If your dog is lost, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a terrible guardian, or that he/she doesn’t like you. Dogs are pack animals and are highly social creatures; one only needs to look as far as their ancestor the wolf to gain some insight into the behavior of the dogs that we know and love. There are, however, several possible reasons why an apparently happy dog may stray from home:
The Need to Breed
It’s that basic—intact males seek females in heat in order to mate. According to the Denver Dumb Friends League’s website, studies have indicated that neutering may help to decrease “sexual roaming” in approximately 90% of cases. Unfortunately, old habits really do die hard; for the notorious little wanderer, additional training or other activities may be necessary in conjunction with neutering. (All the more reason to neuter your dog as early as possible!) One only needs to look as far as the nearest shelter to understand why spaying is just as critical. Truth is, there simply aren’t enough homes out there, and millions of unwanted animals are euthanized yearly in shelters across the country.
Bored to Tears
All dogs require some level of mental stimulation, interaction, and exercise. As stated above, dogs are social animals with a primitive need to form packs, consisting of other dogs as well as family members. A dog left alone tied outside to a tree without a single toy may become frustrated to the point of escape—particularly when something much more fun and interesting awaits. (Cars, joggers, neighborhood children, stray cats….The possibilities are endless!)
Maybe something startled your dog—a strong gust of wind, a car backfiring. Some dogs frighten more easily than others do. More deep-seated fears, or phobias, of thunderstorms or fireworks can cause many a dog to bolt. Separation anxiety, or an intense fear of being left alone, may lead some dogs to chew apart doorways or break through screens and windows in an effort to escape. Please consult your dog’s veterinarian for more specific advice regarding diagnosis and treatment options.
Your dog’s specific breed(s) may offer some clues. Do you own a dog with a strong herding instinct, such as an Australian Shepherd or a Sheltie? A group of children running outside might be fun to herd! Does your dog have a high prey drive, as many Siberian Huskies and Jack Russell Terriers do? The squirrels at the birdfeeder across the street would be perfect! Do your homework on the type of dog you own or any that you might be looking to acquire, in order to help make the relationship one that lasts.