As a dog owner, you come across many obstacles. Every dog is different in its own way, so even if you’re a dog training expert, the process probably won’t go smoothly. That being said, one of the hardest commands to learn is to recall, as most dogs have an innate tendency to run all over the place. It leaves many owners wondering — Why Does My Dog Keep Running Away From Me? What am I doing wrong?
To be frank, there are many reasons why a dog would behave this way. Oftentimes the cause is sheer curiosity, which is in its nature. Other times, the owner’s lack of understanding or mistreating the dog makes the dog scared and prone to running away. Whatever the case may be, there are ways you can teach your dog to be more obedient and responsive.
If you’ve ever walked a dog in your life, you know how it is. The dog runs around everywhere, constantly sniffing and looking for something. Sometimes they’re looking for a place to do the number one or number two. Sometimes they sense a food source nearby. Other times they simply see another dog and want to go and say hi.
Long story short — your dog is not running away from you out of spite. You have to understand that your dog is an animal first, and your pet second. It has its needs and urges just like you do.
As I said, fear plays a big role in the dog’s behavior. Just like in humans, fear is a strong motivator that takes control of our actions, as well as our whole bodies. More importantly, it triggers the fight-or-flight response. Most dogs, especially smaller and tamer ones, tend to flee when they feel threatened.
So Why Does My Dog Keep Running Away From Me? Why is it scared of me? you may wonder. Well, I hate to break this to you, but your dog senses the anger in your voice. If it feels like it will be punished when it comes to you, it will definitely run the other way. You can’t scream and yell at your dog and then expect it to trust you, let alone run toward you.
If you want to gain your dog’s trust, make sure you stay calm when teaching it to recall, even if it fails to respond every time. Of course, that requires a bit of patience, but it does pay off in the end.
Unfortunately, dogs aren’t that great at generalizing their behavior. Your dog may respond to you in a particular environment, at home or in the yard, where you did the recall training. Still, that doesn’t mean that it will respond when you’re on a walk.
As I mentioned, it’s in their nature to run freely and you should expect it to happen when you’re outside. To prevent the dog from running away and getting lost, make sure you use the leash. However, you can’t tug it all the time and force the dog to walk right next to you. The leash is there to ensure it doesn’t get lost, not to make it docile and powerless.
Another mistake I see owners make is punishing a dog because it didn’t respond right away. And if you know the first thing about dog training, you know that’s not the right thing to do. Doing so will have opposite effects than desired — the dog will associate the action of running toward you with fear, and it will learn to run away when you call it.
Some dogs, especially bigger ones, become lazy over time and lose some of the drive and spirit that puppies have. Not many stimuli can get them going. They’d rather sleep all day.
If you want to train such a dog recall, you need to be armed with extra treats and patience. For a big and lazy dog, getting up and walking toward you is no easy task, so you better make the trip worth their while.
In addition, I’ve seen many owners overuse the word “come.” It’s better to use one powerful command, preferably paired with the dog’s name (“Rufus, come”), than yell “come” over and over again. You don’t want the dog to become completely desensitized to the word.
What to Do When Your Dog Runs Away
When your dog runs away from you, I highly recommend going against your first instinct. Stay calm, don’t get angry, and never, ever run after it. If your dog thinks it’s going to be punished when you catch them, it will be more motivated to keep running.
Remember, the answer to the question Why Does My Dog Keep Running Away From Me? may lie in your own behavior and actions. The dog may be too scared to come back to you. Instead of running after your dog, you should try and make it run back to you.
If you trained your dog with a recall word, now’s the time to use it. The tone of your voice should be calm, but cheerful, so the dog doesn’t get scared. I advise that you sit down, grab a toy, and use the recall word to get your dog’s attention. If it still won’t come, pretend to walk in the opposite direction, and it’ll probably go after you.
When your pet comes back, make sure you reward it with treats for returning to you.
Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called
Before you start letting your dog off the leash in public, you need to make sure it’ll listen to your commands. More importantly, it should come to you when called. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that it will run after something/someone and get lost. However, how you achieve this is extremely important. If you train your dog properly, you won’t ever have to ask yourself why does my dog keep running away from me?
Naturally, a puppy should be much easier to train than a grown dog, but it’s only a matter of consistency. It might take longer with a grown dog, but trust me, you’ll get to it. Here’s how to do it:
For starters, I recommend you find a way to get your dog’s attention. You can use your voice, a toy, a branch, a treat, or literally anything that can be seen, heard, or smelled. As I said previously, dogs are not that hard to distract.
The next step is getting the dog to come to you. Be consistent and only use a single command.
When they return, give them a treat as a reward. In any case, keep the training fun and entertaining.
Alternatively, I recommend you teach the dog to stop the action it’s doing and lie down. It’s much easier to teach than recall, and it can act as a good transition.
To summarize, having control over your dog is an important part of your relationship. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to be cold and strict. In fact, if you go that route, you’ll soon be wondering why does my dog keeps running away from me? To prevent that, make sure it’s fun and rewarding for your dog to listen to you. If your dog knows that it’s going to get a treat each time it comes to you, trust me — it will run toward you whenever you call!