It seems that some dogs are born to roam. How do you know if you have one of these dogs? Easy. No matter what you do, you cannot keep your “Houdini dog” inside the fenced backyard. Or someone left the back gate open and your Siberian Husky is nowhere to be found. Or — worst of all — you keep getting calls from neighbors and the animal shelter because your dog is found wandering the streets.
Certain breeds — including Airedales, Beagles, Labrador Retrievers and Siberian Huskies — are natural explorers. But even a mixed-breed mutt can have an insatiable desire to see what’s beyond the fence. And that can put his life in danger.
What Your Dog Wants
Dogs who roam may be seeking something. If your dog is not neutered or spayed, he or she may be looking for a mate, and roaming is a great way to hook up with another dog. Sexual hormones are strong motivators and prompt dogs to find just about any way possible to get out of confinement, with the goal of breeding. Males run around the neighborhood searching for the scent of a female dog in heat, while females in heat roam to put themselves out there, where a meandering male may find them.
Unaltered dogs usually lose the urge to roam once they are spayed or neutered. A few months after dogs have this surgery, their sexual hormones typically subside and they often become homebodies, content to hang around the house and stay close to their human companions.
Bored dogs may wander around the neighborhood looking for something to do or in the hope of finding a little companionship. Other dogs may roam because they are anxious about being left alone.
It’s important to put a stop to your dog’s wanderings. Roaming is one of the most dangerous behaviors a dog can exhibit. Dogs who roam are more likely to get hit by cars or to be injured in a dogfight. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: Spaying and neutering are safe surgeries that not only reduce a dog’s desire to roam but can also decrease the likelihood of the dog developing certain types of cancers.
How to Respond
This article is excerpted from the book What Dogs Want: A Visual Guide to Understanding Your Dog’s Every Move.
To help keep your dog from roaming, give her more attention and exercise. Do not leave her outside for long periods of time. Make her part of the family so that she bonds closely to you and loses her desire to roam. Take her for walks, play ball with her, and let her stay inside as much as possible, so she can be close to the family.
Dogs who are bored, anxious or lonely may roam in order to seek excitement and company. If you leave your dog alone in the backyard for hours on end, she is likely to go stir-crazy and feel desperate for some stimulation. There may be no better way for her to get that stimulation than by taking a jaunt around the neighborhood to see what is going on. To your dog, getting loose may be an opportunity to sniff fire hydrants, visit with other dogs, and maybe even find a friendly human along the way. Making sure she has enough playtime and interaction at home can help quell her desire to explore.
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