How to Train Your Dog to Not Run Away

Hard
1-6 Months
Behavior

Introduction

Does your dog hit light speed on his way out every time you open the door? Or is he a fence climber that clambers up and over to make his great escape? No matter how your pup manages to get out, it's nothing to laugh about as he could get end up being injured, killed, or captured by animal control and sent to a shelter.

There are many reasons why dogs like to "pull a Houdini" and escape as often as possible. These include boredom, loneliness, the desire to mate, being scared, becoming over-excited and many more.

But far and above, the most common reason why dogs love to run away is quite simply because they can. If there is any way he can get out the door, go over or under the fence, or bolt out of your yard, you can bet your furry friend is going to take advantage of it.

Face it, you wouldn't be too happy if you had to spend your days cooped up in a very small area. But if you could find a way to escape, you would take it in a heartbeat.

Defining Tasks

Teaching your dog not to take off at every opportunity is going to be challenging. One of the best ways to do so is to give your dog a better reason to stay home than to run away.

You should never chase after your dog as this will only make him think you are playing a game and he will just keep running. Also, never punish your dog for what is, in essence, a natural behavior or for when he gets things wrong during training.  

Training your dog not to run away can help keep him in the yard, keep him next to you in the park, or close to you on walks. But most importantly, it could save his life.

Getting Started

To get started, you don't need very much in the way of supplies. You simply need a package of your dog's favorite treats, plenty of time and patience, and a strong desire to succeed. Depending on the training method you choose, you may need a long-line leash to help keep your pup under control should he decide to try running away during training.

Be prepared to work on his training in three sessions of five to ten minutes at a time. This will help work within your pup's attention span. If you go much longer, you will lose his attention and any efforts you put into training are going to be wasted.  Try to find a quiet area to work in or a quiet spot in your yard for his training to avoid any potential distractions and speed the training process.

The Playtime Method

ribbon-method-3
Most Recommended
10 Votes
Step
1
It's playtime
Take your pup out in the backyard or a quiet open field to play.
Step
2
Use the 'come' command
When he starts to run away call his name and tell him to "come."
Step
3
Time for rewards
If he comes, reward him with lots of love and a treat.
Step
4
The halfway point
Repeat this process halfway through your planned playtime.
Step
5
Repeat
Repeat it again at the end and continue this cycle every day until he understands what you want and comes back every time you call him.
Recommend training method?

The Gatekeeper Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
7 Votes
Step
1
Work at the door
Lead your dog to the door on a leash so he can't bolt when you open the door.
Step
2
Sit first
Have your dog sit. Reach for the door handle.
Step
3
Watch for movement
If your pup starts to get up, take your hand off the handle and make him sit again.
Step
4
Time to pay up
If he lets you open the door without moving, give him a treat.
Step
5
Practice
Repeat this process until you can leave the door open and your dog will look to you for permission to go through it.
Recommend training method?

The Back Up Method

ribbon-method-1
Least Recommended
5 Votes
Step
1
Go for a walk
Take your dog out into the yard on a standard walking leash.
Step
2
Back away
Back away 2 or 3 feet from him.
Step
3
Call your dog
Call him to you.
Step
4
Reward
If he comes, shower him with praise and give him a treat.
Step
5
Repeat with distance
Repeat this training method, gradually moving farther away until he comes every time.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 12/28/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Bluey
Blue Heeler
12 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Bluey
Blue Heeler
12 Weeks

Just want to keep her safe & train her to be safe, but feel free to play.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lisa, First, start working on a reliable Come. Check out the Reel In method from the article linked below. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall More Come - pay attention to the PreMack Principle and long leash training sections especially once pup has learned what Come initially means. These need to be practiced around all types of distractions like dogs and kids at the park to ensure pup is reliable before attempting true off leash. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Another activity you can practice is walking around places like your yard or a field with pup on the long training leash and changing directions frequently without saying anything. Whenever she takes notice (at first because the leash finally tugs, but later just because you moved), then toss a treat at her for looking your way or coming over to you - without calling her; this encourages her to choose to pay attention to where you are and associate your presence with good things on her own, so she will want to be with you. When pup hits 4-6 months old, pup's recall is likely to get worse again as the desire to explore and increased confidence has pup willing to wander further away from you, keep up with the training with the long leash until pup is reliable past that point. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Loki
Doberman Pinscher
19 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Loki
Doberman Pinscher
19 Months

He runs like he's crazy. It is really scarey because he is not aware of vehicles, period. When I call him, he keeps going.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Michelle, Check out the articles I have linked below. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Premack Principle: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ I would work on the methods found in that article, especially the premack principle and using a long training leash/reel in method. For most dogs, if you practice consistently with lots of repetition and intentional field trips to get pup around distractions, with the long leash and set up training scenarios, pup should improve. For dogs who are really prey driven and need an extra level of consistency, check out the video channel I have linked below. Be sure to learn how to properly fit and use any training tools beforehand. Training tools are only safe and effective when used correctly. https://www.youtube.com/c/JamiePenrithDogTraining/search?query=come Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Kuma
Akita
2 Years
-1 found helpful
Question
-1 found helpful
Kuma
Akita
2 Years

