When your dog escapes the back yard or dashes out the door, it’s frustrating for you and unsafe for your dog. A runaway dog could be hit by a car, be injured by another dog, or hurt someone. Almost every dog runs off once in a while, but if your dog keeps running away on a daily or weekly basis, it’s time to figure out how to keep your dog safe inside your yard or home. While you’re here – learn how to keep outdoor dogs safe.

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Why is your dog running away?

Dogs escape for a variety of reasons. They may run away because they see a squirrel and their natural hunting instinct kicks in. Your pup may run off to start a playful game of chase and expect you to follow them. The dog may know of a secret escape route through a hole in your fence. 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.

The most common reasons why dogs run away are:

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!

Check your fence and gates to tighten security and prevent dog escapes

If your dog frequently escapes from the yard, even though you have an outdoor dog fence, carefully inspect the 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. 

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. 

Be sure to 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 about how to prevent dogs from escaping the fence. In this case, a GPS dog fence can also be invaluable, to get alerted instantly if your dog does pull a Houdini.

Dog training can stop your dog from running away

By training your dog to follow basic commands such as Sit, Stay, or Come, you can easily avoid the frustration of constant dog escapes. Dog obedience school is a great way for you and your pup to learn dog training techniques together and build a lifelong bond of loyalty. Most importantly, you will keep your furry friend safe from the many hazards they may encounter during an escape. A well-trained dog is a safe dog.

Effective dog training uses positive reinforcement. This means that when your dog does the right thing, you offer praise or treats. When your dog does the wrong thing, ignore it (unless the dog is in danger). 

Dog training changes not only your pup’s behavior, but your behavior, too. Do you run after your escaped dog? If so, your dog may view this as playtime and escape over and over just for fun. Do you drive the neighborhood and collect your escaped dog into the car? If your dog enjoys car rides, this technique may reinforce the escape behavior. Think about it – 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.  Unless you catch your dog in the act of escaping, punishment is unlikely to reduce runaway behavior.

Instead of punishment, train your dog using positive reinforcement techniques.

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

Always put your pup on a leash and hold the leash securely in your hand before opening the door or gate to avoid having your dog run off. Basic dog training will help your dog learn to Come and Sit while you attach a leash securely to the dog’s collar or harness. When you need to open your home’s front door to grab a package or welcome a visitor, teach your dog to Stay while the door is open. 

Avoid multitasking when you open the door or gate. Keep your eyes on your pup and watch for behavioral cues. Put down your phone until your dog is leashed or following your commands so you won’t be distracted. 

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 jumping and running outside in grassy field
Pictured: Tractive GPS Dog Tracker and Activity Monitor

Increasing your dog’s daily exercise can keep a dog from running away

Puppies and adolescent dogs have 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 provides sensory enrichment as your dog enjoys the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors. Plus, your dog gets to spend time with their favorite person – you! 

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Keep 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.

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Prevent dogs running away from your yard by reducing boredom or anxiety

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. 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. 

Loud noises can make your dog anxious and spur them to escape from your yard. If possible, plan to have your dog indoors when stressful events are likely, such as construction, thunderstorms, or fireworks

Dogs may escape because they are looking for a mate

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

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

Tracking devices can help find your pup when escapes happen

GPS trackers use the latest technology to locate runaway dogs. 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. Pets who have regular off-leash access to wide-open spaces in rural areas can be easily located with a GPS dog tracker. 

You can stop your dog from running away 

You love your dog and want to spend enjoyable time together. But a runaway dog is at risk for injury and can be unwelcome in your neighborhood. Remember that your dog’s safety is your responsibility as a pet parent. Your dog is depending on you.

If you invest the time and are patient, you can find a way to stop your pup from escaping the yard or running off. By altering your physical fence, using dog training, or making your yard into a doggie paradise, you can keep your dog safe inside your yard and enjoy many years together.