6 Reasons: Why do dogs run away?

2 October 2020

Every dog parent worries about their dog going missing. Don't let this happen to your buddy. Find out why dogs run away, what you can do about it - and how to deal with the situation in case your dog runs off.

dog running away in grass - why dogs run away

Why do dogs run away? Even if we do everything to keep them happy, healthy and by our side, sometimes our dogs just get distracted, confused, or fearful. And sometimes, that can make them run off. Just thinking about it is enough to give dog parents nightmares. A missing dog may get into trouble, or worse, never find their way home. To give you more peace of mind, we’re here to share the reasons why dogs run away, and what you can do to stop it from happening to you.

Why do dogs run away? 

There are several reasons why dogs run away:

Fear and common dog triggers

Just like us, our furry friends feel fear. And when they do, it might trigger their fight, flight, or freeze response. If they decide on “flight”, they’ll run away.

Dogs are most likely to exhibit a fear/flight response when they encounter the following:

  • fireworks
  • thunderstorms
  • big crowds
  • gunfire

Every dog parent knows that loud noises may frighten dogs. Dogs have a very sharp sense of hearing, and can hear sounds between 15 – 50,000 vibrations per second. For comparison, humans can only pick up sounds between 20 – 20,000 vibrations per second.

Fireworks are one of the most common reasons why dogs run away.

If your dog gets scared by fireworks or thunderstorms, they will likely run away or find somewhere to hide. In either case, you won’t know where they are unless your dog has a GPS dog tracker.

Pay attention to the subtle signs that show your dog might not be comfortable in a certain situation. You can do this by learning to recognize the signs of fear in dogs.

Separation anxiety

Some dogs will experience separation anxiety when their humans are away, which could lead to them acting a bit… off. Destroying things, chewing furniture, peeing indoors, trying to escape or run away – these are all symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs. Dogs with separation anxiety might not know how to handle their nerves, or might try to make friends and meet others when you’re away.

Find out more about separation anxiety, and what you can do help your doggo in case it happens to you.

Mating instinct (dog in heat)

Puppies don’t stay puppies for long! After sexually maturing at about 6 months, both male and female dogs have a strong instinct to reproduce. And if you’re not careful, you mind find yourself with a litter of puppies. This strong (and natural) urge is a very common reason why dogs run away.

If your female dog is in heat, she may, unfortunately, try to get out and find herself a Prince Charming. I have had this happen, with my dog turning up five miles from home. Luckily, a neighboring farmer spotted her and gave us a call; I dread to think about what may have happened if that weren’t the case! We ended up with a litter of puppies, and a hefty bill for putting in better fencing!

Dogs who have not been neutered or fixed are especially prone to the mating call. For more information, learn everything you need to know about dogs in heat here.

why do dogs go missing? mating cycle in dogs infographic - proestrus, estrus, diestrus, anestrus

Hunting instinct (prey drive)

Every dog has a hunting instinct. Some are more inclined to follow it, while others are better described as “cuddle hunters”. In any case, this drive can be tough for dog parents, especially during autumn, when dogs can easily pick up the scent of wild animals and try to chase them. Due to their natural hunting instinct, your dog might easily run away and lose track of where they are.

Why do dogs love to hunt? Well, there’s two main reasons:

1) Some breeds have been bred to hunt. For example, Beagles or American Foxhounds.

2) Hunting is simply fun for them. It releases healthy adrenaline and happiness hormones in your furry friend.

Not sure where to begin when it comes to handling your dog’s prey drive? Find more information and tips to handle the hunting instinct here.

Boredom

A very common cause of dogs running away is boredom. Very smart dog breeds are the most likely suspects! It starts out with them wanting to get to that squirrel over there. Or go down the road to make friends with the neighborhood kids.

Dogs are naturally curious creatures with a need for daily activity and stimulation. If you’re not exercising or entertaining your dog enough, they may get bored and try to create fun for themselves by escaping and running away.

