Dogs escape for a variety of reasons, including –
- Boredom – When dogs are bored, they may escape to find adventure in the great outdoors.
- Loneliness – Dogs are pack animals. If they do not get enough attention and interaction at home, they may run away to look for it elsewhere.
- Separation Anxiety – Some dogs become extremely anxious when home alone. They try to leave, to look for their family.
- Territory Protection – Guard dogs may escape to chase intruders away from their property.
- Prey Instinct – Dogs with high prey drive may run away while hunting and chasing after prey.
We want to prevent our dog from escaping because he may get hit by a car, get into fights, step on sharp objects, and eat garbage, anti-freeze, or poisonous yard plants.
Free roaming dogs can also be dangerous to children, seniors, and other on-leash dogs. Here are some tips on how to stop dog escapes.
1. Train our dog not to bolt out doors or exits
Dogs often rush or bolt through doors because they inadvertently get rewarded for their escaping behavior. Not only do they get a fun trip outside, but they also get to start an exciting game of chase with their owner. As a result, the more successful escapes a dog makes, the more likely he is to repeat the performance.
To teach our dog to wait at the door, we want to turn things around and reward calm or good actions. At the same time, we need to prevent all door escapes, so that he does not get free outside trips or chasing games, for bad conduct.
I use my daily walks with my dog to teach him “door manners”. Every day, before going on our walk,
- I call my dog to me.
- When he comes, I ask for a Sit and reward him with a treat for sitting and waiting. If he does not want to sit or calm down, then I simply walk away and go back to my chores. I try again on my next break.
- If he stays calm, I put on his collar and leash. I no-mark, if he tries to jump or bite while putting on the collar, and repeat step 2 (i.e. get him to sit and wait).
- Next, I hold the leash, open the door, and put on my shoes. If he stands up, I no-mark the behavior and close the door. I wait until he is calm and sitting, before I try the door again.
- If he remains sitting, then I give him the Break command, and we go on our fun walk.
In this way, my dog learns the following –
Sitting and waiting calmly by the door = Get to go for fun walk with my person,
Jumping and running around = Door closes and don’t get to go out.
2. Have a secure backyard or dog run
Make sure that our backyard is secure.
- A 6-foot fence is usually sufficient to keep most dogs from jumping over it.
- Dogs may also dig under the fence. We can bury chicken wire along the fence line, which will be uncomfortable against a dog’s nails, when he tries to dig.
- We can also place wood blocks or concrete blocks at the bottom of our fence-line to discourage digging.
I am currently using concrete blocks in my backyard. I can easily readjust them as needed, they hold up well against water (unlike wood), and they are a better visual fit than chicken wire.
If our backyard is too large to enclose with a fence, or if the terrain is too uneven, then consider building a smaller dog run. Make sure to bury the fencing at the edge of the run, to prevent digging. Alternatively, a concrete floor will also take care of this issue. However, concrete can be harsh on a dog’s paws, especially if used daily, for an extended period of time.
When I leave my dog in the backyard, I make sure he has enough clean water to drink, and proper shelter. This is especially important during very cold or very hot weather.
If none of these options are possible, then keep our dog inside the house when we are not around to supervise.
Another commonly discussed alternative, is the invisible or underground fence. These fences are paired with a shock collar, and will automatically deliver a shock to the dog when he nears the underground sensors.
However, scientific studies show that these fences increase stress in our dogs, and can encourage extreme aggression. In particular, dogs may associate the shocks to people or animals that they see, rather than to their own actions. They may also associate the shocks to the environment, become anxious, and start avoiding our backyard.
3. Keep our dog well exercised every day
Dogs that are primarily kept in the backyard, will quickly become frustrated, unhappy, and stressed. Most backyards are easily explored by a dog, in one day or less. In addition, our backyard is fully enclosed to prevent escapes, therefore, there will be few new scents to pique our dog’s interest.
In contrast, our neighborhood sidewalks are traveled by a variety of humans, dogs, cats, squirrels, raccoons, and other animals. There are a plethora of new scents to keep our dog engaged every day. In addition, neighborhood walks will expose him to a variety of people, animals, cars, and other interesting sights. This will help socialize him to common neighborhood objects, as well as stimulate his mind.
Walks in the park are even more interesting, because it is a new environment with a totally new set of sights, scents, and sounds.
This is why exercising a dog on a treadmill is no substitute for an interesting walk in the neighborhood, or at the park.
Dog play, dog sports, and dog training sessions, can be used in addition to the daily neighborhood walks, to keep our dog engaged and happy.
Dogs that get daily walks will have less interest in escaping, because exploring the neighborhood is a regular affair that they participate in, together with us.
4. Keep our dog safely engaged while we are away
Provide our Houdini dog with interesting activities to do, while he is home alone. Safe, interactive food toys, such as the Buster Cube or the Omega Ball, are good ways to focus him on a positive activity, rather than letting him obsess about being alone.
