Every day I see at least one post on social media about dogs running away. Someone forgot to latch a gate, secure a door, latch a crate, or clip a tie out on properly and some dog took that opportunity to run for it. To a lesser extent, I see this with my clients. If I told you to walk into the middle of a field and unclip your dog’s leash, what would your reaction be? Some of you might have just thought “no problem”, but the vast majority of you likely just had a heart palpitation because you know it’s not going to go well.
One of my core principles in dog training is the idea of fulfilling needs rather than punishing behaviours. For instance, if your dog plays tug with you and the leash on a walk your dog is expressing a desire for conflict-based play. This is easy to solve–get a decent tug toy and start playing tug with your dog as game place for at least 15 minutes a day and watch that behaviour disappear. Now, can you punish it away? Absolutely, but that’s not how I like to do things.
Why Do Dogs Run Away?
My opinion of the prime driving force behind why dogs run away from home when permitted is this:
They have a need for exploration and adventure WITH the group and if the group (you) is not responsible for fulfilling that need then they will fulfill it INSPITE of the group. You have two options, be responsible for the fulfillment of that desire (which will build your social relevance to the dog and build your relationship) or don’t and let your dog do it himself.
There might be some habits left over, but if you were to take 20 minutes a day on a 20-foot lunge line and explore some parks and green spaces you’d be surprised how quickly that desire goes away.
For an explanation of how I would approach this, please read my post Why I Don’t Walk My Dogs On Sidewalks
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