Case Study: The Runaway Dog

What should you do if your dog makes a habit of running away? The Dog Trainer has 4 reasons for your dog's escapes and 4 solutions for keeping him home. 

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #136

Reason #4: Dogs May Run Away Because They’ve Got Pent-Up Energy

Many people put their dogs out in the yard “to play.” What happens is that most dogs trot around for a few minutes and then wait by the door to be let back in again. Not much exercise there, so pretty soon, we’re right back to boredom and loneliness.  Athletic dogs start going stir-crazy, PDQ. Molly’s 8, an age at which many dogs have just barely begun to slow down. 

So how do you prevent or stop your dog from running away? As usual, the possible causes suggest their own solutions. 

Solution #1: Teach Your Dog to Wait for Permission to Go Out

In an earlier article, I explained how to teach dogs to wait for your okay before going out an open door. Use the same method to teach “wait at the gate.” The short version: First, prevent escapes by having your dog on leash or indoors whenever the gate opens. Then practice by bringing her to the gate on leash. Ask her to sit, then reach for the handle. As soon as she starts to get up, take your hand back and ask her to sit again. Reach for the handle. Repeat, repeat, repeat until Dogalini can wait patiently till you give her the okay to go through. 

Next, practice with Dogalini dragging the leash (so you can catch her if need be), and then with no leash at all. I would not expect to be able to leave a gate open constantly while my dog was loose in the yard, but with a little patience you can teach any dog that your mere opening of the gate isn’t her cue to bolt through.

All this assumes, of course, that you’ve got a securely fenced yard. If not, then always bring your dog out on that leash you’ve got hanging off the front-door knob. 

Solution #2: Neuter Your Male Dog

Neuter Zippyboy! And if your dog is female, spay her, so that her hormones don’t draw male dogs from miles around. Not only is roaming dangerous for dogs, but really, our animal shelters do not need more puppies to try desperately to find homes for so they don’t have to kill them. 

Behaviors can become habits even when they arose out of instinct. So if your male dog has been roaming all his life, neutering alone may not stop him. Solution #3 still applies.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).