Any dog owner whose precious pup has run away knows how it feels. There’s the frustration as you’re trying to find your dog or get them back. There’s the fear before you know that your dog is somewhere safe. And there’s the confusion: Why do dogs run away? Why did my dog run away? How can I fix this?
Dogs are supposed to be pack animals who bond with their humans. So what do you do if you have a dog who just seems to want to get away from you?
First, take a deep breath. And then, realize that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re far from it.
According to pet microchip company Peeva, one in three pets will go missing at some point in its life. That means that each and every year, more than 10 million dogs and cats run away. It happens, even to the best pet owners, and even if you take every possible precaution.
Now for the good news: When dogs run away, there’s usually a reason why. And there are some reasons that are pretty common, so you might be able to identify why your dog is running away — which means you can take steps to help stop it from happening again.
9 Reasons Why Dogs Run Away
Why do dogs run away? Well, there are a lot of possible reasons, but some are common and well-documented. Check out the list below and try to see if any of these sound like your pup.
Your Dog Is Bored
One of the top reasons a dog might run away is because it’s bored, frustrated, or looking for more adventure or excitement. This might be the reason your dog keeps making a break for it if you often leave him or her home alone without toys or other stimulation — and particularly if you tend to leave your dog alone in your yard without anything to do.
Dogs need love, attention, toys, games, and other things to do. If they don’t have those things at home, they’re likely to get bored and frustrated and go looking for them elsewhere by running away.
Your Dog Isn’t Secure
Another common reason a dog might run away is simply because it can. This happens because the dog isn’t secure, which can mean a few different things:
- You don’t have a good fence around your yard,
- You don’t have a good harness or leash to keep your dog secure on walks,
- You’ve made it easy for your dog to escape, like by letting them off-leash when they shouldn’t be.
As a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure your dog is secure at all times. If you fail to do so, your dog might very well take advantage of that fact and run away.
Your Dog Just Loves to Run
There’s no way around it: Some dogs just love to feel the wind in their fur. Depending on their breed, age, and personality level, certain dogs will have a lot more energy than others, and might turn to running to burn some of it off.
A dog that loves to run isn’t inherently a problem — as long as you give them a safe space to get that exercise. But if you have a dog that loves running, and you don’t have a yard or your forego walks and trips to the dog park, that dog might turn to running away to get his or her exercise.
Your Dog Saw Something It Wanted
Whether it’s because it has a high prey drive or just wants to make a new friend, another common reason dogs run away is because they see something they’ve just gotta have.
Your dog might be escaping to chase after another dog, a cat, a rabbit or squirrel, or even a car. It might be breaking out because it sees another dog or a person that it wants to make friends with. If your dog doesn’t have enough stimulation inside the fence, and sees something stimulating outside the fence, well, he or she will probably try to get out.
Your Dog Is Scared
Every Fourth of July, animal shelters see a huge spike in runaway dogs and cats. Why? With all those fireworks going off, our pets get scared, and when animals are scared, they try to get away from whatever is scaring them.
That means that even if it’s not the Fourth of July, if your dog keeps running away, it could be because there’s something scary nearby. Keep an ear out for loud noises, and watch your dog’s behavior at home in case he or she is scared of an object or a person in your neighborhood.
Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
We know that dogs are pack animals, and they want to bond with other dogs or with their people. So if you have to leave your dog at home alone while you go to school or work, it might cause him or her some serious anxiety.
This is another common reason for runaway dogs. If they can’t find the rest of their “pack,” they might try to escape to go looking for them. It takes building a lot of trust and a comfortable environment to ease separation anxiety for dogs.
There’s Been a Change In Your Dog’s Routine
Dogs are sensitive to disruptions in their lives and their routines. That’s why, if there’s been a major change in your life, it might upset your dog so much that he or she runs away.
If you’re having problems with a runaway dog, think about any big changes that have happened recently. Have you moved to a new home? Gotten married or divorced? Welcomed a new baby or a new pet? Those are major changes and your dog might be having a hard time understanding and adjusting.
Your Dog Isn’t Well Trained
Sometimes the solution to a mystery is the simplest one. It’s possible that your dog is running away just because he or she isn’t well trained.
This might be the case if your dog rushes to get out the door every time it’s opened, or pulls on his or her leash, only to bolt if you lose your grip on it. If your dog is getting away from you because of a behavioral issue, the solution might be to look into some professional training to help break whatever bad habit he or she has picked up.
Your Dog Is Looking For a Mate
When love is in the air, there may be no stopping your dog from trying to find it. If your dog hasn’t been spayed or neutered, he or she might be running away because hormones are hitting and making him or her want to find a mate. This is especially likely if there’s a dog living nearby of the opposite sex, and they aren’t spayed or neutered, either.
Even if you don’t have a problem with your dog running away, you should spay or neuter your pet. It’s just what responsible pet owners do.