For a lot of dog owners, having a nice back garden for your dog to freely roam, sniff out new things and bask in the shade is a definite must have. It works wonderfully for you both, until your dog becomes a master escape artist that would put Houdini to shame, and he manages to escape.
It is frustrating when you cannot trust your own dog in the back garden, let alone having to worry about their safety and what they get up to. What can you do to manage dogs that love to escape?
Firstly, do not take it personally. Dogs are inquisitive in nature, and whilst they love to be in your company, they often have a leadership mentality, and when faced with a decision of exploring and chasing something rather than listening to your instructions, invariably our commands go out of their heads, as it does a small child. According to several behavioural tests, they say that dog’s mental abilities are close to a human child aged around 2 to 2 ½ years. Remember what they say about the terrible twos?
Secondly, it is important to consider why they are making a break for it. It could be broken down into any number of reasons, from wandering off in search of a mate to chasing next door’s cat or just generally wanting a taste of freedom to roam around for miles on end.
Dogs have different methods of escape. But typically, you have the diggers, the jumpers and the chewers. If they are jumpers they will take a run up and away they go, if they are diggers they will burrow their way under a fence or similar until they get out, and some may chew their way free through a fence making the hole large enough to escape. If your dog is especially clever, he might try to use all three techniques. Some super smart pooches will jump onto something in order to get high enough to hop over your fence, or they may eve figure out how to open your front door or garden gate.
So what hope is there? Is a 7ft metal cage with CCTV and guards posted at each corner really practical? Nope. Well you need to discover your dog’s behavioural traits first and foremost. If he were a climber or a jumper then some practical steps would be:
Raise the fence: Add an additional section to the fence, extending it, making it harder to escape. When the dog sees additional fencing above him that should deter them. Most dogs should have fences at least 6ft (but some breeds, like huskies can even jump this height).
Remove the climbing frame: Okay if you have an actual climbing frame next to the fence that’s just plain silly, but dogs invariably use objects as aids to their escape. Walk around your garden and look at things they might be using to get away, such as ladders leaning against the fence, or a garbage can etc.
Contain the problem: Consider purchasing a fabric playpen that is robust with eight tough fabric panels, and tough nylon floor panels. They get fresh air and can play, you get peace of mind.
Manage the diggers: If your dog is a natural escape artist via digging, you can attach a footer along the bottom of the fence, or consider using chicken wire or a chain link fence attached to the bottom of the existing fence. If none of these things are options, just don’t take your eye of Fido when he’s in the garden. If he starts digging, take him inside.
Secure all doors and fences: Make sure all the latches on gates and fences are secure. If you have a gate that blows open or a latch that doesn’t stay shut, add a lock or hook-and-eye closure. And watch out for broken fencing or holes they can squeeze out of.
Give them plenty of exercise: Often dogs will make a run for it because they haven’t had enough exercise. So they think, you’ve not walked me enough, I guess I’ll take myself on my own walk. Make sure Fido gets plenty of exercise so that he’s not tempted to go burn off some steam.
And finally remember; don’t leave them alone out there for long periods of time. The very best way to keep him in the garden is to be there with him. Play with him, brush him, interact using toys and generally use it as training time or to just hang out. They will hopefully be less interested in leaving if their best friend is there too!