We are referring to dogs that either jump over, climb over, dig out or chew through fences, gates or other enclosures and get of their yards or out of their homes by door dashing or other means. If your intact male dog is doing this, your first step is to have him neutered. Not all escape problems are due to sexual roaming, but this is a good bet if your dog isn’t neutered.
As with most all behavior problems, your must determine the reason why your dog is escaping in order to know how to prevent the behavior. Unless your fence or other enclosure is in dis-repair, just fortifying the fence and making it more difficult for your dog to get out often isn’t enough. Dogs that are very motivated to escape, particularly if they are afraid, will usually find a way to do so unless the underlying cause is addressed.
If your dog is dashing through open doors or gates when you are nearby, this is simply a training problem. He’s probably learned how fun it is to run around the neighborhood with you in hot pursuit. If you catch your dog when he is out of the yard and punish and scold him you will make things worse. All your dog will learn is to avoid you after he’s out in order to avoid being punished. Instead, making coming to you great fun. This will have no effect on the actual gate or door dashing, it will just make your dog easier to catch once he’s out.
To determine why your dog is escaping, ask yourself the following questions. Where does your dog go, and what does your dog do after she gets out of the yard? If she sticks close to the house, and you often find them sitting on the front porch, it could be a separation anxiety problem. If she wanders the neighborhood, visits other people and dogs, she may be a social butterfly and is just bored being in the yard all by themself.
Check to see if your dog’s escapes are linked to thunderstorms, fireworks, hot air balloons, or other startling noises such as trash trucks or construction equipment. If their escapes are fear motivated they’re still likely to find a way out, even if they hurts itself, unless you use the proper behavior modification techniques to decrease their fear. Crating them to prevent escaping is quite dangerous if her behavior is due to separation anxiety or other fears.
If your dog is escaping when you aren’t home, you can’t punish the behavior because you aren’t here when it happens. If you find your dog outside of the yard, it’s much too late to punish them. At that point your goal should be to get them to come to you so you can safely get them back in the house or yard. Punishment can only be used if you catch your dog in the act of escaping (actually jumping, climbing, digging, chewing, not a few minutes later). Even then it will be of limited value because it doesn’t address why your dog is getting out. If the behavior is fear motivated, punishment will likely only make them more fearful.
Barrier systems, which establishan invisible boundary because your dog receives a “shock” or spray of citronella from a collar if he attempts to cross the boundary can be useful for some escaping problems. However, we recommend talking with a behavior consultant (preferably an applied animal or veterinary behaviorist) to help you decide if a boundary system is right for your dog.
If the escape behavior is a fearful reaction, listen to the audio CD on Using Counter Conditioning and Desensitization Techniques Effectively. While this program is designed for professionals, you must know how to use these techniques if your dog’s escaping is motivated by fear. If you hire a professional to help you, see that he or she listens to this program.