My Lab, Coco, is a dog with a slightly nervous temperament. He is a master in his own terrain read home but outside the house he is a clumsy wreck. A very peculiar trait that he has is that he runs out of the house and goes about exploring the neighborhood. Since our community is not really very happy to see dogs without owners, that is not a scenario that is welcome. Kids, who otherwise love dogs, shriek as if they have seen a tiger. Hence, we are forced to keep him on leash when outdoors. Not that he would heel and walk with us otherwise.

The big chap has been known to pull the leash from our hands, drag us if need be, just because he sees a dreadful cat or a stray dog that he fancies chasing. It has led to many weird incidents, some funny, others not so much. But, what has always baffled me is how he is not able come back home on his own. I mean, dogs ought to know that right? A few weeks back, he had run out of the house. While we went about looking in all the lanes for him, we didn’t find him anywhere. After informing the security, I came home while the kids continued to look for him in the hot sun. He had been out for an hour by then. Finally, my younger son spotted him near a house. He was so glad to see them that he came towards them readily. Many other times, on seeing us, he runs further thinking it is fun and games.

Yesterday, I had taken him to the vet’s for his annual vaccines. No dog likes to go to the vet especially when he is given injections. I was holding on to him tight while the husband had gone to park the car. Suddenly, I don’t know what came over Coco, he yanked hard and got loose, his leash being pulled out of my hand and he gave a chase for it. But, this is not our gated community’s safe road that he was running into. It was a by-lane filled with heavy traffic of buses and cars. My heart actually stopped. I yelled his name helplessly but the stupid moron would not look back. He dashed out the open gate and onto the main road. The husband ran after him while I stood frozen. Had he run across the road, he would have certainly come under the wheels of some vehicle. Luckily, he ran on the side and stopped to sniff a parked taxi. That is when the husband caught his leash. I had also rushed out of the gate by then.

I then let the husband handle him (the only one he is scared of) while he got his shots. We put him safely in the car later.

I am really wondering why he does this taking off thing. And, even if he makes a dash for it, why doesn’t he come back home on his own. He is otherwise well-behaved and loving. But, he left me in so much despair  yesterday. He had a narrow escape and so did we.

Anyone has any tips about how I can improve this behavior of his.
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50 Thoughts on “An annoying and risky trait in my dog

  1. First thing first.. .he is too cute and adorable.. , I have had dogs most of my life except last few years as now we live in flat and as I travel a lot there is nobody to take the dog for walks.

    A dog running from leash is a sign of looking for activity and he is probably bored. I would suggest some dog trainer for him ( Bangalore or whatever they call the city now has some good one). I also suggest ( how good i am at giving free suggestions 😛 ) to read this book: it gives some amazing insight into how Dogs think….

    • He is adorable and we love him dearly. 🙂 Actually we make him run around and play fetch daily. He bounds up and down the stairs throughout the day too. But yes it could be a sign of boredom or that he thinks it is fun. Otherwise, he is well behaved and very fit as well. Thanks for the reading suggestion. I will get that book. Thanks, Prasad.

  2. Never had a dog so can’t help with the training bit. I guess Carol, Shilpa or Debbie would be better equipped in that area. But, my heart feels for you. I can imagine that feeling of paralyzing fear when the dog runs into open traffic. Good thing this ended well. Whew.

  3. One dog always gets bored and makes games like this – “Look at how good I am at making my humans run Woof Woof!”
    Or maybe he thinks you need exercise?
    I have three and they like to run off and play tag and chase among themselves. It terrifies the neighbours.

    • Hehe I get enough exercise anyway. But yes, I think he does feel it is some fun game of Find me! I think he would have liked to have companions.

  4. Gosh! I can understand your panic and despair. Incidentally, last week, all three of our dogs decided to vanish from the farm in the evening. Everybody searched for them all around and they were nowhere to be found. Thankfully, they came back on their own after 1.5 hours!! The Pomeranian at my parents place also would go missing for a few minutes but would come back home on her own. So, really dont know why Coco is not able to come back home. As for running when you approach him, I think, he must be considering it as a fun game.

  5. Oh Rachna, the scares our pets give us! My dog Chikku, a pomeranian has this habit of sneaking out whenever the gate is open. But he returns on his own, sometimes after a few minutes and sometimes a few hours. :/ I don’t know why Coco can’t find his way back home. Like you said dogs are supposed to know that.
    I guess your husband, the only person he seems to be scared of, should take him on walks. Coco must be being playful with you guys. 🙂

    • And don’t leave the gate open! At home, since Chikku doesn’t seem to change, we have started being more careful.

