These days, social media pages are full of posts appealing for help to find lost dogs. Sadly, some of these will have been stolen, a worrying trend that seems to have increased during lockdown. But some may simply have run away. A lot of people don’t understand why a dog would run away from a loving, comfortable home. But it certainly isn’t unheard of and can happen for a number of reasons.
Table of contents
Yes, possibly the most common reason a non-neutered male dog, and sometimes a non-neutered female dog, will run away is in search of a mate. Entire male dogs have high levels of testosterone which will lead them to search out a female dog in heat. This instinct can be very strong in some dogs. But thankfully is fairly easy to remedy by having the dog castrated, either medically or surgically. Afterwards, it will take around six weeks for the testosterone to reduce completely.
Moving house is a stressful time for all involved, including your dog. Escapes most commonly happen on the day of the house move itself when there are a lot of people coming and going and doors and windows left open. To keep your dog safe, ensure they are kept in one room of the house with food, water, blankets, and toys so it’s as normal for them as possible; or maybe ask someone to look after them for the day. Once in the new house, it’s a good idea to walk your dog on a lead for the first few times. This is so they can get used to the new area; which will be full of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells.
The thrill of the chase
Dogs love to chase most things – balls, squirrels, their own tail – but if your recall isn’t up to scratch or if they’re so fixated on their subject that they temporarily lose their hearing, it can result in one lost dog. Obviously, this normally happens when out on a walk. So consider using a long lead when in a field if you think there’s any risk. And be watchful for potential ‘prey’. Don’t forget sheep worrying is a crime so always put your dog on a lead when around livestock. We’d also advise that when walking along a road, always use a fixed-length lead. So there is no risk of them running out in front of a car in pursuit of something.
Some dogs wouldn’t bat an eyelid if a tornado came through their house. But others can get pretty scared at things like fireworks, bird scarers, or large vehicles. If encountered out on a walk, these can result in dogs running off scared. Unfortunately, they can also be hard to predict. But, for example, if fireworks are expected, consider walking your dog earlier in the day, before it gets dark. Then settle them in safely at home. For some cases, behavioural therapy may be appropriate so speak to your vet who should be able to help.
Separation anxiety or stress
Some dogs just really don’t like being left on their own. Unfortunately, if a window is left open or a garden is not secure, the stress can lead to a desire to escape. Training to help prevent separation anxiety should begin at the puppy stage; by very gradually increasing the amount of time the dog is left alone. Ensuring that cues such as putting on a coat or grabbing car keys don’t always equal them being left. As well as not making a big fuss either when you leave or when you return. Again, your vet should be able to help with this.
Boredom or frustration
Dogs are highly intelligent animals (most of them anyway!) and require a fair amount of stimulation in order to prevent boredom from setting in. In extreme situations, where the dog isn’t given attention or stimulation over a long period of time, if given the opportunity, they may try to escape. Hopefully, most owners will give their dog the time and attention they deserve. So this won’t be a problem but don’t forget, as well as physical exercise, dogs require mental exercise too. Think about devising games with food or training them to more complex commands such as ‘high-five’, ‘find it’, or even weaving between your legs.
Sadly, this does happen, and though it’s not really a case of the dog running away, it’s worth mentioning. There are plenty of things that can be done to try to prevent your dog from being taken though
- Microchipping – probably the best thing you can do. It is now a legal requirement for every dog over 8 weeks of age. It means that if your dog is stolen but then retrieved, it can be traced immediately back to you and you can be reunited.
- Collar and tag – it is also a legal requirement for your dog to wear a collar and tag showing your name and address when they’re in a public place. It is worth considering also putting a contact number on there. As well as information stating they are neutered (if they are) and microchipped. It may be an idea not to have the dog’s name on the tag as this could be used by thieves to call the dog to them.
- Proof of ownership – ensure you keep any documents about your dog. And plenty of photographs of them and the both of you together. This can help to prove ownership if there is any doubt.
- Be vigilant – when out on a walk, be wary of strangers who may approach you and your dog, or any vehicles acting strangely. Don’t leave your dog alone such as outside a shop and try not to be too distracted by your mobile phone.
- Social media – don’t display too much information on your social media that could lead thieves to know your address or your daily routine such as when your dog might be home alone.
- At home – ensure your home and garden are secure enough to prevent anyone entering without your knowledge. Consider CCTV as an extra deterrent.
What to do if your dog does go missing
- If there’s any chance they’ve been stolen, contact the police immediately to report it.
- For any missing dog, speak to the microchip company and local vets in case the dog is found, handed in and scanned.
- Use the power of social media to appeal for information or use the old fashioned method of sticking posters up in the local area with a clear photograph and your contact information.
- Trace the routes you most commonly go with your dog and ask friends and family to do the same.
Although thousands of dogs go missing every year, it is reassuring to know that up to 95% of them are located and reunited with their families. By following some of this advice, hopefully you can keep your dog safe and sound with you and away from any danger.