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Why Do Dogs Run Away From Home? (& Tips to Prevent It)

Many dogs in shelters are in there because they ran away from home and are never claimed. It is one of the biggest worries to many dog owners, who struggle with wanting to give their dog freedom to run and play and keep them safe at the same time.

A dog that runs can get hit by car, stolen, attacked by another animal, or end up at a shelter.

Keeping your dog safe starts with knowing why he runs. Here are some of the main reasons dogs run away from home and how to prevent.

Why do They Run?

Our dogs love us, right? At least they sure act like it. So it’s hard for us to imagine why our dog would want to leave a safe, warm, dry home where he gets feed several times a day, love, attention, toys, treats, etc. It sounds like doggy heaven.

Looking for a Mate. Intact dogs, especially males, roam because they are looking for a mate. It’s that simple. It’s also a good reason to alter your dog, especially if they spend a good deal of time outside or have an open front yard where if they bolt out the door, they’re gone.

Do you remember when you wanted to run away when you were younger? Think back to why, you had a home that gave you meals and clothed you, what more could you ask for? Maybe adventure? Freedom from rules? Just because you loved the great outdoors? Dogs run away for very much the same reasons.

Boredom. If your dog is stuck in an empty backyard all day, missing all the excitement of the world outdoors, they are going to try and find a way to run.

Love of running. If you have a husky, for example, you are keenly aware of their desire to just run. They don’t care where, they just want to run. Many of these dogs escape purely for the joy of the great outdoors.

Adventure. This one might make you laugh but think about it. Is your dog the type, like a terrier, that gets into everything or a hound that wants to sniff every scent on Earth? They don’t mean to run away, but when they catch site of that squirrel or smell that rabbit, they’re gone.


@BaileyWeaver via Flickr
Make sure your yard is dog proofed by checking for any area your dog could escape from. Photo Credit: @BaileyWeaver via Flickr

So, how do you prevent your dog from running away? Robin Bennett, CPDT-KA, author, All About Dog Daycare and behavior expert, has some great tips to prevent your dog from roaming away from home.

“One of the key components is making their environment interesting,” Bennett advises.  “I don’t generally recommend leaving a dog outside alone all day, but if you need to leave your dog unattended in a safe area, then provide some environmental enrichment for him.”

Her suggestions are:

  • Hide treats that he has to find
  • Create interactive toys by burying food dispensing treats in a sandbox and let your dog dig to find the food [great for those hounds and terriers mentioned above!]
  • Freeze an ice block with tasty tidbits of food in it and let your dog lick it as it melts.
  • Go outside with your dog and play fetch, Frisbee, chasing games, or do some back yard agility so you tire him out.

If your dog jumps your fence, there are some things you can to do deter that as well.

“You could try increasing the height of the fence, making the fence inaccessibly (for instance by planting trees or shrubs along the fence line to prevent access to the jumper, or even put coyote rollers along the top of the fence line,” says Bennett.

“I think the biggest prevention tip would be to do obedience training and teach your dog good household manners so that he can be inside with the family,” she adds.

And, don’t forget, altering your dog can also help snuff the desire to run. Be sure to have ID tags and/or a microchip so if he does run, he can get back home.

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of, A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.


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Written by Kristina Lotz
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