Published on: April 5, 2024
Author: Alix Mitchell
Category: Pet Safety

For most dog owners, having their dogs run away is their biggest worry. Dogs are part of our family, and losing them can feel like losing a child. Despite all the safety precautions you may take, sometimes accidents happen, and dogs can manage to get out of the house and become lost. 

How Often Do Pets Get Lost? 

The unfortunate reality is that 15% of dogs across the United States go missing. The good news is that this study also found that 93% of dogs were recovered and reunited with their owners.1 With this information, we know that there are certain things you can do to increase the likelihood of being reunited with your pet in the event they go missing. 

Main Reasons a Dog Might Run Away

In order to prevent a dog from running away, it’s important to understand what might cause a dog to run away in the first place to prevent that from happening. 

Fear from loud noises. Many dogs are fearful of loud noises, like thunderstorms or fireworks. When dogs become fearful, they may panic and run and hide. If there is an easy way for them to escape as they are frantically running around, they may easily slip through. In fact, more dogs are lost on July 4th than on any other day of the year.

Easy escape routes. Dogs are naturally curious and explore their surroundings. If they’re outside and notice a hole in the fence or gate, they’re likely to investigate it. Similarly, if they’re inside and a door gets cracked open, they may be tempted to check it out and ultimately run through it. 

Boredom. When dogs are bored, they may create their own escape route. When dogs are confined unsupervised, they may become bored if their mental and physical enrichment needs aren’t being met. This could lead to things like digging holes where they can squeeze through. 

Prey drive. Some dogs have a higher prey drive than others, but those with a high prey drive seem to never stop chasing their prey, like squirrels or deer. If your dog happens to see some wildlife they want to chase after, then they certainly will. 

Can Dogs Find Their Way Home? 

An interesting study done on 27 dogs in the Czech Republic shows that dogs can navigate their way home using magnetic fields.2 This helps us to understand those neighborhood dogs that seem to get out of the house and take themselves on a walk but never end up getting lost. Still, there are a lot of measures you can take when you have a lost dog to ensure that you find them. 

How to Stop Your Dog from Running Away

When it comes to making sure your dog doesn’t get lost, prevention is key! 

Spay or Neuter Your Dog

Intact dogs have an innate drive to mate and reproduce. Spaying and neutering your dog will remove the hormonal desire, so they won’t escape and roam to look for a mate. 

Build a Fence 

While dogs should never be left alone outside unsupervised, certain people may not have the ability to install a fence around their yard. If you aren’t able to install a fence, ensure that you’re walking your dog outside on a harness and leash, so they can’t break free. However, building a sturdy fence is the best way to ensure that your dog doesn’t leave your yard. It’s important to walk the perimeter regularly to make sure that there are no holes or broken pieces that could give your dog an escape route. 

Provide Mental & Physical Enrichment

Just like people, dogs need mental and physical enrichment to stay happy and healthy. Making sure that you’re meeting your dog’s mental enrichment needs and physical exercise requirements will ensure that he is fulfilled and prevent him from escaping to seek his own entertainment. 

Keep Your Pet Safe from Loud Noises

Dogs that become frantic at loud noises are likely to run away scared, so it’s important to prevent that from happening. For loud noises that you’re expecting, like thunderstorms or Fourth of July fireworks, keep your dog secure inside in an interior room with secured doors and windows. When you go outside, ensure that your dog is on a leash and harness that he can’t escape from. 

For other loud unexpected noises like gunshots or backfiring cars, try to keep your pet indoors and calm. Using a sound machine or turning a TV on can help to mask the scary noises to help your dog feel more relaxed. 

Best Ways to Keep Track of Your Family Dogs

If your dog runs away, all you’ll be able to think about is getting them back, and there are some things you can do to help reunite you with your dog as soon as possible. 

Microchip Your Dog. A microchip is a small, electronic chip that is the size of a grain of rice and is implanted underneath your dog’s skin. Then, you can register your personal information with your dog’s microchip number on an online database. When an animal is found and taken to a shelter or vet clinic, they will first be scanned with a microchip scanner. As long as your personal information is accurate in the microchip registry database, you’ll be reunited with your dog quickly.

Use an Identification Tag. If your dog runs away while wearing a collar with an ID tag, someone who catches your dog will be able to read that tag immediately and call you directly, if your number is on the tag. 

Use an Identification Collar. Similar to the tag, using a custom collar with your dog’s name and your phone number stitched into it can also help someone contact you immediately if they catch your dog.  

Use a GPS tracker. Adding  a GPS tracker to your dog’s collar could easily give you peace of mind. GPS trackers can be an affordable, easy line of defense and help you be reunited with your pet quicker by allowing you to see their location on an app. 

While we never want to think about our dogs running away and becoming lost, it’s an unfortunate reality for many people. When you understand what you can do to prevent it from happening and how you can help ensure you’ll get your dog back quickly if it does happen, you’ll be able to keep your dog safe and happy.