With all the mischief they can get up to otherwise, there’s nothing more stressful than when your dog keeps running away. The first time? Cute. The second, third, fourth…tenth time? Frustrating – if not terrifying, when you consider how your little Houdini could get hit by a car, pick a fight with the wrong pet (or predator), or be lured into a dog thief’s car with some treats.

Dogs run away for all sorts of reasons – but it’s more serious if yours keeps running away on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. So it’s time to figure out how to keep your dog safe inside your yard or home…and how to prevent them from ever getting lost again.

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My dog keeps running away – what gives?

Dogs escape for a variety of reasons. They may run away because, for example…

A woman chasing a Border Collie in an open field
  • Or there may be a fun destination that your pup wants to visit – such as another dog or a neighbor who hands out yummy treats.

Some runaway dog breeds are also more likely to make an escape attempt than others. The reasons aren’t 100% clear – but it’s usually a combination of temperament, activity levels, instincts, and…

The most common reasons why dogs run away

Which include:

If your dog is a chronic runaway, they are not going to stop this behavior on their own. It’s up to you to create a safe, enjoyable environment in your yard and reinforce positive behaviors so your pup will never run off again.

⚠️ Even the most well-trained dogs can fall prey to their own instinct to run off when scared or anxious – no matter how low-maintenance you think they are.

So here are a couple of steps to ensure max security for your runaway dog – and peace of mind for you.

Check your fence & gates

Got a dog who frequently escapes from the yard – even though you have an outdoor dog fence? Start by inspecting your physical fence for damage.

  • Dogs can squeeze through smaller spaces than you might expect. Look for places where your pooch has dug a hole beneath the fence.
  • Block any holes with lumber or chicken wire to prevent future dog escapes.
  • Your dog may be stepping on patio furniture or toys to climb up and over the fence. Move these items away from the fence.
A dog sitting behind a wooden fence
  • Some very athletic or highly motivated dogs can jump over a fence. They take a running leap and over the fence they go! The best way to keep jumpers inside a fenced yard is to extend the height of your fence. 
  • Check the latches on your fence gates. Does the latch click shut when you close the gate behind you? If the gate doesn’t always latch securely, you can bet that the dog knows it and is planning an escape from the yard. 

Read more: Dog Jumping Fence? How To Handle An Escape Artist Dog

Don’t have a physical fence? Try a virtual one, for a change

Let’s face it: physical fences aren’t just cumbersome and time-consuming to set up. They’re also pretty expensive. (And that’s just upfront costs without factoring in how much you’ll have to shell out just for maintenance and upkeep.)

But imagine being able to get an alert on your phone the minute your dog tries to make an escape attempt…so you can prevent them from running off?

That’s just what Tractive dog parents just like you are setting up to keep tabs on their escape artist dogs. I.e., using Tractive’s Virtual Fence to create “safe zones” and “no go zones” for your pets.

💡Now any time they try and sneak out of a safe zone, their tracker sends an escape alert to your phone. So a way smarter, more affordable, pet-friendly, vet-friendly alternative to setting up an invisible fence or an e-collar that uses static shocks to boundary train your pets.

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Find Your Escape Artist Dog

Revisit your dog’s basic training

Your dog’s instincts might override their training from time to time. So it’s a good idea to revisit their basic obedience training. (I.e., commands like Sit, Stay, or Come.) With a bit of practice and consistency, you can easily avoid the frustration of constant dog escapes.

Because in the end, a well-trained dog is a safe dog. So you could:

  • Enroll at a dog obedience school with your buddy to learn some dog training techniques together.
  • Reinforce your dog’s “good” behaviors with consistent rewards. (And ignore any “bad” behaviors.) Check out clicker training for dogs, which is a method built on positive reinforcement.
  • Stay mindful of your own behavior. For example, if your dog escapes, do you run after them? If so, your dog may view this as playtime and escape over and over just for fun.
A man training his dog outdoors

In general, pay extra attention to…well, when you give your dog attention.

  • Do you tend to only pay them the most attention when they’re off exploring your neighbors’ backyards?
  • Or do you drive the neighborhood to collect them into the car? If your dog enjoys car rides, this technique may reinforce the escape behavior. (Your dog may have trained you instead of the other way around!)

Training your dog requires consistency and patience, but the results are worth it. Time spent training your dog builds trust between you and your dog, improves safety for all, and cements your relationship with your pup in a positive way.

