If your dog is ever lost...or 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.
Repair fences and make your yard secure! And never never let your dog run loose!