Even though your dog loves you, she may sometimes like to run away. Some dogs do it all the time. Others respond to certain triggers. Some are like magicians and seem to be able to get out of any fence.

Although your pet may just go next door and back, running away can be dangerous. She could get hurt or could get lost and never come home.

Here's a look at why your pet might be heading out and how you can help keep her home.

Why Dogs Escape

Frustration. Your dog might figure out a way to take off if she's bored. Maybe you left her alone for a long time and she's lonely. Or she may have lots of energy to use up because she doesn't have toys or other dogs to play with.

Or maybe she’s having more fun somewhere else. She could be going to a neighbor's house where there are other dogs or kids to play with.

Separation anxiety. Your dog might hit the road because it stresses her out to be apart from you. Does she get nervous when you get ready to leave? Does she destroy things in the house when you’re out? Or have accidents even though she's housetrained? These can all be signs of separation anxiety.

A dog with separation anxiety will usually run away right after you leave. The good news is she’ll probably stick close to home.

Fear. Some dogs run because they’re scared. Common fears include thunderstorms and fireworks. About 1 in 5 lost pets goes missing after a loud noise.

Sex drive. A dog that isn't fixed may escape in search of a mate. Dogs become sexually mature when they're around 6 months old. Because their drive is so high, it can be very hard to keep them confined.

How to Keep Your Dog From Running Away

To prevent frustration ...

  • Play with or walk her every day.
  • Give her fun toys while you’re gone, including puzzle toys to keep her busy.
  • Keep your dog inside when you can't watch her.
  • Take her to doggy day care or have a friend walk her if you’ll be gone for a long time.
  • Teach her commands or tricks and practice them often. Learn to play fetch or Frisbee.

If she has separation anxiety ...

  • If the problem is mild, give her a special treat each time you go, like a peanut butter-stuffed puzzle toy. Don't make a big deal when you leave or return.
  • If the issue is more serious, you might need to try conditioning. To start, put on your shoes or pick up your keys, but don’t leave. Do this over and over until she isn't stressed. Go out for a few seconds at first. Slowly increase the time you’re gone. A vet or trainer can help.

If she's afraid ...

  • If you know what the problem is, leave her inside when she’s likely to hear the trigger sound like thunder or fireworks.
  • Give her a safe place to get away like a basement or windowless room. Leave on music or a loud fan to help with the noise.
  • Ask your vet or a trainer for get tips on how to get her used to the noise that scares her. This might involve playing recordings of the sound. Your vet may also suggest anti-anxiety medication.

If it's a sexual issue ...

  • Have your dog spayed or neutered as soon as possible.

Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe

Take these steps to keep your dog from wandering and to help find her if she does take off.

  • Make sure she's microchipped and always wears a collar with an ID and your phone number.
  • Check gates and doors anytime a visitor, yard worker, or repair person comes to your home.
  • Hold on to your dog's collar when people come to the door, or put her in her crate or another room.
  • Teach your dog a solid "stay" command.
  • Never let your dog off her leash when you’re out walking.
  • When you find a runaway, don't chase her. She might think you're playing a game. Stop running, sit on the ground and call her instead.
  • Always reward her when she returns to you. Never punish her when she returns -- she’ll link it with bad things and may not come.

WebMD Veterinary Reference

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