Should you punish your dog for running away?

Punishment may not be an effective way to keep your dog from running off. Dogs associate punishment with whatever they are doing at the moment the correction is delivered. If you punish your dog when they arrive back home, the dog will associate being punished with returning home. As a result, your pup may become afraid of you or your home – and might be less likely to return.

Unless you catch your dog in the act of escaping, it’s unlikely punishing them will reduce any runaway behavior. So do your best to reinforce (or pay the most attention to) your dog’s “good” behaviors. (I.e., when they stay within a safe zone or your backyard.)

A woman hugging a dog in a forested area

How to stop your dog from running out an open door or gate

Expecting a bunch of guests over for Christmas or New Year’s? You’ll want to watch your doors (including garage doors and yard gates) with any increased foot traffic to your home. At the first sight of an open door or gate, your escape artist dog might attempt to make a run for it. (Or simply because they’re just so excited for walkies.)

So instead:

  • Make sure to put your pup on a secure leash before opening any doors or gates.
  • Pay extra attention commands like Come and Sit while you attach a leash securely to your dog’s collar or harness.
  • Train your dog to Stay when you open the front door to grab an Amazon package, pick up your Uber Eats, or welcome a guest over.
  • Avoid multitasking when you open a door or gate. Keep your eyes on your dog and watch their behavior.

If backyard escapes continue to happen when you open a fence gate, consider adding an airlock or vestibule to your fence. This system creates double-gated entry and exit from your yard and a safe, enclosed area where you can leash up your dog before heading out.

white dog wearing a Tractive GPS tracker running in a forest
Pictured: Tractive GPS Dog Tracker and Activity Monitor

Tiring out your dog can keep them from running away

Puppies and adolescent dogs have a ton of energy to spare. By taking your dog for a walk every day, you’ll help them use the excess energy that they might otherwise spend digging, climbing, or jumping the fence.

Daily walks keep your dog in good physical condition and prevent canine obesity, which can threaten your pup’s health and well-being. Walking also helps your dog benefit from the sensory stimulation of the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors. Plus, your dog gets to spend time with their favorite person – you!

💡Vets even recommend tracking your dog’s daily activity to catch on to a health issue early.1 Because one of the first signs your dog might be sick or struggling with pain or discomfort? A drop in their everyday energy and activity.

Which you can quickly pick up with your Tractive device’s built-in motion detector and Activity Tracking. So you can both ensure your buddy’s getting enough exercise – and take action early if you notice a change from their usual activity.

dog running through grass in background; tractive gps app with activity monitoring for dogs in foreground

Stay in shape together

Set daily goals. See if your dog is getting enough active time and rest. Compare with similar breeds. Competitive? Challenge your friends, and rise in the global rankings.

Discover GPS & Health Tracking For Dogs

A bored or anxious dog might be more likely to run away

Simply allowing your pup to run free within a fenced yard may not meet all of the dog’s needs. You still need to make your yard interesting and comfortable to reduce your dog’s urge to run off.

Because as it turns out, boredom is one of the key reasons why dogs run away.

A black puppy carrying an orange ball in their mouth in a garden

So you could:

  • Add a variety of toys for your pup to play with and change them occasionally.
  • Make sure you or your family members spend quality time in the yard interacting with the dog, perhaps for a quick daily training session.
  • Add a rain shelter, access to shade, food, and water and the yard may become your dog’s happy place. 

Read more: How to create a dog friendly garden

Another reason your dog might make an escape attempt? Loud noises. Dogs tend to have noise anxiety – which is why more dogs go missing around the 4th of July than any other day in the year.

So if you can, plan to have your dog indoors when stressful events are likely, such as construction, thunderstorms, or fireworks.

Your dog may escape because they’re…seeking companionship

The mating instinct is powerful. Preventing an intact dog from escaping can be next to impossible if there’s a suitable mate in the neighborhood.

A pair of dogs chasing each other in a green space next to a river

Dogs become sexually mature when they are about six months old. That’s why it’s best to neuter males or spay females as soon as recommended by your veterinarian.

  • This firstly reduces roaming behavior.
  • Secondly, you’ll help reduce pet overpopulation and decrease the number of unwanted pets that are euthanized each year. 

Read more: Dog In Heat? Here’s Everything You Need To Know.

