Are you thinking of taking on a German Shepherd as a pet and are worried it may be tempted to run away? Do you already own a German Shepherd and are wondering what is causing it to run away?
Although German Shepherds are herding dogs and so, in theory, are not prone to running away, they can be tempted to run off if they are not given enough exercise and mental stimulation.
If your German Shepherd does run away, usually, the dog is not running away from you, but something has piqued his/her interest and he/she goes off the investigate! There are several and quite specific reasons why a German Shepherd may go AWOL. This article explores these reasons and offers advice on how to prevent your German Shepherd from doing a disappearing act!
Why German Shepherds Run Away
Here are the key reasons why a German Shepherd may decide to run away:
- German Shepherds were bred to run, and so running on a daily basis is in their blood.
- Your German Shepherd is trying to go back home. If you recently moved then your German Shepherd won’t necessarily consider your house as his/her home until he/she has settled, and so the dog may try to escape to try and find its previous home.
- Your German Shepherd is distracted. There are many distractions that can tempt a German Shepherd to run. These include small animals such as cats or squirrels. Or your German Shepherd may be interested in another dog and wants to mate; this is especially likely to be the case if your dog is male and there is a female dog on heat nearby.
- Your German Shepherd wants attention. If your dog is not getting enough attention at home it may go and seek it elsewhere. German Shepherds need lots of fuss and interaction with their owners.
- Your German Shepherd is simply curious and wants to go off and explore.
- German Shepherds are intelligent and active dogs. If your German Shepherd gets bored it may want to go off on an adventure. This is why daily physical and mental stimulation is so important.
- Separation anxiety can cause a German Shepherd to run away and seek attention if it gets an opportunity.
- If your German Shepherd is frightened by loud noises such as fireworks or a thunderstorm, he/she may run away to try and get away from these high-stress noises.
How To Prevent A German Shepherd From Running Away
To prevent your German Shepherd from running, you need to understand the root cause of this behavior. Once the root cause is determined suitable preventative measures can be put in place, dependent on the situation.
The situation can vary and so solutions need to be specific to the situation. Running away from home has to be dealt with differently compared to running away whilst you are out on a walk.
In most cases, it may be necessary to adopt a combination of solutions, particularly in the early days as you begin to tackle this problem.
Physical Measures At Home
While this sounds obvious, having a high fence will, in most cases, keep your German Shepherd where he/she needs to be. But don’t forget, if your dog is a puppy, he/she will grow and his/her jumping ability will improve over time. So, a fence that is at a sufficient height when your German Shepherd is 6 months old, may not be high enough when he/she is fully grown.
Other physical measures include using a long leash in your garden which will keep your dog secure whilst allowing some opportunity for exercise and play.
Physical restraint measures are only part of the solution and need to be combined with training, daily exercise, and mental challenges to change your German Shepherd’s mindset and desire to run away.
German Shepherd Exercise and Play
German Shepherds require a lot of exercises to keep them stimulated, and if they don’t get enough they can become hyperactive and more likely to run away.
German Shepherds love to go for walks, and this is an easy way to make sure that it is getting sufficient exercise. You might need more than one walk a day to make sure your dog is exercised enough.
You can spice things up on a walk by picking up the pace, jogging, or going to walk in a hilly area; all of these will wear your dog out faster. If you don’t have time to walk your dog, consider using a dog walker to ensure exercise becomes part of your dog’s daily routine.
Secure fields are a great option for allowing your German Shepherd to play, exercise, and use up excess energy in a safe environment.
Playtime can also be exercise time! Play will also provide plenty of mental stimulation which will help reduce the urge to run away. German Shepherds love to play games such as tug and fetch.
German Shepherd Training
Training a German Shepherd to stay with you, focus on you, and not run away, even when distracted by something takes time, patience, and hard work. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand or overnight solution!
Start with basic training at home. Reward-based training using treats is a good method as German Shepherds, like most other dogs, tend to be food-oriented meaning that they will respond more positively to commands if they know a tasty treat is coming.
If you can get your German Shepherd to sit and stay at home you’re well on your way to instilling the basic behaviors needed to prevent your German Shepherd from running away from home, or running away from you whilst out on a walk.
There are plenty of relevant training videos available on YouTube. Click this link to watch how to train a puppy to sit and stay https://youtu.be/DPNz6reMVXY
Once the sit and stay commands are mastered you can gradually increase the distance between you and your German Shepherd whilst it is sitting and in the stay position. The next step-change is to train your German Shepherd to sit and stay whilst it is distracted, for example, by a thrown toy. This can be hard to master at first as your dog will naturally be very interested in the distraction – start simple with short throws of the toy and then gradually increase the distance and intensity of the throw.
Training should also be carried out in different locations, both at home and outside so your German Shepherd gets used to different distractions.
Reasons Why Training A German Shepherd Is Worthwhile
There are many reasons why it’s worthwhile putting in the effort to prevent your German Shepherd from wanting to run away. These include:
- Safety – A running dog could be involved in a car accident.
- More pleasant and easier walks with a calmer and more predictable dog.
- Less stress when out walking and also at home when you have guests in the house.
- An easier time at the vets for both you and your dog.
- Instilling discipline, preventing bad behavior, and creating the right relationship with your dog will make that relationship more positive and rewarding.
What Not To Do With Your German Shepherd
Preventing your German Shepherd from running away takes effort and dedication. Here are some tips on what not to do when working through this with your dog:
- Don’t punish him/her as he/she will not necessarily understand what the punishment is for, and might even associate the punishment with the last thing it did which was to come back.
- Don’t take it personally if your dog escapes. It’s normal behavior for most dogs to try and run off if they get the chance.
- Don’t be impatient. Training your German Shepherd to stop running away is not a quick fix. If you put the effort in, and apply consistency in the way that you train and deal with your German Shepherd, you will be rewarded eventually.
Given half a chance your German Shepherd will run away. To prevent this, your dog needs to master basic training commands such as sit and stay, particularly when distracted. Your German Shepherd also needs to be given plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to reduce your dog’s desire to run off.
Bear in mind that a young German Shepherd will be more curious and energetic, making it more difficult to train and remain calm. However, it’s important to put in the effort and take the time to train your dog when it is young. This will build up consistently good habits and reduce the risk that it will run away when it gets older.
Whilst you can use restraint measures at home and in the garden to prevent an escape, these approaches don’t really address the root cause of the problem.
The training and effort required by owners to overcome this problem are significant, but the rewards are immense and will make life with your dog so much easier. Your relationship with your dog will also be so much more positive and rewarding. Go for it, It’s worth it!