So your dog has escaped out of the fence once again? If so, you may be frustrated and may likely be looking for a solution to keep your dog better contained. While erecting a better fence is the best approach, it is also ultimately important figuring out why your dog is escaping in the first place. It’s wrong to assume that only intact males or intact females escape the yard in search of their soul mate. Truth is, even neutered males and spayed females will escape and for obviously different reasons than love. Sometimes following your dog or getting reports from neighbors may provide some helpful hints about your dog’s adventures.
Understanding the Escape Artist’s Desires
Wondering why your dog escapes? There has to be some sort of reinforcement going on if your dog is a habitual escapee. What dogs finds rewarding may vary on an individual basis. It could be your dog looks forward to chasing your neighbor’s cat or the squirrels he sees across the road. Perhaps once out he raids the trash can or there’s some neighbor feeding him some tasty scraps. If your dog feels lonely, he may be going out to gain some companionship by frequenting other dogs or people. Last but not least, your dog may just enjoy the exhilarating freedom of going out on a sniffing adventure and exploring the great outdoors.
Addressing Underlying Issues
Once you have a better idea as to why your dog escapes, you should try to get to the root of the problem. If your dog is seeking companionship perhaps you may want to find a way to make him feel less lonely. Have a neighbor stop by or enroll him in doggy day care if he is left alone for a good part of the day. If he is bored, try to increase the level of exercise and mental stimulation you provide. Engage your dog in games to keep his mind off chasing animals or put visual barriers on the fence so he cannot see them. To keep his interest focused on staying inside the yard, try leaving some interactive toys around or hiding some safe bones around. Increasing the bond with your dog will often give him a sense of belonging which will make him seek you more rather than looking for external sources of reinforcement. And in case your dog is an intact male, consider that neutering significantly reduces the incidents of roaming when there’s love in the air. Indeed, according to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, neutering reduces roaming in about 90 percent of dogs.
Searching for Weak Spots
There’s really no magic solution for stopping your dog from escaping overnight especially when you are not present in the yard. Yes, you can train your dog to come to you and stop him in his tracks the moment you notice he’s about to escape, but when you’re not around, rest assured, your dog’s thoughts will be once again on figuring how to get out. So you ultimately will have to roll up your sleeves and look for a way to prevent him from escaping. Fortunately, there are several solutions to this problem, which is often quite a common one.
Repairing the Fence (or Erecting a New one)
If your dog is a jumper, you’ll likely have to erect a higher fence. The bad news is that some dogs are athletic enough to even jump the highest ones. The good news though is that recently, there are some smart inventions on the market to reduce fence jumping. Lean-ins and coyote rollers are some ingenious ideas. If your dog is a digger, you will instead have to focus on ways to prevent him from digging or making it unpleasant enough to stop. Many find that burying wire inward at the base of the vertical fence at a 90 degree angle and covering it with dirt, mulch or rocks will discourage digging.
Repairing the Relationship
Have you scolded your dog in the past for escaping from the yard? If so, you may be frustrated because it just seems like your dog doesn’t understand. Truth is, by doing so you further contribute to the problem. Dogs cannot associate a punishment if it’s for something that has occurred much earlier. So when your dog is coming back home and your get mad at him, he’ll likely think you are punishing him for returning instead. This leads to a dog that becomes more and more reluctant to come back home and more and more likely to escape! It’s time therefore to repair the relationship and increase the bond through play, training, trust and reinforcement.
Escape Artists by Nature
Sometimes despite all your efforts, your dog will still feel compelled to escape. Why is that? It could be a matter of genes. Some dogs are quite independent by nature and some are nomads, in the real sense of the word. For instance, Siberian huskies are notorious for escaping despite the owner’s efforts. It’s not a coincidence that many husky rescues will not allow their dogs to be adopted by people who have an inadequate fence. This stems from this breed’s ancestry as sled dogs who were constantly on the move over vast territories and were sometimes even released to fend for themselves in the winter. Same goes for other Nordic breeds and some sight hounds with a history of roaming in the desert. From these dogs’ perspective, they are not truly running away, but rather they are just exploring the environment.
The Bottom Line
A better fence will surely keep your dog safe while preventing you from suffering major heartbreaks. After all, a dog secured behind a sturdy fence will never bite anybody, will never be run over by a car, will never be poisoned and will never kill your neighbor’s beloved cat. Just make sure you do more than just fix the fence; try working on improving the relationship with your dog and you’ll be rewarded with wonderful companion who doesn’t escape for choice.