We can also put wet food in a Classic Kong, and then freeze it. This will keep a dog engaged, while he slowly licks out the frozen wet dog food.
There are also timed object dispensers, that will release a toy after a predetermined duration. Timed dispensers allow us to spread out the delivery of various toys, and gives our dog something new to do, every so often.
I also leave my dog with some safe chew toys. Sometimes, I stick some cheese onto the toys, to make them even more tempting.
Usually, I leave the radio or television on, to provide some background noise. This will keep the environment closer to how it is when we are home, and also mask out unusual sounds coming from outside. Strange sounds may sometimes encourage a dog to escape, in an attempt to see what is on the other side.
5. Do not leave our dog alone for long periods of time
If our dog is prone to escaping, then do not leave him alone for long periods of time. Dogs are pack animals, and need frequent interaction with other members of their pack.
One possibility is to come home during lunch-break, for a quick walk and some play. This will help to break up the tedium of our dog’s day. If we are busy or must work the entire day, then consider putting our dog in daycare, or getting a pet sitter to stop by. We can also hire a dog walker, to take him out for a fun group walk at the park, with other dogs.
All these activities will not only exercise him, and enhance his quality of life, but also help to socialize him to a variety of dogs and people. A socialized dog is a joy to have, because we can take him almost everywhere with us, and not have to worry about him behaving badly.
If none of the above options are possible, then consider having a friendly neighbor come over, or having our dog visit with them.
As pack animals, dogs should not be left alone for most of the day, with nobody for company but themselves. Ultimately, this may lead to frustration, boredom, depression, and aggression.
6. Train our dog on acceptable guarding behavior
Most dogs, especially dogs that have been bred to guard and protect, will bark to alert us, when there are unusual sounds or activities around our house. If there is something wrong, we will know right away.
However, we do not want our dog to practice obsessive territorial behavior, or develop barrier frustration. Dogs with barrier frustration may charge at the fence, engage in non-stop barking, and escape to protect his territory.
When my dog alerts me to something unusual with his bark …
- I go to him, and inspect the area.
- I thank him for the warning, and praise him for doing his guard duty well.
- If he continues to bark, I issue an alternate command – such as Quiet, Go-Mat, or Down.
- Once I have finished checking things out, I take my dog with me, so that he does not continue to obsess over the external stimulus.
If he goes back to barking, or exhibits other territorial behaviors, I try to redirect him into doing something else – such as chewing on a cheese enhanced toy. If that fails, and he keeps barking at nothing, then I put him in time-out briefly.
Once he is calm, I make sure to reward him with praise and affection.
In summary, we can discourage dog escapes if we –
- Train our dog not to bolt-out doors and exits.
- Make sure our property is fenced and secure.
- Provide a variety of structured daily activities to redirect and drain our dog’s energy.
- Make it very rewarding to stay in the house or on our property.
- Teach our dog proper guarding behavior.
Hello shibashake! My parents and I will probably get a toy poodle sometime later but I have to go to school and no one will be home to let the dog out to do its business and my dad is not comfortable with installing a doggy door. Can it use a puppy pad or artificial grass?
My puppy needed a fair amount of supervision, training, and people company, especially in beginning. Otherwise, a puppy may become anxious (separation anxiety), under socialized, bored, etc. In the beginning, I had to supervise my puppy closely, not just for potty training, but also to teach him house rules, make sure he stays safe, socialize him to new things, and *slowly* get him used to alone time.
Story of my childhood dog.
Skylar Hasty says
I am experiencing issues with my husky. She has become very well versed in escape.
She has taken to opening gates and doors.
For the gate and doors, I lock them.
I have her outside for as much of the day as the heat will allow, she is with two other dogs most of the time, one being a puppy that will play with her all day long if she wants.
I take time to play fetch with her each day and she sleeps with me in my bed.
She has taken to going the bathroom in the house again also. She will sit, stay, lay down, shake, and get down when told the first time. She sits for leash time or when I go out the door.
Tonight, my son left the door unlocked and she had been gone for two hours. I have screamed her name, tried treats, drove around looking, but we live in the deep country. Finally, she came home to have water. If she didn’t need water, I do not think she would have come home.
I need help. I do not want to lose her again. She is my second child. I am at the end of my rope.
How long are her daily walks? Has anything changed in her normal routine? Has this behavior only started recently?
My Huskies love their walks, especially when we go to park trails. They play at home and they spend time in the backyard, but they still really need/want their walks. 😀 The one time that Husky Lara escaped was when we skipped her walk for the day, because we had to take our two other dogs to the vet for their yearly. Now, we never skip her walks unless she is sick or otherwise not feeling well.
