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How do I stop my dog wandering from home?

Updated on April 3, 2015

Why does my dog wander from home?

There are many reasons why a dog might stray from home. Maybe he finds the menu in the neighbors' house more appealing, perhaps there is an available member of the opposite sex across the street, maybe he was Marco Polo in a previous life and simply craves adventure..

Whatever the reason, a wandering dog represents a liability to the owner in the case of a road accident or aggression towards strangers, and is also a danger to himself. Responsible dog ownership requires that you keep your dog from roaming, safe on your own premises.

There are several steps you may take to stop your dog from wandering. I will discuss each of these below, but they include:

  • neutering
  • training
  • containment

Every dog should be microchipped. This is required by law in some countries and is a simple, permanent way of ensuring that your dog can be returned to you if he does escape from home.

Is your wandering dog a hit with the ladies?
Is your wandering dog a hit with the ladies?

Will spaying or neutering stop my dog from wandering?

In many cases, dogs wander in search of a mate. For male dogs, this may be a constant pastime, particularly in urban areas with a dense population of females nearby. Bitches will only be compelled to roam by their reproductive cycle once or (usually) twice per year, but will not miss any opportunity to escape at these times. Spaying and neutering is strongly advised by the veterinary profession and animal welfare charities the world ever, not only to reduce the number of unwanted pups, but also to prevent dogs from wandering and becoming injured or killed.

In addition, several large-scale studies have demonstrated that sterilized pets live longer, healthier lives than those that are unneutered.

Wandering dog recall quiz

How obedient is your dog when recalled?

See results

Training your dog to stop running away

While it may not stop your unattended dog leaving the back yard in the first place, time spent training recall is time well spent, as an obedient dog may return home while still within earshot if he hears a whistle or his name being called. Training recall is a simple idea in theory, but difficult in practice with many dogs, as it involves them breaking away from whatever interesting or fun activity they are participating in in order to return to their owner.

When training your dog to come when called, it is vital that you make it worthwhile for your pet to return to your side. Whenever he comes to you, reward him generously with treats, cuddles and verbalisation. Start off your training in a relatively quiet environment with few distractions before attempting recall in your municipal park full of noisy children, other excitable dogs, and endless other fun things to investigate. There are many tips and tricks to training recall, and I have included a useful link below which goes into some detail on the topic.

Dog Recall Training Video

Dog run for pets that roam

Jewett Cameron Lucky Dog Best in Show Kennel (6' H x 5' W x 10' D)
Jewett Cameron Lucky Dog Best in Show Kennel (6' H x 5' W x 10' D)
Runs are a great option for smaller dogs that cannot be trusted not to wander

Containing your dog

If your neutered dog with excellent recall continues to wander from home, it is time to look at containment options. Essentially this means creating a secure boundary which your pet cannot breach. In its simplest form this may involve repairing or replacing the garden fence. However, this can obviously be a costly affair, and for large dogs it may not be possible to create a sealed perimeter using standard fences.

Never confine your dog using a chain or rope. I have seen too many injuries inflicted on dogs that have become entangled on a lead without the owner's knowledge. Dogs restricted in this way often become frustrated and are more likely to bite. It runs completely contrary to their instincts to be physically restrained and is a cruel practice.

Building or buying a dog run is a far better option. While your your dog should not be stuck in the run at times when he could be spending time with you or your family, a run is a great option for a dog that wanders when he is going to be unsupervised for a period of time. It allows him to establish a small but secure 'territory' for himself. To a dog's mind it is a less restricted way of being controlled than being chained, and is also safer when unsupervised. It goes without saying that the bigger your dog's run, the happier he will be to spend time in it. He should also have access to toys or other forms of entertainment while being enclosed. Remember to provide a sheltered rest area in the run in case of inclement weather, especially for very young or old animals.

Radio fences are a very effective means of containing a wandering dog. Rather than erecting a physical barrier on or around your property, they use a radio signal to communicate with your dog. The exact mechanics depend on the system purchased, but all rely on your dog wearing a radio collar. If your dog approaches the virtual 'fence', most collars will emit a 'beep' which warns your dog not to go any further. If he continues to the boundary, the collar is usually programmed to deliver a small 'shock' which deters your dog from wandering any further. The collars can be adjusted to deliver different voltages depending on your dog's behaviour. These fences are really useful and humane when used properly. Do not use them in dogs with epilepsy or heart problems.

You must follow the training instructions provided with the product in order to allow your dog to properly learn how the fence works, and I would also strongly advise using the lowest effective setting on the collar, as I have seen several (mild) burns from collar electrodes where they were left at a high setting for extended periods of time. In spite of this, I know most dogs wear these collars without any problem, and they can be a life-saver for a dog that roams.

Radio fence containment system

PetSafe Wireless Dog and Cat Containment System – from the Parent Company of Invisible Fence Brand – Above Ground Electric Pet Fence
PetSafe Wireless Dog and Cat Containment System – from the Parent Company of Invisible Fence Brand – Above Ground Electric Pet Fence
This PetSafe product is the easiest fence to install that I am aware of, and has an adjustable collar to allow a reduction in voltage.
Sometimes you just want to see what's on the other side.....
Sometimes you just want to see what's on the other side.....


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    • profile image

      Pat polzin 

      3 years ago

      My dog goes over the road when I let him out what should I do to keep him home


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