A dog running away is one of the most heartbreaking moments in a dog owner’s life, and unfortunately, it’s an all too common occurrence. All of this is to the dismay of owners who could have prevented it by taking a few extra precautions and properly outfitting their home prior to the escape. If you’ve recently lost a dog, or are looking for some preventative measures, here are a few ways that you can help prevent your dog from running away.
1. Figure Out Why
When a dog runs away, usually the owner will go through a variety of emotions. Some will be wrought with sadness, others will be furious, but most will be more panic-stricken and confused than anything else.
Unfortunately, after the inevitable freakout, many owners won’t try and figure out why the dog ran away in the first place. In the heat of the moment, it’s hard not to be beside yourself, but if you stop, think and exercise a little composure, you can better understand why your dog went MIA.
It’s important to note that dogs run away for a lot of reasons. However, two of the most common are either she’s running away from something that’s scaring her, or she’s running toward something she wants. Once you’ve figured out her motive, you can assess your surroundings and formulate a plan that will prevent her from roaming about town.
One way to prevent her from taking off is by being familiar with her breed. Certain kinds of dogs (Airedales, Beagles, Retrievers, Huskies and Sighthounds, for example) have a natural predisposition to roaming and will stop at nothing to find out what’s beyond the fence. This particular behavior is typically motivated by the desire to mate, but other reasons include boredom, anxiety from being left at home alone and an overall need for companionship.
Whether you currently have one of these breeds, or are thinking about getting one, being aware of their natural instincts is incredibly important. The reasons behind your dog’s escapist tendencies may vary, but generally the easiest and most humane way to put a stop to it is by having him or her spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering greatly reduces the urge to roam.
2. Tighten Security
Tightening security at home is an absolute must, especially if you have a high-energy dog that loves playing escape artist. There are many ways to do this, but if you’re in a pinch and need a quick way to keep your dog at bay, here are some containment tactics that are both inexpensive and easy to install in your backyard:
- Leaving toys and other stimuli out for your dog to play with while you’re away will keep her entertained and therefore less likely to get bored and into trouble.
- If your dog darts for the door every time you come home or leave, installing a baby gate in your house is a great way to add some extra security. This is especially effective if your dog already knows how to sit and stay on command.
- Although they can be a pain to install, sometimes a bigger fence is all you need. The height will be dependent on the kind of dog you have, but a 6’ tall, wooden fence works perfectly for most breeds. Just make sure you put some chicken wire between the bottom of the fence and the ground to discourage her from digging.
3. Additional Training
Obedience training is always worth considering. It takes a little time (often 1 hour a week for 8 weeks if you take a class) but the reward is certainly worth the investment. Group classes cost around $150 but if that is too steep, you can study up and do a majority of the instructing from your own home.
If you do decide to implement your own training regimen, make sure you do your homework. If you’re not experienced, you can confuse your dog and create an even bigger problem than you had before. So, before taking the plunge into home training, pick up a comprehensive book, or talk to a friend or veterinarian and make sure you’re on the right track.
Clicker training is an effective and humane way to train your dog. By using positive reinforcement, in conjunction with the audible stimuli of a clicker, you can reward your dog with treats upon the completion of a specific task.
Essentially, every time your dog does what you want her to do, you click the clicker and then give her a treat. Over time, this teaches her that doing what she’s told results in receiving a reward, and thus, promotes the repetition of learned good behavior.
At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for your dog. It may take time, but once you outfit your home and curb problem behaviors, you’ll be able to focus less on preventing escapes and more on forging a lifelong bond with your canine companion. Also remember to prepare for the worst-case scenario by outfitting your pooch with an ID tag and microchip!