    • Yes, it is plain weird. If only he’d head home himself, I wouldn’t mind his running episodes. We both used to take him along when we went for our walks earlier. We walk regularly. But he poops everytime and we have to pick up every time. That just put us off. I think it is fun and games for him but running into the traffic could have got him killed.

  6. Your dog is very cute and so are all other Labs. I have one. Her name is Rinky Rani. Labs have excessive energy which has to be utilized otherwise they get terribly bored. If he is wanting to run around that means he needs more exercise than he is getting. Do not keep the dog on leash at home as that curbs its growth. He may also be anxiety prone and then there are seasons when it is very difficult to keep male dogs at home.

    Himalaya has come out with a very fine ayurvedic medicine for dogs with no side effect to cure anxiety and restlessness. It is known as Anxiocare and must be available with most vets. You may consult your vet before giving the medicine to your dog which may cure his odd behaviour.

    If he is more than one year old, trainers will not do. He needs space and lots of walk to utilize his pent up energy. Do consult your vet for better guidance..

    • Thanks, Geetashree. That is a valuable input about the medicine. Will surely check with my vet. He does seem to be a pretty nervous one. He could be bored though he keeps bounding up and down the stairs all the time. We also play fetch with him. I take daily walks and did take him along earlier. But he has a peculiar habit of pooping everytime we do. That becomes quite a mess. But today I took him to run during the dsy when very few people were around. He seemed to enjoy that. Oh, he is never on leash inside the house, not even a collar as he is prone to rashes. But outside we do put a leash on him. He is neutered so I don’t think it is hest.

  7. No clue, Rachna, Sorry:(

  8. My my! Rachna, my heart was in my mouth reading about your vet-visit incident! My Chikoo has never been like that, so, sorry dear, can’t help you there. Maybe Carol could. She has had quite a number of these babies.
    But, your story did remind me of the day, when I had left Chikoo with our watchman and gone to the grocer’s. Suddenly, the grocer shouted,”Madam, aapka kutta dekho, kahaan ja raha hai!” I turned around to look at Chikoo running towards the main road, looking for me! I screamed my lungs out and called out to him a few times, when he turned around and saw me. The way he ran into my outstretched arms! God! I can never forget that incident, ever!
    You do need to work with your little boy, soon. Before he does something really naughty. Give him one tight hug from me, will you?

  9. Personality quirks seem to be as much a part of the rest of the animal kingdom as it is with us. Hope someone here can give you a solution to this 🙂

    • Yes, so it seems. Though animals are much less complicated, I must say. I have got some good suggestions from some commenters. Let us see how this goes.

  10. janu on June 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm said:

    That must have been scary. Our younger cat does stray too and now-a-days quite often. We have the mesh covering the windows yet, she has made an opening somewhere and bolts out late in the night only to start screaming at the top of her voice to be rescued. It is so embarrassing to go to the neighbors every time she does that. Now we keep the windows closed 🙁

    • Oh yes, Janu. Cats they just like to live outdoors especially during nights. We had once boarded a cat and despite our best efforts she would sneak away. But she would come back in the morning mewing and wanting food. 🙂

  11. The training should be done when they are babies, like 3-4 months old. My Andrew was like this. He never walked with our speed. He too used to ran away from home and all of us used to search for him. Then find him sitting near some bush because his chain had got caught with some twig, very small twig. He doesn’t know to just pull and come back home. He had never come back home on his own!!!

    I always love to read stories about dogs, Rachna!

    • Thanks, Sandhya. I love sharing his tales and hearing about other dogs too. After reading your experience I feel relieved that Coco is not the only dog who can’t find his way home. Today I made him run a few rounds during the day.

  12. Sorry, no idea about dogs. Never had one. In fact I dread dogs.

  13. Never had a pet, so can’t really comment on training. But I can imagine the fear and the stress you must have gone through yesterday. I am glad that it ended well.

