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Why Do Dogs Run Away?

We've all heard the stories of the dog that just wants to run and ends up halfway across the country, herding sheep or working as a police dog. So just what makes Spike want to take off and explore uncharted territories? 

Can you prevent your dog from running away? Teaching your dog to stay might be more challenging than it seems. Some dogs are just prone to sprinting, and there is very little you can do to stop their immediate flight away from home. 

If you've been wondering - Why do dogs run away from their owners? – or if you're worried about your dog becoming a missing dog – this article is for you. Let's find out why Fido flees, what motivates Dozer to dash, and how come Butch bolts.

Why Do Dogs Run Away from Home?

Very few strays are without a home of origin. Many dogs picked up by animal control and labeled as lost dogs have families; they just don't have identification like a chip or a tag. 

They could've been kept outside and not closely monitored. Or if they were indoor pets, their pet parents may have felt that there's no need to chip or tag them to prevent the dog from running away. 

So make sure Spot stays put as we explore a dog’s need for speed, and address ways to prevent their great escapes!

#1 When are you going to fix that gate?

It doesn't have to be the fastest runner or the best jumper for a dog to escape – all it takes is finding an easy way out. Most dogs are curious by nature. It's part of their territorial genetic makeup.

A broken gate, a hole in a fence, or a window that wasn't closed tight enough all make for a perfect escape hatch. With a little wiggling or digging, your dog will be on the loose in no time. 

  • Spend time supervising your dog in the yard; you'll soon find where they may have started digging an escape route under the fence.
  • Then, fix that gate, secure the windows, and close your door already!
  • A dog can't keep running away if it can't get out.

#2 Squirrel!!!

No leash or harness will stop a dog from the thrill of a chase. A dog is always scoping out the area for intruding animals that need to be hunted down.

One squirrel can make all the difference between a stationary St. Bernard and a Terrier taking off.

While some dogs are unmoved by a passing cat, other dogs live for the chase. If your dog is prone to pursuing such prey, it’s best to take some extra steps in preventing them from running.

Enroll your pooch into dog school and teach leash control to help them control their urges.

#3 Nature calls

How fast can a dog run if they're looking for a mate? A dog's reproductive urges can be hard to control at times, especially an unneutered dog. The desire to find a mate is overwhelming and causes the dog to rapidly race towards the scent of a future mate. 

Keeping a dog who wants to mate at home is nearly impossible. Your best bet is to spay or neuter your pup. You don't want to be a dog father to Sparky's new litter of puppies, do you?

The timeline set to fix your dog is flexible, but vets recommend getting it done when the dog is between around 8 weeks and 6 months old.

Until you can get this sorted out, make sure you have a more secure environment during mating season.

#4 Is your border collie becoming a boredom collie?

To prevent your dog from dashing across town, let them run.

It sounds counterproductive, but in some cases, boredom may be the reason your pooch needs to skooch.

As we've already discussed, dogs by nature need to explore! A dog that cannot explore will become bored and eventually make a getaway to fulfill those needs.

  • To prevent this, take your dog out for regular walks.
  • Exercise is not only good for the dog's overall health, it is essential in curtailing their need to run away.
  • Walks are also good for stimulating mental activity, giving the dog’s mind a workout along with their body. 

#5 The petrified puppy 

A clap of thunder. A round of fireworks. A loud motorcycle. These can all lead to your poor, scared puppy running away. And it's not just noise that can make a dog want to run.

  • Bright lights;
  • Large crowds;
  • Activities like parties or similar - can all frighten even the best-behaved dog.

To keep your dog safe from the effects of loud noises and other things that scare them, hold them when they are afraid. This will help soothe them and keep them calm. They may still be terrified, but they will not bolt if you hold a safe space for them to feel afraid in. 

#6 Trying to get back home 

If you've moved recently, your dog may be running away to go back to the home they are familiar with.

Dogs have an associative memory, so they will be attracted to smells and sounds familiar to them. 

Just like people, dogs need time to adjust to a new environment. Keep them in and give them extra cuddles until they're used to their new home. 

#7 Separation anxiety

Does your dog look anxious when you are getting ready to leave? Do they eat your couch when you're out and about? Dogs suffering from separation anxiety can behave in strange ways. Even a house trained dog could begin to have accidents.

If your dog has separation anxiety and can find a way out, they will usually run off straight after you leave. The good news is that they're likely to hang out near home until you return.

To prevent this from happening, try these tips:

  • Give them herbal calming remedies until they're used to you leaving and coming back again. 
  • Use the same word or phrase every time you leave so they know you're coming back.
  • Leave some of your clothing that smells like you (not your Sunday best, as it may be chewed up!)

If this behavior persists, take them to a dog trainer. 

Do Dogs Really Leave to Go Off to Die?

Have you heard someone ask - Why do dogs run away to die? The short answer is that they don't.

There is a misconception that dogs will escape their homes to go off and die peacefully by themselves in the wild.

No evidence proves that this happens or has happened. If a dog runs away from home, they may end up dying from the elements or starvation, but they don't typically run away to die.

What if My Dog Runs Away?

If your dog runs away, don't panic! Over half a million dogs are returned to their loving homes every year.

  • If they're chipped or have an ID tag, there's a good chance somebody will contact you to let you know where they are. 
  • In the meantime, search for them, call for them and alert local animal welfare agencies and vets if somebody has dropped them off there.
  • And when you get your dog back, follow our guidelines to make sure that Buster doesn't bust out again!

Here Boy! (or Girl!)

Dogs deserve the best of everything you can give them. Taking care of your dog includes protecting them from running away.

Give them a secure and loving environment with enough exercise and stimulation to reduce their urges to run away.

Playing with them will enrich their lives and yours as well. So, get your pooch off of the couch and into the park. They'll soon forget about running away and instead look forward to having fun with their best friend!

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