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

Solution #3: Enrich Your Dog’s Life at Home

A pet dog should be living indoors, with you. Use reward-based training to teach her tricks and good manners – not only will she be easier to live with, but also the brain work will diminish boredom and help her relax. Regular readers know I’m a huge fan of food-dispensing toys, as well.

When your dog goes outside, go with her, unless she’s just taking a short toilet break in a well-fenced yard. Play with her. Take long walks with her. Practice your training in new environments with more distractions than your living room offers. 

Remember, you’re not spoiling your dog when you keep her company, play with her, and teach her things – you’re meeting her genuine needs.  

Solution #4: Don’t Punish Your Dog for Coming Home

What about those “controlled take-downs” wandering Molly gets when she makes her way home again?  Forcing a dog to the ground and holding her there till she “submits,” or stops trying to get up, is supposed to be a way for you to assert your rank. The inspiration seems to have been certain extreme conflict behaviors seen in captive wolves, whose behavior is distorted for a variety of reasons. Free wolves living in normal family groups don’t roll one another, though Teen Wolf may defer to Mama or Papa by voluntarily lying down with exposed throat and belly. 

Like wolves, dogs don’t roll each other except in high-conflict situations. If Molly experiences Jim’s take-downs as any kind of communication at all, it’s a fairly hostile one. Whatever Jim hopes to convey, the lesson he’s teaching Molly is that when she gets home, she can expect something weird and probably scary to happen. Instead of taking Molly down, Jim, throw her a huge party when she shows up! It’s the same rule as for a dog who’s slow in coming when called. Unless you want him to get pokier yet, don’t punish him when he arrives.

That’s it for this week. You can follow The Dog Trainer on Twitter, where I’m Dogalini. I’m The Dog Trainer on Facebook, and you can also write to me at dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com. I welcome your comments and suggestions, and I may use them as the basis for future articles. Lassie, come home!



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).