Escaping dogs

Does your dog's ability to escape from your back yard have you convinced that he's nothing less than a hairy Houdini?

The never-ending attempts to keep your much loved pet confined may seem frustrating at times, but every escape opens up the possibility of tragic consequences. If your dog is running loose, it could be injured in a fight with another dog, or in danger of being hit by a car. You're also liable for any damage or injury your dog may cause, and you may be required to pay a fine if he's picked up by a council ranger.

To prevent escapes, it is best to find out how and where your dog is getting out of the yard, and more importantly, why he's so determined to get out.

Why dogs escape

  • He is left alone for long periods of time becoming bored and frustrated, his environment may be relatively barren, without playmates or toys.
  • He is a puppy or adolescent (under three years old) and doesn't have other outlets for his energy.
  • He is a particularly active type of dog (like herding or sporting breeds) needing an active "job" in order to be happy. Many breeds such as kelpies and border collies are capable of running the equivalent of 70kms a day
  • He visits places after each escape that provide him with interaction and fun things to do. For example he may play with a neighbour's dog or visit the local school yard to play with the children.
  • Sexual Roaming - Dogs become sexually mature at around six months of age. Studies show that neutering will decrease sexual roaming in about 90% of cases. If an intact male has established a pattern of escaping, he may continue to do so even after he's neutered, which is even more reason to have him neutered as soon as possible.
    Have your female dog spayed. If your intact female dog escapes your yard while she's in heat, she'll probably get pregnant ( she could be impregnated even if she stays in your yard). Millions of unwanted pets are euthanized every year, please don't contribute to the pet over population problem by allowing your female dog to breed indiscriminately.
  • Your dog may be trying to escape due to "separation anxiety". Assuming your dog has been correctly diagnosed as suffering from separation anxiety, the problem can be resolved using counter-conditioning and desensitisation techniques, medication and/or herbal remedies.

How dogs escape

Some dogs jump fences, but most actually climb them using some part of the fence to push off from. A dog may also dig under or chew through the fence, learn to open a gate, or use any combination of these methods to get out of the yard. Knowing how your dog gets out will help you to modify your yard as well as decreasing your dogs motivation to do so.

Recommendations

We recommend expanding your dogs world and increasing his interactions with people in the following ways:

  • Walk your dog daily. It's good exercise, both mentally and physically, for both of you!
  • Teach your dog to fetch a ball or stick and practice with him as often as possible. This can be easily done in the back yard.
  • Teach your dog a few commands or tricks. Try to hold a lesson every day for five to ten minutes or take an obedience class with your dog and practice what you've learned every day.
  • Provide interesting toys (Kong™ or Buster Cubes™ - treat filled toys) to keep your dog busy when you're not home. Rotate your dog's toys to make them seem new and interesting.
  • For climbing/jumping dogs: Add an extension to your fence. It's not so important that the extension makes the fence much higher, as long as it tilts inward at about a 45°angle. Be certain there are no structures placed near the fence, such as a table, chairs or dog house, that your dog could use as a springboard to jump over the fence.
  • For digging dogs: Bury chicken wire at the base of your fence (with the sharp edges rolled inward), place large rocks at the base, or lay chain-link fencing on the ground.
  • Never correct your dog after he's already left the yard. Dogs associate punishment with what they're doing at the time they're punished. Punishing your dog after the fact won't eliminate the escaping behaviour, but will probably make him afraid to come to you.  Only correct your dog if you can administer correction at the moment your dog is escaping.
  • You must also give your dog less reason to escape and make it more difficult for him to do so. Ultimately, that is how you'll put a permanent stop to that "Hairy Houdini" act.
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