Reining in Dogs with Wanderlust

We’ve all seen the infamous “Lost Dog” posters from distraught owners longing to see their furry loved one again. Unfortunately, having a dog run away is a reality many dog-owners face at one point or another. But if your dog bolts from the home, then it might take some extra training to keep him from getting hurt, stolen or worse. Your pup belongs home and safe in your loving arms.

Understanding the Behavior
We all know that dogs like to run. But, why? Is your warm, loving home not good enough? On the contrary, the problem typically has nothing to do with the owner, but rather with the dog’s own natural instincts. Dogs may run away for a number of reasons including boredom, predatory drive or distraction. For example, a dog left alone in the yard for hours without anyone to play with might escape out of boredom, curious of what the outside world has to offer. Like humans, dogs are creatures with social needs, and thus might seek out social stimulation if that need cannot be fulfilled at home. A dog ready to mate, especially a male, un-neutered dog, is prone to roaming as well. After all, he’s got to spread those doggy genes somehow! Lastly, another common reason dogs run away is they have too much energy to contain. Oftentimes owners leave their dogs alone in the yard thinking that they’re doing them a favor, but really, without a companion, dogs will soon grow bored. Especially for dogs who require exercise, being alone in the yard can be frustrating and therefore, a jog around the block can be a much more attractive option. Keep a watchful eye on breeds that are especially prone to wanderlust, including the Siberian Husky, Afghan Hound, terriers, Basset Hound, Great Pyrenees, Puggle, Weimaraner, Schnauzer, Vizsla, shepherds, Alaskan Malamute, Dachshund, Samoyed and Beagle.

Corrective Training
For the owners whose dogs have a taste for wanderlust, there is hope and help. One of the easiest ways to stop your dog from running away is to identify the cause of the behavior. Is he bored or lonely? Then, schedule plenty of playtime every day (the duration depends on the breed, individual personality and physical needs of the dog) and give him tasks to keep mentally and physically alert. Hormonal? Have him neutered to reduce the urge to roam for mating. Or, if your dog is female, have her spayed so that she doesn’t attract male dogs while in heat. Too much energy? Make sure your dog gets the appropriate amount of daily exercise for his type. The following tips can further help your dog stay safe:

• Train your dog to not leave without permission by holding him on a leash and repeatedly giving him the “sit-stay” command when you open the gate or door.
• Take your dog on visits to a local dog park to give him the socialization he needs, both with dogs and other humans.
• Secure your yard with a high fence or gate (ensure the fence extends a few feet underground if you have a digger such as a Husky).
• Make home an ideal place for your dog to be, with his own designated comfort spots and a bowl of clean water throughout the day.
• If you must leave him alone, give your dog a few toys to keep him busy, rotating them periodically to give the impression of something new and exciting every time. Or even better, drop him off at a trusted friend’s house or doggy daycare if you’re away from the house for extended periods of time.
• Finally, do not punish your dog once he returns from his excursion. This will only teach him to dread rather than look forward to his return home.

Having a dog that constantly runs away can be a real cause for anxiety in owners, and it’s not something that can be changed overnight. But, rest assured that with consistent training and positive reinforcement, your dog will see you as a loving parent and his home as a comfort zone, from whom he wouldn’t want to stray.