Maybe your dog bolts as soon as you open the front door — even if he was nowhere to be seen before you opened it. Or she won’t stop digging under the fence to escape your backyard.
However they get out, dogs that run away are no laughing matter. They could get hit by a car, attacked by a dangerous animal, or placed in a shelter where their people never find them.
Why do dogs engage in this dangerous behavior? Below, you’ll find several reasons as well as tips on what you can do to stop it.
Trying to get home
Have you recently moved? Well, guess what — your dog doesn’t really understand that concept. All he knows is that he’s in an unfamiliar place and needs to get back to the home that he knows.
Tip: Make your pup’s new home as familiar as possible by surrounding him with favorite belongings that smell like home. Additionally, you should always lead your dog around a new space so he has a chance to sniff everything and get acquainted with it. Doing this automatically creates at least a small sense of familiarity. Finally, you may wish to curb your pup’s freedom a bit in a new place until you are able to walk him around on leash and get him acclimated to his new home and neighborhood.
This one is related to the above. If your dog is used to having a lot of freedom to run around and do what she wants, and suddenly that freedom is taken away, there’s a good chance that she’s going to try to roam just because it’s what she’s always done. This can be quite common if there’s a sudden change of environment, like a move from a rural area to a busy metropolis, or if there’s a change in household dynamic, such as marriage, divorce, or a new baby.
Tip: It’s going to take training to curb this behavior. You need to teach your dog not to take off just because she can. It will likely take some time and effort, along with some kind of positive reinforcement to get her to change. If you continue to have trouble, it may be necessary to work with a trainer.
This mostly applies to un-neutered male dogs, but not always. When dogs feel the urge to mate, it’s not uncommon for them to go off in search of another dog that can satisfy their needs.
Tip: Because mating urges mostly affect un-neutered dogs, the best way to stop those urges and prevent running away is to have your dog neutered. If that’s not an option, you may need to engage in extensive training or invest in a strong leash to effectively battle his instincts.
Loneliness or boredom
Just like people, dogs are social. They need attention and something interesting to do. If she’s lonely or bored because you’re not engaging with her enough, you may find that she starts running away.
Tip: Pay attention to your dog! It’s not always easy to find time if you have a busy schedule, but it can be done if you make it a priority. Set aside time for daily walks, and make sure to provide her with plenty of affection — after fulfilling her needs with exercise and discipline.
Something scares them
Dogs aren’t made of stone. If you have a pup that startles at loud noises or strange sights, experiencing one of them may prompt him to bolt in order to escape it.
Tip: If the sight or sound is something that you can replicate, work on training your dog to accept it and relax around it — or at least not to run away in terror. Additionally, if you know that your pooch is scared of something like thunder or fireworks, prepare a safe area for him ahead of time, so he can’t run away.
Something excites them
Just as fear can cause some dogs to run away, so can excitement. You may have seen this before if your dog spots a squirrel or rabbit while you are walking her and tries to rip your arm off to get to it. Now imagine you’re not around and this happens — she would be off like a rocket, laser-focused on the object of her excitement.
Tip: Again, training is key. You need to work with your pup until they learn that it’s not okay to run after something just because they can. If you know that something specific incites excitement in your dog, you can use that object in your training. Obviously, we’re not suggesting you get a live squirrel, but you could use a toy stuffed squirrel or something like it while you train your dog to stay and remain calm.
One final reason why dogs run away: Because they can. If your dog can easily dig under or jump over your fence, or if you don’t even have a fence, there’s a good chance that he’s going to take advantage of this situation. After all, would you stay cooped up in a restrictive space if you had the option not to? Probably not.
Tip: Take a look at your property and fix any known issues that provide your pooch with an easy escape route. Fence easy to dig under? Line the edges with paving stones or bury chicken wire that he can’t dig through. Have a dog that bolts out the front door? Put him on a leash or close him in another room before you open it.
By following these tips, you should be able to prevent most escape attempts by your dog.
By Josh Weiss-Roessler