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Escape Artist

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

Between all the digging, jumping, climbing, and lock picking, your clever pup makes even Houdini look like an amateur escape artist. While some dogs are content to stay in one place, there are others that are determined to find new and mysterious ways to break the confines of their territory.

A part of you can’t help but be impressed with your dogs’ ingenuity at getting free, but frequently escaping the safe borders of the yard puts them in serious danger. They could be hit by a car, attacked by another dog, or they could end up lost with no way of making it back home. Preventing an escape artist dog from doing what they do best should be priority number one, but those clever canines aren’t always easy to contain.

If your pup is thwarting your efforts to keep them safe at home, here’s what you should do.

Learn Why They Want to Escape

Before you can get into genius-proofing your backyard, you need to determine why exactly your dog is constantly trying to escape. Some dogs escape because their given territory is boring, and active dogs get into trouble when they don’t get enough exercise.

Humane Society also advises,

“Dogs become sexually mature at around 6 months of age. Intact male dogs have a strong drive to seek out females, and it can be difficult to prevent an intact dog from escaping when their motivation to do so is very high.”

The article, “Why Does My Dog Always Try To Run Away From Home” goes over more information about why some dogs don’t seem to be happy staying at home. If you can pinpoint the underlying cause to your dog’s wayfaring ways, you’ll have a better shot at solving the problem.

Learn How They’re Escaping

Most Houdini-like dogs have one particular trick up their sleeve they use most often. If your dog is escaping but you don’t know how it’s happening, go outside and inspect your yard. Look for freshly dug dirt by the base of the fence and judge the fence’s height to your dog’s athletic ability. If your big dog is physically fit, don’t underestimate how high they can jump. It’s not uncommon for dogs to be capable of jumping over six-foot high fences.

If it’s easy to figure out exactly how your pooch is getting loose, you’re lucky. You can take steps to block off his go-to escape route and hope he doesn’t come up with a Plan B. But if your dog is especially determined, don’t expect a quick fix to the problem. You will most likely need to employ more than one method of keeping them contained. Here are a few ideas.

Move everything away from the fence

Objects like patio tables, chairs, and children’s playsets can be used as springboards to give your dog a leg up when they’re trying to escape. If there’s something close to the fence, they’ll climb it and use that leverage to make their way to the other side. Make sure all climbable objects are several feet away from your yard’s border.

Install tilted fence extenders

If your athletic dog is capable of jumping or climbing over your fence, tilted fence extensions will keep them contained. These extensions are portions of fence that are attached to the top of an existing structure. They tilt inward toward the yard at about a 45 degree angle to make climbing and jumping over a lot harder.

Plant strategically-placed landscaping

You can make a buffer zone to keep your dog away from the fence line by planting shrubs or another kind of dense landscaping. Make sure the plant is dog-friendly and pick something with enough substance to deter the dog from trying to break through. The plants don’t need to be tall, but they should push your pup back and make the jump over the fence farther and therefore harder.

Block their view

Dogs with high prey drives and dogs that react to people, animals, and objects that show up on the other side of the fence are especially motivated to escape. A dog that likes to chase the mailman for example, will try extra hard to get out if they can see the mail truck approaching. If your fence is see-through, it might be worth a replacement. But if you’re not interested in installing a whole new border, there are easier ways around the problem. Bamboo and reed rolls are affordable, and you can easily set them up along the fence to block the dog’s view. Any material that’s not see-through will work.

Install an L-Footer at the base of the fence

An L-Footer is a piece of wire fencing bent at a 90 degree angle. It’s designed to fit snugly at the bottom of the fence so part of the L is on the ground and the other side is attached to the main fence. The barrier over the ground prevents dogs from digging their way to freedom. Sometimes they’re buried under the ground, but they don’t have to be. SF Gate gives directions on how to make a DIY L-Footer out of chicken wire.

They also give this suggestion:

“Place large rocks or boulders on the soil along the fence’s base. The rocks or boulders will prevent your dog from getting near the fence to dig and escape.”

Install a redundant fence

For serious fence jumpers, a redundant fence might be the most effective way to gain peace of mind when the dog is in the backyard. Like its name suggests, a redundant fence is a fence inside a fence. It’s basically an additional obstacle to make escaping more trouble than it’s worth. If the dog makes it over the first fence, there’s still a second barrier standing in their way.

Make sure the gate locks are dog-proof

Most dogs figure out how to open gate latches by accident, but once they know the trick, they won’t hesitate to employ their new knowledge. Basic gate latches won’t stop an accomplished escape artist from getting out. The gate is the most vulnerable part of the fence, and it’ll be worth it to install a dog-proof latch or lock. Ideally, it should be something that requires thumbs to open.

Don’t leave the dog in the yard unsupervised

If all else fails, serious escape artists should not be allowed outside unsupervised. They’ll take advantage of the time left alone to find new and troublesome ways to enhance their mischievous skills. Besides, spending time outside with your dog is good for both of you. Take the time to play with them instead of watching TV on the couch. If they’re busy having fun with their best friend, they won’t be interested in escaping the yard.


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