Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated February 17, 2009)
When I was really little, my grandparents would leave their dog with my family whenever they went out of town. One time when they went to go visit other family, things didn't go so well with the dog sitting. One afternoon, my mom went grocery shopping, and Coco, the dog, was so excited when mom came back from the store. Coco raced outside to meet mom while mom brought in groceries, and we'd never had problems with Coco straying too far away, but that day was different. Soon, we realized that Coco wasn't around, and so we spent all evening patrolling the neighborhood, and shouting her name, asking neighbors if they'd seen anything. That was the last we saw of Coco. This isn't a very happy-ending story, but you do need to realize that your pet running off is a possibility and you should do all you can to prevent it.
Pets can run away for a variety of reasons, and you should be aware of what those reasons are. Perhaps your pet is bored with the status quo and is looking for a change of scenery; maybe your pet is unhappy with you, or maybe, your pet just wasn't paying attention and didn't intend to run away at all. You should take some time to really get to know your dog so you can pick up on signs of the former two reasons for running away. Is your dog irritable or anxious? Is it antsy? Does it mope around? Does it slink away from you when you approach it? And remember that if your pet runs away just because, that's hard to predict. Also, if you have a particularly fidgety and active dog, they might see an opening and run for it, for no other reason than just to run and have fun.
If your pet might run away because of boredom, then there are a few things you can do. Interact with your pet. Take it for walks, so it can get adequate exercise, and play games with it that allow it to stretch its legs and have a bit of fun. Shake up the scenery a bit, and go for a bike ride in the mountains, walk around a different park, take a run through some new neighborhoods. If there is a steady dose of new scenes and areas, then your pet will have a hard time being bored. If your pet is scared by you or unhappy with you as a pet owner, then there is some definite fixing that needs to go on. Improve your relationship with your pet, which can be done through many of the aforementioned activities.
If your dog is just an active and hyper dog, then you take a different tactic. Heighten the fences, secure the gate, and make sure that your pet doesn't have any large window of opportunity for making a break for it. You should also try to identify the fears your pet may have. If certain local fears are the catalysts for running away, then you should identify those and rectify them.
There are many ways you can prevent your pet from running away. Whether that's just interacting with your pet a little more, helping it be more active, or identifying what it's scared of, you'll be helping the happiness and comfort of your pet, and helping you by keeping your pet around!
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