Pet Lady Article
The Great Houdini Hound
Q: My dog is the great Houdini and can escape from any enclosure. Is there anyway to keep him from getting out of the backyard while I’m at work?
A: Dogs are so stimulated by sounds, smells, and sights outside of their own yard that it is often difficult to keep them at home, especially if left unattended for very long. Most of the time when a dog escapes from their backyard, it’s due to boredom. Now, a lot of people will tell me that they give their dog more than enough things to do, but putting a bunch of toys in the backyard is not enough. Do you walk your dog on a regular basis? Do you play with your dog every day? Do you train your dog to stimulate his mind? Do you let him come inside and be with the family? Depending on the breed, keeping a dog entertained can be a lot of work—even for those that stay home all day. Some breeds, like Border Collies and Jack Russell Terriers, need to be given a job and worked with every day to keep them out of trouble. These are also dogs that can rarely be left alone unattended in a yard for very long before they decide to challenge themselves with finding a way out. Dogs escape from yards several ways—under, over, through, or dashing out the gate. If your dog is digging out of the yard, you can redesign the fenced area with rocks all along it to make it less comfortable to dig. You can also line the fenced area along the ground with chicken wire and put bricks, rocks, or dirt on top. You may also want to give a digger a digging box. This is an area where there are lots of fun toys buried and you encourage him to dig (see article on website at centerhillschool.com). By giving him something fun to do, he may be less likely to dig his way out of the yard. If the dog is going over the fence, he’s either jumping it or climbing it. If he’s jumping you can scatter rocks or bricks on the ground where the dog takes off for his jump making jumping more difficult. The other thing you can do is attach a very taut wire around the fence right in the dog’s flight path. By either attaching the wire to battens sticking out from the fence or posts in the ground, you cause an interruption to the dog’s flight over the fence. If the dog is climbing out, you need to put some deer fencing or wire fencing at a 95 degree angle out from the top of the fence to prevent the dog from scaling up and over the fence. If the dog is chewing through the fence, you have a bigger problem. Most dogs will go to a new spot and chew a new hole when you repair it. Nine gauge chain link fencing works, but it’s not inexpensive. If the dog is dashing out gates when people come through, you need to teach the dog to wait before opening any gates and doors. A dog training class would be a good idea for you both to learn some skills, have some challenges, and bond together. If you already have good control over your dog, then you may want to consider getting him out to a dog park for some off leash exercise and socialization with other dogs. Bottom-line is dogs should not be left outside for long periods of time. They get bored—they bark, they chew things up, they escape. It’s annoying to you, the neighbors, and most of all, the dog. For many canine escapologists the only solution is keeping them inside when you are gone. A strong crate is often needed in order to prevent them from destroying the home. If you are gone for long periods of time, a petsitter to walk the dog mid-day is a great idea.
I recently had a client who had to have some surgery that prevented her from watching T.V. or reading a book. She had to stay home all day and there was nothing that she could do. It drove her nuts. She wanted to run away, to get out, but her husband was at work, and she couldn’t go out alone. The sheer boredom and frustration made her angry to the point she grabbed a pillow and screamed into it and then bit the pillow and pulled on the fabric with her teeth. Her dog sat next her with his head cocked and a puzzled look as he had been chastised for doing just that only months before when he joined their family. She saw his blurry image sitting there and laughed and hugged her dog. They played ball and relieved the stress they both were feeling. Dogs are social creatures just like humans. We have dogs for the companionship—to love us unconditionally. Be sure you give them the same in return so they will want to stay home and be with their beloved humans.