A dog that escapes confinement can suffer injuries from a number of possible situations. You could be held liable for damage or injury caused by your dog, and/or fined if picked up by an Animal Control Agency.
In order to resolve an escape problem, it is important to identify how your dog gets out and why he is escaping:
- Is he is left alone for long periods of time without opportunities for interaction with you?
- Is his environment is relatively barren, without playmates or toys?
- Is he is a puppy or adolescent (under three years old) that doesn’t have other outlets for his energy?
- Is he an active kind of dog (like herding or sporting breeds) who needs a job in order to be happy?
- Does the place he goes to when he escapes provide him with interaction and fun things to do? For example, does he go to play with a neighbor’s dog or to the local school yard to play with the children?
We recommend expanding your dog’s world and increasing his “people time” in the following ways:
- Walk your dog daily. It’s good mental and physical exercise.
- Teach your dog to fetch a ball or Frisbee and practice with him as often as possible.
- Teach your dog a few cues and/or tricks. Practice these cues and/or tricks daily for five to ten minutes.
- Take an obedience class with your dog and practice daily what you’ve learned.
- Provide interesting toys (Kong-type toys or other treat dispensing toys) to keep your dog busy when you’re not home.
- Rotate your dog’s toys to make them seem new and interesting see Dog Toys and How to Use Them.
- Keep your dog inside when you’re unable to supervise him.
- If you have to be away from home for extended periods of time, take your dog to work with you, to a doggie day care, or ask a friend or neighbor to walk your dog.
Dogs become sexually mature at around six months of age. An intact male dog is motivated by a strong, natural drive to seek out female dogs. It can be very difficult to prevent an intact dog from escaping, because his motivation to do so is very high.
- Have your male dog neutered. Studies show that neutering will decrease sexual roaming in most cases. Unfortunately, if an intact male has established a pattern of escaping he may continue to do so even after he’s neutered. It’s important 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 could get pregnant. Millions of unwanted pets are euthanized every year. Please don’t contribute to the pet overpopulation problem.
Fears and phobias
Some dogs will escape when exposed to something that scares him. Fireworks, thunderstorms, and loud construction noises can cause a fear response and the dog attempts to escape the situation.
- If you can identify what is frightening your dog, you can try to desensitize/counter condition him to the scary stimulus. You might need professional help with the process. Check with your veterinarian about giving your dog an anti-anxiety medication while you work on behavior modification.
- Leave your dog indoors when he is likely to encounter the fear stimulus. Mute noise by leaving him in a basement or windowless bathroom and leave on a television, radio or loud fan.
- Provide a “safe place” for your dog. Observe where he likes to go when he feels anxious, then allow access to that space, or create a similar space for him to use when the fear stimulus is present.
- He escapes as soon as, or shortly after, you leave.
- He displays other behaviours that reflect a strong attachment to you, such as following you around, frantic greetings or reacting anxiously to your preparations to leave.
- He remains near your home after he’s escaped.
- There is damage to the exits of your home, such as door frames and window frames.
Factors that can precipitate a separation anxiety problem:
- There has recently been a change in your family’s schedule that has resulted in your dog being left alone more often.
- Your family has recently moved to a new house.
- There’s been a death or loss of a family member or another family pet.
- Your dog has recently spent time at an animal shelter or boarding kennel.
Separation anxiety can be resolved using counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques. You might need professional help to assist with this problem.
How dogs escape
Some dogs jump fences, but most actually climb them, using some part of the fence to push off. A dog may also dig under the fence, chew through the fence, 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. Until you know how your dog escapes and can decrease his motivation for doing so, you won’t be able to successfully resolve the problem.
- Add an extension to your fence that tilts in toward the yard. The extension doesn’t need to make the fence much higher, as long as it tilts inward at about a 45-degree angle.
- Attach a drain tile to the top of the fence so that the dog can’t get a grip on the top of the fence to climb over.
- Put rope or wire through long pieces of PVC and attach to the fence. When the dog’s foot tries to grip the PVC will roll so the dog can’t grip the fence.
- Bury chicken wire at the base of your fence (with the sharp edges rolled inward).
- Place large rocks at the bottom of the fence.
- Lay chain-link fencing on the ground inside the perimeter of the fence.
Never chain or otherwise tether your dog to a stationary object as a means of keeping him confined. Tethering results in frustration and can lead to aggressive behaviour in dogs. If you must tether your dog, use a trolley system so that the dog can move more freely about the yard.
- Never punish your dog after he has escaped the yard. Dogs associate punishment with what they’re doing at the time they are punished. Punishing your dog after the fact won’t eliminate the escaping behaviour, but it can make him afraid to come to you.
- Never punish your dog if the escape is a fear-related problem or is due to separation anxiety. Punishing fear-motivated behaviours will only make your dog more afraid. This can make the problem worse.
- Punishment is only effective if administered at the moment your dog is escaping and if he doesn’t associate the correction with you. If you can squirt him with a hose or make a loud noise as he is going over, under or through the fence, it might be unpleasant enough that he won’t want to do it again. However, if he realizes that you made the noise or squirted the water, he’ll simply refrain from escaping when you’re around. This type of correction is difficult to administer effectively and won’t resolve the problem if used by itself. You must remove the motivation to escape and make it more difficult to do.
- Chaining your dog should only be used as a last resort, and then only as a temporary measure until a more permanent solution can be found. Chaining your dog doesn’t give him sufficient opportunity for exercise and can be dangerous if done improperly. It can lead to frustration which can result in aggressive behaviour.