Escaping is a self-reinforcing behavior because every time a dog successfully escapes, she gets rewarded with a fun filled trip outside, with freedom to go anywhere and chase anything. Therefore the more successful escapes there are, the more the behavior gets reinforced, and the more likely it will be repeated in the future.
The best way that I know of to stop my dog from escaping, is to make sure that he never gets rewarded for the behavior, i.e. he is never successful with the escape. Either I am there to supervise to prevent escapes, or I carefully manage his environment and routine (block all escape routes, more exercise, etc.). I talk more about what I do with my dogs in the article above.
As a back-up, I also train my dog on recall. However, since Huskies have high prey drive, I still walk my girls on-leash, but I have the recall if I need it. This article from the ASPCA has a good list of recall techniques.
Hugs to your Husky girl!
Hello. I’ve loved reading your article. I’m in need of advice. I foster dogs as part of a community project. I’ve got 2 of my own dogs (a Border Collie and a King Charles Cavi). I also have a 9month old, desexed Great Dane foster dog who has been with me for over 6 months. Two weeks ago she was trialed to a family but it failed (their dog kept attacking her). Since she’s returned she won’t stop leaping straight over our high fence. Before then she never once escaped. She plays constantly, I freeze treats, make activities/challenges, my children always play with her and she gets walked everyday. However, if we go inside or she thinks we’ve gone inside then she jumps the fence. When she’s out she doesn’t run away. She sort of wanders around and talks to the other dogs on the street. She comes straight back as soon as I do the whistle. I’m at a complete loss 🙁 For over 6 months she had no desire to do it. I’m concerned about her being on the road. She is also a HUGE dog and I worry that she’ll frighten people (even though she’s a giant baby). It’s breaking my heart to lock her up everytime she does it and I don’t want her to live on a run. I’d really appreciate your advice. Thanks.
She could have learned the behavior from her recent experience, and then just continued with it because she does not know it is dangerous to do so.
For stopping certain backyard behaviors with my dog, I have found supervision to be key. For example, my Husky, Lara, had at one time developed an interest in digging in the grassy area of my backyard. As soon as I left the backyard, she would start to dig. So I would leave, but then watch her closely from inside the house.
As soon as she starts to dig, I would no-mark, which would usually get her to stop doing it. If she does not stop, then I would go out and body block her away from the area and/or bring her inside. In this way, she learns that digging in the grassy area is against the rules (no-mark) and that she would lose her outside privileges if she digs on the grass.
During the training period, I make sure to always supervise her from inside, so that I can catch the behavior and then teach her that it is undesirable. Otherwise, Lara would not know that it is something she is not supposed to do.
Escaping is more challenging because we will need to both supervise and catch the behavior, as well as prevent escapes from happening. As I described above, the escape itself is often a self-enforcing behavior because once a dog escapes, he gets rewarded with fun play and meetings with other dogs outside, interesting outside smells, interesting outside activities, etc.
With Lara, I make sure that my fence is high enough that she cannot jump over and I put concrete blocks at the bottom to prevent her from digging out. At the same time, I supervised her closely during the retraining period, so that as soon as she tries to go dig along the fence-line, I no-mark to let her know that it is against the rules. As with the grass digging, I bring her inside if she does not listen to my no-mark. After some time and repetition, she learned that digging along the fence line is a very unrewarding behavior, so she stopped doing it.
In short, to train Lara not to dig and escape under the fence, I needed to 1) prevent all escapes, and 2) supervise so that I can catch the behavior at the right time and correct it.
Hope this helps. Big hugs to your furry gang and four paws up to you for helping to foster dogs who are in need.
Hi, I have a mixed breed dog I got jn the yukon. He is possibly part husky with maybe some shiba actually, not sure, could be anything really. He is a very independant dog, tough to motivate as he’s not very into food or too much affection. I got him very young and I have experience with animals and used to walk dogs professionally so I have a fairly good handle on basic training and behaviour.. my problem is he loves to run and has a ton or energy so he needs to. He has decent recall but his boundries are much further than my boundaries, he has never failed to come back but he is taking longer to do so and I think he has now started hunting. So I am worried. I dont want to discipline him when he does return but he needs to learn to come back sooner and hopefully not go so far I the first place. He is tough for me because he doesnt follow typical dog behaviour and my experience ends there. He seems to display more primal canine behaviour which is why I lean more toward those breeds. We spend lots of time in the yukon where he has lots of space to run but I need to teach him how to be safe everywhere. He is not aggressive, but very intelligent and very energetic. I am hoping you may have some advice because of your breeds and the acticles I read were fantastic and very understanding from the dogs point of view which is how I relate to dogs. Its important to utilize our position as a more “intelligent” species to communicate with our dogsand our responsibility to do so in the most effective and mentally healthy way. Keep up the awesome work of educating people! Please feel free to email me
I walk all my dogs on-leash when we are in non-enclosed spaces. Both my Huskies have high prey drive, so I am not comfortable letting them off-leash. I have tried a few times, but decided (in our case) it was better to do on-leash hiking. They do off-leash play with each other and with me in enclosed areas.
