4 Reasons Why Your Dog Keeps Running Away And What to Do About It


Runaway dogs face many risks, from speeding traffic to wild animal encounters. The only way to keep dogs safe from these dangers is to keep those great escapes from becoming a regular issue – and that means finding the cause behind them. Let’s explore some reasons your pup may run away and solutions that can help you to stop runaway behavior for good. 

Why Does Your Dog Keep Running Away?

Your Dog Lacks Exercise or Stimulation in Their Normal Environment

One possible reason why your dog keeps running away is a lack of exercise or stimulation. Most dogs need between one to two walks daily and regular mental stimulation – for example, the opportunity to stop and explore while walking. Working dog breeds often require more than this exercise baseline. If you’re unsure how much exercise your dog needs, check this activity calculator to calculate based on your dog’s age and breed. 

If you have fallen short in providing your dog with exercise and stimulation…they’ll find a way to exercise themselves. In many cases, this means escaping and taking themselves on a walk (or run) through the neighborhood.

If you believe your dog is running away because they do not get enough exercise or stimulation, the answer is quite simple – increase their daily walks. Add another walk to your dog's schedule and give them plenty of time to explore their changing surroundings. If adding more exercise to your routine is a problem, consider investing in a wireless GPS fence so your dog can explore safely within your property, checking them into doggy daycare, or hiring a pet walker.

Your Dog has a High Prey Drive

Are you wondering how to keep your dog from running away when they are driven by instinct? Many dogs run away because they are chasing a scent. This is particularly true of dog breeds developed to chase down prey, like ridgebacks, rat terriers, salukis, and greyhounds. These dogs are "designed" to lock onto and chase down prey based on sight, sound, or scent – and if they need to jump physical fences to catch that prey, they will. 

If your pup cannot help themselves from chasing down furry critters, there are a couple of approaches that you can take. A GPS-powered fence can offer a more reliable containment area that your dog can’t jump over – plus it gives your dog space to run and chase safely. Secondly, give your dog outlets for their natural prey-chasing instinct. Some dog owners create or make use of existing lure courses. You can also consider channeling your dog's instinct into another activity like search and rescue work!

Your Dog is Anxious

Another common reason for dogs running away is anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety fear separation from something or someone, and they go searching for that something when forced to be apart. 

Other behaviors seen in dogs with separation anxiety include:

  • Obsessive barking or whining 
  • Trembling
  • Urinating indoors
  • Destroying doors, walls, and fences to escape 

Dogs with general anxiety are fearful for many reasons, and like humans, that fear often causes a flight response. Some common reasons for fear in anxious dogs include:

  • Thunder/lightning/fireworks
  • Strangers
  • Unfamiliar territory/new places
  • Significant schedule changes

Dogs with separation anxiety often run for "safety," so your first step should always be to contain them securely. Secondly, consult a professional behaviorist and trainer who can help to relieve your dog's anxiety. Obedience training and regular exercise can go a long way in improving your dog’s confidence and overall mental health. If all else fails, consult your veterinarian about trying anxiety medications to relieve your dog's symptoms.

You Can’t Contain Your Dog in Your Current Environment

A lack of proper containment is another common reason for dogs running away. Gaps in the fence, fences that are too low, open gates, and fencing that is not deep enough in the ground all contribute to dogs running away.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Running Away

Build a Better Training Routine For Your Dog

One of the best things you can do to prevent your pup from running away is to work with them on obedience. Build a training routine that directly supports your dog's needs. General obedience commands and recall training are essential skills to build with your pop. 

 While general training works well, dogs with special needs – like separation anxiety – often need different training techniques to feel comfortable. For anxious dogs, you may need to focus on creating a positive association with their crate. 

Address Your Dog’s Anxiety

Learning how to keep a dog from running away when they face general anxiety can be troublesome. Fortunately, there are more than a few anxiety solutions out there, and finding one that works for your dog is a matter of trial and error. Some of the most widely used canine anxiety solutions include:

  • Swaddling or swaddling clothing
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Anxiety medications
  • Desensitization therapy
  • Pheromone exposure

With your dog’s anxiety under control, they are less likely to make a break for it when enjoying your backyard.

Build a Fence on Your Property to Minimize Escape Attempts

When your pup escapes because you cannot contain them, proper containment is the only solution to the problem. Proper containment might mean solving the issues with your current containment solution: 

  • Fixing gaps in the fence
  • Installing a taller fence
  • Always remembering to close and lock gates
  • Burying fences deeper in the ground or placing chicken wire and heavy rocks at the bottom of the fence to prevent tunneling

Or, if your pup is a Houdini dog and a traditional fence cannot contain them consider installing a GPS wireless fence. Unlike traditional fencing, a GPS fence uses no physical boundary for containment; instead, it has an invisible perimeter. This system allows your pup to freely exercise their instincts within a secured area, leaving you both happier.

A GPS wireless fence works particularly well for large properties and to fence through tricky terrain. It’s easily portable and enables you to keep tabs on your dog on the app. If your dog does breach the fence, you get an instant notification and tracking kicks in so you can find and bring your dog home. With a physical fence, you may not even know that your dog has escaped. 

Author Bio:
Amy Brannan is a British native who currently resides in North Carolina with Jet, her 15-year-old senior black lab. Throughout her life, Amy has been owned by numerous Labrador retrievers, a Great-Dane pit-bull mix, and a very demanding border collie. For over 16 years, Amy has dedicated her life to dog training, and she currently works as a freelance writer, promoter of rescue dog awareness, and part-time for a local veterinary clinic.

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