Australian Shepherds, like most herding dogs, are energetic, lively and agile. They were bred this way to keep up with livestock. But will a Australian Shepherd run away on you?
Many Australian Shepherds will run away if not properly trained to “come” on command. Never let your Aussie off leash without plenty of training, as there may be a chase motive in the environment that sends him running. Still, there are ways to prevent a runaway Aussie!
What qualities and factors of the Australian Shepherd make them likely to run away? Let’s examine what makes them runaway candidates and how you can prevent a runaway Aussie.
RECOMMENDED: The Complete Guide to Australian Shepherds
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Why Australian Shepherds May Run Away
Energetic and active dogs, such as Aussies, can run away for many reasons. Most of the time, it’s not because they don’t love the owners. They were likely just distracted.
Here are the possible reasons that an Australian Shepherd can run away on the owner. Not all will apply to every individual dog, as some dogs are naturally more attached or calm.
The Chase Motive
A “chase motive” is perhaps the most likely reason why an Australian Shepherd runs away. It can happen just about anywhere.
The chase motive can be, for example, a squirrel that runs by your dog. It can also be the smell of delicious barbecue that a family is cooking up a few doors down.
There are simply too many distractions that can occur throughout your dog’s day to cause them to run away. It’s why we always recommend putting them on a leash.
The good news is that Australian Shepherds are herding dogs. Hunting dogs are much more likely to give in to a fleeing squirrel, as they were bred to chase down animals.
Likewise, Beagles and other scent hounds were bred to track smells. These dogs have a curious personality and will likely follow their nose if given the opportunity.
Herding dogs will have a less likely chance of reacting to a chase motive in their environment. But if they see a flock of sheep, then it may be a different story.
Aussies Like to Run
It’s no surprise that Australian Shepherds like to run. In fact, they make some of the best canine running partners for owners.
All herding dogs need the agility, speed and stamina to control the flock of sheep or cattle. For this reason, Australian Shepherds were bred to love running.
They don’t necessarily need a reason (though a chase motive is a pretty good one), they just enjoy doing it.
That unparalleled feeling of freely running in the wind can make them forget about their owners and/or homes for a brief moment. By the time they realize, they may already be miles away.
If you deprive your Australian Shepherd from getting their daily amount of exercise, they may actually be more prone to running away if given the chance.
It’s why exercise and physical activity is so important for herding dogs like the Australian Shepherd.
Preventing Your Aussie From Running Away
Don’t be worried! There are things you can do to lower the chances of your Australian Shepherd running away on you.
Let’s examine the precautions and practices new Aussie owners need to know.
Neutering & Spaying
On top of all the other benefits of neutering or spaying your Aussie, this practice will reduce their instincts to run away.
During certain periods with high hormones, an intact male may sense a female dog nearby. As a result, the male dog will be highly motivated to escape and find the female dog.
Likewise, a non-spayed female dog in heat will likely attempt to escape after sensing a male or to go looking for a suitor.
This procedure can also decrease the aggressiveness in the dog. Furthermore, the dog will become calmer over the next few months.
All these behavior changes will certainly reduce the Aussie’s instincts and drive to run off for whatever reason.
You should never attempt to let your dog off-leash in a public setting without proper obedience training. Not only is this dangerous for your dog, but also for surrounding people and animals.
Before letting your Australian Shepherd off-leash, make sure to teach your dog essential commands, such as sit, stay, come and no.
The command come may be the most important one in preventing your dog from running away. If your Aussie gets distracted by a chase motive for a second, you can snap them back to reality by yelling, “come!”
Just because they know this command doesn’t guarantee they’ll listen when the time comes. Make sure you have this command engrained in your Australian Shepherd.
Not only is this great for preventing a runaway dog, but may also come in handy when preventing your Aussie from a truly dangerous situation.
Keep Your Aussie on a Leash
Needless to say, it’s best practice to always keep your Australian Shepherd on a leash if they’re in a potentially dangerous environment.
Even if they’re properly trained and highly obedient dogs, it’s still a good idea. Australian Shepherds may try to run or pull on the leash, which is why I recommend a harness with a sturdy leash.
With that said, I highly recommend the BAAPET ultra durable dog leash:
It’s sturdy, thick and comes in a reasonable 5 foot length. It comes with a padded handle so all the tugging is gentle on the hands.
This leash is also perfect at night because it’s highly reflective. If you’re interested, I highly recommended checking the price here. It’s currently sold on Amazon.
For the most determined runners, I’d recommend getting a harness. I personally use the Rabbitgoo Dog Harness for my Aussie and it’s absolutely fantastic.
This non-pulling dog harness is made with 2 metal leash rings which makes it more secure for your Aussie. The Nylon Oxford material is tough, but the soft pads make it comfortable for your dog too.
If you’re interested, I highly recommend heading over to Amazon and checking out the price here. It’s also adjustable so you’ll always have the right size.
As you may already know, Australian Shepherds are super active dogs and have a high level of energy. They need daily exercise.
If you aren’t able to provide your dog with their much-needed physical activity, then they may exhibit destructive behavior. Or worse, they may run away to release all that pent up energy.
So, by providing your Australian Shepherd with their fix of exercise daily, you’ll likely decrease their need to run away.
According to Dog Time, Australian Shepherds need between 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Yes, that’s every single day.
It’s recommended that they receive high-energy activities, such as running, swimming, frisbee or catch. A simple 30-minute stroll through the neighborhood is likely not enough.
Make sure your Australian Shepherd is in a safe enclosure. Most Aussies are not meant to be indoor dogs, so keep them in a large backyard is ideal.
However, not all backyards are as secure as you think. Remember, Australian Shepherds can jump much higher than you think.
This means that keeping your Aussie enclosed in a metal playpen is not enough. It may work when they’re puppies, but they’ll quickly grow large enough to jump over with ease.
If you’re keeping your Australian Shepherd indoors, then it makes a lot of sense to let them play in the backyard when supervised.
And if you must, you can use a kennel with a covered top. However, it’s not recommended that you keep your Aussie in this for long periods of time.
Something like the Lucky Dog Uptown Kennel would work well.
It’s large enough for a full grown Aussie to move around and jump around a bit. But the enclosed top will definitely prevent them from escaping.
If you’re interested, I’d suggest checking the current price here at Amazon.
Your Aussie is Running Away – What to Do?
This isn’t so much a way to prevent a runaway Australian Shepherd. Rather, it’s something to remember if and when your dog starts running.
According to Dr. Ellen Lindell, It’s never a good idea to try to chase your dog. However, this is almost every owner’s instinct when it does happen.
First of all, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll outrun and catch a dog, let alone an Australian Shepherd that was bred for speed and stamina.
In addition, there’s a good chance that your Aussie will make a “game” out of this. Dogs love to chase and be chased – it’s how many dogs play with one another.
The second your dog thinks you’re “playing” with him, it’s over. They’ll run away, watch you and run again as you get closer. It’s frustrating and humiliating.
What you should do is to continue playing their game with a twist. Try to convince your dog to chase you instead. As soon as the dog has stopped and you make eye contact, start sprinting the other way.
This will likely appeal to an Australian Shepherd and they may just bite. What works even better is if you’re running with a treat or favorite toy.
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