Dog Escapes: How to Keep Dogs from Getting Away
Is your dog escaping from the yard or your home? Here are two reasons your dog may be motivated to try to get away:
- Sexual motivation. If your dog is not neutered, he may be escaping to search for female dogs. There’s a simple solution: Neuter your dog. (The same holds true for unfixed female dogs, who may be escaping to find male dogs.)
- Lack of exercise and interaction. All dogs need exercise and interaction with their people. If your dog is spending too many hours out in the yard alone, escaping may be her way of dealing with loneliness and boredom. If you’re away from home all day, are there ways that you can break up the long days for her? Perhaps a neighbor could give her a walk halfway through the day or maybe you could arrange to have your dog visit another dog at a friend’s home some days while you are away. Other options are putting your dog in doggie daycare or hiring a dog walker. Some dog walkers are seniors or students who don’t charge much — they mainly want to enjoy time with a dog.
Here are the various ways that dogs get out and some methods to prevent escape:
- Latch-lifting. Some dogs have learned to open gates and door handles or knobs and let themselves out. Most gates have a latch that can be secured by placing a clip through a hole when the latch is closed, and doors can be locked or blocked. The clip can be a clip from an old leash, a lock, or a carabiner. If you need a reminder to use the clip and to get others to use it, put a sign on the gate that says, “Please clip the gate.”
- Jumping or climbing over the fence. Look for and move objects that the dog may be using as aids. For instance, if the doghouse or a tree that the dog can climb is close to the fence, he may be able to use them to jump over it. Add additional fencing to add height to your fence. You could try using a light-gauge wire for this purpose; if the dog feels that the light wire is unstable, he may decide that he can no longer jump out. If your dog only climbs out at the corners, you can add fencing across the corners over the top. You can try cat proof fencing (such as purrfectfence.com), which works equally well for most dogs. There’s also a product called Coyote Roller (www.coyoteroller.com), rollers that can be installed on the top of fencing to prevent the dog from being able to grip the top of the fence.
- Digging under the fence. If digging out is your dog’s plan, you will most likely need to either bury fencing in the ground (18 to 24 inches deep), or attach fencing to the bottom of your fence and lay it on the ground at least 12 inches into the yard. Both methods work, but you must fix the entire perimeter of the yard or the dog will probably find the unprotected spots. For some dogs, however, laying down railroad ties or paving stones against the fence in the yard is enough of a deterrent.
- Dashing out the door. Some dogs escape by dashing out of the house the moment the door opens. For door-dashers, the best strategy is to train the dog to expect a treat whenever the door is opened. Start by placing a baby gate or exercise pen at the doorway. If you have a big dog, you might want to use one that is tall and extra sturdy. Practice opening the door, stepping over the gate (or walking through it, depending on the style of the gate), and then giving the dog a treat. Soon, your dog will be waiting for a treat rather than dashing out the door.
Next, you can add the cue “sit.” Luring your dog into a sit is done by holding a treat up, giving the cue, waiting until he sits, and then offering the treat. Only give the treat when his rear is on the floor, not before he sits or after he pops up. Practice walking into the house and closing the door behind you, offering the treat only after your dog gives you a sit. When teaching your dog to sit, remember that you don’t need to use a harsh tone. Once he is trained, you can have fun with your happy, well-behaved dog.
Another method for preventing door dashing, if treats are not available or practical for your situation, is to teach “wait at the door.” Put your dog on a leash as a safety net while he is learning, but never use it to pull or yank him backward. Stand next to the door so your body isn’t blocking it, tell your dog “wait,” and then open it just a couple of inches. As long as your dog is waiting politely, continue to slowly open the door. If at any point your dog tries to rush through the door, quickly but carefully close it (avoiding slamming your dog’s head or feet in the door, of course). Say “wait” again, then begin to slowly open the door again. When your dog waits long enough for you to open the door wide enough for him to get through, say “free,” and then allow him to go through the door. When you are consistent about doing this, your dog will learn to wait politely at the door until you release him.
If fences are not possible or allowed on your property, another option is to teach your dog to stay in the yard through boundary training. To learn more about boundary training, go here.
Whatever method you end up using to prevent your dog from escaping, make sure he has a registered microchip and a safety collar with up-to-date ID tags to increase his chances of being safely returned to you, just in case.