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.
Emma Trueman says
Hi, I have a 3 year old female desexed siberian husky and we are having a lot of issues and really seeking help. We have moved out to our first house (my partner and I) just 3 months ago, prior to this we have lived with out parents where she had a doggy friend, and then my sister where she also had a friend.. however we still had off and on issues with her escaping.
We now rent a house where we don’t have a second dog. Also she is also mostly an inside dog (we give her the option to go outside at most times), but we do go in the backyard and play with her a couple times on most days. We try to exercise her frequently and there is only approx 2 days per week that nobody is home. We have tried leaving her home but she escapes. My next try to stop her from escaping is to put the chickenwire along the bottom of the fence so that she can’t dig underneath. Although I don’t want her to be depressed and desperately trying to get out either so I need to also try to find a way to keep her happy? I have tried leaving her a kong etc but when we returned home she had escaped and not even eaten all the food from the Kong.
We have tried taking her to my sisters on the days no one is home where she has her old doggy friend to play with (but she manages to get out as there fence is not secure at all). So this is not an option. We have tried putting her in a great doggy daycare we have here for the 2 days (this way she gets socialised, looked after well and plenty of exercise), and she went fine the first 2 times but on the third time about 1/4 through the day she begun fretting and trying to dig at the concrete and bite at the fence to get out, also not playing. Although she didnt appear to have any issues with any of the dogs there. We had to go pick her up early this day.
Ideally I would like to be able to leave her home without worrying about her escaping or becoming depressed. We would prefer not to get a second dog if possible as it amounts to so much extra work and she already is a hand full.
My next thing I’m going to try is to have the chicken wire run along underneath the fence, so that she cant dig (digging is her only way out). Also neither myself or my partnet can not get home anytime dure in the day when we are at work, therefore I was thinking of finding a dog walker, to take her for a walk sometime in the middle of the day, to break up the day of being alone.
Please if you have any suggestions, or anything information at all I would love the help.
Hmmm, could it be separation anxiety? Large changes in a dog’s environment and routine can cause stress and anxiety.
My Shiba Inu also did not enjoy going to dog daycare because (1) he gets stressed when there are sudden changes to his routine, (2) he is loyal but does not trust easily. When we put him in daycare, he was very unhappy because it was an unexpected change. Suddenly, he was in a new environment, with a bunch of new people that he didn’t know and didn’t trust.
He was not used to being alone at first, so I slowly got him used to it by starting with very short periods of alone time, and slowly building up from there. The more positive and managed alone time that he has, the more confidence he builds, and the more relaxed he became. Similarly, negative experiences and panic attacks will undermine that confidence and worsen his anxiety symptoms. Therefore, during the entire period of training, I made sure that Sephy did not have any bad alone experiences. If I cannot be around, I get someone that he trusts to be with him.
Big changes to Sephy’s environment and routine can also cause a lot of stress. Therefore, when I move, I set up a fixed routine right away and set up a consistent set of rules. In this way, Sephy knows exactly what to expect from me and what I expect from him in return. Structure and consistency help to create certainty, and certainty helps to reduce stress and anxiety.
ASPCA article on separation anxiety.
How I desensitized my dog to alone time.
Consulting with a good professional trainer can also be helpful when trying to identify the cause of certain problem behaviors. We visited with a bunch of trainers during Sephy’s difficult period.
Racheal Meinershagen says
hi there!! My family has a shepherd husky mix named Lola that likes to lead our other dogs off. We had a lab beagle mix named Einstein that we had for around 8 years and he only ran off maybe twice. Once we got the lola she would wander off all the time but Einstein wouldn’t follow. After her being here about a year he started to follow her. Finally one day they both wandererd off. Lola came back but Einstein didn’t. He has been missing for about 8 months now. Then one of my friends gave us a lab puppy and she was only 3 months old. She was adorable and well behaved. The puppy didn’t seem to want to go anywhere that we weren’t but Lola and her finally became friends. After about a month they wandered off together and again Lola came back but the puppy didn’t. They have all been outside country dogs. Is this a behavior that can be changed or is she always gonna drag off all the other dogs?? It’s so confusing because when she is the only dog she doesn’t wander off. She stays on the property. We just don’t understand
Hi, my husky killed a sheep last year during the daily walk. i am wondering what kind of training i can do to prevent that to happen again? he listens pretty wel when i call him to come but only if there’s a cat, sheep or a horse in the neighborhood, his instinct kicks in and he hears me no more. would you like to give me some suggestions?
thanks a lot!!