I’m sure you can tell from the pictures that he’s a big boy lol, but the problem is he won’t stay home. We have to walk him on a leash every day and we can only run with him for so long before needing to stop. Plus there’s a lot of room for him to run because my parents (who he lives with) have an old farm house with about 2-3 acres for him to run on. We have an in ground electric fence from previous dogs when I was growing up but we’d prefer not to train that way anymore because we feel it’s kind of inhumane. Also his neck is too big for the collars. My parents also have an other dog, an Alaskan Malamute, but she’s very good and stays home, we can let her out without worrying, but even when she is out there with him he runs off. It gets to a point sometimes too where he runs off as soon as he’s off the leash, so I was hoping you might have some advice? I don’t want him getting hurt either by getting hit by a car or getting mistaken for a bear since he’s so big and I would love to be able to trust him and stop this behavior before it’s too late. Please let me know if you have any advice, we would appreciate it so much!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Austen, A physical fence is going to be your safest option, like a wooden fence. Something like this would be cheaper - there is wire mesh between the wooden beams so pup can't just slip through. https://www.csfences.com/4ft-wood-fences/attachment/4-paddock-fence-with-wire/ You could even build something less expensive by making it shorter, and use the wire fence a foot inside the physical fence. When you combine both fences, it gives pup a physical barrier to respect, lets them know at all times where the wire fence is buried (along the fence line), and makes it more clear why pup is being corrected instead of them forgetting where the buried cable is and accidently crossing it and not always being sure why they were corrected. For boundary training without some sort of fence, you can do the following. How effective that training is when you are not there supervising depends a lot on how strong the dog's desire to roam is. I suggest following the "Recruit Help from Friends method" from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/stay-in-an-unfenced-yard If pup is very motivated to leave by interesting things nextdoor, I would also do some remote collar training in addition to the above method. First, learn how to fit the collars correctly by watching the video below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLxB6gYsliI Figure out pup's "working level" on your e-collar, which is the lowest level that dog responds to at all - indicating they can feel the collar at all. Check out the video linked below on how to find this level and go through this protocol for each dog. Finding their Working Level - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM Next, walk pup, one dog at a time around your perimeter. Each time they approach the boundary line (which I would use property flags to mark well so pup's can visually remember and you will be consistent), use your leash to reel them back toward you, back inside the property line while at the same time pushing the stimulation button on the remote collar while pup is on the wrong side of the boundary line - as soon as pup gets back on the correct side of the boundary line, the correct stops and pup is praised. When pup begins to avoid going over the boundary line, you can also give treats for staying on the correct side. This will involve a lot of walking. Pup will need to do this a lot around the entire property line. Once pup's have learned the lesson well. You can go for a walk near the boundary line with the dog off-leash and correct with the remote training collar if they cross the boundary during the walk - showing them that they still can't cross while off leash either. While you are still training the dog you will need to physically keep them on your property using leashes and such so that they aren't running across the boundary line when you aren't ready - that will ruin your training. They need to be corrected consistently for crossing the boundary lines while you show them what they are supposed to be doing using the long leash and rewards (if you just correct and skip the long leash part they will likely run away and not toward you because they won't understand at first why they are being corrected - reeling them in with the leash and stopping the correction as soon as they are on the correct side of the boundary helps them learn to come back over to your side of the line). If you do end up using your invisible fence instead, you can make it more fair and less confusing for pup by walking them around the boundary using a long leash and reel them back to your side of the boundary line when they cross to show them how to stop the correction - but the collar from the electric fence will enforce the correction for you and will be very consistent in correcting pups for crossing the boundary when you aren't around - making the training more effective and less stressful for pup. With electric fences, use flags or some obvious visible markers to mark the boundary also and if your property is large, don't remove the flags later like most people do - keep them in place as a reminder if you don't have a physical fence to remind pup. You can use something besides flags that would look nicer also, but you want that boundary clearly marked and differently looking than the rest of the yard so pup doesn't have to cross the line and get corrected for forgetting, but can choose to stop short of the buried wire when they see that marker. Don't skip walking the boundary with pup and teaching pup to avoid the electric fence - many people skip that part and it can ruin training for electric fences because dogs cross, then run and don't know how to stop the correction by returning - pups need to learn to return to make the correction stop so that they understand how to avoid the correction by not crossing the boundary. Reward pup with treats for not crossing. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Ace
Mastiff
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ace
Mastiff
10 Months

He bolts out the door whenever he gets the chance and thinks it’s a game when we try to call him back he runs

