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Why do dogs run away?

Losing your dog can be one of the most terrifying experiences you can go through as a pet parent. Knowing what might cause your dog to run away can help you prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some of the most common reasons your dog will run away.


When something happens that scares your dog they respond instinctually. For many dogs, the reactions can be categorised into the 4 F’s – ‘fight’, ‘flight’, ‘freeze’ or ‘fidget’. The ‘flight’ reaction is the one that can cause your dog to bolt. Their only goal at that moment is to get as far away from the source of their fear as possible. They are unlikely to respond to their usual recall and can travel miles before stopping.

Chasing prey

Even though our dogs are accustomed to having their dinner handed to them in a bowl every day, they still have an instinct to go after prey – we call it their prey drive. Some dogs have a much stronger prey drive than others and simply can’t resist giving chase. Whether they’re chasing cats, squirrels or livestock, chasing prey is both traumatic for the prey and potentially dangerous for your dog. When your dog is caught up in the thrill of the chase, they’re less likely to respond to recall and could travel for miles after their prey.

They are bored

Dogs who don’t get enough exercise and mental stimulation can get bored. And with all that energy to burn off, a good run seems like a great idea to them! Make sure they’re getting the right amount of exercise with a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor, and keep their brain busy with some of our mental enrichment activities.

They can smell a female dog in heat

Intact male dogs can smell a female dog in heat across great distances and they’ll make a beeline for her. The urge can be so strong that even the most well-trained dogs will forget their cues. Luckily, most responsible owners keep their female dogs in if they are in heat. Even so, it’s good to keep reinforcing your dog’s recall in case they ever do catch a scent. 

Separation anxiety

Separation anxiety affects lots of dogs and can be an especially challenging behaviour. If your dog is walked by someone other than you, especially someone they don’t know, they may be more inclined to run away from them. To prevent this, if someone else walks your dog, request they keep them on the lead unless they are in a fully enclosed, safe area.

Cockapoo running in field by river wearing a black PitPat GPS Tracker

What should you do if your dog runs away?

We’ve written a comprehensive guide on what to do if your dog runs away previously. In the immediate moments after they’ve run off, make sure that you do the following:

Don’t chase them and remain calm

Your dog could misconstrue you chasing them as a great game of keep-away, or it could panic them even further. Instead, remain calm and call them back with a positive tone of voice, a handful of their favourite food or the most exciting toys. You can even try running in the wrong direction (it may sound counterintuitive, but it often works!)

Check their GPS tracker

If your dog has a PitPat Dog GPS Tracker, head straight to the app to check their location, so you can head in the right direction and pick them up in no time.

Alert people in the surrounding area

By alerting other dog walkers or neighbours that your dog has run off, they’ll be able to keep an eye out for your dog and return them to you if they are found. Local Facebook groups can also be great for this!

Keep calling them back

Persist with their recall – try not to sound angry, emotional, or panicked (we know that’s easier said than done!) Lots of pet parents prefer to train recall with a whistle as it keeps the emotion out of their voice. Make sure you have some really tempting treats or an exciting toy to reward them when they eventually do return.

Whilst there are lots of reasons your dog might run off, knowing you can find them at the tap of a button is a huge relief. That’s why we created the PitPat Dog GPS Tracker. It’s the only dual sim dog tracker on the market, giving it plenty of coverage, long battery life and there’s no subscription to pay. Say hello to off-lead confidence!

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