8 Reasons Dogs Run Away From Home

There isn’t a month that passes where I don’t hear about at least one neighborhood dog who ran away from home. It’s a devastating time—signs are posted on poles and Facebook is buzzing with photos and frantic messages. While many dogs are found pretty quickly, unfortunately, some never return home. So the big question is why do dogs run away from home? Below, I’ve listed 8 common reasons dogs flee. Understanding their motive can help us to better protect our canine kids in the future!

8 Reasons Dogs Run Away From Home

1. Opportunity

Let’s face it, our canine kids aren’t sitting up at night planning the great escape so they can run away from home. The breakout is normally a spontaneous thing because an opportunity arose. Maybe the gate was open, someone opened the door without paying attention, or maybe Fido dug his way out. We as canine parents should be aware that if Fido is given a chance to romp the neighborhood unsupervised, there’s a good possibility that he’ll go for it.

2. To Find A Mate

Unneutered males and unspayed females may have strong urges at various times, meaning they may want to go on the hunt for a mate. If there’s a female in heat and an unfixed male nearby, there’s a good chance your male will try and escape. He’s attempting to answer nature’s call. If your pooch is not in a breeding program there is no real reason not to have him/her neutered or spayed. It’s healthierit may ward off some serious reproductive system conditionsas well as some unwanted behaviors.

3. Moving To A New Home   

Welcome home! Or maybe not. You’re most likely very excited about the move to your new home. But Fido? Probably not so much. To your canine kids, a new home means everything familiar is gone. So, as the humans are settling into their new house it isn’t uncommon to hear their pooch escaped. Many dogs run off trying to find their way back to their old home. Needless to say, moving is definitely stressful for you, but it’s really stressful for Fido too. 

4. Fear

Loud Noises! Many dogs are spooked by sudden loud noises like fireworks on July 4th, a booming thunderstorm, or maybe even a house party. Take extra caution and keep your pooch in a safe area indoors during loud or crazy times. What’s fun for the humans can be very scary for dogs. Fear can cause an otherwise well-behaved pooch to suddenly try and get away. Did you know that July 4th is the biggest day of the year for dogs to run away?

5. Boredom

Just like you don’t want to sit in a room all day with nothing to do, neither does your canine kid. Make sure that your dog’s mind and body are stimulated. Starting his day with a nice walk in the morning can get him off to a good start. Or if you don’t have time for that then make sure he has interactive games in reach to keep his mind busy. If he’s getting enough mental and physical stimulation, he won’t have to seek out amusement. 

6. Separation Anxiety

Yes, your dog does love you that much! Although most pooch’s do get used to their human’s routines pretty quickly, some dogs have a harder time. For them, just the thought of you leaving the house can stress them to the max. They may bark, cry, whine, and destroy things. But, if an opportunity presents itself, they will more than likely run off to try and find you. 

7. Chasing Prey

The hunt! Chasing prey is a natural instinct for dogs, which can easily trigger if your pooch happens to spot a squirrel or any other little critter making his way through your yard. Fido’s urges to chase are tough for him to control. If you have a little hunter at home, be extra diligent to make sure there are no accessible escape routes for him. The last thing you want is to have your canine kid run into the street after a cat or anything/anyone else. If it becomes a problem you can’t control, you may need to enlist the help of a behaviorist or trainer. 

8. Weather And Catastrophic Events

Tornados, hurricanes, fires, etc. Being prepared in the event of a catastrophic event could save much heartache if the unthinkable happens. Wherever you live there is the potential for some type of environmental threat. In California, it could be earthquakes or wildfires. In Kansas, a tornado. It’s not uncommon to hear of runaway and lost dogs during times of natural disasters. Make plans ahead of time so that in case of an emergency, your canine will be protected. The humane society has a great article on tornados and pet safety

Prepare For The Unexpected

Always be prepared in case your dog ever does get out. Make sure:

  • Your pooch has a microchip.
  • He is wearing an identifiable collar and tag.
  • His rabies vaccine is up-to-date and he’s wearing his tag.
  • If you’re lucky enough to catch him while he’s out romping, do not punish him. Don’t ever take your anger and frustration out on the dog. That will only make it harder to get him if he ever gets out again. He will remember and he will fear being punished.
  • Hug, praise, and offer him treats. Make it clear that you love him and coming home is a good thing! 


The key to prevention is training. When you train your pooch, you establish a line of communication with him. It will ultimately strengthen your bond with each other and greatly increase your chance of gaining control in an emergency.

Every family pooch should be proficient in following the commands:

  1. Come
  2. Stay

Obeying these two commands can keep your pooch out of potential trouble. Additionally, when teaching commands, it’s important to use hand signals along with verbal cues. 

I’ve included a short video of Trainer Zak George teaching “stay.” It gives you an idea of how to begin and how patience and kindness pay off.