Why Does My Dog Run Away From Me? Top 4 Reasons

Key takeaways

It's no fun having to keep your dog inside because they can't be trusted in the outside world. But this can be the reality for misbehaving dogs that run away.

We’re going to explore the top four reasons why dogs run away so you can be proactive in stopping this behavior. These include being in heat, being unneutered, having a fight or flight instinct, and exhibiting learned behaviors.

We'll also offer our expert advice and tips on how to keep your dog safe, even if they do continue to run!

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. 4 Reasons why dogs run away
  3. How to keep your dog safe
  4. FAQs
  5. Final thoughts

4 Reasons why dogs run away

Many dogs will run away from their owners at some point. Even a good dog with plenty of training may wander off to find their own fun.
Some breeds, like German shepherds and huskies, are more prone to this behavior than others, but most dogs run away for similar reasons. Once you figure out why they're doing this, you can work out how to stop it!

1. Female dog in heat

You can train a dog as best as you can, but we cannot override their instincts. These chemical cues are passed down for thousands of generations and designed to help them survive. Something that can cause your dog to run away is the instinct to mate.
Female dogs experience heat cycles, which means when they are 'in heat,' they are fertile and able to conceive puppies. To help them find a mate during this period, their instinct tells them to find a male dog.
With a dog's sense of smell being as powerful as it is, a female dog could pick up on the scent of a good mate from up to 12 miles (20km) away in perfect conditions! (source)
This means they may run away from you to find them. This can not only put them in danger of traffic accidents or getting lost, but it can also attract many dogs in the area to follow your pup.
Expert Insight: If your female dog is not neutered, it's important to keep her inside when she is in heat.
A dog following another dog in heat

2. Unneutered male dog

As we just briefly mentioned, a female dog in heat can attract many male dogs. The following of a scent works both ways. So, if your dog isn't neutered, they will constantly be on the lookout for a good mate. This means any scent that vaguely reflects that of another dog will drive your pup crazy until it finds the source.
If you have an obedient dog, then good recall training may be able to control this instinct. But it's unlikely. By getting your pup neutered, you'll reduce the risk of them running away and becoming lost. It can also benefit you and your dog in the following ways:

Reduces the risk of testicular cancer

Reduces their roaming instinct

Reduces urine marking

A dog following a scent

3. Fight or flight

A dog's fight-or-flight instinct is triggered by stress or fear. Their usual response to this is to run away and hide until they feel safe again. As owners, we may think that if our dog loves us and trusts us, why would they run away from us when they're scared? Surely they'd want to be near us?
Well, even if your dog trusts you more than anyone else, they're instincts tell them to be alone. In fact, sometimes, during fight-or-flight, they may not even recognize you!
If your dog is running away from you on walks, then the following may have triggered their fight or flight:

Being approached by other dogs

Being approached by other people

Busy places

Loud noises

Top Tip: Getting them accustomed to plenty of different scenarios and experiences is important. Teach them that they are safe by experiencing these situations together with a positive outcome.

Even if your dog trusts you more than anyone else, they're instincts tell them to be alone. In fact, sometimes, during fight-or-flight, they may not even recognize you!

A scared dog running away from fireworks
If your dog is running away from you at home or without any noticeable 'trigger', then the following reasons may be why:

They experience separation anxiety from being left alone for too long

They aren't getting enough food

They aren't getting enough mental stimulation

They aren't getting enough physical stimulation

They don't feel safe in their environment

If you think one of these could be the case, change their routine. If they are experiencing ongoing stress and fear, it's only a matter of time until your dog runs away for good. Try the following:

Invest in some good puzzle toys to keep them entertained when you can't

Employ a dog walker if you can't exercise them as much as you need

Take them to doggy daycare if you're going to be out of the house for more than a few hours

Keep their environment quiet and calm

A dog relaxed in their environment

4. Learned behavior

You may be reading this thinking that none of it applies to you and your pup. And that's also normal! Most dogs run away simply because they have learned that this behavior is okay. So, if you're struggling to stop your dog running when you take them off the leash, you may just need to figure out a good recall word and start a training program.
If you don't teach your dog from a young age that they shouldn’t run away when off leash, then they will instinctually choose to run. They are built for this kind of movement, and to them, it feels good! Also, the excitement of new smells, squirrels to chase, and other dogs to meet can be overwhelming, and the only option is to run!
But don't worry. Just because they have learned this behavior doesn't mean it's impossible to undo. It will be more difficult than training a puppy, but it's still possible! Use the following steps:


