My Dog is a Chronic Runaway
A little background info...
Roxi is my stepchild of sorts. I adopted her when my boyfriend and I moved in together. She had very little training prior to my knowing her, so she's just now getting the basic training that a small puppy would. It's tougher on an older dog, but she's learning.
Unlike my Queensland Heeler, who is bred to take ques from people, she is a shepherd mix. She is stubborn and training is ten times harder with her. So she's teaching me, too!
Roxi loves to run away whenever she gets the chance. If the front door opens and she spots an opportunity, she bolts like the house was on fire.
I charge out after her, ordering her to go back inside. It's a stare-down: me at the front door, and her at the end of the yard. I wait, hoping against all odds that she does as she's told and comes back inside. She looks down the street to her left. I ready myself for a leap, figuring that she's close enough for me to tackle her before she moves. She looks to her right, and then back at me.
She makes one quick leap to her right just as I lunge for her. My fingers barely graze her tail as she's escaping, and I land face first in the grass. She stops just feet ahead, waits for me to get back up, and then runs. And the game is on.
That's what this is to her, just a game. She knows she's faster than me, but loves to see me chase her, anyway!
The neighbors hear me yelling and come outside. They try to call her, and a couple we pass on the street tries to lure her to them so they can grab her for me. But none of their efforts help anymore.
She used to approach strangers that she passed along the way, curious about them and eager for their friendly attention. That all came to an end when she finally realized that the strangers were likely going to grab for her collar when they spotted me running up the road, flailing my arms in the air and screaming her name. She's too smart for that now. Instead she steers clear of everyone. My neighbors holler out their apologies as I run down the road. I send up a quick wave over my shoulder, and they go about their business.
Eventually I get tired and start to lose speed, and she's always sure to stop and give me the chance to catch back up. While I'm catching my breath, she pretends to be busy smelling the grass in someone's front yard or searching for a cat to chase. She keeps one eye on me the whole time though, and just when I'm about to close in on her.... She darts out of my reach as if I were a ticking bomb. I start yelling my frustrations and she does a series of leaps and jumps like she just did the funniest thing ever.
Yeah. I'm laughing SO hard right now.
Have you ever had a repeat runaway?
I've tried everything from bribing her with food to sending my Queensland Heeler (cattle herding dog who actually listens to me) out after her. She ignores the food and my Heeler stops chasing her when they get too far ahead of me. Every single time.
My boyfriend and I usually have to double team it, one of us in our car (for speed) and the other with the Heeler on foot. Eventually we always trap her somewhere. It may be in a corner in the neighbor's yard, or when she mistakenly thinks she has enough time to pee, but either way we always get her.
And that's how it always goes. She doesn't get out often, probably on average once every few months, but it's always the same story... except for today.
Today was different. Today I was home alone, with no car to chase her in. I was out front bringing in the garbage cans, and the wind blew the door open. Next thing I knew, she was out in the front yard, staring me down like she always does. She looked left, and she looked right. I darted after her and she took off running.
I knew there was no way I was going to catch her this time. I didn't have help, and I didn't have a car to outrun her in. So, I did just about all I could do in my situation: I turned around and went back home.
I grabbed a tennis ball, whistled for my Heeler to come along, and I started a game of fetch in my front yard. As my Heeler and I played fetch in front of my house, I saw Roxi come trotting back up the street. Relieved, I greeted her verbally and threw the ball her way. She jumped sideways, away from it. Taking the hint, I continued the game with my Heeler, just like none of this was a big deal. Roxi watched from across the street, running and jumping around on her own.
Then, she did something that completely shocked me. She ran passed me, through the yard, and parked her behind at the front door. I quickly went to open it, and she casually headed inside, like it was nothing. Unbelievably relieved I hugged her. I wanted to yell and scold her, but she had done a good thing by coming back to the door on her own. That's the kind of behavior I wanted from her and scolding her would make her think she'd done that wrong. So I hugged and petted her.
I learned a huge lesson today. This whole time, maybe all I had to do was not chase her. I should have realized that being chased was the game she wanted to play, and that she might not run if there's nothing to run from, no game of chase to play.
I hope she doesn't get out again before I've had the chance to fully train her. But if she does, maybe I'll be better able to handle the situation now that I'm armed with this new knowledge.
Just a Note
Roxi is well taken care of, and well-looked after. Sometimes though, dogs decide to go their own way about things! I'm not the only one in the world who is occasionally outsmarted by a flighty pet. I wrote this story to share my experiences with other dog owners who, very likely, can relate to my frustration. I did not write this to be scolded or accused of being an irresponsible pet owner. Keep in mind, it could just as easily happen to YOU.
© 2014 Kristen Haynie