Is Your Dog An Escape Artist?

Adopting a dog is one of the most exciting and terrifying things a person can do… at least in my opinion. I have adopted several dogs throughout my life, but most recently my wife and I adopted a lab mix named Charlie. We already had a one year old lab mix named Hank at home, and we thought he could use a friend.

We were told Charlie was around 2 years old, and that the previous owner couldn’t handle him so they gave him to the shelter, which was just craziness to us because he is so adorable! Look at this face!

Charlie the escape artist. (Photo Credit: Erin Wilson)

Things were going well the first few days we brought Charlie home. He and Hank were getting along great, playing all day and snuggling at night. Charlie was a little rambunctious but nothing we couldn’t handle. Or so we thought.

After about a week we heard a knock on the door, it was our neighbor who lived a few houses down from us, telling us that Charlie was in his backyard. We immediately went over to get Charlie and came home to investigate the backyard.

Where was he getting out from? We had a 6 foot cinder block fence around our entire property, with the exception of the gate to get in and out of the yard, but even that was almost 6 feet high! We came to the conclusion that the fence must have blown open and he ran out. We had gone over every inch of our property and there was no other explanation as to how he could have gotten out.

You may think your dog is safe, but is he? (Photo Credit: Erin Wilson)

Two weeks goes by and we get a phone call that someone found Charlie running through the neighborhood and they grabbed him so he wouldn’t get hit by a car! We go through the same routine: pick up Charlie, investigate the yard (what are we missing here?) and still nothing, we cannot figure out how Charlie is escaping. If the gate was blowing open, why hadn’t our other dog Hank escaped as well? We wondered if someone was trying to steal Charlie? Was there some kind of prankster in our neighborhood? Maybe the gardeners forgot to close the gate when they left? We truly could not figure out how he was escaping and it was very stressful. We would feel horrible if anything bad happened to Charlie. We loved him and wanted him to be safe and protected.

As we sit there contemplating and obsessing on what the heck could possibly be going on, Charlie takes off running in what I will describe as a slow motion sprint, which is best imagined to the tune of “Chariots of Fire” and literally leaps onto the top of our six foot cinder block wall and then starts walking along the wall as if it’s his own personal sidewalk!

Both of us jump to our feet and yell, “Charlie no! Get Down! Come!” Being the good boy that he is he stopped, turned around, walked back towards us and jumped back down into our yard.

My first thought was “holy crap our dog is so talented he can jump a 6 foot wall!” However, the excitement of Charlie the wonder dog quickly wore off and suddenly I was in a bit of a panic. How in the world are we going to stop him from jumping a 6 foot wall? We are going to have to be outside with him every minute! Constant supervision. We couldn’t turn our backs on him for a second or he could be up the wall, out in the street, and hit by a car. What kind of life would that be?

Later that night I began to think about all the reasons why Charlie would be trying to jump the fence and decided to research. Here are a few reasons I found as to why this could be happening:

Fear:

There are some dogs who have more of a fearful nature, they are unsure of their surroundings, unfamiliar with the people, fearful of a loud noise or even of bad weather such as thunder or too hot.

Social Contact:

By nature, dogs are social creatures. They enjoy being around other people and other dogs. They want friends just like people do.

Curiosity:

Simply put, some dogs like exploring their surroundings!

Looking For A Mate:

Unspayed or unneutered dogs may try to jump the fence to find a potential mate. Male dogs tend to do this more often than female dogs.

I learned that there are several things you can do to try and thwart your pup from jumping the fence.

1. If your dog has already figured a way to jump over the fence, try putting something with a smooth surface around the inside of the fence. Basically you want to rid the fence of any ‘toe holds’ so there is nowhere for your dog to put his feet in to climb.

2. If your dog can jump incredible heights like my extremely talented Charlie, try installing an electric fence in addition to your existing fence. I know it’s not ideal for some, but it’s better to be safe than possibly hit by a car, or picked up by some stranger and sold for animal testing.

3. Pay attention to what area you believe your dog is jumping, if it is a lower spot in the fence, add something to give that area more height, such as lattice or chicken wire.

4. Add a covered kennel to your yard, giving your pup a place in your yard that belongs to him so he won’t feel the need to leave his ‘home.’

Charlie and Hank, best friends forever! (Photo Credit: Erin Wilson)

Since we couldn’t put anything on top of our pre-existing cinder block fence, we decided to place a few pieces of tall lattice along the lowest spots of the wall, in hopes that would thwart Charlie from his jail breaking routine. We knew that our home was new to him, which must be confusing to a dog. He didn’t know where he belonged. We wanted to do everything we could to keep him safe. We already loved him so much, we would have been devastated if he ran off again and we never got him back! By adding the lattice, not to mention us scolding him the day we caught him jumping, as well as showing him extra love and attention, Charlie stopped trying to jump the fence and after some time he realized he was home for good!

Is your dog a canine escape artist? What have you done to keep your dog from escaping?