Dogs run away for a number of reasons, most of them instinctual. The good news is that with a little time and patience you can curb the habit. Here is how to keep your dog from running away in 11 different steps. The steps are arranged across three different categories, focusing on different aspects of why a dog may run away. They are then listed in order of efficiency.
Steps for Your Dog
These are by far the most important steps when it comes to how to keep your dog from running away. Most of the time running away is instinctual, but there are cases where it is triggered by something else. Being aware of your dog and their personality will help you determine the cause and how to address the issue much faster. Here are steps you can take with your dog to keep them from running away.
1. Spay or Neuter Your Dog
Not surprisingly, your dog’s instincts are very strong. This is especially true of dogs that have not been spayed or neutered. One of the most common reasons a dog runs away is to mate. Spaying or neutering your dog (if they haven’t already had this procedure), will curb this natural instinct and keep them more mellow during certain times of the month.
2. Foster a Feeling of Freedom
Dogs are animals and they are naturally independent. Often dogs will run away because they feel ‘caged’ or limited in the space that is provided. Take them to a dog park, or a city park, on a regular basis. Let your dog run free in wider range of space; it will help to satiate their desire to run and explore other times.
3. Toys & Playtime
Sometimes your dog will run away simply because he/she is bored. In order to keep them interested in their designated play area(s), invest in some toys. Make a point to actively engage with your dog and play with them. Teach them tricks or just play fetch. Engaging with your dog this way will train them that ‘home is fun’. This is one of the best steps for how to keep your dog from running away.
4. Positive Reinforcement
While this can be used alone, it often works in tandem with any of the other steps and is one of the most effective for how to keep your dog from running away. Positive reinforcement can be words of praise, treats, or your dog’s favorite scratch. These kinds of things make your dog want to come back to you and also works to keep them from leaving in the first place. Positive reinforcement combats the spontaneous reinforcement they receive when they run away and works to ensure that ‘home’ is a place they want to stay.
5. Professional Trainer(s)
For some dogs, the above steps are not enough. If all else fails, or if the desired results are inconsistent, do not be afraid of signing your dog up for some professional training. Behavior lessons and training can do wonders for a free-spirited pup and can work to discourage your dog from running away.
Steps for Yourself
Understandably, most of the steps for keeping your dog from running away are focused on your dog. However, there are some things that you can do apart from your dog that will discourage such behavior.
1. Check Your Voice
Raising your voice – even if you are calling your dog to come back – is a negative reinforcement. Your dog hears the volume and assumes that you are upset. They will continue to run away in order to stay away from any punishment that your volume and tone imply. Even if you are raising your voice with the best intentions, it is counter-productive. Instead of encouraging your dog to come home (and stay home) your voice can often drive him/her away.
2. Be Honest
Just as your tone can drive your dog away, so can dishonesty. If you call them nicely but scold your dog as soon as they come to you, it is another negative reinforcement. Like yelling, it discourages them from coming to you the next time and inversely encourages them to run away again.
3. Be Consistent
When training your dog in any way one of the key factors is consistency. This is how to keep your dog from running away in the most basic way. If they are not rewarded every time they do something it will not really teach them anything. Not only do you need to be consistent with your reinforcements, it is also important to be consistent with what you are reinforcing. Random actions will only make your dog happy in the moment, rather than helping him/her understand the specific behavior(s) that they need to perform.
Steps For Your House
Outside of the steps for your dog and yourself, there are practical steps you can take to escape-proof your house. These steps will help you as you teach your dog good behavior while making it difficult for your dog to run away at the same time
1. Invest in an Actual Fence
Electric fences are great for dogs who are not prone to running away and they are great for dogs who already understand boundaries. However, they are next to impossible to use when training a newer dog or one who is prone to run away. Since it is not visible, it is difficult to establish the concept of a boundary with an electric fence. If you can, invest in a real fence so that your dog can begin to understand where he/she can and cannot go.
2. Combat the Digging
If you have a fence in place, dogs will often try to dig under it to run away. If you have a digger, consider putting some chicken wire in the dirt to discourage the digging. You can also line the fence base with rocks to hinder the digging.
3. Invest in Good Gates and/or Doors
It is easy for a dog to run away if the gate or door is left wide open. If you have children, or just forgetful adults, consider purchasing gates that self-close. This will eliminate the ‘easy out’ for a dog and put an end to the opportunistic runs (because who can resist a gate that is left wide open?)
Keep in mind that no matter what steps you take dogs will occasionally run away from time to time. Stay calm and do your best to build a home that your dog loves; this is how to keep your dog from running away. Having a place to stay that is comfortable and loving is the best solution for keeping your dog from running away. If you have any tips that have worked for keeping your dog at home in addition to what is listed above feel free to share it in the comments below.
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