As a dog owner, nothing is more frustrating than having your dog escape out the front door at every chance or refuse to return when you call. Although this is a very common problem, it is also a dangerous one, as there are speeding cars and other dangers. Fortunately, there are various solutions you can try to keep your dog safe and sound at home.
Why dogs run away
For the most part, running away is a natural behavior in dogs. It satisfies their curiosity and rewards them. While roaming the streets, they can eat garbage, chase cats and play with other dogs – much to your neighbors’ dismay.
While dogs sometimes run away because of abuse, usually it is because of instinctive feelings that every dog experiences. Dogs may take off from even the best homes.
Common reasons why dogs run away include:
- Boredom and loneliness from insufficient chances to socialize (dogs seek socialization in a pack if there are not sufficient chances at home)
- Restlessness from lack of exercise
- Loud noises
- Looking for a mate
- Lack of proper discipline training
- Sights, smells or to go after those who they feel are invading their territory.
- Separation anxiety
Keeping your dog at home
As you want to give your dog a happy environment regardless, creating the right conditions at home is a good place to start. Dogs want to be comfortable, involved and stimulated. Make sure each area is covered.
To create a safe and comfortable environment, make sure your dog has a warm bed in a private area, as well as toys to play with and regular feedings. He should receive adequate human interaction without being neglected or spoiled. A dog that feels happy and secure is less likely to run away.
Exercise is an important factor in behavioral issues such as running away. Activity tires dogs and makes them want to stay home. Daily walks help burn off excess energy, as does playing ball or Frisbee. Take him to the local dog park to play with other dogs. This will help his socialization skills as well.
Dogs may run away because they are bored, so find ways to keep them entertained. Treats and toys are fun ways to relieve boredom. You can try Kong or other toys stuffed with a dog’s favorite food. These sturdy toys can keep your dog entertained for hours while you are away, but it is still important not to leave your dog alone for too long.
Obedience and training
Once dogs start escaping and roaming regularly, the habit can be very hard to break. Therefore, you must make every effort to prevent the habit from ever starting. This should begin with the obedience training every dog needs. Remember that dogs are evolved to live in packs and defer to the alpha male. Every owner must make sure they take that position early on. Otherwise, he will become the pack leader and do whatever he wants.
In the beginning, your dog should always be on a leash every time he is taken out. Do not let your dog just run out of the door or gate. Before taking him out, give the command to sit before touching the handle. If he moves before you give permission, stop and give the command to sit again. Repeat until your dog understands when he can move outside the door or gate. Teach your dog what is permissible while out walking and do not totally unleash until he properly follows all commands.
How to break the habit
It is important to find the cause of your dog’s running away in order to effectively break the habit. Evaluate your dog’s environment. Are there holes around the fence line? This means that your dog is likely digging under the fence to escape. Take steps to make the yard secure for your dog. If your dog can jump high, a higher fence may be needed. Chicken wire under a fence will prevent escapes. If fence boards are broken or missing, replace them. If the fence has a gate, make sure it is always closed. A self-closing gate can help with this problem.
If your dog is not neutered, neuter him, unless you plan to breed him professionally. A common reason why male dogs escape is because they are looking for female dogs. A female in heat has a powerful scent that can attract dogs from miles away.
If your dog escapes to find more exciting stimuli – such as food, mail carriers or other dogs – try to block these from his sight. Cover up any holes in the fence or place black sheets up over the fence so that your dog is unable to see anything that catches his eye. If stray animals are a problem in your area, contact the local animal control office.
If loud noises cause your dog to run away, find the offending noise – this could be a loud car, fireworks or a power tool – and record it. Then play it back to your dog at low volume while increasing it slowly. If your dog shows signs of fear, lower the noise and start over. Continue this trick until the noise is played at the highest volume. After a while, your dog will get used to the noise and will no longer run from it.
What not to do
Remember that dogs live in the moment. If you punish your dog after he comes back on his own after an absense, the lesson will be that coming home was the wrong thing to do. Therefore, punishment after returning is a big mistake.
Tips to get your dog back home
If your dog does happen to run away, he might not come right back home. He could end up lost or take up residence elsewhere. A collar with a name tag and your contact information will ensure that anyone who finds your dog can call you . Having your dog microchipped is also an option. The microchip, implanted under your dog’s skin, allows veterinarians to scan your dog and immediately bring up your contact information.
More on what to do at how to find a lost dog.