Why do dogs run away? Even if we do everything to keep them happy, healthy and by our side, sometimes our dogs just get distracted, confused, or fearful. And sometimes, that can make them run off. Just thinking about it is enough to give dog parents nightmares. A missing dog may get into trouble, or worse, never find their way home. To give you more peace of mind, we’re here to share the reasons why dogs run away, and what you can do to stop it from happening to you.
Why do dogs run away?
There are several factors which may lead to a dog running away. They are:
- Fear and common dog triggers
- Separation anxiety
- Mating instinct (dog in heat)
- Hunting instinct (prey drive)
- Unfamiliar surroundings
Fear and common dog triggers
Just like us, our furry friends feel fear. And when they do, it might trigger their fight, flight, or freeze response. If they decide on “flight”, they’ll run away.
Dogs are most likely to exhibit a fear/flight response when they encounter the following:
- big crowds
Every dog parent knows that loud noises may frighten dogs. Dogs have a very sharp sense of hearing, and can hear sounds between 15 – 50,000 vibrations per second. For comparison, humans can only pick up sounds between 20 – 20,000 vibrations per second.
Fireworks are one of the most common reasons why dogs run away.
If your dog gets scared by fireworks or thunderstorms, they will likely run away or find somewhere to hide. In either case, you won’t know where they are unless your dog has a GPS dog tracker.
Pay attention to the subtle signs that show your dog might not be comfortable in a certain situation. You can do this by learning to recognize the signs of fear in dogs.
Some dogs will experience separation anxiety when their humans are away, which could lead to them acting a bit… off. Destroying things, chewing furniture, peeing indoors, trying to escape or run away – these are all symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs. Dogs with separation anxiety might not know how to handle their nerves, or might try to make friends and meet others when you’re away.
Find out more about separation anxiety, and what you can do help your doggo in case it happens to you.
Mating instinct (dog in heat)
Puppies don’t stay puppies for long! After sexually maturing at about 6 months, both male and female dogs have a strong instinct to reproduce. And if you’re not careful, you mind find yourself with a litter of puppies. This strong (and natural) urge is a very common reason why dogs run away.
If your female dog is in heat, she may, unfortunately, try to get out and find herself a Prince Charming. I have had this happen, with my dog turning up five miles from home. Luckily, a neighboring farmer spotted her and gave us a call; I dread to think about what may have happened if that weren’t the case! We ended up with a litter of puppies, and a hefty bill for putting in better fencing!
Dogs who have not been neutered or fixed are especially prone to the mating call. For more information, learn everything you need to know about dogs in heat here.
Hunting instinct (prey drive)
Every dog has a hunting instinct. Some are more inclined to follow it, while others are better described as “cuddle hunters”. In any case, this drive can be tough for dog parents, especially during autumn, when dogs can easily pick up the scent of wild animals and try to chase them. Due to their natural hunting instinct, your dog might easily run away and lose track of where they are.
Why do dogs love to hunt? Well, there’s two main reasons: