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How to Keep a Dog from Escaping the Yard: 21 Tips & Tricks!

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Dog Behavior By Kelsey Snyder 17 min read August 10, 2021

dogs who escape the yard

Keeping your canine contained can be tricky, especially if you have an escape artist on your hands. Worse, some pups even manage to slip out of fenced-in yards with ease, leaving their safety and health at risk. 

But don’t worry — there are some tips and tricks you can employ to keep your dog in the yard and out of danger. We’ll share a few of our favorites below!

How to Keep a Dog from Escaping the Yard: Key Takeaways

  • There are a number of ways to stop your dog from escaping the yard, but you’ll have to tailor your strategy to Rover’s preferred method of escape. For example, if your pooch likes to tunnel his way to freedom, you’ll have to fortify the bottom of your fences.
  • It is also important to identify and address your dog’s motivation for fleeing. Dogs try to escape their home turf for many reasons, but a few of the most common include boredom, loneliness, and anxiety.
  • Even though you need to do everything possible to prevent your dog from escaping, it’s still wise to plan for jail breaks. For starters, this means ensuring that your dog has a proper collar and ID tags, and you may want to think about microchipping him as well.

Why Do Dogs Try to Escape in the First Place?

bored dogs may try to escape

It can be baffling why a dog tries to escape his own fenced-in domain, but there are a few main culprits behind the behavior. So, you’ll want to try to identify and address the reasons for your Houdini hound’s hijinks to help reduce his desire to wander in the first place. Once you’ve done so, your dog will be more likely to stick around for backyard fun. 

Dogs try to escape for several reasons, including:

  • Boredom: Hanging out in a yard with the same old toys (or none at all) isn’t fun. Boredom can occur in any breed, though it’s most common in brainy and high-energy breeds, who need a job to do. This includes German shepherds, border collies, and cattle dogs, among others.
  • Seeking something beyond the fence: If a pesky squirrel lingers just beyond the fence, your dog may be tempted to liberate himself in order to pursue the tantalizing critter. This is especially common in sight hounds (such as greyhounds, borzois, Ibizans, and others), though it can be an issue with scent hounds, too, who may follow their noses beyond the barriers of the yard. Beagles, for example, are notorious wanderers.
  • Mating urges: Intact dogs may let Mother Nature overrule training and choose to seek out a mate. Unneutered males are most likely to make a mad dash if they smell a female in heat, though females are known to seek freedom for frisky time too.
  • Anxiety: Anxious dogs might escape the yard to flee something frightening (such as fireworks or approaching thunderstorms), or they might just freak out simply because they’re being confined. Separation anxiety also may also cause pooches to panic and set out to find mom or dad.
  • Loneliness: If your dog spends a lot of time alone outside with no interaction, he’s bound to seek out companionship elsewhere. This might mean looking for a canine comrade or seeking out a human ready to deliver rubs. 
  • Protectiveness: A perceived threat outside the fence can send your dog into a protective frenzy, potentially even causing him to look for a way out of the backyard to confront the assumed adversary. This is most common in guardian breeds, which presents potential safety issues for the person or animal in question.
Boredom-Busting Toys FTW!

Doggo boredo in the backyardo?

Consider adding a bungee toy that allows him to entertain himself!

Check out the video below to see one in action.

Ways to Prevent Dogs from Escaping Your Yard

Doggy escape artists slip out of yards in many ways, and you’ll need to cater your approach to your pup’s preferred method. This might mean jumping feet first into an all-out project, or you may be able to shore up your yard security with nothing more than a quick fix.

The most common escape methods fall into a few distinct groups, which we’ll discuss below.

Dogs Who Jump Over Fences

dogs who jump over fences

Some canines (generally the leggier variety) simply hop over fences to make their big break. This is the most obvious escape approach to diagnose and can often be the most frustrating and costly to stop, but you do have options, including:

  • You can increase the height of your fence. Sometimes, your fencing is just too short. For large breed dogs, a six-foot fence is best, and with extreme athletes, you might need to increase your height to eight feet. You can either replace the fencing or add vertical fence extenders to increase the fence height for less cost. If your dog jumps over your existing fence entirely, this is your best option.
  • Try to eliminate any “booster steps.” Some dogs will use nearby objects to give them a boost for hopping over the fence. So, do whatever you can to remove or relocate items that are helping Fido hop over the fence. This might include obvious items like chairs or things that are a little more surprising, such as mulch piles or old stumps. 
  • Reconfigure your yard layout. Sometimes, objects near the fence aren’t a problem; they’re actually part of the solution. If your dog is a fan of running and jumping over the fence, you can help keep him contained by slowing down his approach to the fence. This may mean adding dog-safe plants or shrubs near the fence, or even larger items like furniture. Think of it as obstructing his runaway runway.

Dogs Who Dig Under Fences

dogs who dig under fences

Most common among terriers and dachshunds, digging can be one of the trickiest escape methods to combat. If you have a heavy-duty digger at home, you know how quickly these escapes can happen, making mitigation measures a must. 

Your best ways to prevent digging are:

  • Make the fence continue below ground level. Adjusting your fencing approach so that it extends below ground level can prevent your pooch from tunneling to freedom. This might mean installing your fence in a way that makes it extend a foot or two underground or by adding underground fence extenders to the bottom of an existing fence. This isn’t effective for every dog, as super determined pups will simply dig deeper if left unattended. But it will stop marginally motivated mutts from tunneling out.
  • Add a wire barrier to the bottom of the fence. Installing chicken wire in an L-shaped design (pointing to the inside the yard) along the bottom of the fence and out across several feet at the base can be very effective for containing canines. You can leave the chicken wire showing on the ground, or for aesthetic purposes, you can bury it under a thin layer of soil. Note that your dog may hurt his paws if he tries to tunnel through metal wire, so be sure to monitor your pup for a while after installation.
  • Lay gravel at the base of the fence. Some dogs may dislike the texture of gravel against their paws, thereby preventing nuisance digging. This isn’t always the case, however, and some dogs will simply scatter the gravel, leading to an escape and a huge mess. So, as always, consider your pup’s personality before opting for this approach.
  • Pour concrete at the base of the fence. Laying concrete along the base of your fence is certainly a relatively involved project, but it’s also a relatively surefire way to stop him from digging his way out. In very rare cases, your dog may dig under the concrete, but chances are, you’d catch them in the act first.
  • Use dog-safe digging deterrents near the base of the fence. There are a few things — including things like diluted vinegar and citrus peels — that may discourage your dog’s digging behavior. They don’t always work with all dogs, but because they’re super cheap (essentially free) and easy to apply, this is a method that’s well worth trying.
  • Give your dog somewhere he can dig. Some dogs dig for the simple fun of it, rather than as a deliberate way to escape — they simply take advantage of the resulting freeway to freedom once it’s created. You may be able to stop your dog from digging holes by giving them somewhere they’re specifically allowed to dig, such as a sandbox.

Dogs Who Gnaw or Plow Their Way to Freedom

some dogs chew through fences

In some cases, dogs may simply try to exploit weak areas in fences by chewing or muscling their way out. Not only does this pose the obvious dangers that come with escape, but your dog can seriously hurt his mouth by chewing wood or metal or cut his body squeezing through a hole. 

In these instances, you only have three basic options:

  • Repair the weak or damaged areas of the fence. Patch the problem area with a non-chewable material, like chicken wire or chain link. You can also repair the damaged area with the fence’s same material, if it’s available and secure.
  • Replace the fence with a new one. If the entire fence is easily damaged by chewing, you might be better off replacing it with a sturdier option, like vinyl or metal. This is certainly costly, but it may be your only option if the fence has already suffered a fair bit of damage. It can also prevent unnecessary injuries for your four-footer.
  • Use a chewing deterrent spray. This won’t work for dogs willing to chew through metal fences, but if your four-footer is willing to gnaw through a wooden fence, you may want to try a chew-deterring spray. Essentially a foul-tasting fluid that makes dogs think twice about nomming on things you’d rather they didn’t, some owners find these sprays to be a very effective strategy (but many others don’t have much success with this tactic).

Dogs Who Climb Fences

Though it surprises some owners (and it’s often thought to be the sole domain of cats), canines can be surprisingly capable climbers.

They don’t always do so in especially stylish ways, but many dogs are able to scamper, shimmy, and scale their way to the top of the fences keeping them contained.

And once they’re at the top, it’s a simple matter to just jump to the ground on the other side, where they can party as they please. This obviously presents some safety issues as well as escape concerns, as your dog may injure himself jumping down from tall fences.

Some breeds, like basenjis and coonhounds, seem to be better climbers than others. In fact, just many sufficiently motivated pups can learn to climb over a fence.