  14. Having a pet , though nice, is so fraught with responsibilities. Almost like having another kid at home.

  15. That must have been scary! I have no experience with dogs, so cannot offer you any advice but I know how pets become a member of family and how distressing it can be when you see them being in danger. He is a handsome chap, BTW!! 🙂

  16. Amusing.He keeps you fit and supple 🙂

  17. I have no idea about what to do with dogs… I hope you come up with a way Rachna…I’m just so clueless about this!

  18. That certainly was a close call and I can imagine the feelings of panic! Your Lab is adorable. 🙂 Yes, boredom could be an issue but it’s also just a fun game for him. The thing with Labs is, they take longer to mature and some of them never do. 😉 How is it that he manages to escape the house? I would be using blocking maneuvers when opening the door at all times. The pulling is a serious issue and a harness could help. There’s one here, called a Lupi that is specifically made to stop dogs from pulling. Head collars, known as “gentle leaders” or “Halti”s also stop pulling, but most dogs hate those and keep trying to remove them. You were saying treats don’t entice him to come back. Try a shrill coach’s whistle, or better yet, a dog whistle. Here’s hoping you don’t have any more such incidents.

    • Hey, Debbie. Appreciate your inputs. Oh, we keep a hawk’s eye on the door but sometimes it is the house help who leaves the door open. The last time, my younger son had taken him out to pee when he pulled by his sheer strength and took off after a stray dog. My poor son almost got dragged by him. This chap is powerful and so crazily mischievous. 🙁 Yes, I think a body harness may be useful. We get those here as well. The only thing is that he is allergic to them. I don’t even put a collar on him as he starts getting nasty rashes. Yes, a dog whistle sounds like a great idea. I am keeping my fingers crossed as well that he never ever runs off into traffic.

  19. I hear you!! used to happen to us too… everytime the gate opens, my dog used to dash towards the road, as if we have imprisoned him in a castle 😛 … but he used to come back. Dogs always listen to an authoritative.

  20. I remember reading somewhere that dogs actually find it harder to find their way back home whereas cats who are outdoor cats have no such problem. Don’t ask me why!

    In the end, with dogs in particular, they need a firm hand…if they sense any wavering from their owners, they are likely to keep mucking up. Or at least figure out who the softie in the family is! 😉

    • Yes, I understand that part. 🙂 The softie is definitely me but this guy has tried running away even with the husband. He just treats it as a game which makes me so mad. At least where we live, it is safe but outside the house, I shudder to think.

  21. OMG. I can imagine how paralysing and helpless you would have felt. As a kid I had a pet cat and she would keep disappearing. It was so difficilt and scary. I hope it does not happen again ever.

  22. Not sure why he does that! Zeb did it in the beginning – he broke part of our fence when he tried to follow our car! Vet said it was separation anxiety, but that can’t be what’s happening to Coco! I guess he’s just mad about being on the leash all the time?!

    • He is on leash only when outdoors. That’s because in India other folks are normally scared of big dogs and feel better if they are leashed. At home, he is never on leash. I don’t even put a collar on him because he gets rashes. Like the others said, I think he does it more out of the adventure. But, it is so scary. These days, I am taking him out for walks and runs.

  23. When I was a kid, I had a dog. It was a rare mixed breed between a jackal and a village mongrel. We had no idea of training our puppy. So it grew up and it was an angry fellow with terrific instincts. It could sense a snake from a distance. At that time my dad was Vice Principal and we were in a colony with ample space, most of which had dense vegetation. We had no idea about training our dog. I wish we had got a trainer at that time.

    If you don’t train your dog, then don’t expect it to behave as per your unstated wish. A lot of misunderstanding between people happen because we don’t often state our wish to the other person and believe that he/she will somehow magically read our mind. If you expect your dog to also read your mind and your unstated wish then it would be difficult. If the dog is not trained to understand your language and gestures, then even if you state your wish, it would not understand.

    Later in life when I delved more into wildlife, I realised that you ought to understand the psyche of your dog to understand its actions. You have to watch your dog. When it sees a cat or any other dog it would take a moment or two to decide on chasing. You need to pull away his leash just before it launches its attack. You can’t stop an animal once it makes its charge. You have to restrain it before it decides to attack. So you have to immediately pull by giving a sharp jerk or divert its attention. When it obeys you, give it some appreciation by patting, giving it a biscuit etc. That is positive reinforcement.

    It is never too late to get a trainer. Just ensure that the trainer is good, because most of the trainers follow a very old and bad process of beating dogs. Interview the trainer before you select him. If you would have been in Bombay, then I would have given the contact of a good trainer. You have to search for yourself in gurgaon. All the best!

    • Thanks for such a valuable comment, Sabyasachi. Yes, training is very important for dogs. I think where we erred was in chasing him when he ran. He then thought that it was a game. I am trying to undo some of that. I am seeing a bit of change in his behavior. If he doesn’t get better, I will surely consider a trainer. I live in Bangalore, and I am sure some good trainer will be nearby.

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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