All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Runaway Dog Trouble...

Dear Marie,
I have a 3 year old, female, Jack Russell Terrier and Chihuahua mix that I found on the streets about 2 years ago. She continually sneaks out of the house and runs away. I cannot catch her and she is running around the neighborhood loose and has almost been run over several times, as she will just go right in front of any car. When she is tired of running around loose she will come home or let me pick her up and bring her home, if I can find her. I am so afraid she is going to get killed. Please advise. Also, she is pooping and peeing in the house. I have tried and tried to house train her and she will go outside for me but continues to leave me surprises in the house. Please let me know what to do. Thank you so much for your help!


Dear Barbara,
It sounds like you need to go back to square one with your little dog. This will involve routine, consistent training on a daily basis. You’ll want to devote a lot of time to this too. Dogs learn through repetition, positive consequences, and stability. If anything is missing, you won’t get the desired results. I am assuming your dog has been spayed; if not, you’ll want to take care of that immediately because this may be at the heart of your dog’s wanderlust problems.
Begin the training in the backyard. Make sure all the gates are closed, and perhaps even locked, so that no one unexpectedly opens up an exit path in the middle of your training session!

Start with your dog on a long or extendable leash and try some basic heel-walking, sit, and down commands. Make some circles, figure-eights, and any other odd path you can come up with in the space you have. Each and every time your dog does well, praise her. You can also give her an occasional treat; but make most of her rewards be in the non-food category – a scratch behind the ears and a heart-felt, “good girl!”

If she wanders too far away, tell her to come. If she doesn’t, bring her on in with the leash and tell her “come” while you are reeling her in. Once she is by your side, tell her, “good come” and give her praise. If she comes on her own, without any stimulus other than your command, give her lots of extra praise. This is definitely a time to dole out a treat too. You want your dog to associate coming to you as something really great. Unfortunately, most people have taught their escape artist dogs that if they come, they are in big trouble. It is very easy to become frustrated if you’ve been chasing your dog for a half hour through traffic. If your little girl has received any negative consequences from that frustration, she will have no interest in coming to you unless she knows for a fact that it will lead to love, attention, and maybe even goodies!

After a couple of weeks of this basic training, and only when it has been routinely successful, take her to a park. Again, she should be on a leash. In the park, there will be a lot of distractions that will interest her. She will likely want to run off and explore. Again, you will need to give her the command to come. Hopefully, she’ll remember what she learned in your yard. If not, go through the whole process that the two of you have been working on previously and bring her on in while using the command, “Come.” Your park training should continue until she consistently comes when called.

Once you are at this point in the process, you can take her to an off leash dog park. Let her run around and have a good time. But every now and then, give her the command to come. If she does, your rewards should be huge. If she does not, take her outside of the fenced area on her long leash, and work on the previous weeks’ training for a few minutes. Then try again off leash inside the dog park. Eventually, she will get the hang of it and will always come when called.

Your house-training problems can be solved using basic crate training (and this will also help with her “sneaking out problems”). I’ve discussed crate-training in some of my recent Orange County Register columns however I’ll recap some of the key points now. Keep your dog in a crate at night. As soon as she comes out in the morning, take her outdoors and give her the command to “go potty.” Praise her when she does. After she does her business, she can stay out of her crate. But be sure to let her outdoors after she eats, as well as periodically throughout the day - and always use your preferred command for her to do her business. For times when she cannot be supervised, she should be in her crate. But don’t keep her in for too long of a time. The crate should not be a punishment. It should be like a comfortable “den” and she should enjoy resting there. For more information about crate training, do a search through my old columns as well as Maryanne Dell’s columns on Good luck.

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