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Does Your Dog Know Where Home Is?

Written by: Valerie Masi, Best Paw Forward

The answer is yes and no. 

Many dog owners say they walk the same route every day so that if their dog gets out, it will know how to get back home. There is truth to that, but if your dog is frightened, it could run for miles without stopping. When the dog finally finds a safe place, it could be miles away from its neighborhood. Even if it isn’t all that far from home, your dog may stay hidden until things quiet down and the dog feels it is safe to come out.

Oftentimes, dog owners also make their dogs stop and sit at the corners so that if the dog were to get out, it will know to cross the street at the corners and watch for traffic. However, this may not be the case.

Around 15 years ago, there was a study done on how dogs cross streets. The researchers put cameras on several dogs and let them loose in a controlled neighborhood. Every dog, including the ones that were trained to stop and sit at corners, crossed in the middle of the street. The reason for this, the study found, was that in the middle of the street, traffic is only moving in two directions, whereas on corners, traffic is moving four ways – making it more difficult to cross. 

So what should you do to make sure your beloved pet will return home should it get out? Luckily, there are a number of things that will improve the chances for your dog to make it home safely.

The most important consideration? Socialize, socialize, socialize. A dog that has been exposed to different sights and sounds won’t get so spooked by the world, and if it isn’t scared, it will have an easier time memorizing the scents it passes through. If the dog were to get lost, its computer-like brain can recall these scents – leading your cherished pet back home. 

You can also drive around with the windows down a little so the dog is familiarizing itself to these scents and storing them in the brain. I’ve done this myself: when I lived in Santa Cruz, I would visit my mother in Sacramento, and my dogs would know a couple of exits in advance that they were close to her house. Additionally, take your dog out on different routes in your neighborhood. It will help them learn new territory, plus your dog will thank you since they won’t be bored with the same walk every day.

So there you have it: Familiarize your dog to its neighborhood, socialize like crazy, and introduce it to as many local scents as possible. If you follow these tips, your furry friend has a much better chance of finding its way back to its loving home.