Monday, 18 November 2013

I'm Outta Here! - dogs that escape!

Help, My Dog Jumped Out of the Yard... 

I think most dog owners have been there at one time or another, for whatever reason! Finding that your dog can get out of your garden or yard, and not only that but WILL get out, is a real problem.

I considered my yard totally 'dog proof' - at the time I had four dogs, none of them had gotten out, one or two of them could, I knew from experience, clear a 6ft high fence, but my fence set up had kept them in.

And then I got an Ellie-dog, escape artist extraordinaire!

So, your dog is getting out - first things first, you have to prevent this, so lets look at HOW your dog is getting out.

1 - Clearing the fence - the fence is not high enough
2 - Digging under the fence
3 - The fence has holes in it
4 - The gate is not secure
5 - Climbing the fence - the fence is climb-able, and your dog knows how to climb!

The first step is, keep your dog on a long leash and 100% supervised in your back yard/garden.

If this is not possible, for example your dog lives outside, then you need to consider teaching your dog how to live inside. The chances are, if you can't afford to put up a suitable fence right this second, you also can't afford to set up a running wire type tether or build a secure kennel and run. If you CAN, then go to it... but you need to have a serious think about this next stage...

WHY is your dog escaping?


 Your dog has a reason for getting out of your yard/garden. It might be a reason you consider dumb, it might be a reason you hadn't considered before or did not realise was such a strong motivator for your dog. So now it's time to think about it.

Some dogs get out because the yard, quite frankly, sucks. There's no one there most of the time, there's nothing to do out there, yard = boring.

Or, you might actually spend a fair bit of time out there with your dog, you might have a ton of toys out there for him too... but on the other side of that fence there is what he consider's, doggy nirvana! There are squirrels, there are cats, there are other dogs, there is a neighbour half a mile away having a barbeque that smells sooooooooo good...

If the  motivation to get out, is higher than the motivation to stay IN, and your yard is not totally secure - you are likely to have a problem.

That problem is often compounded if your dog doesn't have the strongest bond with you (for example, he is new), or if his training isn't great so he has no recall (or worse, he associates being called back with being punished!).

So... what do I do?

Well, first of all you make your yard secure. I discovered my Ellie-dog could fit through a gap of just 4inches wide! She only got to do it the one time, we blocked that gap up straight away!

Most people think that when it comes to making a fence dog-proof, its all about height.

It really isn't.

You need to consider HOW dogs jump over things. Dogs tend not to try to clear an obstacle naturally, they have to be taught this - what dogs do is jump ON to an item, then off it, or they climb it.

So when a dog jumps, he needs to know really accurately where the top line of that obstacle is, he can't just guess and give it plenty of room, because he is aiming his front paws AT it, to grab and scramble over.

If you  mess with his depth perception and perspective (something dogs eyes are not great at anyway), by making the top line of a fence something hard to grab, something hard to judge, then you are able to make a much lower fence secure.

To do this the best ways are to put a 45 degree inward overhang, and/or, a roller, to the top of the fence. The roller is easy, its PVC plumbing pipe, threaded onto heavy gauge wire. If he did manage to judge the top line, the roller just rolls!

The inward overhang is really great - from your dogs point of view below the fence, he can't judge just where that top line is, he will get too close on take off, and hit the underside of the overhang and just bounce off! Since he can't get a grip on that top line (even without a roller), he can't clear it - and if the overhang is big enough  (around 1ft is sufficient) ,he isn't going to climb it either!

So that deals neatly with dogs who go over. What about dogs who go under?

The first option when you put up a fence is to bury it pretty deep, so you have wire or concrete gravel boards going some depth under the soil. If you know your dog is a great digger, bury that fence DEEP!

The add-on to this for real serious diggers, is to put a concrete skirt around the inside edge of the fence once its erected - or you can lay concrete slabs around the perimeter, so there's nothing for him to dig through!

Why didn't you just tell me this first?

Wellllll... I could have, and you could hop straight to making your yard dog proof, without thinking about why your dog is getting out, sure.

But the chances are, your dog has a really good reason to try to get out, and if you don't address that problem, he is going to come up with some other behavioural issue.

If your dog is bored, and he is getting out because the neighbourhood is exciting, and you stop him - he won't quit being bored!

What's he gonna do now? Well he could howl, or bark, he could take up fence running and snapping through the fence, he could start ripping pieces off your house or trash your yard...

If you don't take a look at why the unwanted behaviour is happening, the chances are you will swap one problem for another!

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