- There are multiple reasons why dogs run away — Boredom, curiosity, and mating habits are some of the primary reasons your pup might decide to escape.
- Your escape artist needs help to curb the behavior — As a pet parent, you must take precautions and enforce positive training methods to help break your pet’s exploratory behaviors.
- Pet parents have several strategies to choose from — There are many effective strategies to help your pet overcome their wandering urges that we will explore below.
It can be scary and concerning if your dog has a runaway streak. Aside from the fear for your pup’s safety, pet parents may be anxious about why their dog wants to wander away from them. Many reasons behind the wanderlust of runaway dogs have nothing to do with their owners, and there are solutions for pet parents to keep their pups safe and at home.
5 reasons why dogs run away
Dogs have many reasons for running off. We’ll get into those reasons below.
1. Boredom and lack of stimulation
One of the most common reasons a dog chooses to wander away from their home is out of boredom. Dogs need lots of love, attention, and stimulation. If your dog is left home alone or alone in their yard without companionship or toys to stimulate them, they will try and find things to do. If they see other people, dogs, or anything else interesting, your pup may try to find entertainment elsewhere.
2. Curiosity and exploration
Sometimes a pup just likes to feel the wind in its fur. Dogs, by nature, love to explore and discover new smells and sights. Some breeds have more energy than others, and if they aren’t getting proper exercise — which includes both physical and mental stimulation — your dog may run away to burn some energy.
Dogs with a strong prey drive are prone to run off if they spot a squirrel or other critter, another reason to keep your dog leashed when out walking or in an open space.
3. Fear and anxiety
Dogs are pack animals, so if they are left home alone for too long, your pup may have increased separation anxiety. This could lead to your pup escaping to try and find you or the rest of their “pack,” especially if they’re alone and see another dog. A dog’s body language might give you clues when your pup is feeling anxious.
A dog also might be triggered to run away out of fear. Thunderstorms or natural disasters can cause a dog to flee. Around the Fourth of July, many dogs run away from their yards, attempting to escape the loud noise of holiday fireworks. Having a safety plan in place may prevent some scares.
4. Mating and reproductive instincts
If your pooch is not neutered or spayed, their mating drives may take over and cause your dog to wander in search of a mate, especially if you live in an area with many other pets of the opposite sex that are also not spayed or neutered. Making sure your dog is spayed or neutered is one of the responsibilities of owning a pet. It reduces the homeless pet population, helps curb aggression while your dog is in heat, and prevents the mess of the heat cycle of a female dog.
5. Prior escape attempts and other reinforcing behavior
If a pup escapes once and a pet parent doesn’t immediately secure their home and start with training to prevent it from happening again, there is a good chance your dog will probably try again. Your veterinarian or a professional trainer can give tips on helping curb this problem with your runaway pup.
How to stop your dog from running away
Here are some strategies pet owners can take to keep their beloved furry friend safe and at home.
Diagnose the root cause
The first and most important thing is for pet parents to treat the underlying issue of why their dog is running away. If your dog is alone for extended periods, they are probably running away out of boredom or anxiety. Figure out a new schedule to allow yourself or family members to be home more often. Or look into local doggy daycares where your pet can go during the day to interact with other dogs and people in a safe and secure environment.
Train your dog
Training your dog with positive reinforcement methods will help you bond with your dog and also help them learn how to behave and not stray from the home. Work on your dog’s recall so they come to you when called. When walking with your dog, make sure they are always on a leash. It may be beneficial to hire a local dog trainer or take your pup to a behavior class to help equip you with the tools to succeed when training your furry friend.
Install proper fencing
A proper fence is the easiest step to preventing your dog from running away. Invisible fences aren’t a complete fix, as some dogs are smart enough to figure out how to wear down the battery. Ideally, your yard should have wooden panel fencing with no gaps large enough for your pup to squeeze through. The fence should also have a cement foundation to prevent diggers from an easy escape route. For dogs that can jump higher fences, you may want to consider coyote rollers, which are slippery and will prevent your dog from getting over a fence.
Whenever your dog is in the yard by themselves, keep an eye on them, and never leave your dog outside when you’re not at home. Make sure they are securely indoors with all windows and doors closed. More persistent escape artists may require additional screen doors, indoor gates, or security bars to prevent them from getting out.
Provide exercise and stimulation
Keeping your dog exercised and making sure they get plenty of attention and love from you will go a long way to prevent them from running away. Different dog breeds have different physical exercise needs, so research your dog’s specific breed and daily activity needs. Daily walks and one-on-one playtime will help strengthen the bond between a dog owner and their furry best friend. Be sure your pup has plenty of chew toys and other dog toys to stimulate them mentally and physically.
What to do if your dog runs away
First, take a deep breath and stay calm. This is a scary situation, but it’s important for you and your pup to remain composed. If a pet parent finds their dog while in a panicked state, that may frighten the dog further and cause them to run from you. Here are some additional tips on how to strategize if your dog runs away:
- Check your immediate surroundings — Look around your home and yard to be sure your dog isn’t hiding. Then expand your radius to your neighborhood. Get in touch with neighbors to help you in your search. Also, make sure one member of your family stays home in case your dog comes back.
- Enter your dog’s microchip number in the online registry — This will flag your dog in the microchip company’s database and help you recover your pup if they are found and their chip is scanned at an animal shelter or vet’s office. If you don’t know the number, call your vet’s office or the place you had your dog microchipped and store it with other important pet records.
- Trigger a FidoAlert — A microchip requires waiting for a phone call, but a FidoAlert sends a digital flier to members of the network within a few miles of your pet’s location. Of course, your pet first needs a FideoAlert ID tag — get yours here.
- Contact local shelters and report your dog as missing — Local veterinarian offices, animal shelters, and animal control offices are great places to start to report your dog missing and see if they may have already been turned in. You can also report your pet online at Petco Love or Pet FBI.
- Use social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms are great ways to help get the word out about your missing pet.
- Put up Lost Dog posters — Printing up and distributing posters around your community can help spread the word and keep neighbors on the lookout for your pup.
Whether it’s anxiety, boredom, a need for exercise, or a drive to mate, there are many reasons why Fido might want to escape. But there are plenty of ways to help combat a dog’s urge to run away, including positive reinforcement training and securing your home. Pet parents who are proactive about their furry friend’s safety and well-being can help ensure their pup never needs to wander.
Frequently asked questions
Do dogs come back when they run away?
According to Petco, 20% of dogs that run away return home on their own. But it’s always best to be proactive and go looking for your pet rather than assume they’ll return on their own.
Where do dogs go when they run away?
Outgoing dogs are likely to find other dogs and humans who will play with them, comfort them and feed them. They might go to a dog park or other populated area. Shy dogs are more likely to hide in forested areas, under cars, or in bushes.
Why did my dog run away and not come back?
Some dogs may not return home for fear of being punished, and others are simply not well trained. They may also have been taken in by someone else or, in the worst-case scenario, were harmed while outside of their home.
Why do some pet dogs run away?
Dogs run away for a variety of reasons, including anxiety, boredom or lack of stimulation, or a strong mating drive.
Should I reward or punish my dog that runs away and then comes back?
You should not reward a dog for running away, but punishing a dog with negative reinforcement may make them more inclined to run away again out of fear. The best way to ensure your dog won’t run away again is to work on training methods to improve your dog’s recall and ensure your house and yard are secure.