Stop Running Away!


How to Train Your Dog to Behave When the Door is Open,
or Prevent Roaming When Your Dog is Loose

Does your dog squeeze out the door and go running every chance he gets? Does following or chasing him only result in more running away?

Nobody wants their dog to be hurt or lost, but dogs don’t understand the words “you could get hit by a car!” So you have to train them to stop running away in a way that dogs understand.

Why Dogs Run Away

Dogs are built for running. As a pack-hunting species, they chase down small, fast animals as a group. As a species that both competes and cooperates with its pack at the same time, the fastest dog gets the most food. The urge to run is a high priority for any dog who’s bored, stressed out, or simply doesn’t know better.

We dog lovers, however, wish they wouldn’t do it. Running away, chasing cars and bikes, and roaming the streets give us good cause for concern, and you’re right to want to deal with it. If it’s left unchecked, it all-too-often results in a family tragedy. As your dog’s pack leader, it’s good you want to solve the running away problem.


Challenges in Training Dogs to Stop Running Away


The biggest challenge with dogs running away is that it’s fun for them. Just by running away and spending some time exploring, they’ve gotten what they wanted. If this is the first article you’ve read on this site, let me explain: dog behavior patterns develop much more because of gaining rewards, instead of avoiding problems.

In other words, the automatic reward of a moment’s freedom teaches the dog that they want to run away again. A dog sees no down side to running away. So, the more times it happens, the more of a habit it becomes.

How Do You Train Your Dog to
Stop Running Away?

  1. Identify the reason they’re running away .
  2. Fill any gaps in your dog’s happiness and comfort at home .
  3. Deal with the specific problem that leads to running away .

Now, I’ll break these steps down in detail.

1. Why is your dog running away?

Basically, your dog is running away from something in the home, or they’re running to something outside the home.

Here’s a list of possibilities that should help you when you’re identifying what’s got your dog running away:

Things dogs run to:

  • Other dogs and people. (Made a friend or met a mate)
  • Freedom to roam.
  • Prey – the ability to hunt.
  • Interesting smells.

Things dogs run from:

  • Boredom, feeling trapped, lack of exercise.
  • Loud noises, especially sudden ones.
  • Abuse or fear of abuse.
  • Anything stressful.

And other misc reasons for running away:

  • Loneliness and separation anxiety.
  • Not enough obedience training to know otherwise.
  • To make you chase him – he thinks it’s fun.
  • This list could become a mile long – you know your dog best.

Identifying the problem is critical to making your dog stop running away. Keep that in mind as you work on the general basics of…

2. How can you make your dog happier
and more comfortable at home?

The idea here is to make the home, your dog’s favorite place to be. Don’t forget that separation anxiety is always right around the corner in a dog’s mind – so, making the home more attractive will increase their urge to stop running away and stay near the den.

Keep in mind that the following list is not a matter of “pampering” your dog or bribing him. These are really the basics that every dog owner should provide faithfully as part of your pack leader role.

  • Good bedding that’s kept clean and dry, away from drafty areas, preferably in a private spot.
  • Water that’s refreshed in a clean bowl at least twice a day, and fresh food. (Your dog’s breed and size are the deciding factor in how often he should be fed, but stale food isn’t pleasant.)
  • Play time and exercise with you, specifically.
  • Chances to meet and play with other dogs.
  • Obedience training to answer his silent questions about how to be a good dog.
  • Toys. Each dog likes something different, find out what works and provide a variety.
  • No means of escape… because, to an extent, if he thinks he can, then he thinks he should.
  • Lack of outside temptations – block his view of passing cars and cats.
  • Lack of wild pack dogs that might tempt your dog’s natural instincts to run free.
  • Spay or neuter your dog to deal with natural mating urges.
  • Have someone walk, visit, or sit your dog any time you’re away from home.

Once again, everything in the list above is really a matter of providing the basics. Giving your dog everything he or she needs at home, will solve or reduce the urge and may be enough to get your dog to stop running away. However, you might also need to…

3. Deal with the specific problem that leads to running away.

If the problem isn’t a lack of the basics, then you need to do the above, but also remove the additional problem that tempts your dog into running away.

To get your dog to stop running away from the yard…

  • Take the advice in this article – “Stop your dog from escaping” – until your yard is escape-proof.
  • Prevent your dog from seeing the cats and other creatures he might want to chase.
  • Desensitize your dog so that loud noises, for example, no longer scare him away.
  • If you think your dog’s confused about his role at home, or lacks some other kind of obedience training that causes him stress, use this advice – “The Eight Ways of Changing a Dog’s Behavior” – to learn how to use clicker training as a positive reinforcement tool. This is a general-purpose training method for instantly rewarding the right behaviors.

To get your dog to stop running away when freed from a leash…

  • Obedience training and more obedience training.
  • Work on the recall command using this article – “Please Come Back to Me!”

To get your dog to stop running away when the door is opened…

  • If possible, make sure your door closes itself, so nobody accidentally provides an opportunity.
  • More obedience training. “Stay” and “wait” commands are very helpful.
  • Train your dog so that he looks to you for permission to leave the house.
  • Try this training method – open the door, then close it suddenly while he’s got enough time to stop his mad dash for the exit. Every time he sits and waits, praise and give a treat.


Training your dog to stop running away is one of the more challenging behavior problems to deal with. The action of running away is its own reward, and your dog’s natural instincts tell him it’s good to run, to be free, and to seek out new social contacts. Nevertheless, any responsible dog owner wants their dog to stop running away for his own safety. Be patient, firm, and kind, and understand this behavior problem will take some time to resolve.

Read more about dog training basics or go back to the dog behavior training section.

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