. If you can print a picture on the card, even better!

 Dogs lose their collars. They come off when people grab them, or they get caught on something, even when hit by cars or in a fight (plastic buckles open really easily). Believe it or not, people even take collars off to read the tags, then lose the dog and never make the call (maybe too embarrassed, or just thoughtless). So don't count on he dog still having his collar or tags. 

Ask to check all barns, garages, sheds, etc. anywhere you can. Cats get locked in structures like this by accident all the time, and could also happen to a frightened dog. Owner leaves the door open while he/she works, and comes back and closes it without ever looking. In a garage they might hear a dog whine or bark, but storage sheds and barns might not be revisited for days or weeks.

A scared dog might not answer when called. One shelter put camera traps in an area where a lost dog had been seen. The dog wouldn't answer to calls, even from its owner, but the camera trap confirmed it was there.

Put a piece of clothing (the stinkier the better) around the outside of your home.  Dogs can smell the odor for miles.  It just might guide him home. The problem with a malamute is they may be having too much fun roaming around once they get out.  The hope is he'll head for home when he finally gets hungry or wants a warm bed to sleep in. 

Google every local lost dog bulletin board on the net in your area and post on them all. (remember to delete these posts when found).

You MUST GO to all the shelters to look for your dog rather than just calling. Some shelters will take lost reports and match them with shelter dogs, but if your shelters do this, don't trust that they would recognize your dog. Some use matching software that doesn't work well, and some won't put a lost report with a found dog because of distance, etc. People report red dogs as black, yellow as white, long hair as short, male as female, floppy ears as erect, etc., and most can't tell breed (all b/w dogs are border collies, all black short hairs are labs, call yellow dogs are golden retrievers, etc.). That's one reason matching software doesn't work well.

Don't give up. A dog can be fostered for months by a good samaritan or rescue.  Check as many rescue websites as possible.  One owner who had lost her a year earlier and happened to see her up for adoption on a rescue website. People rarely check rescues and should because they often hear about lost dogs.  Often a  stray is removed from a general shelter, fostered, then put up for adoption.  You need to keep in the loop in case your dog becomes a part of this process.

Also, if your dog is particularly shy, a live trap in areas he frequents may work. Put a smelly shirt and some food inside and put it where he has been seen. If you live in a woody area without many neighbors, you might want to set up trail cams to see if he has been hanging around your property.

Never limit your search only to where a Malamute communicator or psychic thinks the dog is. I've seen people use professional Malamute detectives, search dogs, and psychics, but success is usually because of their other efforts (maybe because people only use them when all else fails).

Find out who your local USDA Licensed dog dealers (called Bunchers) and research institutions are in your area.  I bet you didn't realize these people live among you!  They scour the pounds and sometimes steal animals for research.  The US Dept. of Agriculture keeps lists of these people.  Their website where you can find this info is at the US Department of Agriculture. Also, here is a new link to the missing Malamute network.  A buncher will use any means to collect dogs they resell to research facilities - from posing as a Malamute buyer from the classified ads, to stealing Malamutes right out of yards.  These people are unscrupulous and can earn $350 and up for every dog they "find".   

Tips to keep your Malamute safe....

Never leave your dog outdoors alone where it can be seen when you aren't home.  Be aware this means even in an kennel, car, tied out in the street while you dash in to shop.  Bunchers are fast, it only takes a minute or two. 

Never place a free to good home ad in the paper.  Ask a reasonable fee for puppies or kittens or the adult you must place in a new home.  Have potential owners fill out a form  that includes name, address, veterinarian, their place of business and references and CHECK them.  Better yet, use a simple contract that says if they can't keep the dog, you will help them find another good home for it.  Good owners (and Breeders) do this.  Go to their home and check them out.  Call their vet.  See their driver's license.  Ask questions!  Don't be fooled into complacency just because they drag along children and look like the perfect family.  Bunchers have been known to pretend to be whatever you want them to be!

If you suspect your Malamute is stolen - act fast.  If you think it may be a dealer and you know where your dog may be held, you have the right to request a law enforcement escort onto the property. 

RFID & GPS for Dogs

We all love our pets and when something comes out that could save their life or return them home should they get lost - we listen.  There are new technologies that many pet owners might like to take advantage of if they knew more about them.  Each has it's limitations and advantages.

RFID Identificationpup

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification....it's a passive system that can connect you with your pet for identification purposes.  A radio wave generator chip is injected into a dog’s body (by an experienced vet). The chip is about the size of a grain of rice and is harmless and painless and typically placed between the shoulderblades. Once implanted, whenever lost or there is a dispute over the ownership of the the dog, a sensor picks up a unique numberand is then matched with owner on file and that is how a pet is identified.  This grain of rice is dormant and does not send any info out unless activated by a transponder.  A vets office or shelter will likely have one of these transponder readers (they are fairly expensive) and when they wave it over your pet, a number appears on the transponder.  This number corresponds to a record kept elsewhere that has the owner's name, address, phone and other contact info.  One of the disadvantages is that not all scanners can scan all chips.  Some will just tell you what kind of chip it is and you'll still have to seek out the right kin dof scanner to get the actual ID number.  Newer RFID chips can actually bring up and store more information than just a number, but currently, in dogs the most common chips in the US are AVID and Home Again and both require a call to a database to get the information.  This product is excellent if you wish to prove a dog is yours, or if your dog gets lost and is scanned, it will tell the scanning party who the dog should be returned to.  The fact is while this is miles ahead of a tag on a collar, it essentially does the same thing...except that it can't fall off or get lost like a collar or tag can.  We did try using tattoos for a bit until we had a litter that just wouldn't tattoo!  Apparently some skin types cannot take the ink for some reason, so we have gone entirely to RFID chips.  The advantage is that it's not something that is immediately visual like a tattoo which can be covered by hair and unreadable until shaved.  An RFID chip can be read right through hair.

