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Dachshund Rescue, Inc.

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Escaping Dogs

Dogs love to explore. Some dogs love to hunt, having a great "prey drive" that fine-tunes their focus beyond their domain. Some dogs are so attached to their pack, with humans, that they want to be where ever they are. All of these things are natural.

All of these things can also cause a serious problem for both the dog and you, as their leader. Dogs that escape are subject not only to getting hit by a car, hurt by other animals, and are exposed to potentially adverse weather; Dogs that are running loose will cost you money in fines, when the local authorities pick them up.

To better equip yourself in dealing with a dog that escapes, you need to identify the How and WHY they escape. The how is a matter of securing or reinforcing the areas that they escape from. However, unless you address the WHY, while the fixes may prevent their escape, the underlying problem can escalate into new problems, like barking or digging or even destroying things that bar them from their perceived destination. The destruction can be the fence, the crate, the door, and even their teeth, as they frantically chew and dig to find a way out.

There are a few reasons that your dog may be trying to escape:

In each case, the dog is focused on resolving a perceived need. Keep in mind that the suggestions are bullet proof, as you dog may have other associated issues that also need to be addressed. But, once you identify that need, you have a better chance of working with your dog to reduce or eliminate the need to escape.

Boredom: How do you know if your dog is bored? Here are some clues boredom:

  • Your dog spends long hours alone, with little or no interaction with other dogs or people. Keep in mind, that even if your dog has another dog for a companion, they may escape together. Long hours without interaction is the key here.
  • The environment is sterile, with nothing to engage their pent-up energy, like toys or playmates to entertain them.
  • After escaping the yard, your dog is often found in a neighbors yard, where they have another dog, toys or children to play with. Or, any place they find more fun.
  • The crate, gate rungs, or other items are found destroyed when you get home.
  • Your dog is young (under 3 years) or is a very active breed, like a dachshund.

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What can you do?

  • Take your dog to a day care, or hire a babysitter, dog walker or have someone come to your home. Give your dog something to break up the routine.
  • Provide your dog with something to occupy their time, like puzzle toys or other toys they can entertain themselves with. Just be sure they cannot shred easily or cause harm without supervision.
  • Spend at least 20 minutes, twice a day, engaging your dog in activities with you, like playing fetch, command training, obedience classes, or taking a walk together.
  • If your dog is left outside, consider crate-training them and keeping them inside when you have to leave them for long periods.

Fear or Separation Anxiety: Your dog may try to escape if they are afraid or suffering from separation anxiety. Here are some signs:

  • You dog shakes, whimpers or hides when hearing loud noises, like fire works, thunder or loud noises of any sort.
  • Once they escape, they linger near the home (outside) or in an area they feel safe in (inside), such as a smaller room or under a bed.
  • Other behaviors that indicate anxiety such as frantic greetings, following your everywhere, very anxious when you prepare to leave.

Know that sometimes a dog will exhibit fear, even if not a fearful dog, whenever there is a change in the routine, you move, or they have spent time in a boarding facility. Think about what changes, if any, have occurred that may cause the fear.

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What to do:

  • If your dog is escaping from fear, once you identify what is causing their fear, either remove them from that situation/stimuli (like fireworks or thunder) into a place that gives them comfort and security.
  • If they hide, make note of this area being a place that gives them comfort and ensure that they have access to that area. Always provide your dog with a safe place to hide, if they exhibit signs of fear.
  • If you know, in advance, that there are going to be sights and sounds outside that cause fear in your dog, refrain from putting them outside without supervision. And, it is a good idea to keep them on a leash when they have to be outside to potty.
  • Inside, ensure that you have crate-trained your dog, so that the crate is a place of safety and security for them, and not a place of feeling trapped. Sometimes, it is helpful to drape a blanket over the crate (if open wire crate), for an added sense of security.
    • If your dog is frantic with the entire crate covered, leave one end open, so that they have visual access.

    NOTE: A Dachshund should NEVER be left alone, outside, for long periods of time. It is best to provide your dachshund with a crate or open range inside the home.

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Prey or Mate Drive: First and foremost, dogs that are not spayed/neutered will have a very high drive to seek out a mate, especially if the scent of an intact female is near, whether close to your yard or in the neighborhood.

It is also likely that the hormone levels of an unaltered dog will exacerbate the need to hunt, fight or protect their domains.

Dogs that are 6 months or older should be spayed/neutered. This will reduce their sexual roaming by up to 90%. This will also reduce the hormones associated with other areas of aggressive or escaping behavior.