This ASPCA article has some good information on recall training techniques-
I did look into shock collars, but decided against using them. Here is why.
Please help me when I take my 3 years old black Labrador for a walk he haphazardly runs in different directions.
Any advise and also when he goes outdoor he ignore me like he don’t know me and when I try to call him he try to escape.
Some things that I do to train my dog to walk on a leash-
Article on how to train our dog to come when called-
I have a 2 year old retriever cross, a great pyrenees and a shepherd. They have 2 acres of fenced farm to run in and play. They are not confined and I work at home. All are spayed and nuetered. For some reason the retriever is getting out of the fence, we cannot find where. He is not a jumper and we can’t find any holes. Everything above does not really apply to him. I work in my art studio with the doors open and the dogs come in and out all day. Today he took off twice. Any solutions or reasons why he suddenly is doing this. He also does not really have any interest in the neighbouring dogs he just gets into the other farm yards but he will not come when we call him.
With my dogs it has to do with interesting smells. The outside smells a lot more interesting than my backyard. My backyard mostly smells like the family, and perhaps the occasional raccoon or skunk that wanders in at night. Skunk or raccoon smell gets them excited and they will do a few circuits around the backyard. They will also sometimes dig for rodents.
However, the outside has lots of people and their dogs walking about every day. In the nearby hiking trails there are also deer smells, squirrel, and wild turkeys. Probably also a lot more skunk and raccoon traffic. 😀 To my dogs, the outside smells a lot more interesting then their backyard, so they love going on walks.
Escaping is a self rewarding behavior. When a dog escapes, he gets rewarded with a fun and exciting trip outside, where there are lots of interesting smells. This encourages him to keep repeating the behavior.
Some things that help with my dogs-
1. I watch them closely to see their main escape routes. In this way, I can properly secure my backyard.
2. I take them out daily for walks so that they get to go on outside adventures with me. In this way, they get rewarded by an outside walk for following rules and being well behaved at home, instead of for their escaping behavior.
3. I supervise them while they are at home, and engage them in various fun activities including supervised play sessions, interactive food toys, recall training, and more.
Here is a good list of recall training techniques (come when called) from the aspca-
Our 3 year old OES/ Cane Corso mix is afraid of thunder and lightning. We have tried all kinds of things to desensitize her. She would dig under our backyard porch in the past, but we’ve secured the porch so she can no longer get underneath. Now, she’s jumping the back fence to get under the porch from the FRONT of the house! It’s so annoying– besides blocking access on the front of the house, what should we try to PREVENT this need to go underneath the house? HELP!!!!
Yeah, it can often take a lot of repetition and patience to help a dog with anxiety issues. What methods have you tried? What was your dog’s response? Have you tried sound desensitization exercises?
Since the escaping behavior is a symptom of the thunder and lightning phobia, that is where I would focus my effort.
My parents and I have three dogs. The two small ones keep escaping. The little dachshund digs and chews the wooden fence into shattered pieces. My wonderful dachshund-Australian shepherd mix digs and jumps the fence. She has not reached the 6 feet tall and fortunately we have built a sort of bar system across the shorter 4 foot fence that she has learned as a sign not to escape (more by choice). We have put chicken wire across the bottom of much of the fence. The tiny dachshund removes the staples and then tries moving the chicken wire aside. We had previously had an invisible electric fence but it has made the big dog paranoid of beeps and it would simply be cruel to put her through that again. We are just running low on ideas while avoiding spending hundreds of dollars.
With my dogs, increasing their daily exercise helps. The one time that Husky Lara escaped was when we skipped her regular walk, so she had too much extra energy left over. Now, I make sure to walk her every day for about 1.5 hours.
After Lara’s escape, we also put concrete blocks all around our fence line. They have worked well so far in preventing digging under the fence. Some people put big blocks of wood instead of concrete. I prefer the concrete blocks because they hold up better wrt. water, and I can readjust their position if necessary. Some people may also bury their fence.
I describe some of the other things that I do in the article above.
Thanks for the great suggestions! Much like healthy nutrition, people seem to know the basics but forget to actually do them or don’t know where to start. I have wild Taiwan dog-border collie mix and recently added a 10-year old husky-lab mix to the family. I usually run them both between 6-8 miles every other day and the dogs play/wrestle daily. However, the husky-lab keeps jumping my 6-foot fence. I know that her previous owner kept her in a backyard all day for 10 years, so I’m thinking this is a behavior that was positively reinforced over time. I’ll definitely try some different stimulating activities that were suggested in combination with the running and play.