Start by practicing in a fenced yard or secure area


Let your dog off the leash and then call them back to you


If they don't come, go to them, clip the leash on your dog's collar, and lead them back to where you were standing


Give them a treat and wait a moment before letting them off again


Repeat these steps until your dog comes to you without having to be put on the leash again

Top Tip: This will take a long time to perfect, so stay calm and be patient. Positive reinforcement is key, so make sure you have a special treat for training sessions. If you can't seem to be successful in your dog training, then ask a professional for some help!
A dog running away from their owner

How to keep your dog safe

A missing dog is every pet parent's worst nightmare. So it's essential you keep your dog safe even if they are prone to running away.

Microchip them

If your dog ran away and became lost, then they are likely to end up in a local shelter. Here, they will scan your dog to check for a microchip so they can contact the owners as soon as possible.
However, if your dog isn't microchipped, then they will stay in that shelter until someone claims them. Unfortunately, many animal shelters are overrun and underfunded, meaning they often euthanize unclaimed animals.
To prevent this nightmare situation from ever being an option, get your dog microchipped. It's a simple procedure that will keep them safe for the rest of their life. As long as you ensure your contact details are up to date on the chip, you'll always be associated with your pup, no matter where they end up.
Expert Insight: This can also be a great deterrent for theft. Someone won't be able to sell your dog if they are microchipped because you will be notified.
A dog having their microchipped scanned after running away

Keep them on the leash

If your dog isn't ready to be safely walked off the leash, then don't provide them with an opportunity to run away. Unless you are in a secure dog park or garden, then keep your dog close.
This is important for their safety as well as other dog's safety. If your dog runs away, they may approach a reactive dog. This can put your pup in danger, as well as other owners.
Only ever let your pup off their leash if you are confident in their training and if you feel safe in the environment.

If your dog runs away, they may approach a reactive dog. This can put your pup in danger, as well as other owners.

Wear a collar

Always make your dog wear a collar. This is a way to identify that your pup is a pet rather than a stray. On the collar, make sure you include your contact details so that if your dog does run away, you will be notified as soon as they are found.
Without a collar, your furry friend is more likely to be mistaken for a stray or feral dog and either ignored or reported to animal control.
Investing in electronic collars may help your training efforts. Alternatively, you can clip a GPS tracker onto your pup so you can monitor their location at all times, giving you peace of mind if they do decide to embark on a solo adventure.
A dog wearing a collar on a walk


What does it mean if your dog runs away from you?

If your dog runs away from you, it can mean a few things. They may be trying to start playing with you, encouraging you to chase them, or they may feel frightened or stressed.

How do I get my dog to stop running away from me?

To get your dog to stop running away from you, you need to invest in some good recall training. This will help you have more control over your dog's behavior and will make your pup feel more safe, too.

Why does my dog keep walking away from me?

Dogs need personal space, just like humans. So, if your dog is walking away from you, they may be indicating that they need a little more space and are putting a boundary in place.

How do you know if your dog is unhappy?

You can tell if your dog is unhappy by reading their body language and their behavior. If they seem stiff, rigid, and not relaxed, then they are unhappy. Similarly, if they are acting withdrawn or not eating, then this may indicate unhappiness.

Why does my dog suddenly not like me?

It's unlikely your dog suddenly doesn't like you. If they are acting withdrawn, hiding, or walking away then they may be more generally unhappy, rather than not liking you.

Should I chase my dog if he runs away?

No, never chase your dog if they run away. This can make them more frightened and stressed, causing them to hide or run further. They also may think it's a game, making them want to run further.

Does my dog love me if he ran away?

Dogs run away for many reasons, but it's unlikely they ran away because they don't like you. It's more likely that they got spooked by a loud noise or were stressed in their environment.

Final thoughts

We know how heartbreaking it can be if your dog runs away and becomes lost, which is why we set up PetRadar. Our service is designed to help you find your dog as quickly as possible. We use social media ads to alert thousands of neighbors in your area about your missing dog.
From these posts, they can report a sighting, send it to a friend, or save it for later. Think of it as the digital missing pet poster. We've already reunited over 10,000 pets this way, so you're in good hands!

Written by

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Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

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