If you have an intact dog, chance are extremely high that in their journeys beyond the unsupervised fence, they can not only get into physical trouble, they can connect with other unaltered dogs. The world is filled with overflowing shelters that house unwanted dogs and cats. Please don't add to the population by allowing your dog to be a potential contributor to this sad situation. SPAY AND/OR NEUTER YOUR PET.

On the other hand, all dogs have a certain level of "prey drive" that is the foundation for their being a natural enemy to the local squirrel, rabbit or cat that wanders the neighborhood. Sometimes small children fall into this category, as well. Dachshunds were bred to hunt small prey, it's in their heritage and is not something you can easily train out of them. You can, however, prevent this from being an issue by using command training, daily activities (walks), never leaving them unattended for long periods of time, and securing their outdoor environment.

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Keeping in mind that most dogs do not leap over a fence, unless your fence is only a few feet high, or decorative in nature (rodeo fence). Dachshunds, especially, will climb or tunnel under the fence. Here are some fence-fixing tips:

  • If you use chicken wire, be sure it is buried or secured to the ground with long skirt spikes, similar to what is used for securing garden material. You can use rocks to hold it in place, but must ensure that there are no gaps large enough for your dog to squeeze through, and the rocks must be heavy enough so your dog does not easily move them.
  • Add an extension to the top of your fence that angles inward, to deter the climber.
  • If you have gaps in your fence, close them. If the fence material is pliable, you might consider a different fence or adding material to the fence that is not easily chewed or destroyed easily with yanking or digging.
  • Use a trolley system, like a clothes line that you attach a leash to, allowing your dog to run up and down, but keeps them at least 3-4 feet from the fence line.
    • Be sure to check your line daily to ensure it is not stretching or fraying from the high-energy runner. Keep in mind that the movement back and forth causes friction and may weaken the line, causing it to snap. Ever been snapped with a towel or taunt fishing line that breaks; yeah, it hurts. This can also hurt your dog.
    • Never allow a trolley line to be the yard babysitter. Not only can they break, but anything that is within reach of the line, or allows your dog access to climb, can become a hanging potential. Best rule of thumb, only use these for short periods, when you are home.
  • Remove any items, such as dog houses, trash cans or wood piles that your dog could climb on and use to jump over the fence. It is best to remove them from the area altogether. Dog think they are superman when it comes to escaping. Many horrible things can and have happened to dogs that leap from objects. They can get their collars caught and hang to death; they can get impaled by undershooting their leap; and, they can break legs or other bones when they land.

If you catch your dog trying to escape, interrupt the attempt with your command "leave it" and engage them in an appropriate activity. DO NOT yell at them after the fact, they won't associate your yelling with the activity unless you catch them doing it. Effective intervention of climbing or digging only works if you catch them doing it.

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If your dog likes to hang out with you, while you garden, yet tends to wander off; invest in a portable dog-pen that you can set up near you. Your dogs can enjoy the sun, be near enough to see you, and you can have a little peace of mind that they are safe.

Be sure to look up from the petunia plants now and then, if you have one that is less than 36" tall.

It's also a good idea to have a bowl of water in there, so they can take a drink now and then. We have even placed dog beds, blankets or lawn chair cushions, to give the dogs something to curl up on.

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You can even get creative and attach your portable pen to a covered wire crate or upside-down soft-sided pen, to give them a shady place to hang out on hot days. Just be sure you don't put all your trust in the portable kennel. Even the smallest dog can move them around, if they are determined they want to be on the other side. If you get them new, they come with fabric spikes, to secure them to the ground. If used, the fabric spikes are very inexpensive and can be found at Wal Mart, Menards, and other stores that sell garden fabric.

The portable pen also works great for those camping trips. Whether you rv or tent camp, having a secure fence is always a plus, to ensure your dog does not take off in those open fields adjacent to your camp-site.

Be sure that you take them out and give them some activity, like long walks and other dog-friendly activities, while on your trip. Nothing takes the place of one-on-one activities with your dog(s).

Door Dashing or Bolting can be very frustrating. You answer the door, or want to simply step out to check the mail, and your dog dashes out between your legs. Sometimes it doesn't matter who or what is in their way, they'll knock it over to get out that door. There is just something about all the sounds and sights that magically appear beyond the door, that the dog just has to be there to get to it.

When you first get your dog, start command or obedience training immediately. Whether they are a puppy or older dog, developing "trust" commands will go a long way in working with your door dashing/bolting dog. If you use a recall command like "come" ensure that you are not using this command to get them to come to you to be punished. This will diminish the trust associated with the command, which is essential for it to work, should you need to chase your escaping dog down the block/road.

