Be prepared to evacuate quickly with your dog. The bare minimums.

Emergencies and natural disasters are something that we always hope will never happen to us. The recent Marshall Fire in Boulder County is a heartbreaking reminder that we need to think ahead and have a plan when it comes to evacuating with our dogs.

Our hearts go out to all those affected by the fire. If you’d like to find information on how you can help Marshall Fire victims, you can visit the Boulder Office of Emergency Management website here.

Regardless of where you live, you never know when you may need to flee your home with little time to spare. Whether it’s caused by a natural disaster, an isolated house fire, or any other unexpected emergency, being prepared can help you to get out quickly and safely.

We often have some plan in place for our human families, but what about our pets? There are many things that we don’t often think of that we can do to prepare ahead of time, ensuring we do everything we can to help get our pets out safely and to keep them with us in the aftermath.

Here are some things you can do to help prepare:

1. Emergency Leashes.

This may sound simple, but in the event that you need to get out NOW… how far out of your way do you need to go to find your leash? How often do you come inside and put your leash down somewhere only to have to look for it later?

The best way to fix this problem is to have an “emergency leash” for each dog in your household and to keep them easily accessible at all times. 

One way to do this is to hang some hooks by each door that you may exit the home from to hang your leashes on. Here’s the kicker: have “emergency leashes” that are different from the leash you use on a daily basis. 

If you’re anything like me, even though the hook is right there, you’ll still occasionally put the leash down somewhere else with the intent to put it back later. We want these leases there at all times, just in case. 

Your “emergency leash" doesn’t have to be anything special, although a slip lead is a good idea. Slip leads fit over your dog’s head as if they are a collar and a leash in one and are a great option if you often take your dog’s collar off in your home. 

While I also tend to steer towards basic colors for my everyday leashes, my emergency leashes are bright red which makes them super easy to see as I rush around. 

If you’re looking for a wonderful leash suggestion, check this one out! … this is not sponsored….

Etsy Shop: CodysCreations Biothane Convertible All-Weather Leash. This leash is my favorite! It can be used as a regular leash to clip onto your dog’s collar or harness but can also be quickly and easily converted to a slip lead with a stopper. This shop provides them in beautiful colors with great quality... and we love supporting small businesses!

2. Have Crates Ready to Travel.

If I had to choose one thing on this list that takes priority, it would be this one. You need to have a crate that is ready to go.

Even if you don’t use crates in your daily life, crates are an essential part of preparing your dog for an emergency. If you need to evacuate your home, odds are wherever you end up will require your dog to be crated. Whether you stay in a hotel room for a few days, seek shelter with an emergency service, or if you need to leave your dog with a boarding service or shelter temporarily while you get back on your feet… you’re going to need a crate.

While certain animal shelters and emergency services already have kennels, in an emergency situation they may be overrun with animals in need and may be running low on space and supplies. Having your own crate ensures your pet’s safety and will give them a familiar and safe place in a hectic situation.

So, the first step in this section is to have a crate that is ready to go. Ideally, your dog should be traveling in a crate in the car regardless of an emergency or not. We’ll be adding another blog post specifically on this topic soon, but in the event of a car accident the safest place for your pet to be is in a crate that is properly secured in your vehicle.

If you can, keep a crate in your car at all times. This gives your pet a safe place to ride on the road, and then you’re already ready to go with this step in an emergency.

However, not everyone has the space to keep a kennel set up in their vehicle. If you don't, you can still stay prepared. You can keep a folded-up wire crate or fabric crate in the garage or by the door that you can quickly grab and throw in your car to set up later if needed.

There’s another essential component to this list item. You need to make sure your dog is crate-trained and has the ability to be calm and relaxed in their crate. Even if you don’t use a crate in daily life, it’s better to be prepared and never need the skill, than need it and not have it.

In the event of an emergency, your dog may be stressed enough with the chaos, change in routine, and unfamiliar surroundings. Help take some of the stress off of their plate by teaching them how to be calm, confident and comfortable in a crate, so they have a safe place to unwind when you need it.

