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How to stop your dog from escaping

Does your dog's ability to escape from the backyard have you convinced that they are nothing less than a hairy Houdini?


Repeat attempts to keep your pet confined to the yard may be frustrating, but every escape opens up the possibility of tragic consequences. If your dog is running loose, they are in danger of being hit by a car, injured in a fight with another dog, or hurt in any number of other ways. Not to mention they're at risk of being stolen too.

You're also liable for any damage or injury your dog may cause, and you may be required to pay a fine if they are picked up by the pound. To prevent escapes, you'll need to find out how your dog is getting out of the yard, and more importantly, why they are so determined to get out.


In brief - dogs jump fences for many different reasons, such as:

  • They see an animal or something else that they feel compelled to chase.

  • They see a friendly person or dog they would like to meet.

  • If your dog is bored and looking for something to do, or looking for you. Some dogs can suffer from separation anxiety.

  • They could find it frightening to be left alone in a yard.

  • They might learn to associate the yard with anxiety, fear or loneliness.

  • They can also wander to search for mates so it’s important to talk to your vet about desexing.

  • Sometimes dogs can hear things on the other side of the fence and jump over to investigate.

Social isolation/frustration

Your dog may be escaping because they are bored and lonely, especially if:

  1. They are left alone for long periods of time without opportunities for interaction with you. Their environment is relatively barren, without playmates or toys.

  2. They are a puppy or adolescent (under three years old) and don't have other outlets for their energy.

  3. They are a particularly active type of dog (like the herding or sporting breeds) and need an active "job" in order to be happy.

  4. They visit places after each escape that provide them with interaction and fun things to do. For example, they may go play with a neighbor's dog or visit the local school yard to play with the children.


RECOMMENDATIONS:

Expand your dog's world and increasing their "people time" 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 and practice with them as often as possible.

Teach your dog a few commands or tricks. Try to hold a lesson every day for five to 10 minutes.

Take an obedience class with your dog and practice what you've learned every day.

Provide interesting toys (Kong type toys filled with treats or busy-box toys) to keep your dog busy when you're not home.

Rotate your dog's toys to make them seem new and interesting.

Keep your dog inside when you're unable to supervise them. This will also keep them safe and prevent any possibility of their being stolen from your yard.

If you must be away from home for extended periods of time, take your dog to work with you or to a "doggie day care center," or ask a friend or neighbor to walk your dog.

Sexual roaming

Dogs become sexually mature at around 6 months of age. Intact male dogs have a strong drive to seek out females, and it can be difficult to prevent an intact dog from escaping when their motivation to do so is very high.


RECOMMENDATIONS:

Have your male dog neutered. Studies show that neutering will decrease sexual roaming in about 90 percent of cases. If intact males have established a pattern of escaping, they may continue to do so even after they are neutered; this is even more reason to have males neutered as soon as possible.

Have your female dog spayed. If intact female dogs escape while they are in heat, they have a high likelihood of  getting pregnant (and they could be impregnated even if they stay confined in your yard).

Don't accidentally contribute to the pet overpopulation problem by allowing your female dog to breed indiscriminately. Millions of unwanted pets are euthanized every year. If you need help with an unwanted litter - please see our Last Litter Program



Fears and phobias

Your dog may be escaping out of fear, especially if they are exposed to loud noises, such as thunderstorms, firecrackers or construction sounds.


RECOMMENDATIONS:

Identify what is frightening your dog and desensitize them to it. You may need to seek out the help of a professional trainer, or talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medications that might help your dog while you work on behavior modification.

Keep your dog indoors if there's any chance they may encounter the fear stimulus outside. You can even mute thunder and other outside noises by creating a comfortable spot in a basement or windowless bathroom and turning on a television, radio or loud fan.

Provide a "safe place" for your dog. Observe where they like to go when they feel anxious, then allow access to that space, or create a similar space for them to use when the fear stimulus is present.



Separation anxiety


Your dog may be trying to escape due to separation anxiety if:

They escape as soon as, or shortly after, you leave.They display other behaviors that reflect a strong attachment to you, such as following you around, greeting you wildly, or reacting anxiously to your preparations to leave.

They remain near your home after they have escaped.

Factors that can precipitate a separation anxiety problem:

Your family's schedule has changed, and that has resulted in your dog being left alone more often.

Your family has recently moved to a new house.Your family has experienced the death or loss of a family member or another pet.

Your dog has recently spent time at an animal shelter or boarding kennel.


RECOMMENDATIONS:

If your dog has been correctly diagnosed as suffering from separation anxiety, you can solve the problem using counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques.



To learn more on how dogs escape and some handy fencing tips - please click here.

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