Why Do Dogs Run Away And What To Do About It

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Tetiana Zhudyk
Updated on

Even the most loyal dogs may unexpectedly wander off due to instinctual drives, fear responses, or sheer boredom. But don’t worry! In this article, we’ll delve into the common reasons behind such behavior and offer practical solutions to deal with it.

Most Common Reasons Why Your Dog Runs Away

Chasing or hunting instincts

Some dog breeds (e.g., Beagles, Huskies, Jack Russel Terriers) are hunters by nature, so it’s very difficult for them to keep their instincts under control. Regardless of whether they are walking with you or if there is a possibility of them dashing out of the yard when they spot a bird or squirrel, they will most likely do it.

Allowing your pup to chase squirrels or bunnies unsupervised reinforces the behavior, making it tougher to stop. Even if your dog isn't typically inclined to jump fences, the excitement of the chase can be irresistible.

Keep your pup entertained with interactive toys, games, training, and quality time together. Supervise them closely to prevent any escape antics. And don't forget to double-check your yard fence to ensure there are no escape routes!

Mating instincts

Dogs typically reach sexual maturity at around 6 months old, and during this time, hormonal changes can lead to unexpected behaviors, such as running away to find an opposite-sex dog.

This behavior is more common in male dogs. You have two options: neutering, which can lower testosterone levels within about 6 weeks and return behavior to normal*, or supervising your dog more. The choice is yours.

*Neutering is advisable only if your dog is escaping to seek females in heat. However, it's not recommended to neuter your dog before they’re fully grown.


Even though dogs are very intelligent animals, they still may get scared of things we wouldn’t particularly worry about. A random loud noise, fireworks, a big crowd – these and more can startle your dog, causing them to run off.

The best approach here is to understand what might scare your dog and either avoid them or gradually acclimate your pooch to them using desensitization and counterconditioning methods.

Separation anxiety

Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety have a phobia of being separated from their owner and being alone. The reasons might differ; usually, it’s because the dog hasn’t been used to staying home alone from a young age or as a result of a traumatic experience.

Usually, if your dog has separation anxiety, there are accompanying symptoms like vocalization (barking, whining, howling), scratching at the door, urination/defecation, and destructive behavior when home alone.

If that’s your case, check this article to understand your pet’s problem better and help them cope with it.

High energy that isn’t properly channeled

Some dogs have higher energy needs than others (e.g., Border Collie, Jack Russell, Weimaraner). If these needs aren’t met, these pups will start to look for adventure.

To prevent this, make sure you do enough training and spend enough quality time together with your pet, depending on their energy level (e.g., if you have a Border Collie and you want to walk them twice a day for 30 minutes, don’t be surprised if they try to escape).

Try different activities besides walking, like cycling, running, agility training, or even swimming. Retrievers and Spaniels will love it! And don’t forget to play games together and stimulate their brain too :).

The Woofz app has lots of fun commands, games, and mental stimulation tips for you and your pet. Download now to prevent boredom and strengthen your bond.

Why your dog runs away from you when walking

The first rule is to never let your dog off leash if you’re not sure you have complete vocal control over them. But if you do that for some reason and they run away, don’t chase them; this will only cause them to run away faster.


  • Run in the opposite direction (your movement will draw your dog’s attention, making them think you're playing a game).

  • Make funny and encouraging noises instead of simply calling their name.

  • If none of the above is working, just sit and wait.

  • Always reinforce with lots of treats and praise when they come back. Put them on the leash, but let them sniff and walk a bit before going home so they don't associate coming back with the end of their fun.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Escaping

Satisfy your dog's needs

Provide appropriate walks, playtime, and training according to their energy levels, ensuring they have the opportunity to sniff, run, and play with other dogs.

Combat boredom and anxiety if they spend a lot of time alone by offering entertainment like treat dispensers, puzzle games, chew toys, and DIY mental stimulation toys.

If your dog has a strong hunting instinct, keep them on a leash in wooded areas and consider scent or fetch games to fulfill their prey drive.

Supervision and prevention

Dogs that don't reliably come when called should be kept on a long leash in unfenced areas for safe exploration.

Dogs prone to escaping or jumping fences should not be left unsupervised in your yard.


Consistently train your dog's recall and focus during every walk to ensure they come when called and pay attention to you.

Build a strong bond by training commands and making sessions enjoyable for your dog.

Desensitize fears and phobias

Address and desensitize any fears or phobias your dog may have, as these could contribute to escape behavior and pose a danger during walks.

Do’s and Don'ts

  • Don't run after your dog.
  • Don’t punish your dog when they come back (if you put them back on the leash immediately, it can be perceived as a form of punishment).
  • Consider purchasing a tracker if your dog reliably responds to recall but you're not yet comfortable with them off-leash.
  • Always reinforce your dog when they come back.
  • Utilize movement and sounds to capture your dog's attention.
  • Make sure your dog has a microchip, an ID tag, and a collar so you can find them in case they go missing.

Final Thoughts

Dogs may run away for various reasons, but it's crucial for us as their caretakers to prevent it and take quick action if it happens. We hope this article has not only explained why dogs might run off but also provided helpful tips to handle such situations so you're always prepared.

Written by

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Tetiana Zhudyk

Woofz Content Manager with a deep passion for dogs and a strong affinity for positive reinforcement training methods.

Reviewed by

Frederica Caneiro

Certified dog trainer, exclusive positive reinforcement methods & tackling aggression problems.