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When you open that front door after a long day of work, there is only one member of the family jumping up and down to greet you - Charlie. You can always rely on him to put a smile on your face no matter how challenging the day may have been. He loves to be near you and even spends most of his time when you are in the house at your heels. This makes it all the more alarming when your puppy runs away from home. You took him into the yard to do some gardening. One minute he is there and the next he's jumped a bush and is heading for the horizon.
Training your puppy to not run away from home is important for several reasons. Firstly, if they get out onto main roads they could end up in serious trouble, even hit by oncoming traffic. Alternatively, they could get into a fight with another pet or a wild animal. All of which could take your puppy away permanently, or at the very least, lead to significant vet bills.
The good news is, training your puppy to not run away from home is relatively simple. The first thing you need to do is some obedience and recall training. This will help make them feel dependant on you, therefore, they will always want to stay close by. You will also need to take some steps to actively discourage your pup from running away from home in the first place.
Because your dog is a puppy, they are probably just very inquisitive and still finding their feet. This means you could see results in just a week or two. However, if they are stubborn and not so good at listening then you may need a couple of months. If training proves successful, you’ll no longer need to worry when you lose sight of your puppy. This type of training will also instill discipline that will help you to get a handle on other bad habits too.
Before you can start training, you’ll need to get your hands on a few things. A long training leash will be needed. You may also want to invest in a body harness if your pup is either big and strong or tiny and delicate. Then stock up on tasty treats. You’ll also need a tracker for one of the methods below.
Set aside 15 minutes or so each day for training. The more frequently you train, the sooner you may see results. You’ll need a large yard and local fields to practice in.
Once you have all that, just bring patience and a pro-active attitude, then work can begin!
The Limitation Method
If your puppy is escaping from home via the yard then you need to look at making the area more secure. Simply putting up fences or high bushes could do the trick. This also comes with the added bonus of obscuring their view, removing the temptation.
To control their movement when inside, consider fitting baby gates. They are quick and easy to use. Alternatively, you can keep doors shut. By keeping your puppy in certain rooms, they will be less able to run away.
You may also want to start tethering your pup when you are in the house or in the yard. If secured to a long leash they will still have freedom to roam around. However, they won’t be able to escape or cause trouble.
Fit a tracker
You can now get effective trackers that fit snugly into your puppy’s collar. This ensures you’ll always be able to locate them if they do run away. They will help you pick them up before any harm comes to them.
Don’t punish them
It is important you do not punish your puppy when you catch them running away. You will only scare them further and motivate them to run away even more. Instead, remain calm and quietly take them back home.
The Meeting Needs Method
Make sure you feed your puppy their meals at the same times each day. Your dog may be running away because they are hungry and not in a consistent routine. So get them into a regimented schedule where they will know when to expect food.
Your puppy will need to go out to the toilet regularly. So make sure you secure them to a leash and take them out regularly. If they are having accidents and then you’re telling them off, this may make them feel uncomfortable and eager to escape.
Although only small, your puppy will need plenty of exercise. So secure them to a leash and take them for a good run around several times a day. Throwing a ball or a stick will also help tire them out. Tired dogs do not have the energy to run away from home.
Your puppy's running away may also be attention seeking behavior. So sit down with them for a few minutes each day and play around with toys. Simply spending time with their owner may put them at ease and make them feel more content at home.
Consider other pets
If you already have other pets when you bring your puppy home, you need to consider their relationships. Make sure the puppy has their own space and that you control those initial meetings. The space in and around your home needs to feel like the dog's territory too.
The Recall Method
Starting when you’re in the house, regularly call your puppy to you with a ‘come’ command. You can use any word or phrase you like for the instruction. Just make sure you only give it once. You want them to respond first time, every time. Also make sure you give the command in a playful tone.
The first few times, give the instruction when you’re in the same room. You can then pat your knees, give eye contact and hold up a treat or toy to encourage them to come over to you.
As soon as they come to you, hand over a tasty reward or play with a toy for a minute. They need to associate you with positive consequences. This will also get them into habit of always staying close to your side.
Now secure your puppy to a long leash and take them into the yard. Continue practicing giving the ‘come’ command. Be patient to start with, it may take them a while to catch on with so many distractions around.
Once they have mastered coming in the yard, start practicing in local fields. As they improve, you can lose the leash and eventually you can stop giving them a reward too. They will now be in the habit of coming whenever called. But more importantly, they won’t want to stray too far from you in the first place.
By James Barra
Published: 04/13/2018, edited: 01/08/2021