Addressing Potential Dog Escape Routes
While not all dogs have the urge to run, it’s essential to acknowledge that, inherently, our canine companions possess a genetic predisposition towards exploration. Veterinarian Sharon Crowell-Davis from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia provides an insight, stating that “As a species, the majority of dogs are intrinsically curious, active, and have a desire to explore and discover.”
Such curiosity and desire for discovery make seemingly mundane elements such as a too-low fence, a damaged gate, or an open window incredibly enticing for a curious dog, prompting them to seize the opportunity for an unscheduled exploration.
Indeed, Crowell-Davis reiterates, “As a species, the majority of dogs are curious and want to be active and explore and discover.”
On beautiful spring days, the temptation to let in the fresh air by opening the windows and doors is understandable. However, it’s crucial to ensure that those open windows are equipped with secure pet-proof screens or safety bars to prevent any potential canine escapades. The same goes for open doors; consider installing a baby gate or door barrier to keep your curious dog from bounding out unexpectedly.
Furthermore, it’s advisable to keep an eye on your dog while they’re in the yard. Regularly inspect your fence for any holes or weak areas that could serve as potential escape routes for your adventure-seeking dog. Remember, prevention is always better than cure when it comes to ensuring your dog’s safety and preventing them from running away
Curbing the Chase Instinct Radar
My dog, has a particularly strong prey drive. Were it not for the double collar and harness I keep him in, he would be darting after squirrels, attempting to climb trees, or sprinting as far as his little legs could carry him in a bid to chase a wandering cat.
Not all dogs exhibit this fascination with chasing potential prey, but for those like Radar, additional safety measures are paramount. Despite our utmost diligence as pet owners, it’s essential to recognize that a prey drive is an inherent, hardwired trait. Hence, prevention, coupled with appropriate tools, can significantly help in maintaining your dog’s safety, ensuring they stay by your side, and also keeping smaller neighborhood animals out of harm’s way.
For guidance on maintaining leash control, which is particularly important for dogs with a strong chase instinct, check out our comprehensive guide on walking your dog. Remember, practicing recall commands is also crucial. While these commands might not eliminate the prey drive, they can provide a critical control tool in situations where your dog might be tempted to chase.
Heeding Nature’s Call
Reproductive instincts can be incredibly strong, particularly in intact male dogs, which often feel compelled to roam in pursuit of a mate. Even the most well-behaved, highly trained dog can find itself succumbing to these powerful natural urges. Imagine if your un-neutered Tramp catches the scent of the neighbor’s un-spayed Lady loitering on the sidewalk; the instinctual desire to mate could coax them both through the fence, embarking on a path together in search of a private spot.
Undoubtedly, vigilant supervision and secure fencing can deter such a runaway scenario. However, the most straightforward solution to this problem is to get your dog spayed or neutered as soon as possible. One study focused on neutered dogs concluded that “roaming was reduced in 90% of the dogs.” Once your pet’s hormones are regulated through neutering or spaying, their likelihood to wander off in search of mates significantly decreases.
“Roaming was reduced in 90% of the dogs.”
The timeline for having your dog neutered or spayed is somewhat flexible. While most veterinarians agree that dogs can undergo this procedure as early as eight weeks of age, others recommend waiting until the dog is six months or older to ensure complete physical development. For more information, check out our comprehensive guide on this topic. If you decide to delay neutering or spaying your puppy, you must exercise extra caution to prevent unsupervised wandering.
Boredom is not exclusive to humans; dogs too can succumb to the dullness of routine, which can lead them to venture outside the yard in search of entertainment. You can keep your dog’s exploratory instincts in check by implementing a strategy involving what we like to call ‘the three E’s’:
- Exercise: A significant part of keeping your dog content and relaxed is ensuring they receive adequate physical activity. One robust walk during the day—tailored to your dog’s age and activity level—can significantly reduce their restlessness, making them more likely to relax when you’re away.
- Enrichment: In addition to physical exercise, mental stimulation is crucial for your dog’s overall well-being. Involve your pet in puzzle toys and engaging games to keep their brains active and challenged.
- Entertainment: Loneliness can often pave the way to boredom, increasing the likelihood of your dog seeking excitement elsewhere. Keep your pet entertained and socially engaged. Depending on your dog’s temperament, this could mean spending quality time together at the end of the day, setting up doggy playdates, or arranging trips to the park to invigorate their spirits.
A word of caution about allowing your dog unsupervised yard time: While a yard can be a fantastic space for exercising, enriching, and entertaining your pet, it’s best to limit their yard time to periods when you’re home and can supervise them. Always remember to double-check gate latches to ensure your pet’s safety.
Scary Sights and Sounds One of the primary causes for dogs running away is fear, often triggered by intimidating sights and sounds – fireworks being a prime example. The amalgamation of loud noises, bright flashes, and bustling crowds can be overwhelming for even the most spirited dog. While you’re out celebrating holidays and special occasions, it’s usually in your pet’s best interest to keep them securely indoors, away from the chaos.
However, fear triggers aren’t limited to holiday festivities. Thunderstorms, gunfire, car accidents, and other sudden, loud noises can spook a dog enough to send them sprinting away. If your pet tends to be easily startled, there are several precautions you can take to ensure their safety throughout the year:
- Outdoor Safety Measures: When outside, keep your dog secure with a well-fitted collar and leash. If you’re in an environment that may have potential fear triggers, consider using a backup collar or harness. Using a carabiner to connect the collar to the harness can provide additional security. This is because terrified dogs can sometimes wriggle out of loose collars, which often explains why many stray dogs are found without one.
- Recall Training: Regularly practicing recall training is essential! In a panic, your dog might not respond to their name, but ingraining their recall response can make it easier to call them back during a frightful event.
- Safe Spaces at Home: Designate a “safe space” or den for your dog at home. This could be a crate or a room with a door that closes securely. Keep your dog indoors during thunderstorms or loud celebrations, ensuring doors and windows are locked and secure.
- Calming Aids: Consider using a ThunderShirt or calming treats and pheromone sprays. These can provide a soothing effect during stressful situations.
Dogs, being social animals, naturally prefer to stay close to their human family. By taking a few preventive measures, you can keep your canine companion safe and secure at home.
In the unfortunate event your dog runs away, don’t panic. According to the ASPCA, over 700,000 lost dogs are reunited with their families each year. It’s crucial to keep your dog’s ID tags and microchip information current. You may also want to explore modern pet-tracking technologies that can help locate lost pets swiftly.
A useful tool to consider is the Nextdoor Pet Directory, which allows your neighbors to virtually “meet” your dog and become familiar with their quirks. Remember, a little preparation can significantly increase the likelihood of a happy ending for you and your four-legged best friend.”