But no matter what kind of canine you have, or how he manages to climb up and over the fence, you’ll need to address the issue.

some dogs climb fences

Fortunately, there are several ways to keep your four-footer’s feet on the ground: 

  • Install coyote rollers at the top of the fence. Coyote rollers are nifty metal bars that you attach to the top of your fence to prevent your dog from climbing over. Once touched, they roll, preventing your dog from getting the grip he needs to make it to freedom. As an added bonus, rollers help protect your pup from coyotes and other predators.
  • Replace your fence with a less climbable option. Chain-link fences are notoriously easy for canines to climb. So, if your dog scales them with ease, you may need to swap your fence out for something else, like vinyl or metal slats.
  • Install barriers at the base of the fence. Placing barriers at the base of the fence can prevent your dog from getting his footing to make an escape. Metal sheets are ideal, but wood planks or boards can work too. 
  • Remove anything that aids your dog in climbing the fence. Some dogs shimmy up fences using a shed, tree, or another tall object to balance on. But if you block off access to these items or relocate them, it’s possible to prevent your pooch from escaping.

Dogs Who Dash Through Open Gates

some dogs run through open gates

Often the most frustrating escape method, fast freedom dashes aren’t only a dangerous behavior, but they’re  also, well, rude. They make day-to-day life difficult and scary at times, but you can combat them in several ways.

  • Replace your single gate with a double-gate. Usually featured at dog parks, these contraptions feature two different gates, separated by a small contained area. This means that to leave your yard, you must open the interior gate, move into the enclosed space, close the interior gate behind you, and then exit the yard completely by opening the second gate. Admittedly, this is a pretty elaborate fencing fix, but it’s also pretty foolproof for stopping dashing dogs. If your pooch manages to rush through the initial gate, he’ll still be held in the secondary area, allowing you time to wrangle him up.
  • Teach your dog a “place” command. Whenever you’re going to access the gate, issue a “place” command to your dog (sometimes called mat training). In other words, you’ll need to teach your dog to “stay” when you’re entering or exiting the gate. This isn’t an easy solution for all four-footers, but it’s a great (essentially free) solution for disciplined dogs.
  • Keep your canine physically blocked from the gate. We almost hesitate to even say this, as it’s kinda common-sense 101, but if you can’t figure out another solution, you may just need to move your dog indoors when you need to open a gate in the backyard or have another adult hold his collar or harness while you enter or leave the yard. This obviously isn’t super convenient, but sometimes you just have to do whatever it takes.

Dogs Who Open Gates

Believe it or not (and despite their lack of thumbs), some dogs can learn to open gates. Huskies are one of the most common offenders in this arena, though any breed can pick up this pesky skill. Luckily, you can keep your sneaky sniffer safe and secure in a few pretty easy ways.

  • Start using a padlock on the gate. Using a padlock or gate clip prevents the gate latch from opening, keeping your doggo right where he belongs. Just be sure to select a lock or clip that’s relatively easy for you to operate to keep things as convenient as possible. Also, give thought to whether you’d prefer a combination lock or one that requires a key. Combo locks are likely the better option if several different people will need access to the gate, but keyed locks may be the simpler solution for gates only you will access.
  • Blocking your dog’s access to the gate latch. You may be able to relocate the gate latch to a higher position on the fence to prevent your dog from reaching it, or you can eliminate his access entirely by installing a gate latch guard. 

It’s also important to keep on your toes and remain one step ahead, as sometimes your dog may alter his approach. This is why we don’t recommend switching out the gate latch for another model as a surefire solution — your dog may simply learn to open that one too!

Do Your Best to Secure Your Yard, But Always Prepare for Breaches

Fit your dog with an ID tag

Keep in mind that — regardless of how dog-proof your fence isyou must prepare for cases in which your dog still manages to escape. There’s nothing worse than noticing that your dog has escaped and is nowhere to be found.

Accordingly, all dogs should be fitted with proper, up-to-date pet ID tags. This way, anyone who finds your furry friend will have some way of contacting you and achieving a happy reunion.

But ID tags aren’t the only game in town, and they should be considered the bare minimum. In fact, you should probably consider having your dog microchipped or fitted with a GPS tracking collar.

A canine microchip provides your contact information to any veterinarian’s office or animal shelter with the wave of a wand. A quick swipe over your dog’s fur, and a unique ID number will pop up on the reader. From there, the staff can look up this number in a database, give you a call, and reunite you with your pooch.

Microchips are certainly helpful, but they’re passive devices — your dog must be found and scanned for them to provide any value. By contrast, a GPS tracking dog collar provides you with an active way to track down your terrier. Simply pull up the associated app on your phone and follow the blinking icon to your doggo.