I once worked at a company that created RFID technology (they made those key cards used to get in buildings & parking decks among other RFID products) and asked why couldn't a RFID chip be used to TRACK a dog?  The answer is because it's passive and has no power of it's own. It has a limited range of just a few meters in even the largest tags (such as a card used for getting into the parking garage). The scanner is what provides the power to obtain the information from the chip.  To use as a tracking device, it would require a power source. And currently there is no power source small enough to fit in a grain of rice...though they are working on it (one study suggests getting power from the natural electricity in the body...but this is some time away from development). Even if they could work out the power problems for something so tiny, it likely still wouldn't have enough power to be able to transmit to a satellite miles away. 

GPS Trackerpup

GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) is the next generation technology on the other hand.  It requires a special collar that transmits a signal to a satellite or cell towers which then relay that information back to your computer or cell phone.  The down side is it's not the size of a  grain of rice.  It's bulky, has to have a battery pack and antenna.  The battery has limited range and run-time. Every generation is getting smaller, but it's still pretty cumbersome for your dog's everyday wear.  Plus, to be effective it needs to be recharged at least every couple of days which means your escape artist is going without his collar (or at least a tracking collar). Currently it's mainly hunters and hunting dogs that use this technology because it's useful for short distances of a mile or two and the dog is at high risk of getting lost when running offlead because it's still fairly expensive - though the cost is coming down.  The transponder uses either cell phone towers or satellite to triangulate where the dog is at any given moment and the hunter can find the dog using this GPS system. One of the disadvantages of the system is that there is a lag time between when the signal is sent and decoded, then returned to the home unit.  The signal lag has some bearing on the price of the unit...the pricier ones tend to have less lag.  It can be affected by natural geology like lakes, mountains and other things that can block or corrupt the signal making it somewhat inaccurate as well...but if you are chasing your dog through miles of wilderness, it's probably your best option.

Another type of GPS unit can allow you to set a perimeter and it will notify you when the dog breaches the predetermined perimeter.  These are less expensive, but also less accurate as they are merely telling you the dog has left the property with a text message.  They mainly rely on boundary-training or a fence to keep the dog on the property.  After you receive the alert that the dog has left the perimeter, you must log in to a web site to actually track the dog and the lag time can be quite significant.  Once it leaves the outer boundary, there is a point that the dog may no longer be tracked and the unit becomes almost useless (some units can still send signals to a base unit for awhile, but once they leave the outer lying areas or the battery runs low, they no longer send a signal.)

Lastly, there is the Invisible Fence technology.  A wire is laid out on the perimeter of the property and the dog wears a collar that provides a warning sound, then shock if it attempts to breach the perimeter.  This requires some training to teach the dog where the boundaries are by either walking the perimeter with the dog or putting up temporary flags.  Generally though, with a Malamute, it doesn't work causing the dog several episodes of getting shocked before it learns the perimeter.  This is not GPS nor RFID, but merely a shock collar triggered by a perimeter wire.  These typically do NOT work well with a Malamute because they have a very high pain threshold and strong prey drive.  If something is interesting to the Malamute beyond the "fence" he will usually figure out that if he runs through it fast, it's just a small shock and he's able to get to what his heart desires.  An added negative is that there is little incentive to come 'home' once out because it will mean another painful shock.  I've only heard of it working well on puppies, old dysplastic or blind or in some other way compromised malamutes.  Most healthy younger dogs would need their neck shaved (for good contact) and the collar turned up full blast - which in my opinion is verging on cruel and can cause aggression in some dogs (because they don't know why they are being shocked).  Some dogs manage to figure out it doesn't work when the power is out or turned off as well!  It's the breed and that's just the way they are.  A physical fence is necessary.  Invisible fences also do not keep other dogs OUT of the yard as a physical fence would....giving your Mal the opportunity to finish off that annoying Shih Tzu next door if he comes in the yard.

Technology is great under many circumstances but it's no substitute for teaching your Malamute to come reliably and walk nicely on leash.  In my opinion, a Malamute should NEVER be off-lead except under certain circumstances - an Obedience or Agility trial (usually within a fenced fairgrounds), a fenced yard or other secure area.  It's just not being a responsible pet owner.

Repair fences and make your yard secure!  And never never let your dog run loose!

 


LINKS:

Good article on enticing a shy or lost dog to return to an area with smelly food.