These two articles discuss how to deal with prey chasing behavior-
However, Siberian Huskies generally have high prey drive. That combined with their love of running and independent spirit, make it risky for them to be off-leash in unenclosed spaces. I walk both my Huskies on-leash.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE INFORM!
We are also planning to have chickens so it’s really useful to know the way to train my dog to live peacefully with them.
Don’t know if it’s ganna work with my dog but i am ganna try for sure!
Thanks again for your reply.
Love all your articles and pictures of your dogs!
We have a 2 year old male cocker spaniel that is hell bent on escaping. Not unusual, you may think. Thing is, I’m home all day, he is trained and exercised on a more than regular basis AND has tons of other spaniels for company, male and female, none of whom show the same urges to escape. We’ve only had him a few months and I’m beginning to wonder if this is the reason he was rehomed!
At this exact moment in time he’s gone missing from our ‘dog proof’ garden, taking two 8 month old pups with him. We’ve looked everywhere for him with no joy and notified the usual people, should they be reported.
However, when they do return, are there any tips on keeping him from trying to escape as he doesn’t fit the usual stereotype of an escaping dog?
(Fence is already fixed and strengthened)
How is he escaping – is he digging under, jumping over, squeezing through, or something else? How many dogs in the household? Are they all outside dogs? Are they all together in the garden or in separate areas? Does he get along with the other dogs? What kind of interactions do they have? What is his daily routine like?
Caitlyn P. says
I have a very intelligent escape artist. He just wants out to roam. I’ve tried everything from an electric fence around the top to leaving him on a lead. I have to keep locks on the gates and he still gets out. He’s recently been shot by a farmer and will probably be killed if this continues. Last chance efforts to keep him at home, I left him in my home for maybe an hour came home and he broke through my front window. There was blood all over the broken glass and he was no where near the house. It’s to the point to where idk if I can keep him anymore.
What type of a dog is he? What is his daily routine like? How old is he? How long have you had him? What type of training is he used to? What is his temperament like – is he shy? nervous? Does he show any stress as you are getting ready to leave the house? Does he only try to escape when he is home alone?
Given that he is risking bodily harm to get out, I would really get help from a good professional trainer. Dog behavior is very context dependent, and dogs may escape for a variety of reasons, including separation anxiety.
To properly change my dog’s behavior, I first try to identify the source of the behavior and what is triggering it. For example, if my dog is escaping because of anxiety, then I need to help him better cope with his anxiety triggers and help relieve his sources of stress.
When I was having issues with my Shiba Inu, I got help from several professional trainers who could observe him, evaluate his behavior, and help me identify the key reasons for those behaviors. Once I better understood the source of his behaviors, I (together with my trainer) can start to come up with an effective plan for rehabilitation.
More on how I change my dog’s behavior.
I have a dog who is little over one year.we love our dog.but, we have a problem.we both work and she has to stay home for about 5-6 hrs or some some times upto 8hrs.we have tried putting her in the kennel but she got out on every time we put her in the kennel.we had the kennel secured but she still got, to the extent that she hurt herself. So we decided to use a gate and put her in the hallway. She has managed to jump up the kennel and got out.whenever she is out , she eats food left on counter or she chews up the paper or the kleanex. I don’t know how to fix this behavior of iur dog.otherwise she a sweet dog and we love her.please advice on how to get rid of this behavior.
What is her daily routine like?
Based on what you describe, it could be a separation anxiety issue.
With my dog, I very slowly desensitize him to alone time. I start with very short amounts of alone time, and I very slowly build up his tolerance. The key thing with desensitization is not only to maximize positive, calm, experiences, but also to minimize negative events and anxiety attacks. Therefore, during the entire rehabilitation period, I make sure not to leave my dog alone except during our structured training sessions.
I try to deal with anxiety issues as soon as I spot them. The more panic attacks my dog has, the more that will undermine his confidence, and the worse his anxiety and behavior will become.
