Why Is my dog escaping from the yard or home?

Here are three reasons your dog may be motivated to try to get away:

Sexual motivation. If your dog is not neutered, he may be escaping to search for female dogs. There’s a simple solution: Neuter your dog. (The same holds true for unfixed female dogs, who may be escaping to find male dogs.)

Lack of exercise and interaction. All dogs need exercise and interaction with their people. If your dog is spending too many hours out in the yard alone, escaping may be their way of dealing with loneliness and boredom. If you’re away from home all day, are there ways that you can break up the long days for them? Perhaps a neighbor could give them a walk halfway through the day or maybe you could arrange to have your dog visit another dog at a friend’s home some days while you are away. Other options are putting your dog in doggie daycare or hiring a dog walker. Some dog walkers are seniors or students who don’t charge much — they mainly want to enjoy time with a dog.

Separation Anxiety. By nature, dogs are social animals: they don’t like being alone. Dogs with separation anxiety exhibit distress and behaviour problems such as digging and scratching at doors, destructive chewing, howling, barking and whining, and urination or defecation when they’re left alone. Read more.

Adapted from http://bestfriends.org/ (http://bestfriends.org/resources/dog-escapes & http://bestfriends.org/resources/separation-anxiety-dogs)

Here are the various ways that dogs get out and some methods to prevent escape:
  • Latch-lifting. Some dogs have learned to open gates and door handles or knobs and let themselves out.

Solution –  Most gates have a latch that can be secured by placing a clip through a hole when the latch is closed, and doors can be locked or blocked. The clip can be a clip from an old leash, a lock, or a carabiner. If you need a reminder to use the clip and to get others to use it, put a sign on the gate that says, “Please clip the gate.”

  • Jumping or climbing over the fence.

Solution Look for and move objects that the dog may be using as aids. For instance, if the doghouse or a tree that the dog can climb is close to the fence, they may be able to use them to jump over it. Add additional fencing to add height to your fence.

You could try using a light-gauge wire for this purpose; if the dog feels that the light wire is unstable, they may decide that they can no longer jump out.

If your dog only climbs out at the corners, you can add fencing across the corners over the top.

You can try cat proof fencing, which works equally well for most dogs. There’s also a product called Oscillot (https://oscillot.com.au), rollers that can be installed on the top of fencing to prevent the dog from being able to grip the top of the fence.

There are also electronic boundary fences for example Hidden Fence (https://hiddenfence.com.au) which can be used effectively to prevent fence jumping.  A dog fence wire cable is installed around your property boundary, at below ground level, or on a fence line. A Patented FM Digital Transmitter sends a coded radio signal through this cable. Your dog wears a lightweight, waterproof receiver on a collar that detects this harmless, coded signal. When your pet gets close to the proximity of the cable, an audible warning tone from their collar alerts them that they are “too close, back up”. If the warning tone is ignored – rare after training- The collar emits a non-injurious, customised electrical stimulation. Some benefits of the use of a professionally installed electronic boundary fence system are proper set-up and positioning of the fence, training and conditioning advice and professional grade product choices. Some features can include boundary challenge alerts, as well as programmable stimulation levels.

  • Digging under the fence.

SolutionIf digging out is your dog’s plan, you will most likely need to either bury fencing in the ground (18 to 24 inches deep), or attach fencing to the bottom of your fence and lay it on the ground at least 12 inches into the yard. Both methods work, but you must fix the entire perimeter of the yard or the dog will probably find the unprotected spots. For some dogs, however, laying down railroad ties or paving stones against the fence in the yard is enough of a deterrent.  Electronic boundary fencing works well also for these digging dogs.

  • Dashing out the door.

SolutionSome dogs escape by dashing out of the house the moment the door opens. For door-dashers, the best strategy is to train the dog to expect a treat whenever the door is opened. Start by placing a baby gate or exercise pen at the doorway. If you have a big dog, you might want to use one that is tall and extra sturdy. Practice opening the door, stepping over the gate (or walking through it, depending on the style of the gate), and then giving the dog a treat. Soon, your dog will be waiting for a treat rather than dashing out the door.

Next, you can add the cue “sit.” Luring your dog into a sit is done by holding a treat up, giving the cue, waiting until they sit, and then offering the treat. Only give the treat when their rear is on the floor, not before they sit or after they pop up. Practice walking into the house and closing the door behind you, offering the treat only after your dog gives you a sit. When teaching your dog to sit, remember that you don’t need to use a harsh tone. Once they are trained, you can have fun with your happy, well-behaved dog.

Another method for preventing door dashing, if treats are not practical for your situation, is to teach “wait at the door.” Put your dog on a leash as a safety net while they are learning, but never use it to pull or yank them backward. Stand next to the door so your body isn’t blocking it, tell your dog “wait,” and then open it just a couple of inches. As long as your dog is waiting politely, continue to slowly open the door. If at any point your dog tries to rush through the door, quickly but carefully close it (avoiding slamming your dog’s head or feet in the door, of course). Say “wait” again, then begin to slowly open the door again. When your dog waits long enough for you to open the door wide enough for them to get through, say “free,” and then allow them to go through the door. When you are consistent about doing this, your dog will learn to wait politely at the door until you release them.

Reference: http://bestfriends.org/resources/dogs/dog-escapes

Exercise

Dogs need exercise to burn calories, stimulate their minds, and stay healthy. Individual exercise needs vary based on breed or breed mix, sex, age and level of health. Exercise also tends to help dogs avoid boredom, which can lead to escape behaviors. Supervised fun and games will help satisfy many of your pet’s instinctual urges to escape and chase.