Is Your Dog an Escape Artist?

Canine escape artists put themselves and others in danger when they are running loose. You as the owner are also liable for any damage or injury your dog may cause, and it may be costly for you if an animal control officer picks up your dog.

Why do dogs escape?

  • Social Isolation
  • Fears & Phobias
  • Sexual Roaming
  • Separation Anxiety

If your dog is escaping because of social isolation/frustration . . .

  • He is bored and lonely due to being left alone for long periods of time,
  • His environment has no other playmates or toys,
  • He is an active dog or a certain breed who needs a job to keep him happy,
  • The place your dog escapes to may provide him with the interaction he is seeking.

See the handout on Isolated Dogs: Problems & Solutions for ways to increase his “people time” so his need for daily interaction is fulfilled and he is sufficiently challenged, both mentally and physically.

If your dog is escaping due to sexual roaming…

  • Have your male dog neutered and/or your female dog spayed – they can have this surgery as early as 8 weeks old.       Dogs become sexually mature at around six months of age.
  • An unaltered male is motivated by a strong drive to seek out female dogs. If your unspayed female dog escapes while she is in heat, she will probably get pregnant and you will unfortunately be contributing to the pet overpopulation problem.

Millions of unwanted pets are euthanized each year—please be part of the solution by having your pets spayed and neutered!

If your dog is escaping because of fears & phobias . . .

  • This usually involves loud noises such as thunderstorms, firecrackers, or construction sounds.
  • Identify what is frightening your dog and desensitize him to it.
  • Seek professional help from a canine behaviorist to begin the desensitization process.
  • Also, leave your dog indoors when the specific noise is likely to occur. A television, radio, or loud fan will help mute the frightening noise.

Make sure the dog also has access to his “safe place”, a place where he likes to go when he is anxious – see Crate Training for info on how to create a safe den.

If your dog is escaping due to separation anxiety . . .

  • He is attempting to reunite with you.       This is a panic response that occurs with dogs who are never or rarely left alone, who have recently been at a shelter or boarding kennel, or who have experienced a change in the family’s routine or structure. A canine behaviorist will assist you in a systematic process of getting your dog used to being alone.

Desensitization techniques can also be used along with these recommendations:

  • Keep arrivals and departures low-key
  • Leave your dog with an article of clothing that smells like you
  • Establish a word or action you use every time you leave, signaling to your dog that you’ll be back. This could be playing the radio or television, or leaving him a certain bone or toy.

Check with your veterinarian as soon as possible. He may suggest behavior modification techniques, or suggest a dog behaviorist to work with, or prescribe medication to help your dog overcome separation anxiety issues.

(Learn more about digging behaviors: Does Your Dog Like to Dig?)

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