By Jodi L. Hartley

I received a call the other day from one of my fellow dog-walking neighbors. Another dog-walking neighbor’s dog was missing. He had been outside in the front yard on a tie-out. She didn’t know if he ran off or was stolen. I had that awful feeling in the pit of stomach worrying about him, and praying he would get home safely. Luckily a few hours later, dog-walking neighbor with the missing dog called to say he was home. I was so relieved as was she of course.

Unfortunately in today’s world it simply isn’t safe for dogs to wander and roam. If you have a dog who keeps running off, there are a number of reasons why he may roam.

  1. To Find a Mate. Dogs who aren’t spayed or neutered often roam to look for a mate. Reproductive drive, especially in males, will push dogs to go looking, and an intact male dog can detect a female in heat miles away. The first step to curb roaming is to spay or neuter your dog.
  2. Boredom/Prey-drive. Before domestication dogs roamed to find food and mates. They spent much of their day hunting and roaming so it’s only natural that some dogs retain that desire to roam. Dogs often have pent-up energy to be released as well and a few five-minute trips to the backyard won’t help. Dogs need exercise and mental stimulation. A daily walk along with playtime or practicing obedience commands is often the answer to keeping a dog happy at home.
  3. Socialization. Much like dogs who escape to alleviate boredom, some dogs take off to visit other canine friends or people. Some dogs hate to be alone and will actively seek companionship. If you suspect your dog is lonely, make more time for him. Plan a daily walk and some play/cuddle time. If your dog seeks out other dogs to play with, enroll him in doggie day camp so he can have fun with other dogs in a safe, controlled environment.
  4. Fear. Something may have happened to your dog inside your house or in the backyard that frightened him so now he tries to escape from the scary place. It’s common for some dogs to bolt during thunderstorms. It’s best to work with a certified dog trainer or behaviorist to help a fearful dog in the long term. In the short-term, don’t keep your dog in a place in which he’s fearful. He will only try to escape and may hurt himself and your property. If your dog is afraid during thunderstorms, don’t let him outside if there is any chance of a storm coming up. You can also try putting your dog in a Thundershirt, a compression-type shirt that often helps anxious dogs, or a snug-fitting t-shirt. Some dogs have seen improvement with the use of Rescue Remedy, an all-natural liquid supplement to ease anxiety.

General Precautions

Determining why your dog runs away is very important to curbing the behavior, but there are some basic precautions to check.

  1. Fencing. Make sure you have a high, sturdy fence. Don’t rely on tie-outs or electric fences to keep roamers at home. Dogs often can pull out tie-outs or get them unhooked. Electric fences usually don’t keep determined dogs from running through them if they are after something, but do deter them from coming back into the yard. They also don’t keep other dogs, animals or humans out that could come into your yard and harm your dog. If your dog is a fence climber, make sure to line the fence with flat, smooth boards so he can’t get a good toehold, and you may want to install an electric fence at the top. If your dog is a digger, bury chicken wire from the bottom of your fence into the ground. Make sure there are no holes or areas for your dog to squeeze through, and check the fence regularly for holes or weak areas. If there is a gate, keep it padlocked.
  2. Identification. Despite all these efforts, sometimes dogs still get loose. Make sure your dog has a collar with identification on it. Microchipping is highly recommended as dogs can lose their collars and identification tags can be damaged. If your lost dog is microchipped and is brought to a shelter or veterinarian, he can be scanned, and your contact information will be available so long as you keep it current with the microchip company.

Article References:

Pet Place: Dealing with Dogs that Run Away.

Missing Pet Partnership: Recovery Tips: Lost Dog Behavior

ASPCA: Escaping from the Yard