At best, the problem is a nuisance. At worst, it can be fatal. Fortunately, an escaping habit is treatable, mostly by making your dog’s world as interesting and fulfilling as possible. But no matter how much of a homebody she seems, it’s wise to do everything you can to prevent an escape — the risk is too high that your dog could wind up hurt, fatally injured, or lost forever.
Boredom, isolation, and sexual roaming are most often the motives in dogs’ attempts to escape or run away. Not surprisingly, spayed or neutered dogs who receive plenty of exercise and lots of attention from their owners are the least likely to become four-legged escape artists. A happy dog who feels like part of the family will genuinely want to stick around.
A couple of caveats to keep in mind, however: Some breeds — such as Border Collies, who are bred to herd sheep–truly enjoy “working” and will go looking for tasks in the absence of being given any. And puppies and adolescent dogs are especially prone to wanderlust if they don’t have sufficient outlets to release their energy. Of course, almost any canine will follow her nose if the scent is powerful enough–important to remember when your neighbors are barbecuing.
How to treat the problem
- Spend time with your dog. Make sure she feels comfortable in her home and attached to members of the household.
- Don’t make it easy for her. Even if she’s been impeccably trained, remind yourself she’s a dog, with strong canine instincts. If you know she takes off at the faintest whiff of a squirrel, make sure your yard has a secure fence, and keep her on leash in any open area.
- Provide a variety of indoor and outdoor toys for your dog and rotate in different ones from time to time. They don’t have to be new–occasionally swap with a neighbor or friend. Your dog won’t care if the toys have been chewed on or batted around; the novelty is what’s important.
- If your dog loves the company of other canines but there aren’t any others in your home, arrange for supervised play dates. She’ll be less inclined to search out other dogs if she has regular access to her buddies.
- Keep your dog indoors when you’re not at home. If necessary, hire a pet sitter or dog walker to help out with potty breaks.
How to prevent the problem
- Spay or neuter your dog before she or he reaches sexual maturity (typically at about six months). This is by far the best way to keep sexual roaming to a minimum.
- Don’t leave your dog alone for extended stretches. If you need to be away for hours at a time, plan to hire a dog walker or find a reputable doggie daycare.
- Provide plenty of exercise, both mental and physical. A tired dog is a happy dog.
Bottom line: The best way to keep your dog from running away is to create a strong, healthy bond between the two of you. Spend time training her, walk her every day, and give her the attention she deserves. In essence, make sure your dog knows she’s a beloved part of the pack.