a vet explains why dogs run away

If you have ever lost your dog, you will likely remember how scary that experience can be. Dogs run away for a variety of reasons including boredom, fear, or prey drive. In this article, we will review six common reasons why dogs run away. We will also offer tips on how to reduce the risk of your dog running away so you will never have to go through the terrifying experience of losing your dog.

The 6 Reasons Dogs Run Away & How to Prevent It

1. Boredom

Many dogs run away because they are bored and have nothing better to do. If you do not give your dog enough attention or exercise, they may become bored. A bored and restless dog is more likely to get into trouble, including running away to roam the neighborhood.1

2. Fear

Fear is a major contributing factor to runaway dogs. Some dogs have fear of fireworks or thunderstorms.2 If your pet hears a noise that scares them, they may run away to try and escape the danger. This seems to be more common in the summer months and around the 4th of July when fireworks become more frequent. Fear because of separation anxiety can also cause a dog to run away to try and find its owner.

3. Sex Drive

If your dog is not neutered or spayed, they may run away to try and find a mate. This is a very common reason that dogs run away. A female dog in heat may attract male dogs from all over the neighborhood. Also, unneutered male dogs tend to roam to look for a mate.3

4. Prey Drive

Dogs that suddenly see a rabbit or squirrel running away may have the sudden urge to chase them. If they have a strong drive to catch the rabbit, they may jump right over the fence to get to their prey. This is a very common reason dogs run away when taken to parks off-leash.

5. Easy Escape Routes

Many dogs will run away simply because there is an easy escape route. If your fence is not properly secured or if there is an easy out, your dog may take the opportunity to go exploring. Low fences can be an easy escape route for many large breed dogs.

6. New Surroundings

Have you recently moved to a new home, or are you on vacation? Anytime your dog is introduced to new surroundings, there is a higher risk that they will run away. It is important to be extra vigilant when introducing your dog to a new location.

How to Stop a Dog From Running Away

Dogs participating in obedience training outdoors

Neuter or Spay Your Dog

Is your dog spayed or neutered? If not, this would be the first recommendation to reduce roaming behaviors. If you have your dog spayed or neutered, this will likely reduce their sex drive, which will, in turn, reduce their risk of running away.

Build a Fence in Your Yard

If your yard is not fenced in, you should consider building a fence to keep your pet from running away. Even the most well-behaved pets can run away if let outside off-leash in an unfenced yard. If your yard is fenced in, periodically scan the perimeter to ensure there are no easy escape routes.


Regularly exercising your dog can reduce the risk that they will run away due to boredom. A dog that is exercised daily is more likely to be calm and less likely to get into trouble.4 Try playing fetch in your fenced yard or taking your dog for daily walks.

Keep Your Dog Inside During Thunderstorms and Fireworks

Keep an eye on the weather forecast and the calendar. If it looks like there is going to be a thunderstorm, bring your dog inside well before the storm comes because dogs that are thunderstorm-phobic can often sense an impending storm well before it arrives. Around holidays that are associated with fireworks, keep your dog mostly indoors to avoid the risk of it running away.

Teach Your Dog Basic Obedience

Dogs with basic obedience skills are less likely to run away. Teach your dog basic commands like sit, stay, and come. These commands will be beneficial if your dog begins to run away. Basic obedience courses are typically offered at pet training facilities and Petsmart.

Keep Your Pet on a Leash

If your pet is not in a fenced area, they should be kept on a leash. Dogs with a high prey drive may run away if they spot a rabbit or squirrel. Dogs on a leash will be less likely to run away to chase these animals.

Other Safety Measures

Place ID Tags on Your Dog’s Collar

Your dog should always be wearing a collar with their identification tags. One of the easiest ways to reunite a lost pet with its owner is by calling the phone number on the dog’s ID tag. Your dog’s ID tags should have your phone number, your pet’s name, and a secondary contact in case you are unable to be reached.

Microchip Your Dog

Sometimes a lost dog may also lose its collar and ID tags. A microchip is a permanent identification chip that can be implanted under your dog’s skin. If a lost dog is brought to a veterinary clinic or animal shelter, it will first be scanned for a microchip. The microchip number should be associated with your contact information so you will be contacted in the event your lost pet is scanned.

GPS Dog Tracking

A microchip does not have the ability to GPS track your pet. For added protection, you can get a GPS tracking device for your dog so you can locate your pet in the event that they run away. Many of these trackers can track your dog in real time so that it is easier to find your lost pet.

Featured Image Credit: Anna Molcharenko, Shutterstock

  1. Gibeault S. Bored dogs: how to recognize doggy boredom (and help!). Akc.org. Published April 24, 2019. Accessed February 8, 2021.
  2. Sexton C. Why fireworks scare some dogs but not others. Smithsonianmag.com. Published June 26, 2020. Accessed February 8, 2021.
  3. Spay and neuter your pets. Brown.edu. Accessed February 8, 2021.
  4. Williams K, Buzhardt L. The benefits of walking your dog. Vcahospitals.com. Accessed February 8, 2021.