Why Do Some Dogs Run Away & Some Don't?
There are very solid reasons why some dogs run away and some dogs do not. I was sparked to further research and write about this subject by two recent clients who asked, and by the shocking number of runaway dogs I see locally in my area on the Nextdoor social media site. So here’s the scoop, but first I’ll use Luna Belle as an example. Mind you, I put in the required work! A dog is work, a lot of work and money, but the rewards are simply amazing and beautiful.
One evening I discovered the front big gate to my backyard was broken, it wouldn’t close, and there was a two foot gap left there. I forgot and let Luna Belle out later that night!
As I closed the door, I remembered, and in a panic I ran the shortest distance through my house towards that gate, which was out the side carport door. When I got there I got curious and stopped myself. I just watch through the window. I have good recall with her, so I knew I could retrieve her quickly if she got out. Sure enough, she found it right away, slowly came out of the yard onto the driveway, though cautiously, walked out onto the driveway, stopped, sniffed up in the air all around, then came under the carport, curled up, and went to sleep.
I kept this experiment up for two weeks, seeing if she’d eventually walk away from home. Nope! She may go sniff some grass, check out what’s under the fig tree in my front yard, but then always ends up under the carport, curled up and asleep.
P.S. The gate has been fixed since then.
So why did she not run away? Because I had met all of her needs here at home. Simple as that. BUT it took a little work to get there!
Dogs run off because there is something “out there” that they need, and are not getting at home. When you provide for your dogs needs at home, there’s no need for them to go off anywhere. It really is that simple, just like people.
Food, shelter, love, exercise, mental stimulation, bonding to a family pack, daily routine, all of this goes into what a dog needs. Much of it is easy. Food twice a day (measured), clean water bowl always filled with fresh, clean water, appropriate affection and socialization from ALL family members (yes, there is inappropriate affection we’ll talk about in another post), a daily routine (dogs are creatures of habit), and being inside with the family (keeping a strictly “outside” dog is BS and I get angry at folks who do this), that’s all pretty easy. Right? If you have questions about any of these issues so far, drop us a line.
What trips up a lot of people are: sex, training, exercise & socialization, and mental stimulation. Let’s start with dog’s sex drive.
Sex is important to all animals, dogs are animals, thus sex is important to dogs. No, this is not a Monty Python “all fish are herrings” routine (although I wish it was). Thus, if you spay/neuter your dog, there’s much, much less chance they’ll go looking for a mate. If you are not a professional breeder, get your dog fixed! Talk to your vet about the best time and method for this.
And I’m going to piss-off someone out there, but there is NO legitimate, proven, scientific reason to not get your non-breeder dog fixed! Scientifically, it’s just the opposite. If you want a protection dog, getting them fixed will probably have no effect! In fact, one study shows it may actually help.
Proper basic obedience training is a MUST for all dogs. There are no valid arguments against this. You MUST train your dog properly. I highly recommend a professional trainer, as I’ve seen way too many YouTube videos giving really bad training advice. To an average person, these YouTubers may sound like they’re giving good advice, but to a professional, we see “Poison Cues” and other mistakes that will show up as bad behaviors later on, and the average person won’t know about it. Training also challenges your dog mentally and physically. Because it is you and your dog trying to learn to communicate with each other (that’s all training really is), it helps to deepen the bond between you. It can take 3 months on average to fully train a dog in basic obedience. That’s 3 months of training at least 15 minutes once or twice a day…MINIMUM! But after that 3 months, you’ll have 10+ more years of a very smooth and mutually enjoyable relationship with your dog. Very little to invest to reap such a huge, long term investment, if you ask me!
EXERCISE & SOCIALIZATION
The next big thing a lot of handlers don’t get is exercise. Going for a walk through the neighborhood is great exercise for YOU, but not for your dog! Your dog (depending on size and breeding) may need an hour of RUNNING in an open field ever day, minimum! Own a large working breed and watch out! Trust me, Luna Belle, 4 previous GSDs, a Beagle, a Lab, trust me…
Dog parks are great for this if your dog is a good candidate for parks. Not all dogs are candidate for a dog park, not all dog parks are good places, and we’ll talk about that in another post. For now, use your best judgement and some common sense.
Doggy day care centers are good for socialization and exercise, also. Your dog gets to socialize with other dogs (they needs this A LOT) in a supervised environment. I drop Luna Belle off locally at Camp Bow Wow one day a week. She’s not a great dog park candidate. Her breeder didn’t socialize her to other dogs properly as a new born, her original owner didn’t socialize her much, it’s pretty obvious. But she’s not aggressive, just “clingy” and it puts off some other dogs and their owners. It’s an awkward situation I like to avoid. We’re working on those issues daily, and supervised day care is a great solution for us.
Swimming is super mega great for dogs (and people)! Teach your dog to swim (they are not all born just knowing, they learn). And if you can take your dog to a lake or pool or somewhere they can get in and swim around, that’s amazing, low impact, very healthy exercise! Especially for dogs who have physical issues such as hips, back, elbow issues. I previously had a dog with a leg injury from before I owned him, and he loved swimming, and it didn’t make his leg give out as fast as running did.
This is such a very, very important component of a health dog’s lifestyle! After basic obedience training is done, continue with what I call the “parlor tricks” such as shake, spin, roll over, etc.
Also, Kong brand “challenge toys” as I call them, that make it difficult for your dog to get to the treats inside are fantastic!
Then there are games you can teach your dog to play such as laying out 3 upside-down plastic cups when the dog is not in the room. Place a treat under one, let the dog back in the room, see how long it takes for them to find which cup the treat is under. Reward with praise as soon as they find it.
If you’re a family, sit in a circle, each person with some treats in a container the dog can’t get to. One person calls the dog to them, then points to another family member, and says that persons name. Dogs are about the only animal that recognizes human’s pointing a finger as meaning something. When the dog goes to the correct family member, that member gives the dog a treat. Then that person points to another family member and says that person’s name. This way, the dog is challenged to learn each family member’s individual names.
Trainers will alway tell you, “The dog’s needs must come first and foremost!” If you meet your dog’s mental and physical needs, there’s very little chance they’ll ever run away.
Luna Belle and I will cover more dog training, health, socialization, toy, equipment, grooming, and other issues in future posts, so keep checking back!
So keep yourselves and your puppers happy and healthy! And remember, OUR DOGS ARE FAMILY!