How do you prepare your dog for natural disasters and evacuations? September is National Disaster Preparedness Month and it’s important to make sure every member of the household is prepared for natural disasters including the dog. It comes down to training, socialization and providing the best environment you can. If your dog regularly encounters various people, dogs and other animals, crowds, loud noises and crates and knows basic obedience, an evacuation setting will be a much more comfortable place for them.
How to Prepare Your Dog for Natural Disasters
First and foremost. Recall, recall, recall. You have to be able to take the dog with you wherever you’re going. And you’ll lose precious time trying to retrieve them when you have to run out the door or barricade yourself in an interior room with no windows or the basement. Obviously you won’t be able to practice with them in the face of disaster but you can drill them in other highly distracting environments such as super high value treats, in the presence of other animals or people, or with (sirens, thunder etc). I regularly practice recall with Mr. N where he has to avoid temptations like squirrels and playing with other dogs. Recall is a life skill and should be practiced throughout the dog’s life.
Thankfully, we’ve never had to evacuate so far but I have seen Mr. N’s reaction to fire. A business across the street caught on fire and I was standing outside with many of the neighbors watching the firefighters. Mr. N vehemently disapproved and demanded that we move away from the fire immediately unlike the happy Golden who wagged her tail and was perfectly content to watch the fire. I have no doubt that come emergency, he would be the first one out the door. Probably would wake me up too.
The more positive experiences your dog has with various things, places and people, the better. Evacuation means that your dog will come into close contact with large crowds of people, other dogs and animals and loud noises. They might have to ride on public transit or even on a helicopter.
I make a habit of taking Mr. N with me everywhere that I can and he’s largely immune to weird experiences. Because we do live in Portland after all. Mr. N has curled up and gone to sleep on booth tables at pet expos amidst the presence of other dogs, cats, and the odd llama. So he will probably settle down after a little while even in a crowded shelter.
If you can’t go anywhere else, you’ll be crowded into an emergency shelter with a horde of other people and animals. Many (if not most) pet-friendly shelters do not allow you to stay with your dog. Animals are housed either in a separate room or in an adjacent building. There are visitation hours and you can walk and feed your dog but for the most part they have to stay in their crate.
Your dog will be much happier if they’re used to being in their crate for long stretches of time especially in a stressful environment. Dr. Sophia Yin has a tutorial on crate training here. And having an airline-approved carrier/crate is paramount or you’ll end up like this guy unable to evacuate with his dog. The carrier should be sturdy and the dog should be able to stand, turn around and lie down comfortably. Mr. N has a soft carrier (his ) that we use for short crating intervals but I’m going to look for a to add to our emergency kit. I’m concerned that shelters might not accept the carrier (some specifically request hard crates) and if he has to be in it for days, I’d rather he have more space.
However some dogs despite training will not be able to handle certain things. So the best you can do is try to manage their environment as much as possible and provide calming relief.
Remember to pack your calming aid of choice (, , or sedatives from your vet). Also bring along a favorite or that smells like home as well as some chews to relax them.
Shelters can turn away animals that they deem aggressive. So muzzle training is important if your dog exhibits any signs of aggression towards people or other animals. In an emergency, you can fashion one with cloth or other material on hand for short periods but acclimating your dog to one beforehand is ideal as is packing a sturdy that fits their face.
If you have to evacuate with your dog, leave early. Especially if you have a high-maintenance dog (medical needs, behavioral needs etc). Pet-friendly shelters will have limited space as well as hotels that accept pets and spaces will be in high demand. Mr. N’s crate and separation anxiety is my biggest worry as he would be miserable without me in a crate by himself. He is OK in a crate for short intervals if I’m there. My plan is to try to evacuate early to a friend’s house or hotel or find a pet-friendly shelter that lets me stay with him. Therefore the last resort is a shelter with separate crating areas. I’ll have to give him sedatives.
Have you gone through a natural disaster with your dog? How did you prepare your dog for natural disasters?
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Welcome to First Monday’s Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Tenacious Little Terrier, Travels with Barley and Wag ‘n Woof Pets. Please share your responsible pet owner positive pet training tips by linking a blog post or leaving a comment below. Our theme for this month is National Disaster Preparedness Month but any positive reinforcement training posts or comments are also always welcome. The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop goes all week long. And our next hop will begin Oct 2nd and continues for a week.
