Few things can be as scary or emotionally unsettling as a missing dog. Not only does it put your pet at risk of harm, but you’ll likely fear that you won’t be able to find him again. If your dog gets out repeatedly, you may find neighbors start to complain and local animal control could even get involved.
But keeping a dog on your property can be a challenge, especially if you have a new puppy. Young puppies should never be outside without your close supervision. For older puppies and adult dogs, there are some things you can do to keep your furry friend safe and eliminate the stress of having to track him down.
The best way to reduce risk is to make it tough for your dog to get out. Having a fenced-in yard is the best solution but can also be expensive. If you have a fenced yard, make sure your dog can’t easily hop over it or dig his way under it. Also make sure the gates are closed at all times. Service people like your landscapers sometimes forget to close them so get in the habit of checking to make sure all gates are closed after they leave.
Another very popular solution is installing an underground electric fence which is more affordable than a real fence. It’s important to find a reputable company that offers good training to the fence as this will make a big difference in making your dog respect the boundaries. You will need to frequently check the batteries to make sure they are working properly and to remember to always have the collar on when the dog is outside. There are some dogs that will run through the fence and take the electric shock. If you have one of these, discuss the various solutions available from the person who installs and trains your dog.
NEVER tether your dog outside. It's not safe to leave a dog unattended and tethered. They can injure themselves, be injured by another dog or person or even be stolen. Not only is tethering dangerous, it is often illegal depending on where you live.
I discuss this more fully in my podcast all about tethering.
Dogs don’t like loud noises. They are fearful of these and instinctively want to bolt and hide. Never leave your dog outside during a thunderstorm or on July 4th when there are fireworks. While the kids love this holiday, it’s best to leave your dog at home in the comfort and safety of his familiar surroundings. Many dogs run away on July 4th so plan ahead to keep your dog safe and protected. The same is true for Halloween. On Halloween, protect your dog by putting him in his crate inside the house and treat the witches and goblins without him, or to go out trick or treating and leave Fido at home in his own space where he is away from all these scary activities.
If you’ve adopted a dog, you may be dealing with some old habits. A dog that has been allowed to roam without restriction will instinctively want to go out and explore. It can take time, but as your dog gets used to your family routine, he’ll move away from his old ways. Be sure to pack plenty of playtime and exercise into that routine, particularly if your dog is alone all day.
In addition to preventive measures, you’ll need to train your dog to come to you when you call his name. This takes time and patience, but it’s essential to his safety. At first teach and practice in a confined space like the inside of your home. As the dogs gets more reliable, add more distractions by practicing in a fenced back yard before trying it somewhere like a dog park or walking trail. If you’re confident your dog will come back to you when you call for him, you’ll be less likely to deal with a runaway situation. But just in case he does run off, be sure to have an identification tag on your dog so that if he is found by someone, they can help get him back home.
Concerned about your dog running away? Whether you have a new puppy or you’ve been dealing with this problem a while, training can make a big difference. To get started training your dog to return to you, download my Come When Called Checklist below. This list is completely free and will walk you through the steps you need to take to train your dog a reliable recall.