Why Does My Dog... Try to Run Away?

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What does it mean when your dog tries to bolt from you the very second a door opens? If a friend did that, by the third time you might check your breath. But your pup doesn't care about your breath. So why does he do that?

Sharon Crowell-Davis, DVM, DACVB, professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia, says your dog is likely telling you something about himself. “When dogs run off, it could mean they’re really not happy at home. It's not necessarily that they have a bad home life, but as a species, the majority of dogs are curious and want to be active and explore and discover,” she explains. “If you only take them out to potty and for a 10-minute walk, dogs may run off simply to seek activity and stimulation.”

Not All Dogs Run

Of course, not every dog is a runner. Some dogs within the same household can have very different reactions to an opportunity to run free. Dr. Crowell-Davis attributes this to a number of things, including variations in temperament. In the same way some people are homebodies, some dogs prefer the familiarity and comfort of home. Certain breeds also find their physique a barrier to becoming escape artists. Bulldogs, for instance, are unable to run fast and are not going to have much of an opportunity to take off, Dr. Crowell-Davis says. “But more likely it depends on early experience and how the dog is raised,” she adds. “Good socialization in puppies produces a puppy that is comfortable with the world and comfortable going out and exploring it.” Conversely, puppies living in a barren environment could become timid because of a lack of exposure to the world.

Spice It Up at Home

So how can you keep the normal adventure-seeking qualities in your pup from getting him into trouble? One way is to provide an appropriately fun home environment, Dr. Crowell-Davis suggests. Good long walks provide mental as well as physical exercise, and stimulating toys like puzzle food toys are going to improve your dog’s quality of life and, therefore, make him more interested in staying at home.

In addition to making home more attractive, Dr. Crowell-Davis stresses the importance of teaching your dog proper recalls. Getting your dog to come when called rather than running off is part of puppy socialization training, and even older dogs can learn to come when called, but it takes practice.

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