Cheeky, but scary!

why do dogs go missing - brown dog in field

Unfamiliar surroundings

Another reason why dogs might run away is being in a territory they don’t know well. Especially during vacations, the risk of your dog running away increases. New territory, smells and distractions can easily cause your dog to go and explore the area and get lost.

Dog breeds that run away

Some dog breeds are more likely to run away than others. It’s important to be aware if your dogs falls under one of these breeds. If so, it might be a good idea to set your mind at ease with an extra tall fence around your yard or garden, as well as getting a GPS dog tracker.

Keep on reading to see a full list of tips to prevent your dog from running away.

What to do if your dog runs away?

If your dog runs away, stay calm. it’s important to not panic, as that could just frighten your dog further and make it more difficult for you to find them. Follow these tips as soon as possible to bring them home safely.

Do dogs come back when they run away?

According to estimates, about 15% of missing dogs will never be reunited with their family. But two things seem to make a happy ending much more likely. When dogs who run away do return home, it’s usually because:

  • they were found while searching the neighborhood
  • they were wearing an ID tag and/or microchip

Top tips: how to prevent a dog from running away

The following tips can help you to prevent your dog from running away, and make sure your beloved buddy is always by your side.

Keep your dog safe and calm

  • Avoid taking your dog into large, loud crowds when possible.
  • Close windows during thunderstorms or fireworks – you can plan ahead for holidays like Halloween or New Year’s Eve.
  • Know your dog will be going into a stressful situation, like getting on a plane? Ask your vet about dog anti-anxiety supplements.
  • Give your dog a long-lasting treat or toy to occupy them when you leave home.
  • Prepare your dog to be better able to handle when you leave the house. For example, put on your shoes and pick up your keys, but don’t leave right away. Repeat this several times, decreasing the amount of time before you leave the house each time.
  • Make a cozy, safe space in your home that’s just for your doggo.

Protect against mating and hunting instincts

  • Have your dog neutered – neutering decreases sexual roaming in 90% of cases².
  • Train your dog to follow commands or invest in obedience or recall training.
  • Keep your dog on a leash while walking.

Secure your home and yard

  • Invest in better fencing if your dog manages to escape your yard – ideally wooden panel fencing with a cement foundation in the ground to avoid any breakouts.
  • Consider using secure screens, security bars, baby gates or door barriers.
  • Keep an eye on your dog while they’re in the yard.
  • Close all doors and windows when leaving the house.
  • Be extra careful to keep doors closed, in case people are coming and going from your house.

Keep your dog entertained, active and happy

  • Play with your dog regularly.
  • Give them plenty of cuddle time.
  • Get regular exercise with your dog – use an activity monitor to make it more fun!
  • Find other creative ways to entertain your dog.
  • Make the dog’s play area entertaining.
  • Hide balls or treat-dispensing toys around your garden.
  • Get a pet sitter to keep your pup company.
  • Use puzzle toys and games to keep your dog’s mind active.

Be prepared in case your dog does run away

  • Make sure your dog is always wearing a collar with an ID tag and your phone number. Keep this up to date.
  • Microchip your dog.
  • Use a GPS tracking device for dogs to always know where your dog is – and follow their every step.

The best way to ensure your dog stays safe

There’s an easy way to keep tabs on your dog at all times: a GPS tracking device for dogs. Simply attach a Tractive GPS tracker to your dog’s collar and follow their every move, from the comfort of your phone screen. You can also set up a Virtual Fence around a safe zone, like your garden, and you’ll know right away if your dog leaves it.

Discover Tractive GPS

Even the best-behaved dogs in the world can run away. Nobody wants to deal with a missing, or worse, a missing and injured dog. As responsible dog owners, it’s important to be aware of the common reasons why dogs run away and what you can do to stop it from happening. By following the precautions, you can make sure your dog never goes missing. Even if they do, you’ll have tools you need to be reunited again.


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