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Door training. Teach your dog to "sit" and "stay" whenever approaching the door. Do not allow them to move while you're opening the door. Use the "come" or "okay" or a release command, that allows them to move, when it is okay for them to approach. If they dash at the door, close the door immediately (not on the dog) and repeat the sit and stay commands. You can practice this often, even before you go for a walk, to get your dog accustomed to not going out that door until you say it's okay to do so.

If you're going for a walk, put the leash on before you open the door. Use your commands to make the dog sit and stay, until you are ready to go. If they get through the door, close the door immediately as the leash passes, trapping your dog on the other side. Grab the leash and bring them back inside.

When you can go to the door or open the door without your dog making a move, praise and praise again. Let your dog know they did a good job, when they do it.

These same methods work well with the door bell attacks. The key is to desensitize your dog to the sights and sounds associated with "the door"! Use toys to divert their attention, and commands to keep their attention. And, if you know you're having company, especially lots of company (many guests) that will arrive off and on, ensure that your dog is not running loose. Unless you are confident that your dog will not over-run a guest that doesn't know your dog will run, it's best to confine your dog. And, never assume your well-trained dog is following the rules, when there are lots of distractions. Unless your dog is well-trained, never allow them to be unsupervised in these situations.

Before they escape: Perhaps the most important command training that you can work to instill in your dog is the "come" command. Teaching your dog to return to you, when they take off running, will be worth your weight in gold, should your dog escape.

  • Using a leash, let your dog get interested in something else. When the dog is looking away, give a gentle tug on the leash and use your command "come" in a calm, but assertive voice.
  • If your dog turns toward you, crouch down and praise them, "good : come" and when they approach you, give them a taste of treat, a special reward.
  • If they do not turn toward you repeat the gentle tug and command. Repeat as needed, and in your every day training.
  • NEVER use the "come" command to reprimand. This command is tied to trust; and if your dog believes they will be punished, in association with the command, or any command, that trust will be broken and they may never come to you when you need them to do so.
  • ALWAYS ensure that your dog has a collar with their contact information, registration and rabies tags. As with a registration with your local animal control, the veterinarian keeps records associated with the rabies number, that identifies your dog. Rescues and shelters will call these facilities to help identify lost dogs.
  • The best safety device you can invest in is to have your dog micro-chipped. This will give the authorities and shelters an immediate way of identifying your dog and bringing them home to you! It is also something that cannot get caught on or removed by tree branches, bushes and people.

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After the escape: First, stay calm. Your dog can sense when you are not calm.

  • Grab their favorite treat or toy, a leash and/or collar, and follow them.
  • Call to your dog, as you would for your "come" command training. If they come, praise them.
  • If you chase after your dog, they may run faster; either to escape capture, or because they think you're escaping too. If your dog is younger, think along the lines of running with them versus running to catch them.

If they see you and run faster, or change directions and slow down just enough to ensure you're near, they're playing with you.

  • Get their attention, and run the opposite direction. Then sit or kneel like you do when you're playing with them.
  • When they come to you, play with them before you pick them up and head home. After all, that's what they wanted. Then gently attack the leash/collar and take them home.

If your dog is running after a squirrel or other prey, they will not acknowledge commands, as they are on a mission. They will chase and chase until their prey is up a tree or in a hole. There is not much you can do until your dog stops. This is why it is so very important to teach your dog to respond to commands before you every allow them access to the outdoor world. Walk them on a leash and ensure they encounter prey, so you can associate your command with YOU and not the prey.

If your dog has escaped and you cannot find him, here are a list of things to do:

  • Contact your local Humane Society and Animal Control. Take a picture for their file to ensure they recognize your dog. Check with them daily, as they may be very busy and not be able to contact you, should your dog be turned in.
  • Contact your local veterinarians, with a picture. You can make a 8x11 picture with tear-away tabs at the bottom, with your contact information.
  • Make posters of your dog to place in local business and to hand out and show people that you meet on the street, as you're looking for your dog.
  • When you've exhausted day light, or have someone that can post while you're looking, post your dogs picture, information, last known location or direction (if known), along with your contact information on facebook, craigslist, and local news papers. New papers will typically let you advertise a lost animal for three days, free of charge.
  • Contact local rescues for your dog's breed and all-breed rescues, in case someone is unwilling to take a lost dog to a shelter, a rescue is the best place to look.

For more tips and information in finding a lost dog, visit Karin TarQuin's web site. Karin is a well-known pet detective. You will find poster samples as well as other tips and valuable information to help you in your search. Karin also has a team of scent hounds that can be employed to join in the search.

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