Is Your Runaway Dog an Unhappy Dog

I can’t understand why my dog has become a runaway dog!

Typically there are a couple of reasons why your dog is trying to escape and runaway:

• He either wants to get somewhere or
• Get away from something.

And chances are, he’s done it before if he’s still trying to escape

Is Your Runaway Dog an Unhappy Dog

Many dogs try and escape the sounds of ultrasonic bark gadgets or the boredom of constant isolation. Others may just have a strong urge to roam free if they don’t get proper walks and exercise to hunt and explore with their owners. Then you get your runaway dog.

Male dogs might have picked up the scent of a female dog in heat and have been lured down that path! And sometimes it is just the excitement of neighbors and dogs passing by.

First things first

You must prevent your dog from running away while you are working on the problem. This could mean keeping your dog indoors and only allow your dog to go outside on leash with you.

Checking your fence line and gate to make sure there are no known holes, weak boards or other ways out is critical as well.

If you typically have left your dog in the back yard while at work because you don’t have the time to come home during lunch to walk your dog, then you may have to hire a dog walker in the interim so that you can keep him safe inside.

What’s next?

There are a number of things you now must do. Let’s take a look.

1. Finding and getting rid of the cause of him being a runaway dog is next, and that’s the key.

2. Re-think your dog’s environment

3. Reshape your dog’s behavior indirectly

Find and get rid of the cause

Now I’ll have to clarify this as sometimes it is impossible to remove the cause. Here’s an example.

I had a client with a small escape artist I will call Eddie. I’m changing the names to protect the innocent. Eddie got out of the back yard at least once a week for a couple of weeks. We found out later that Eddie, even at his small size, was a climber and had been scaling the 3’ chain link fence. He left the neighborhood, crossed a busy esplanade (6 lanes of traffic) and always wound up inside a Walgreen’s Drug Store of all places!

Fortunately little Eddie had his collar on and the manager would call his Mom and she would take him home and crate him for the duration of the day. Now she didn’t ask what store isle he favored, she was just glad he was safe. 

Re-thinking Eddie’s environment

In Eddie’s case, there was a 10’ section of 3’ chain link fencing he was climbing over. So we got some clear Plexiglas and cut it to fit just under the top rail of the 3’ fence and completed the installation by securing the Plexiglas to the fence with some turkey ties (used to group tie wiring together). Now Eddie couldn’t get a grip to climb.

The next thing we did was to see how we could enrich Eddie’s environment by rotating things for him to do when Mom was away at work. Here’s a list of some of the different things we did for Eddie:

1. Created his own sand box to dig in ($9 plastic pool from Wal-Mart) and rotated different things for him to dig up and find.

2. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we decided to lay scent trails with dove/pheasant scent we purchased at Cabelas on-line.

3. On Wednesdays and Fridays we shot-gunned the yard with slices of carrots/diced apple.

Reshaping Eddie’s behavior indirectly

This probably had the biggest impact on Eddie because it required his Mom to focus on “their” relationship. Here’s what I had her do.

1. She put more structure (rules/expectations) in Eddie’s life by requiring sits/downs for everything like food, access to the couch, love and affection

2. She began reinforcing her personal space boundaries. She changed from her comfy couch to a single arm chair and blocked Eddie from jumping and begging for attention. She began to only call him over and up into her lap on her terms.

3. Eddie’s Mom began a twice-a-day walking regimen for a brisk 30-45 minutes each time which provided Eddie with sufficient exercise outside his back yard. This was his proof the grass was not always greener and,

4. She put Eddie on an ongoing dog obedience training program of sits and downs in the house 3 times daily for 2 minutes and worked him on the come command outside in front around the area from which he was escaping.

The last thing we did was to install a doggie door to give Eddie access to his new, secure back yard.

With more focus on their partnership, especially nights and weekends, Eddie was less inclined to run (since he couldn’t) and more interested in his new back yard environment.

Eddie also stayed challenged with new stuff inside like doggie food dispensing toys that he had to work at to earn his food because that’s the way he got his meals now.

Just when he got one figured out, she rotated the toy keeping him challenged. Eddie now shows no signs of stress or dog behavior problems.

At last report Eddie was enjoying “the life” and a new and different relationship with his Mom. Things, “they are a changing!”

We’re always learning and there’s a bunch of you out there we are grateful to be able to serve and learn from. I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinions on this. I’m here to help.

Remember: “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 9000 clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is your must have, easy step-by-step process to helping your dog. Be the dog owner your dog needs to be a great dog. Ground Rules gets you there. Grab them now.