If your dog has started running away from you when they did not previously, it could be that they are bored, want to play, are trying to communicate something, recall a negative experience, are running towards something, are running away from something, or are suffering from illness.
Let us look at each of these causes for behavioral change in a little more depth.
Your Dog is Running From You Because They Are Bored
When your dog is bored, they will make their own entertainment, and that entertainment often involves mischievous behavior like running away (“doing the zoomies”) each time you approach them. When dogs are confined for long periods, they often display this type of behavior when they want to “shake things up” a bit!
The best way to address this situation is to provide your dog with a more stimulating environment. Consider interactive toys and AI gadgets that can keep your dog engaged even when left alone because you are at work.
Your Dog is Running From You Because They Want to Play
When your dog runs from you, it can also be an invitation to play. For example, if they see you reach to put a toy away in the toy box, your dog may snatch it and run, inviting you to play. This type of behavior usually happens when your dog gets over-excited and has the energy to spare!
You can address this situation in one of two ways if you are in a safe, confined area –
- You can make it a game and chase them.
- You can sit down on the spot and wait for them to come to you.
The latter option is generally a better choice because chasing your dog as a way of playing with them encourages them to run away from you in the future – something you may not want if you are trying to put their leash on, for example.
Your Dog is Running From You Because They Are Trying to Communicate Something
When your dog runs from you, they may also be trying to communicate something with you. For example, your dog may be trying to take you to something they found – like a snake in your garden. This behavior is something many dog parents joke about as being a “Lassie moment.”
If your dog is trying to communicate something with you when they run away from you, they will run away, and return, run away, and return repetitively to ensure you are following them. Indulge and follow your dog to see what the fuss is.
Your Dog is Running From You Because They Recall a Negative Experience
Your dog may also run from you because they recall a negative (or unpleasant) experience. For example, if you accidentally cut the quick when trimming your dog’s nails the last time, they may run when they see you grab the nail clippers this time. This behavior happens for many dog owners when they say the word b-a-t-h!
If your dog is running from you because they recall something negative, be patient and slowly work with them to overcome their negative association by creating a positive one.
For example, if your dog is afraid of the nail clippers, you might start by leaving them on the floor with a treat beside them so that your dog can investigate without fear. As your dog gets braver, try holding – but not using – the clippers while offering a treat. With this baby step approach, you can help your dog overcome fear and make negative stimuli much less stressful!
Your Dog is Running From You Because They Are Running Towards Something
Your dog may run from you because they are running towards something. For example, your dog may have spotted a dog friend across the dog park! This type of behavior is usually a spur-of-the-moment occurrence when a dog cannot control their excitement or joy over the thing they have spotted.
Your dog is no different from you in this type of situation, and assuming that you are safe, allow your pup to be happy and enjoy themselves!
Your Dog is Running From You Because They Are Running Away From Something
Similarly, your dog may be running from you because they are trying to run away from something. For example, you may be holding the hand of a neighborhood child who is rambunctious and who scares your dog. This type of behavior is always the result of something that induces fear or anxiety.
You should approach this type of situation as you did with the negative experience example we mentioned above. Spend time to help your dog to overcome fear SLOWLY. Do not chase, punish, or force your dog to face fear head-on, as this will only cause increased panic and distrust in you.
Your Dog is Running From You Because They Are Suffering From Illness
Lastly, and most worrisome, your dog may be running from you because they are suffering from illness. For example, older dogs may develop canine cognitive dysfunction – similar to dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease in humans. For dogs with CCD, things that are commonplace and familiar may suddenly feel unusual and threatening. This behavior is called “sundowning,” the same term used in human patients.
Dogs that run away due to illness are usually experiencing neurological disturbance, distortion in how they see the world, or a pain/fear response.
If you suspect that your dog is ill, call your vet and schedule a physical exam. Your vet will assess your dog based on their symptoms and may perform blood testing, urine or fecal testing, and neurological testing to determine the best course of action.
Conclusion / Summary
Your dog may be running from you for many reasons, but in most cases, they just want to play! That said, it is crucial to discuss any behavioral changes in your dog with their veterinarian just in case they indicate something that needs addressing right away.