Why Do Dogs Escape Their Yards?

Adrienne Farricelli

Many dogs escape their yards leaving dog owners wondering what they can do to keep their best friends enclosed where they should belong. Whether you have un-fenced  acreage or a gap in a gate enclosing your small yard, one thing is for sure: some dogs seem to really think that the grass must be greener on the other side of the fence.

Many dogs escape their yards each year, and not all will be here to tell the story. Some may go missing, others may end up being dog-napped and some others may sadly get poisoned or run over a car. Truth is, dogs who escape their yards are vulnerable, just like toddlers straying away from their parents and going on adventure in a big, tempting city. But why do dogs escape their yards in the first place? Turns out, dogs have several reasons. 

A Matter of Social Isolation

One reason dogs may escape their yards is because they feel lonely. Dogs are social animals who thrive on interactions with other people and dogs. For a good reason Rover is known as "man's best friend!"

Of course, not all dogs are created equally and there may be some dogs who crave social interaction more than others, but as a general rule of thumb, no dog likes to be left behind. 

So if you work long hours and your spends a lot of time alone in the yard, he'll likely feel tempted to escape the yard and go play with the neighbor's or go meet other doggy friends.

Some dogs may escape their yards in hopes of being re-united with their owners. These dogs are in a panicked state and will do what it takes to try to reach their owners, Hachiko, the famous golden brown Akita being a great example. 

A Matter of Boredom

On top of feeling lonely, many dogs thrive on keeping themselves occupied. Indeed, if you research your dog's breed, most likely you'll discover that he was specifically bred to carry out some task or another along the years. 

Whether your dog was bred to fetch downed birds along lakes, hunt down rabbits following trails or guard royal palaces, one thing is for sure: your dog craves having a job to do. 

After all, it's not like dogs can do crossword puzzles or a game of Sudoku when they are bored, nor can they engage in useless thumb-twiddling to just let time pass. 

Instead, he must find some activity to engage in and when barking and pacing gets boring, they'll likely try to find a way to dig their way out of the yard or jump over the fence.

A Need for Exercise 

If you take a look at your dog's body, you'll see traits that made him suitable for movement. Long legs, slender bodies and a strong heart and lungs made dogs excellent hunting companions and hard workers. 

Left to their own devices, dogs often choose to be in perpetual motion. They will jump, pace and run given the opportunity. It comes natural for them to therefore feel frustrated when they are enclosed in the yard for extended periods of time.

Young dogs in particular may struggle with lack of exercise and will seek out outlets for their pent-up energy. What better option is there to therefore take the matter in their own hands and escape the yard for some fun romping?

A Matter of Prey Drive 

Many dogs have a strong prey drive. That is, they are very attracted to anything that reminds them of prey such as fast movements, certain scents, certain sounds. In some dogs, prey drive is so strong they will quiver in anticipation and even ignore a piece of baloney you wiggle in front of their noses. 

All these dogs want to do is search for and chase any prey they can find. This means they may escape the yard to chase a cat or they may wiggle themselves through the tightest spaces to catch a squirrel from a neighbor's tree. 

In Search for a Mate

Intact dogs, that is female and male dogs who aren't spayed or neutered are notorious for escaping their yards. In dogs, sexual maturity tends to occur in general starting around 6 months of age. 

Female dogs are likely to escape the yard when their estrus cycle is around the corner. They will escape the yard and pee in places to advertise their availability. Male dogs, on the other hand, escape their yards in search of available females.

Seeking An Escape Route

Sometimes, dogs may escape the yard, not to enjoy themselves while out, but rather to escape from something that frightens them. 

It is therefore not unusual for dogs to escape their yards during a severe thunderstorm or a firework display. 

A Quest for Reinforcement 

Important is to recognize that once a dog escapes the yard, he'll be very likely to repeat the experience over and over. Your repeat offender will do this because the behavior of escaping the yard and making pleasant encounters is reinforcing. 

So if your dog makes new friends, chases the neighbor's cat or finds the perfect mate or some tasty foods along the way, he'll want to repeat this experience over and over in hopes of more adventures. 

Even escaping the yard out of fear can be reinforcing if your dog escapes the noise that frightens him and he finds a safe place to retreat. 

This therefore means that it's important preventing dogs from escaping their yards in the first place, while also tackling their personal needs. 

Now That You Know...

As seen, dogs have their own good reasons for escaping the yard. In order to tackle this issue, your best bet it to take a multi-faceted approach, tacking it from various angles. Here are some tips to reduce yard-escaping. 

  • Spay or neuter your dog. Neutering has been known for decreasing roaming in about 90 percent of cases since the hormonal drive is removed. 
  • Walk your dog daily. Dogs need to move and walks provide the perfect opportunity for socialization, exercise and mental stimulation. 
  • Offer more games and interaction to your dog. Play games of fetch, teach your dog some tricks and offer food puzzles and brain games to keep his mind busy. Don't forget to rotate your dog's toys so that your dog perceives them as novel and interesting. 
  • Find your dog's triggers. If your dog is escaping your yard due to fear, find exactly what frightens him and then enlist the help of a professional to help you work on the issue. 
  • If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, please enlist the help of a dog behavior professional for the implementation of behavior modification. 
  • Fix your fencing if there are gaps or keep your dog indoors when you cannot be in the yard with him. Remember that escaping the yard puts your dog's life in peril. 
  • If you must leave for many hours, consider enrolling your dog in day care or have a friend or neighbor watch him or stop by every day to walk him. Hire a dog walker or pet sitter. 
  • Avoid using an invisible fence or any other type of device that delivers shock to prevent your dog from escaping. Shock collars or invisible fences fail to solve any behavioral problems, but rather suppress them. In fact, as soon as the use of these tools are stopped, dogs will show resume in performing the behavior they were supposed to stop. Not only do these devices not work, they hurt and can cause learned helplessness which is a form of psychological trauma, explains board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Sabrina Poggiagliolmi.

 

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