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jorja, Because of pup's size and strength, the safest way to do this might be with a remote training collar and help from a trainer experienced in it's use. Check out this trainer's videos to learn more. https://www.youtube.com/c/JamiePenrithDogTraining/search?query=door First, start working on a reliable Come. Check out the Reel In method from the article linked below. Because of pup's size, I recommend practicing this in a fenced area so you can drop the leash if you had to, and not giving extra slack in the leash, keep the excess coiled up so pup can't take off and hit the end of the leash, pulling you into the air. The Reel In method is sufficient for most dogs but some dogs do need to be e-collar trained afterward as well to teach reliability around high distractions also, but either way the foundation of Come and practicing the Reel In method on a long leash is needed first. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall E-collar Come info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtJxSXu4rfs&t=331s While working on Come also work on the door bolting itself. Attach a thirty or fifty foot leash to a padded back clip harness that he can't slip out of. Attach the other end of the leash to something sturdy pup can't pull over or break like a stairway banister or column (the leash is a safety measure). With the leash slack and only there "just in case", act like you are going out the door. Start to open the door and whenever pup tries to go toward it, quickly close it. Your goal isn't to hit him but he may get a slight bump if he is especially pushy. Practice opening and closing the door until you can open it and he will wait until it is open further. Have the leash attached to him just long enough that he could only get a foot or two out the front door if he pushed past you. When he is waiting a bit, then get between him and the door and play goalie with the opening. Opening the door wide enough for you to get through, then whenever pup tries to get through firmly but calmly take several steps toward him to make him back up. By doing this you are communicating that you own that space and asking for his respect. Because of pup's size, this is the part where you may find you need to use a remote collar correction in place of your body, with you verbally telling pup "Ah Ah" but letting the correction communicate pup needing to back away, rather than your body. All of this should be done in seriousness without anger - calmness and consistency will earn respect better than high emotions, but confidence is needed. If there is any aggression present, I recommend hiring professional help for this and also desensitizing pup to wearing a basket muzzle for safety. Once you can open the door and he will stay back and not try to rush through, then you can click and toss a treat for staying with the door open. You will gradually practice opening the door more and more and blocking him or from getting through and walking toward him to make him back up and wait, or verbally instructing and correcting with the collar if needed. Require pup to be at least two feet from the door AND two feet away from you before rewarding - those two distances often equal him giving you respect (and not simply waiting to get past you when you move), and waiting at the door (instead of trying to bolt as soon as they think they can). It will feel a lot like you are a soccer goalie, having to be quick and focused. When you can open the door completely and he will wait, take a step through the doorway outside. If he tries to follow, step toward him, back inside the door or verbally instruct and correct with the remote collar, making him backup again quickly. This serves as a natural consequence and encourages him to stay back. If he waits patiently inside away from that threshold, then click and toss a treat at his paws. Practice at that distance until he will stay back. As he improves, take more and more steps, moving outside, onto your porch and into your yard eventually. Be ready to quickly rush toward him or correct as soon as you see him start to move, to keep him from getting outside (this is why you put the long leash on him, just in case he gets past you, but for training purposes the goal is to keep him from getting out so he isn't rewarded for bolting at all). When he will stay inside while you stand in the yard, then recruit others to be distractions outside. Expect to stay a bit closer to him when you first add a hard distraction - like another dog walking past, a walker, kids playing in the yard, balls being tossed. Imagine what types of things he may one day see outside and choose distractions that are at least that difficult to practice this around. Expect to practice this as often as you can, along with Come for several weeks, not just a couple of sessions, until you get to where he is completely reliable with distractions like dogs and kids in your yard and the door completely open. A final activity you can practice is walking around places like your yard or a field and changing directions frequently without saying anything. Do to pup's size, again, start this in a fenced area. Whenever he takes notice (at first because the leash finally tugs, but later just because you moved), then toss a treat at him for looking your way or coming over to you - without calling him; this encourages him to choose to pay attention to where you are and associate your presence with good things on his own, so he will want to be with you.. Anytime you want him to go outside with you, give him a command at the doorway that means it is okay to exit, like "Okay", "Free" "Outside", "Heel", or "Let's Go". Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rambo
Pit bull
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rambo
Pit bull
1 Year

My dog runs away into the woods as soon as i go out with him. I try to call his name but he completely ignores me

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Savannah, First, start working on a reliable Come. Check out the Reel In method from the article linked below. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall More Come - pay attention to the PreMack Principle and long leash training sections especially once pup has learned what Come initially means. These need to be practiced around all types of distractions like dogs and kids at the park to ensure pup is reliable before attempting true off leash. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Another activity you can practice is walking around places like your yard or a field with pup on the long training leash and changing directions frequently without saying anything. Whenever he takes notice (at first because the leash finally tugs, but later just because you moved), then toss a treat at him for looking your way or coming over to you - without calling him; this encourages him to choose to pay attention to where you are and associate your presence with good things on his own, so he will want to be with you. I would also tell pup "Inside" when its time to go in and have a small bowl of treats near the door you go outside through out of pup's reach, so when pup gets back inside you can give pup a small treat each time - so pup associates having to go back inside with something good if pup is bolting to avoid having to go inside. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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