There are many potential reasons why a dog might run away, from catching the scent of something else they smell interesting, to sensing that the person on their walk is behaving strangely.
Let’s explore some of the most common reasons why dogs would run away and what you can do to prevent it. We’ll also look at some ways that you can help reunite an animal with its owner if it does get lost or stolen.
#1 The strange person
One of the most common reasons that dogs run away is if they are approached by someone who looks unusual or behaves strangely. This could be a member of the public who wants to give them some food, but it could also be someone with more sinister intentions, such as a dognapper.
Many dogs try to approach strange people, but when they get too close their owner will tell them to ‘stay’ to ensure that the stranger doesn’t cause any harm.
Dogs are not used to seeing unfamiliar people, and many are afraid of what they might do. In fact, one study found that 87% of dog owners had warned their dogs about someone who appeared out of the ordinary in a public place such as a supermarket or park.
#2 The wrong people
Another common reason that dogs run away is if they strongly dislike/fear their owner. This could be something small, such as accidentally wearing something that the dog associates with causing them pain or discomfort (such as a collar), or it could be something more serious, such as a threatening body language. This will cause the dog to become anxious and uncomfortable, and this may cause them to run away.
There are also dogs who can become distressed when they realize or believes that they have been abandoned by the owner, or they no longer feel loved or cared for. This is something that can occur when owners stop interacting with their pets and pay less attention to them.
Also, sometimes, your dog can decides your relationship for you. Dogs can sense hostility from a person, and this often leads them to run away in order to escape from the situation.
#3 The wrong place
A dog might run away if they think that something is happening in the wrong place, such as when they think that their owner needs to be somewhere else but they end up at home or work. This will be particularly true with dogs like police dogs, as these dogs are used to searching for people who are missing.
There are also many dogs who become distressed because they have been to a vet for health checks or operations, regardless whether they known it was coming or not. Many say it’s the smell that frightens them, but it’s more of a mixture of smell, new faces and sometimes, needle jabs.
#4 The strange smell
One reason that a dog might run away is because they have encountered some unusual scent, particularly around their owner. Dogs are highly attuned to the scent of humans and when they are around them this will activate their ‘fight’ response, which can cause them to become extremely stressed out.
Many dogs have a very strong ‘reptilian brain’, so these animals tend to react strongly to any scent that they encounter, as it is usually something new.
#5 The strange noise
While some dogs will bark at strange noises, some might run away instead is because of some new noise. The most common reason for this is the sound of a car door, as these dogs can get very stressed when they are around vehicles.
However, the sound of a lawnmower, leaf blower or generator could also cause a dog to be frightened by the unusual noise that they hear, especially if it goes on for longer than would be expected.
There are many dogs who will become very stressed out when they hear a loud sound such as a thunderstorm, train, or plane. These animals will suddenly become distraught and run away in order to escape the noise that they have heard.
#6 The wrong food
Many dogs are very picky about the type of food that they eat, and this can cause them to get very stressed if their owner tries to give them something different. In fact, most dogs will have issues adapting to new foods without slow transition. Read our article on transitioning to new dog food. This is especially true if the dog is part of a commercial working dog, as these animals have been trained to only eat certain types of food.
#7 The right food
One reason that a dog might run away is because they have caught a scent that they associate with finding food. These dogs are usually hunting or herding breeds, so if they catch the scent of something interesting this will activate their ‘hunt’ response, which can cause them to become very anxious and run away.
#8 Not Comfortable
One reason that a dog might run away is because they think that they need to go back to the shelter. Dogs are highly attuned to the noises that they hear from the shelter, so if they hear something unusual it is very easy for them to think that there is an emergency.
This will then cause them to be very stressed out, which can result in them running away. However, this is a temporary condition and they should return to normal within twenty-four hours.
There are also many dogs who become stressed because of the presence of the home itself. These dogs will become very anxious when they go into their home, and it will cause them to run away.
It is important that dogs are trained to be able to cope with being in their own home, and that they can recognize the noises or smells that they associate with fear or danger.
#9 DNA & Puberty
Some dogs are explorer or mischiefs, such as the Airedale Terrier or Huskies. They just love to either escape or explore.
Dogs can also run away when they begin to go into puberty. They will often run away because they suffer from anxiety that is brought on by the changes in their bodies.
#10 The pain
One reason that a dog will run away is because they are in some sort of pain. The most common reason for this is if a dog has been wounded, as this will cause them discomfort and make it harder for them to move around.
However, the scent of a wounded animal can also cause them to become stressed out because they think that there is something wrong. This can result in them running away until they have calmed down enough to return home on their own.
#11 The fear
When dogs are scared of something, or if they are suffering from fear aggression behaviour, they will usually flee far away, and this can result in them running away over a long period of time. If a dog is frightened by something, then they will run in the opposite direction to the noise or smell that it detects. Another reason is because they have been shocked by an event or situation. This is usually due to something unexpected happening that they do not know how to react to. This can cause them to become very stressed out, which can result in them running away, especially if the event was unexpected.
#12 Mental Illness
There are also many dogs that will run away due to a mental illness such as anxiety or depression. These dogs may become stressed out and cause them to run away when they experience a large amount of stress at once.
#13 Family members’ death
In some cases, dogs will run away when a close family member has passed away. This is due to the fact that the dog may feel that it nothing else to live for anymore and finds it easier to just escape from the situation altogether than to stay in a home without their loved one(s).
#14 No longer socialized
Some dogs become so withdrawn that they will run away just because they think it is best for their own safety. This can be due to, social aggression, mental illness in the dog or even past physical and emotional abuse.
If a dog has not been socialized early, then it may feel that it is not safe around others, especially if those others are humans. If a dog does not know how to react around humans, then the safest thing to do is to run away from them instead of being aggressive.
In some cases, lonely dogs will run away just because they are bored. These dogs have nothing else to do other than sit and wait for their owner to come home, so they may decide that escaping from the situation is their best option instead of staying at home.