What Are They Thinking? Why Dogs Run When You Ask Them…

Chasing a wayward dog down the street can be frustrating. Forget what you think you know about dogs and start to think like one.

I remember the first time my Beagle, Lucy, made uninvited contact with the outside world. I was trying to manage an armful of groceries when her stealthy, tri-colored exterior squeezed past me and out the front door. In haste, I threw everything down and stood yelling her name in the driveway.

Can you predict the outcome? If you have ever been in a similar situation, I bet you can. She turned to look at me once; as I started toward her, she carelessly booked it in the opposite direction. It ended up taking me 45 minutes to catch her before I could began the embarrassing trudge back to the house.

Two years later, I became a professional dog trainer and thought back to that particular incident and subsequent ones that followed. As I learned more about canine behavior and thought processes, I realized that I was doing everything wrong. It was then that I vowed to save others from the same fate; I decided to use my new-found powers for the good of all human (and dog) kind.

If you have ever been through it or have yet to experience it, let me break it down for you:

Why Dogs Run?

Have you ever heard the saying, “The world is your oyster”? Envision a dog that has just had a taste of his first oyster. Outside of the confines of the yard, the leash or the house is freedom for any dog; this kind of freedom is not easily rivaled. There is that interesting dog down the street, the mailbox that 800 dogs have peed on and countless other new and exciting opportunities that await your freed companion.

It is not difficult to see the mystical powers that the outside world wield over man’s best friend. I want to take it a step further, however; try to picture this situation from the dog’s point of view. You just wanted to escape the tireless two-year-old chasing you around the house and have found yourself outside … alone. There is no leash to bind you, no fence to confine you; you are unstoppable. Your owner realizes what happened and screams angrily after you. Consideration is given to returning home, but here come the angry arms. It’s unsettling … are you in trouble? Once your owner starts to run after you, it’s off to the races!

When you think about it that way, does it seem unreasonable that your dog would run from you? As I look less than fondly back on that 45-minute chase through my neighborhood, I can’t honestly say that I blame Lucy for running from me. If I had seen me coming, I would have run too.

What We Always do, But Never Should

1. One word: chase. If you want this excursion to turn into the world’s most dangerous game, chasing is the answer. I am guessing that is not the path you are wanting to take, however. Chase is your furry friend’s most favorite game, and take it from me: you do not want to play it on unfamiliar turf.

2. Our tone is fierce from the beginning. If your dog runs out of the house and heads for the street, panic sets in. Panic often sounds a lot like uncontrollable anger, and that is not the way to entice your dog to return to you. Think about it: would you want to come back to someone who is screaming at you? Chances are, no you wouldn’t.

3. Our instincts do most of the thinking, which is usually a good idea; however, snap instincts are not your friend in this situation. Body language is key and it plays a large role in communication between canines. If you are looming over them, oddly reminiscent of Frankenstein with your wild-arm movements and gestures, you can bet that you will not have an easy time recovering your dog.

4. A 45-minute bout with your dog who seems to duck when you dodge and zig when you zag often does not bode well. What happens when you finally catch the dog? You betcha, punishment. You can explain a consequence to a child but not to a dog. You will think you are punishing your dog’s act of running from you, but from the dog’s perspective, you will be punishing the dog for allowing you to catch them. Be aware of miscommunication due to the fact that your dog does not understand our language or behaviors!

How To Get Your Dog To Run … Toward You!

In simple terms, take everything you just learned not to do and reverse it! It’s that easy, no gimmicks. If why what you were doing is wrong matters to you, continue reading below.

1. If you want to get your dog back to you quickly and safely, think before donning your running shoes. Take a breather; it will give you a second to relieve your instinctual panic. You will make things worse by charging off after your dog, anyway.

2. During your breather, plaster a smile (albeit fake) on your face and force a light and breezy tone. You don’t want to give your dog the wrong idea; they aren’t in trouble. It is imperative that they return to you, however, so make it seem like you actually want them to. You have to be more novel than anything else in the area, so make yourself seem happy, excited and overly animated.

3. Standing like a zombie over your dog is intimidating, bending down to their level in not. Take a knee and put your new tone to work. Call the dog to you and sound excited to see them! If you want a surefire way to scare your dog, stand tall with a furrowed brow and make wild hand gestures like normal. If you want them to return to you, they have to feel comfortable.

4. Upon their return, make yourself a temporary Pez dispenser and give treats accordingly. Praise excessively, even if you look crazy. Your dog will be happy to see you and much more likely to come to you the first time if the situation is ever repeated.

If you take a second to think like your dog, you will understand much more clearly the things that make them tick. It’s up to you; only you have the keys to avoiding the walk of shame and becoming a dog whisperer!

Updated: January 4, 2020

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