September 11, 2017 4:23 pm
The honest truth is, if I can’t go to either friends/family or a pet friendly motel with my pets, so that they can be with me at all times, then I will probably be one of those people riding it out in my home. I totally understand why people make that choice. If it’s a wildfire and I don’t have that option? Then I’d be sleeping in my car with my dogs. But that’s as much about me as my dogs. I can’t see sleeping a wink in a room – stadium! full of people.
September 13, 2017 2:28 pm
The big danger here is earthquakes so we won’t really have a lot of warning. And the whole coast is going to be impacted so I imagine we’d probably have to go to a shelter if the house is damaged.
September 12, 2017 4:28 pm
Honey is my first dog I’ve raised from a puppy which gave me a great chance to socialize her for a wide variety of situations. When she was young, I walked her down a street where the fire hall was located to expose her to sirens and big trucks. But there’s no way I could have predicted we’d be living on a boat all these years later.
Goes to show how you really do need to socialize your pups to everything possible.
Here’s hoping you and Mr N never need to try out your evacuation advice.
September 13, 2017 2:10 pm
Thanks! The big danger here is the earthquake. And those don’t come with a lot of advance notice.
September 13, 2017 2:30 am
These are good tips. I didn’t know pet-friendly shelters didn’t allow your pet to stay with you. Cat owners should train their cats as well for emergencies. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
September 13, 2017 2:09 pm
Well not all of them but a lot don’t. I didn’t either until I started reading through a bunch of shelter requirements.
September 13, 2017 4:27 am
The one benefit of having my closest family 6 hours away is that if there ever is a disaster here, I’ve got places to the south, the east, and the west that we can escape to and have the whole menagerie welcome. I don’t worry about the girls so much because we travel all the time, and even Soth is used to long car rides, but I do worry about his adjustment to new environments if we ever went somewhere other than my parents’ house.
September 13, 2017 2:07 pm
Oh that’s convenient. We have places to the north and south we could go but if the earthquake hits, they would all be impacted. And that’s the biggest and most likely threat.
September 13, 2017 10:54 am
I have all the supplies I need if I have to evacuate in an emergency, but my dogs are not psychologically prepared. One is very high strung, I should look into getting something to help calm her down in the event we have to evacuate.
September 13, 2017 2:01 pm
I keep some anxiety medication on hand for emergencies (we were originally prescribed them for fireworks but we have extra). I think Mr. N would be OK IF I was there. It’s if I wasn’t that would be the issue.
September 13, 2017 11:42 am
Ruby also has crate and separation anxiety and like Mr. N would be really upset without me. We are working on it and she is a little better, but still not totally comfortable. Leaving early is very good advice – I think lots of people waiting, hoping they won’t have to leave and then sometimes it is too late.
September 13, 2017 1:59 pm
Yes, especially if you have pressing concerns like anxious dogs! I’d probably want to leave early too what with Mr. N and having to evacuate by myself (the bf most likely will have to work during an emergency).
September 13, 2017 7:04 pm
Excellent information! I always worry about that first one – recall – with Siberian Huskies. That urge to run and chase critters is so much stronger in their breed than their recall training! We are in harnesses and leashes at all times. Good thing they are all crate trained! Sharing this over on my Pinterest “Bark About” board!
September 14, 2017 7:40 pm
Thanks! Recall with Huskies is definitely not an easy task.
September 14, 2017 12:43 pm
I love that your touching a socialization aspect of prepping. I don’t think anyone considers that on average, and you don’t want the first time your dog experiences something to be in the middle of an already terrifying experience.
September 14, 2017 7:40 pm
Yes, better that they experience these things now than in the middle of a disaster!
September 16, 2017 4:17 pm
The recall command is such an important one. I just recently learned that cats can also be trained for this and it’s something I want to work on with my girls.
September 17, 2017 4:01 pm
I had no idea that some shelters won’t let your pet stay with you. It is definitely something to help preparing your pet for since the who situation is already stressful! I’m glad there are more shelters accepting pets than in previous years. That is definitely an improvement! I’m thinking anti anxiety essential and/or CBD oil might help too. Good for Mr. N knowing the danger of the fire.
October 2, 2017 11:06 am
Wonderful post! We are still working on River’s recalling and mom needs to put together our emergency bag still!