I asked this question on but haven't received an answer, so I thought I would try here also.

My dog passed away a few days ago. He ran away from home early in the morning, and by the time we found him it was late afternoon and he was very weak, on the brink of death. Soon after we brought him home, he drifted off and stopped breathing.

I was feeling very horrible thinking about what might have happened to him in the hours before we found him, and that he might still be alive if we had somehow stopped him from running away. But a few people comforted me, saying that a lot of old dogs run away from home when its time to die. Perhaps they like to die alone?

I'm wondering if there's any truth to this?

Notability: http://www.ehow.com/info_12047757_dogs-run-away-dying.html

  • This is certainly not always true. I would be somewhat surprised if it was ever true, and I suspect it's mostly a fable invented to comfort folks when a dog passes this way.... but I can't prove that. – keshlam Dec 29 '15 at 5:21
  • it is natural for many animals to try to hide if they get sick,but this is not the same as running away they only try to avoid beeing a target for other animals when they are unable to protect themself. – trond hansen Jul 8 '17 at 6:19
  • My neighbour's dog had cancer and the day it died, it ran away and hid in the basement. I'm pretty sure dogs run away to die but I have no evidence except this event. – papakias Aug 27 '18 at 13:59

From my research it is unclear whether dogs run away to die.

After using the search term "dog death" on Google scholar, there are no pages I found concerning the phenomenon, & none for "wolf death".

Regular Googling provides speculation only - some people saying it happened with their dog, others saying it's a myth.

Lastly, no books I've ever read on dog training mention the issue at all, so I'm tempted to say it is not true.

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    I don't see how this is an answer, there's no backbone to it's argument other than "Google" I think it was better as a comment since you're not even sure about your answer. "I'm tempted to say...." – Just Do It Sep 25 '15 at 22:43
  • I don't see how there could be anything but anecdotal evidence for this- any study would take a decade, have either no control group or blatant ethical violations, and would struggle to find funding. – Matthew Wells Oct 28 at 4:39

It's not a myth. Years ago we had a dog -- Sam -- that was very obedient. Always came when she was called. Never wandered off or ran around. But when she got old and it was obvious that the end was near, she took off. Because it was so out of character for her, we immediately figured she was going off to die. And sure enough, we never saw her again. We scoured the area and never found her. Mind you this was back at a time when the laws weren't so stringent and it was more common for dogs to wander. Nowadays dogs are always penned in or leashed and never allowed to roam freely. I'd imagine that's why people think it's a myth. Dogs just don't have the opportunity to do it much anymore. But if they could get away, they would.

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Older dogs can be prone to behavior changes, such as impulsive behavior and cognitive dysfunction (dementia) (see here) , and that can contribute to a dog's suddenly running away. Also see separation anxiety, where animals can hurt themselves when the owner is gone, including trying to escape their home. (see here) Separation anxiety is also a part of senior dog behavioral changes.

It's also possible that there's human contributions to the dog running away - for example, many owners will believe that their senior dog is less capable of bad behavior or less likely to run away and take fewer precautions to keeping their dog safe. I don't have a link for this one but many of the answers share this sentiment.

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I remember these two incidents very clearly.

  1. Once my dog Sonu was very severely ill, So severely that even the vet had given up whatever little hope he had left. So my parents (I was rather young back then) left him in a far away place (some 10-15kms possibly farther). I was understandably very depressed. However as it turns out three days later we were in for a surprise. Three days later early morning it was in the distance there was the silhouette of a dog walking towards our house. I couldn't believe my good luck my beloved dog Sonu had returned.

Now the above story proves that my dog could return home from afar and was very capable of returning home if left at some place far away.

Fast forward,

  1. Sonu wasn't in the best of his spirit and basically was old and tiring. One fine night I wished him good night and went to sleep never knowing that this was the last time I would ever see him. From the next morning after that till this date I never saw Sonu again.

So yes apparently dogs do leave our homes when they are about to die How they sense it and do it is a mystery to me.

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I believe they do, my small dog was almost 19 years old, the night she disappeared. She literally was standing in the front yard and by the time we opened our car door to put her back in the house... she vanished. We looked EVERYWHERE for 3 straight days and found no trace of her.

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Yes it is true that some dogs leave when they're about to die. My 17yr old schnauzer Korky left the house & never returned. We looked for days to find her but never did. I felt so guilty & heartbroken but it's in their nature to do so 😢

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  • Hi and welcome to Pets SE, thanks for posting, but it would be optimal if answer was supported by some references. – lila Oct 28 at 7:00

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