Two vital steps to ensure your runaway dog’s safety

You’ve fixed your fences, fixed your dog, trained them, tired them out…and they’re still escaping? Now’s the time for emergency measures. Specifically, two key steps to ensure max safety the next time they escape.

Get your dog microchipped

First things first, get your dog a microchip ID. Microchips work like a permanent ID tag for your dog. A vet can implant them in under 10 minutes between your dog’s shoulder blades. Plus, you can add your contact details to the microchip database to identify you as your dog’s parent.

Now if your runaway dog makes an escape attempt, a helpful stranger might take them to a nearby vet or local animal shelter. Where they can scan your dog’s microchip, find your contact details, and inform you where to pick your dog up.

Two dogs inside a cage at an animal shelter

Microchips are a legal requirement in a number of countries around the world, including many US states. So make sure to check your local laws (or those of any country you’re traveling to on vacation.) Because sadly, if a shelter takes in your dog and can’t identify them, your dog might end up being rehomed. Or worse, euthanized.

⚠️ A microchip alone can’t prevent your dog from being picked up by a dog thief. Which is where following their movements in real-time – and over an unlimited range – can be a lifesaver.

And that’s why we also recommend you…

Get your dog a GPS tracker

Imagine being able to follow your dog’s live location the minute they make an escape attempt? Or pre-empt an escape attempt with an alert to your phone? You get all that – and more – when you’ve invested in a dedicated dog GPS tracker.

The Tractive GPS, for example, attaches to your dog’s collar and connects to an app on your smartphone that allows you to see the dog’s exact location. If your dog is a chronic escapee, this may be a good solution until you can achieve success through training your dog. You can also easily locate an off-leash pet who’s off wandering a wide-open space in a rural area with a GPS tracker.

Like Sally the Samoyed, who needs a ton of exercise to stay healthy – and whose daily wandering worries her mom Clair to no end.

In her words:

“She requires lots of exercise and off the leash play to burn off all her energy…however, there’s always that fear, What if I lose sight of her, how will I call her back?

“That’s where our Tractive GPS has been invaluable. Whenever Sally’s been gone exploring for more than a minute, I can turn on the “LIVE tracking” and see exactly where she is.

A Samoyed sitting on a log in a forest

“To us, Sally wearing her Tractive GPS means she spends less time leashed and has more time for off the leash play, which means a happier and more thoroughly exercised pup.

This means, she can now be safely allowed off leash in new and unfamiliar places.

– Sally & Clair, Scotland

Track Your Dog In Real-Time

Dog keeps running away? Try these tips for a change 

You might think the world of your dog – but if they’re constantly running away, they’re always at risk for injury or becoming a nuisance in your neighborhood. Remember: your dog’s safety is your responsibility as a pet parent. Your dog is depending on you.

So if your dog keeps running away:

  • Secure your gates and fences. Don’t have the budget for a physical fence? Set up a Virtual Fence instead, which alerts you when your dog’s trying to sneak past a safe zone.
  • Revisit your dog’s basic training. Focus on commands like Come, Sit, and Stay to teach them not to bolt at the sight of an open door or gate.
  • Positive reinforcement of “good” behaviors beats punishing “bad” behaviors.
  • Tire out your dog with daily walks and playtime. A well-exercised dog is less likely to make an escape attempt. Plus, if you track their daily activity, you’re more likely to stay motivated and accountable to their exercise routine over time.
Dog running with tennis ball in mouth in the grass, Tractive GPS app in foreground
  • Prevent your dog from getting bored or anxious, both of which can lead them to run away. (Like if your neighbors are bursting fireworks this New Year’s.)
  • Consider getting your dog spayed or neutered to reduce their mating or roaming instincts.

And finally…

Get your dog a microchip – so a vet or local animal shelter can identify them (and you, their parent.) But remember: a microchip alone can’t prevent your dog from being lured into a dog thief’s car. Rather, that’s where tracking your dog in real-time and over an unlimited range come in handy.

So with a GPS dog tracker attached to your buddy’s collar, you can rest easy knowing you can follow their every step – no matter how far they roam, or where you are in the world.

packaging of the Tractive GPS DOG tracker

Always know where your dog is

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your dog too.

Discover GPS & Health Tracking For Dogs

Want a pro’s take on preventing your dog from running away? Here’s canine behaviorist, Will Atherton, with his best tips:

And if you’ve enjoyed this post, share it with a fellow dog parent who’s struggling with an escape artist at home – and let’s help create a safer world for our furry friends together.