General Tips for Preventing Your Dog from Escaping the Yard

general tips for containing a dog

Preventing a four-legged escape isn’t easy, but with some crafty canine-centered thinking, you can convince your dog that staying in the yard is way better than running at large.

To keep your woofer in place, you can try the following:

  • Offer more exercise. A tired dog is far less likely to try to make a break for it. Daily walks are best, but you can also try out doggy sports like agility, lure coursing, or dock jumping.
  • Crank up the canine enrichment. Your dog might just be bored and need something to occupy him. So, why not toss some treats into the grass for him to sniff out or install a spring pole for him to dangle from? If you have a digging doggo, you can make him his own sandbox to tunnel in.
  • Give your dog a job. Working breeds are happiest when they’re putting their natural talents to work. This might mean corralling oversized balls around the yard or letting your pooch try his paws at herding.
  • Make the yard more appealing. Your backyard should be your dog’s favorite place outside the home. In addition to always providing fresh water, give him a cozy place to hang out, whether it’s a comfy bed on the deck or a fun Fido hammock on the lawn. If you have a yard that’s mostly cement or gravel, consider if adding a type of hearty, dog-friendly grass for your lawn may be more appealing for your pupOf course, lots of toys are a must too.
  • Eliminate enticing views. Sighthounds and guardian breeds may want what’s outside the yard no matter what you do, so cut out these viewpoints entirely. If you have a chain-link fence, you can install plastic privacy slats or soft fencing mesh to obstruct your dog’s view, for instance. You can also plant landscaping along the perimeter to block out distractions.
  • Get your dog spayed or neutered. Intact dogs are more likely to follow their instincts and roam to mate. Nip temptation in the bud by scheduling a snip.
  • Remove any fear triggers. Some dogs escape the yard to flee things they’re afraid of. Maybe it’s a creepy scarecrow, or perhaps it’s an extra-loud bug zapper. The most important thing in these fearful circumstances is to put your dog at ease. The easiest way is to eliminate the trigger entirely, but if that’s not possible, you can turn to desensitization training for soothing a case of scaredy cats.
  • Purchase a tether or tie-out. For extreme escape artists, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You may need to keep your pup secured with a long lead or tie-out. These function like a long leash and should be kept short enough that your dog can roam comfortably but not get close to the fence. However, these types of tools should only be used while you’re actively monitoring your dog — they aren’t safe to use when you aren’t in the backyard too.  
  • Monitor your dog: In an ideal world, whenever your dog is outside, he’s watched and not alone. This is your only definite way to keep him safe and secured in the yard. This is especially important with small dogs, not only to prevent them from escaping but to keep them safe from predators, including coyotes, hawks, and owls.

You may need to utilize a number of these options to keep your dog contained. Your best line of defense is a good offense, so don’t be afraid to switch things up continually to keep your dog happy and engaged.

The goal is to make your backyard fun and inviting so he wants to stay.

The Whole Flies, Honey, and Vinegar Thing

Understand that you should never discipline or punish your dog for escaping.

For starters, he’ll have no idea what he’s being punished for, so it won’t help the situation at all.

Dogs don’t make connections between things unless they happen in rapid succession. He won’t understand that you’re yelling at him for escaping three hours ago — he’ll just know that you’re mad, which will make him frightened and anxious.

And because it may make him more anxious, it may increase the chances that he’ll try to escape again.

So, try to use a honey-rather-than-vinegar approach. You want your dog to think you and the backyard are both so awesome, he won’t be as inclined to leave.

And this means greeting your dog when he returns with plenty of scritches and attention, rather than a furrowed brow.

We understand this isn’t easy — you’ll undoubtedly be upset that he escaped. But this is one of those times you have to be the adult and play the long game.

Remember: Never discipline your dog for escaping the yard. This can make him more likely to repeat the behavior or, worse, run from you when called.

***

Is your dog a backyard Houndini? Have you tried any of the tips we suggested above? Do you have another that works for keeping your dog safe and secure? Let us know in the comments!

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Written by

Kelsey Snyder

Kelsey is a K9 of Mine contributor who has worked with dogs as a shift runner and office manager of a boarding kennel. When she’s not writing, she can be found throwing a ball or losing at tug of war. An animal lover to the max, she lives in South Jersey with her husband, her five dogs Boomer, Taj, Batman, Maya, and Moxie, some kitties, and two grumpy turtles.

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