However, dog behavior is very context dependent and each dog and situation are different. In addition, desensitization training can be counter-intuitive and complex. When I was having issues with my Shiba Inu, I consulted with several professional trainers who could properly observe and evaluate my dog, and help me with creating an effective plan for desensitization.
cathy stout says
hi! i have a mixed breed dog, she just turned 1! she’s such a sweetheart but she really is a little houdini. during the day while i’m at school and my parents are at work, no one is at home for about 7 hours. i wish i didn’t have to leave her for so long, but my parents won’t consider doggy daycare seeing as its fairly expensive where i live. we leave her in the large backyard, but she’s learned how to escape from it. she pushes through the bottom of a gate and squeezes out. she has done this multiple times and i’m scared to death that she’ll do it just once more and get hit by a car or get stolen or something else horrible. i don’t know how to keep her from escaping anymore. we put a big brick at the bottom of the gate so she can’t push through it anymore, but she’s started to dig and we put a brick where she digs too, but it’s just that she’s left alone for so long that i don’t know what she can accomplish through that time. i walk her about an hour daily and i play fetch with her on a daily basis too. i don’t know what to do anymore. help?
In order to prevent escapes from my yard, I need to make my fence line totally secure. For example, I put concrete blocks *all around my fence line* so that my dog cannot dig under. I need to put blocks all around, so that it is totally secure. Putting only a single block won’t help much because my dog will just dig in a different place.
In addition, I also need to provide my dog with enough exercise and structured activity based on his energy level. If I cannot provide that, then I need to hire someone to help and or get help from parents, friends, neighbors, or relatives. I had a childhood dog that kept escaping, so this issue is very near to my heart. Talk to your parents about it, and try to come up with a solution together.
Can a friendly neighbor drop by to break up the long alone time?
How large is your backyard? It wasn’t too expensive to buy concrete blocks and hire someone to put it all around my fence line.
Is a dog walker a possibility?
Are there dog lovers in the neighborhood who might enjoy some time with a dog during the day?
Dog escapes are extremely dangerous for the dog and is also not safe for the people and other dogs in the neighborhood.
Story of my childhood dog.
We just rescued an 8 month old, 5# miniature yorkie, he’s a sweet little guy, but has recently started bolting the second the door is opened a crack. It happens so fast there’s no stopping him. Three times in the last 2 days! We live in Wisconsin and it is November, it wouldn’t take long for him to freeze to death if I couldn’t find him. I’m worried sick about this, I considered a crate, but most escapes happen when I’m home and I wouldn’t want to keep him crated all the time. I rent so a fence is not obtainable, How do I stop this from happening?
What helps with my dog is to teach her door manners. I talk more about that in the article above.
During training, I make sure to supervise my dog well. I keep a lead on her as necessary to prevent door escapes.
my dog has been running away and jumping fence with recent thunder storms we have been having. when we come home she is calmly waiting for us on our front porch. i am afraid though, that while waiting for us she might attack someone walking a pet or just walking by…what do you do with a dog who is scared of thunder that can escape and jump a fence. thought about doing a runner, but she also escapes collars…HELP!!!
Patricia McConnell has some great articles on how to deal with thunder phobia-
My dog has just recently started running away. We have a electrical dog fence, but he runs right though it. We are afraid that we might not be able to find him again. I was wondering if there was a way to increase the shock without hurting him, or if there was another method we should try.
Thank you so much for you help,
Electrical fences “work” by delivering pain to the dog. The theory behind it is that the pain (when properly delivered) creates an aversive response in the dog, which will hopefully deter him from nearing the fence line. However, because the fence line is invisible, and not something that the dog can see, touch, or feel, it can cause confusion and mis-association of the pain to nearby animals, people, etc. Studies show that underground fences are risky, unreliable, and *may* lead to more behavioral issues.
I have a 6-foot wooden fence surrounding my backyard. A solid fence blocks out visual stimulus, and it is a barrier that my dog can see, touch, and understand. There is no pain and no confusion. I also put concrete blocks all around my fence line to prevent my dog from digging under and escaping. Good daily exercise is also very important for my dog. I talk more about what I do in the article above.