Dogs Escaping from the Yard
We may not know the reason why a dog wants to escape from the yard where he is kept because he will never tell. What we do know is that he is able to do it. Some are real escape artists and are of great concern to owners from whom I get calls for help. One family who asked for my help had no idea how their dog even got out of their secure yard. Every day they returned from work he was wandering in the road near the house. His route took him through a hedge onto a tree branch and over and out.
Different dogs have different ways to escape. Some are jumpers and do not need much space for a running start to go over a six foot high wall. Some use whatever is available near the fence or wall to climb up and over they go. Then there are the diggers that will burrow their way to freedom. Chewers can make a hole in a fence large enough to get out. Clever dogs can figure out how to open a gate and some will slip through before you have closed it.
Every time a dog escapes he is rewarded for doing so because of interesting smells, cats or birds to chase, bitches in season or other dogs to play with while out. It is also very dangerous and many dogs get lost, stolen or killed in the streets after their escape from home.
When a dog has been able to escape 2 or 3 times from a property it is already a habit that has been formed and bad habits are often hard to break. Prevention is better than cure and after the very first escape it must receive serious attention to prevent a second attempt and a behaviour problem from developing.
Finding the escape route
The first step is to establish where the dog can get out, over, under or through the fence or gate. This is the first task the owners are set to find out how and where he can get out. If the dog can get out anywhere the solution is to erect a suitably high or stronger wall or fence which may be expensive. However, in my experience I have found that dogs will use the same spot to make their escape even if there are more places where they could get out.
More often it is only at a specific spot on the boundary where footmarks or scratches will reveal the escape route.
Next step is to prevent the dog from using that avenue for escape. If the dog needs momentum to jump high enough we place obstacles in the way such as pot plants, a hedge, small fences or poles to hinder the jump. Chicken wire on the ground can be effective because dogs do not like the feeling under their paws.
If the dog is a climber and can climb all the way to the top of a 6 foot fence as many can, we need to put chicken wire or plastic sheets against the side of the fence to prevent him getting a foothold. Dogs can be secretive about their escape route with the result that their owners have to spy on them to find out how they disappear from the yard.
For diggers you can bury chicken wire along the bottom of the area where he mostly digs to get out or lay it flat on the ground to form an L-shape along the bottom of the fence. Hold it down with rocks or anything heavy. A concrete trench could stop any determined digger.
What I have found to be very effective, depending on the nature of the fence or wall, is to place or balance articles such as sticks and tins or beer cans tied together that will fall down onto the dog and make an unpleasant noise when dislodged. Nothing that will hurt the dog should be included. Dogs are usually taken by surprise or are very aware that something different is up on the wall and do not even try to escape.
There is usually no shortage on ideas for booby trapping. Most owners come up with many good solutions and are able to solve the escapes quite quickly. .
What we are looking for is to break the habit of escaping so that the dog “forgets” about it while other changes are introduced.
Make sure that the dog has a collar with an ID tag just in case he escapes again. You should rather get a GPS collar for your cat.
Obedience training should be started or resumed if discontinued.
Regular energetic walks or runs to burn off excess energy.
Change his sleeping or resting area to a different corner of the yard or property.
Spend time playing with your dog and make your yard a happy place for him.
Do not punish the dog when he returns from an escape. He must feel safe at home and not be fearful of returning home.
Never get cross with a dog for coming to you!