Huskies, malamutes, and hybrids all have something in common. Not only are they close descendants of wolves, but they are wickedly clever. They are basically doggy Houdinis, and are seemingly impossible to keep at home.
If you are considering adopting one of these smarty pants, you’ll have to prepare yourself for a few frustrating years as you tackle their less than desirable traits.
Here are 10 things you need to know before adopting an escape artist dog.
1. Consistency Is Key
There’s nothing worse than working hard to train your dog out of bad habits, and having them forget a few weeks later. This is why consistency is the single most important aspect of dog training.
No matter how old your dog is, you should practice and reward for good behavior daily. This will ensure that your dog won’t forget all your efforts. He wants to be a good boy, you just have to remind him what that means.
When dealing with an escape artist dog, you will have to remind them daily that escaping is not OK. You will have to watch their every move while they are nearby possible escape routes, and catch them either in the act, or immediately before. If you react too late, you risk confusing your dog. For example, if your dog attempts to jump the fence, and you say no right before he does, he will understand that jumping is a bad thing. However, if he jumps the fence, and returns to you later, getting upset with him upon arrival makes him think he was bad for coming back.
Be consistent with your actions and timing.
2. Train With Rewards
Rewards are important when training any dog. You will discover though, that training with rewards is even more important for an escape artist dog. You want them to know that the reward is better than the excitement of escaping.
Try keeping “super treats” in your house for extra special occasions. Use these treats for training escape artist behavior specifically! For example, if you come home and your dog has gotten out of his enclosure, do not give him a treat. However, if you come home and he’s been a good boy, give him a treat.
You can use this method for training fence jumping dogs as well. If you walk past a fence he normally jumps, and he acknowledges it but does not attempt to jump, give him a treat. If he tries to jump the fence, stop him and make him sit in front of it with no treat.
3. Give Them Love
Sometimes, escape artist dogs are acting out because they don’t feel loved. Loving your dog, rather than being angry and frustrated with him, will result in better behavior all around. If your dog is feeling loved at home, he will be less likely to try to run away.
Loving your dog can mean something as simple as giving him extra head scratches in the morning, or treating him when he’s in the house. Give him toys or activities that make him happy in the home, rather than elsewhere. He will associate the positive things with his house.
We know you love your dog, but does he?
4. Let Them Explore
Exploration is part of a dog’s life. Dogs in the wild are free to adventure as far as they wish. Chances are, your dog is an escape artist because he doesn’t get out enough. Like we said, dogs who are happy are less likely to leave.
You will need to take your dog for plenty of walks, off leash hikes, and adventures in the wilderness. Don’t deprive him of his instincts. Doing so will only result in more escape artistry.
Try finding local off leash trails, where your dog can run amuck and sniff stuff. The farther into the wilderness, the more free he’ll feel!
5. They Are Smarter Than You
Let’s face it, dogs are smarter than us. If you have an escape artist dog, you’ll have to come to terms with this one.
Breeds that like to escape are generally more intelligent than the average bear. You will have to do what you can to work around their intelligence, and challenge them in new ways. If you don’t change up your methods, they will get quicker at escaping.
For example, if your dog is continuously getting out of a fenced area, try changing the locking mechanism on the gate. Many dogs can lift handles or slide locks. Use a carabiner to stop the handle from lifting, or lock from sliding. You can also attempt to turn your locks into puzzles, that require the use of both hands. Mechanisms similar to locks used on bear-proof garbage cans are successful deterrents for escape artist dogs.
6. Build A Strong Enclosure
This is probably the most important point on our list. If you are considering adopting an escape artist breed, you must build a solid enclosure. Whether than means a fenced dog run or a custom crate, you will need one. If your dog is an outdoor dog, or will be outside for the majority of the time, you will have to construct a custom dog-proof enclosure. Here are a few tips for your structure.
Build up and down. Escape artist dogs will try multiple methods if one fails. Use chicken wire to line the underground portion of your enclosure to prevent digging out. We suggest a minimum of 2 ft deep. The wire is tough to chew through, and hard to stretch. Use strong chain link fencing, roughly 6 ft high. The average dog can jump a 4 ft fence. You will also have to consider fencing the top of your enclosure, to prevent your dog from climbing over.
Anything to keep your pup safe!
7. Be Their Favorite Thing
You always want to be your dog’s favorite thing. No matter what!
You need to be better than the thrill of escaping, or the excitement of a new adventure. You need to be the best thing in the whole world to your dog. This will help him want to stay by your side.
Teach your dog that he can have fun with you, and that you will exercise his wants and needs. He will be so grateful, he might stop trying to run away.
Adventure with your dog, so he doesn’t have to do it on his own, and give him lots of goodies. One on one play time is also important in gaining your dog’s affection. A little love goes a long way!
8. Keep Them Entertained
Keeping your dog busy can be the difference between having an escape artist dog, and having a dog who wants to be at home.
This might mean enrolling your dog in sports or other doggy activities. Practicing tricks and obedience can help keep your dog’s mind active and focussed, preventing him from getting bored. A bored dog is a destructive dog!
Try to find an activity that your dog loves. Maybe it’s fetch, or finding things around the yard. Practice this game at least once daily to exercise your dog’s mind, and keep his attention. Play for longer periods of time if you notice your dog starting to wander, and change up the activity if he seems bored.
Keeping your dog entertained will be a huge part in suppressing his inner Houdini.
9. Make Them Traceable
Unfortunately, parents of escape artist dogs are familiar with the heart-wrenching experience of searching for their missing pup. There is no bigger panic than the thought of your baby lost in the wild, or roaming busy streets. Nothing can make that fear go away, but you can help decrease it.
By making your dog traceable, you exponentially increase your chances of not only locating your dog, but finding him faster. Tracking tools like micro-chips, tattoos, and name tags are necessary for all dogs. If you have an escape artist dog, you should consider GPS devices like Trackr, that are able to pinpoint your dog’s location using a cellphone app.
GPS devices are a great resource for parents of escape artist dogs, and help reunite pups and owners faster than ever. We live in a world where we can know our dog’s location at all times. Take advantage of it!
10. It’s In Their Nature
This one is easy to forget. So, we are going to remind you.
Your escape artist dog has the natural instincts of a wild animal. Being caged, penned, or restrained in any way is completely against his nature. Most dogs are OK with living indoors, but some just aren’t programmed that way.
If you are considering adopting a breed known for escaping, you will have to come to terms with the fact that you might not be able to stop him from exercising his right to the wild. We suggest giving him lots of space to roam, like a farm or acreage, and taking him for off leash walks.
Do what you can to make him comfortable at home, but accept that he might not want to be.
Don’t take it personally.