Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’re doing some housework inside while your dog is safely hanging out in your backyard, barking every once in a while at interesting odors or offending sounds. Everything is normal until suddenly the barking is coming from a different direction — your front door!
Confused, you get up to see what’s going on and are shocked to see that your dog has gotten out. Thank goodness she ran to the front door and started barking, because she could have gotten herself into some serious trouble.
How to keep your dog from escaping is a frightening problem that has plagued many owners — though many may also simultaneously wonder if they should put their pup in some kind of Houdini-eque magic show to exploit his talents!
There are two things to consider if you have an escape artist of a dog: why he tries to escape in the first place, and what you can do to stop him.
Why dogs decide to roam
Dogs roam for all kinds of reasons, and in many cases, it will depend on the personality of your individual pooch. Here are some of the most common causes.
If your dog tends to bark whenever neighbors come into their backyards or strange sounds are heard on the street, he may attempt to get out to keep his area safe and get those “bad” people to go away.
It’s all well and good to have a backyard for your dog to roam around in, but she needs your attention, too. For some dogs, this can be actual separation anxiety, and leaving is an attempt to find you, but others simply want to hang out with somebody — anybody! If you leave your dog alone in the backyard for too long, she may attempt to leave just to have some kind of social interaction. Along those lines…
Your dog has found something fun
When dogs escape and discover something exciting beyond the fence (another dog to play with, a field to run around in, food), they may keep trying to get out so that they can go have fun again. Why were they trying to escape in the first place? Probably because they were bored.
Your dog has found a friend
If you have an unneutered male dog and there’s an un-spayed female in heat somewhere in the neighborhood, he will smell her and he will try to find her — and have enormous incentive to get out of the yard however possible, whether over, under, or through the fence.
Does your dog try to pounce on squirrels during walks and yank out of your grasp because he just knows he can get to that bird before it flies away? If you have a pooch that likes to hunt, he may be escaping because he’s after another animal and will do whatever it takes to get to it.
What to do to prevent roaming
First, install a fence
Hopefully this is obvious, but you never want your dog outside without your supervision if she’s not in an enclosed area of some kind. A physical fence is usually best, but if you are unable to do this in your neighborhood, using an electronic fence is better than risking the possibility of your dog running into the street.
Keep your dog engaged
If you believe that your dog is escaping due to boredom, try to find ways to keep him interested. This might mean getting a few more toys for the backyard, taking longer walks, or teaching him a new trick once a day.
One of the most common ways for dogs to get out of fenced-in areas is for them to dig a big enough space to crawl under the wall or gate. You can decrease the chances of this happening by placing a chain link fence or large rocks along the edge of the yard, or by burying chicken wire under the ground at the base of the fence so they can’t dig through it.
Spay and neuter
If your male dog is neutered, he’ll be far less likely to try to escape in search of females, and if your female is spayed, she won’t turn your house into a magnet for every unfixed male dog in the area. Bonus points: spayed and neutered dogs can be healthier, live longer lives, and don’t contribute to the problem of too many unwanted dogs around.
For more tips and tricks about keeping your dog from escaping your yard, talk to your vet or a local dog professional. And of course, the best way to keep your dog from escaping is to not let her outside unless you are able to supervise her.