Dealing with Dogs that Run Away

Why Do Dogs Run Away?

Some dogs are just born to run. Although the reasons for running away are varied, there are a couple of common themes. Dogs run away either a) to get to a better place where something rewarding may happen or b) to escape from a real or perceived danger.

It is useful to remember that dogs’ living ancestors, the wolves, roam for a living. For them, roaming is a natural behavior that involves scouting, hunting, exploration, and discovery. Home, the den is reserved for family affairs but all other good things in life are procured by skillful exploitation of their home range. Typically, a wolf’s or wild dog’s home range covers several square miles and nature has equipped them (and their domestic dog descendents) with a “Cadillac” North Star navigation system that enables them to create and store mental maps. Essentially, they never get lost and can always find their way home. With these awesome skills, all they need is a good reason to go and they’re gone.

But when the neighborhood is concrete or tarmac and is seething with automobiles and trucks, this can present a problem. Free-ranging dogs get into a lot of trouble in our society and a good number of them wind up in the pound. For this reason, a wandering dog is not a good dog is not a happy dog – not in the long run anyway. If the trucks don’t get them, and they don’t bite or get bitten, the animal control officer will eventually track them down.

Causes of Dog Roaming

What To Do About a Roaming Dog

The first step is making sure that all dogs are neutered. Though not a panacea, neutering is the best way to reduce the risk of roaming in an intact dog. Also, unneutered dogs at large simply add to the already overwhelming population of unwanted pups.

The second most important measure is to have your yard fenced with a sturdy solid fence to prevent your dog’s escape and unwanted visits from neighboring dogs. Ties, runs, and electric fences are not as good as real fences because they don’t keep others out and seem to increase territorial aggression in some dogs.

The third step is to ensure that the environment in which you leave your dog is “user friendly.” There is any number of ways to do this and they all involve various forms of environmental enrichment plus dutiful attention to the dog’s basic needs. Environmental enrichment measures include providing your dog some company while you are away, ensuring he has plenty of aerobic exercise every day, making sure he has a sensible diet, and making sure he has a meaningful job to perform while you are with him Another more helpful measure is to make home as rewarding a place for him to be as possible – literally. Put your dog on a long line and feed him small meals often by the back door. Later, even if the frequency of meals is reduced he will hang around the vicinity of your home – just in case a meal is in the offing.

For dogs that run because they’re scared it is important to address the source of the fear by means of a specific behavior modification program. Such programs entails desensitization and, in some cases, anti-anxiety medication.

Conclusion on Run Away Dogs

No one in his right mind would allow a dog to roam the streets these days. There’s just too much trouble out there – not to mention leash laws. Attending to a dog’s basic needs, making home a fun place, fencing in the yard properly, and having your dog neutered will all help to prevent escapes. And if your dog is one of those incorrigibles who are likely try anything to escape whatever you do, then you should make sure he is properly identified with tattooing, identification collars and tags or a microchip, so that he can be safely returned in the event of the inevitable escape.