3. Pack your dog a “Go Bag”.

It’s important to have something you can quickly grab with all of their essentials packed into one. You can customize this set-up for your own family. I personally use a backpack that keeps my own personal necessities and my dog’s in one, but you can make them their own if you have a larger family. Here’s the bare minimum that you should pack in your dog bag:

  • Vet records and vaccination history.
  • You don’t need their entire medical history but have their most recent vaccinations and any records that relate to current medical conditions.
  • Your primary vet’s contact info
  • Prescription Medications
  • Food and Water Bowls
  • Enough food and water for at least a few days
  • Kibble and canned foods are easy to pack, but if your dog is on a raw diet, it’s still vital to have a back-up plan. We keep a freeze-dried raw food packed for Grimm, and we use this as training treats or occasional meals when we travel so it won’t upset his stomach if we need to switch.
  • Basic first aid kit
  • This should be small enough to pack but have some essentials like wound care, Benadryl, tweezers, etc.
  • Extra leash and collar
  • Potty Bags
  • Lightweight blanket they can sleep on or to keep them warm outside.

4. Make sure you can be contacted in case your pet gets lost.

In a perfect world, our pet’s will come with us in an emergency. But we have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. In the event your dog gets away from you and runs, or is home alone and escapes an emergency, we want to ensure we can be contacted if someone else finds our dog.

Microchips are a wonderful option. Your veterinarian can easily microchip your dog, usually for an inexpensive price.

While microchips don't fall off, they shouldn’t be relied upon without backup. Microchips can migrate through your pet’s body over time which can make them hard to find. Many companies also require you to update your information regularly, which you may forget to do, or have a membership with a fee you may forget to renew.

Dog tags are the most common option and are best used in conjunction with a microchip as the tags can be pulled off by tree branches or may fall off outside. Tags can also pose a risk in houses that have heating vents in the floors as the tags can get caught in the vents if your pet lays on them and cause a safety risk. Tags can also get caught in between the wires of a crate, which then can pose a risk of choking if your dog starts to panic. Typically, I always recommend taking tags off in the house to avoid these safety risks.

Personally, I don’t prefer tags. The jingling drives me insane, and I can’t imagine my dog enjoys listening to them every time they shake or scratch. This, along with the safety risk of the tags getting caught or falling off, is why I prefer customized collars.

I absolutely love these custom collars by Trek Dog. Collars - Trek Dog. They come in a wide variety of colors and allow you to add your name and phone number that will be engraved into the collar. They’re waterproof, don’t smell, and are easy to clean. The best part…. No more jingling.

Another option to consider is a GPS tracking collar like a Fi Collar. These collars don’t help others find you if they find your dog but can help you track your dog down if they get lost. Learn about Fi Collars here.

5. Train your dog to come to you off-leash.

When we think of “off-leash training” we often think of off-leash hiking or camping. Sometimes we think this skill isn’t necessary when we live in an urban area since there are hardly any places that don’t have leash laws. Even here in Colorado, almost every hiking trail requires a leash.

But think of it this way: Your dog is off-leash 99% of the time anyway. You probably don’t have a leash on your dog in the house, in your backyard, when the doorbell rings…. And you probably won’t have one on them when disaster strikes.

I’m not going to tell you to break the law, but I do want you to prepare for a worst-case scenario. Here’s the truth: If I do not have time to put a leash on my dog if my house is on fire, I’m not leaving them inside just because of a leash law.

You need to make sure that in an emergency your dog will stay with you and come back to you when you call them. And in an emergency, you won’t have time to bribe them with a treat or call their name over and over again. You’re going to need them to come to you NOW. This is both for their own safety and the safety of others who may also be fleeing with their pets or in the surrounding area.

Remember, every emergency situation is unique, and we can’t possibly prepare perfectly for every scenario. When it comes to being prepared, we just have to do the best we can.

What do you do to be prepared in an emergency? We’d love to know! Send us your ideas and photos to