July is Lost Pet Prevention month– a month dedicated to raising awareness of how to keep pets safe from being lost through supplying pet owners with tips and resources about how to not lose your pets. PetHub, the founder of Lost Pet Prevention month, has asked us here at A Girl and Her Husky to write a blog post about pet loss prevention. As soon as I heard about this opportunity I knew what I had to write about- escape artist dogs. An escape artist dog is exactly what it sounds like, a dog that can pretty much escape out of any enclosure, kennel, fence, or even house that you try to use to contain your beloved pet. Unfortunately for me, both Siberian Huskies and Border Collies are notorious for this.
Many other breeds can also fit this description- from Dachshunds to Boxers and other Northern Breed dogs, such as Alaskan Malamutes, are known for their ability to escape.
Echo, my husky Collie cross, showed me his Houdini nature the first night I brought him home. My sweet little 8 week old pup broke out of his crate in the middle of the night. The night before I had put him to sleep in his crate with his new bed and some toys, all without a single whine from him. I was very proud of my new little furbaby, as he seemed to like his crate. He went right to sleep after a long day of meeting his new family and getting to know his new home. However, sometime in the night he decided he wanted to get out and explore his new home some more and managed to undo the bottom latch on his crate door and squeeze out. Luckily his crate was placed in a room where he couldn’t destroy anything or get into something he shouldn’t. A typical 8 week old puppy might cry and howl, but not Echo. He was quiet as a mouse and escaped unnoticed until I got up to take him out to potty. After that I added extra locks to his crate and he has yet to escape!
Gracie, my 8 1/2 year old Siberian Husky, has had much more complex escapes than her new little brother. She has done everything from opening doors to even removing a locked gate from its hinges. Yes, she took our backyard gate apart for a few minutes of freedom in the outside world. She has dug and jumped and squeezed through many different fences. She has pushed heavy rocks away and even jumped into a 10+ foot gully. I’ve done many fence repairs from her chewing through wood and wire and pulling planks and nails off. Needless to say, she has gotten into plenty of mischief in her life and I am sure there will be plenty more to come.
If any of these stories sound like something your dog would do, you might have an escape artist dog! They push through doors, slip out of collars and harnesses, and jump fences. In extreme cases some Houdini dogs have even been known to chew through dry wall and doors.
So how do you protect such a dog from getting lost? Well, there are a few things you can do to help prevent your fluffy escape artist from getting out, but you should also take steps to protect them in the case that they do escape.
Tips for helping prevent your dog from escaping:
- Put up a really good fence in your yard. This doesn’t mean a 4 foot wire fence around your property. You will need something tall (5 foot +) and hard to climb (no foot holds!) and hard to dig under. We have a 5 to 5 1/2 foot fence around our back yard, plus 3 large fenced in dog runs with 4 foot wood and wire fences inside of the fenced in backyard. Gracie is more likely to try to dig under or chew through a fence then she is to jump it. However, plenty of dogs would jump a fence in a heartbeat. I’ve seen many people suggest coyote rollers at the top of the fence for a dog that likes to try to climb out. For digging, bury cement underneath your fence. You can cover it up with pine straw or mulch to make it look better. I highly suggest privacy fences for escape artist dogs, along with the coyote rollers and buried cement.
- Always check to make sure gates are secured before letting your dogs out into your fenced in yard. It only takes one time with them not being closed all the way for your dog to get out. When I let Gracie out the first thing she does is check to see if the gates are not closed all the way. She has gotten out many times due to people not completely closing the gates. Now, I always go and check our gates first. This is especially important if you do not live alone. I’ve also found my gate left slightly open from the landscaper by accident.
- Teach your dog a really thorough off leash recall. This is something I feel is extremely important for escape artist dogs. You might not plan on ever letting your dog off leash outside, however, I still think you should teach them off leash recall. You do not have to be in an unsecured area to teach them this. You can use a training leash and you can practice at the dog park.You can start in your own yard and work up to being somewhere with lots of distractions. Many trainers also suggest you teach your dogs a word associated with this that you only use in emergencies. This is not something your dog learns in a week and you expect them to remember next year when they escape. It is something you are consistently working on throughout the dog’s life. It might take time for an especially stubborn dog to learn.
Tips for protecting your dog in the case they ever do escape:
- Microchip your pets. This applies to any dog or cat, not just escape artists. Shelters, vets, and rescues check for microchips when a dog or cat is found. Many individual people will also take a dog or cat they have found to a vet and have them checked for a microchip. When you get your pet microchipped, make sure that you go to the website of the microchip company and register your pet’s chip and enter your information. This is how they are going to contact you if you pet is found. I also put my dogs’ microchip tags on their collars with their microchip number and I keep their microchip number in their records.
- Check your pet’s collars and harnesses for damage and replace them. Once Dylan and I were out hiking with Gracie and her harness broke from where she had been chewing on it in the car. I had not checked her harness and did not realize it was damaged. Luckily we were at a waterfall and she was too distracted to run off. If we had been on the trail when this happened she would have been gone. Gracie also always wears her collar when outside- even in our fenced in backyard. I know that Gracie is an escape artist, so I want to make sure that if she does escape that she will have her collar and ID tags on. As collars become more worn and old, they are more likely to break.
I replace Gracie’s collar at least every year. This year I bought her and Echo two new collars each from Mutts ‘n’ Such on Etsy. I always look for good quality collars that are going to last. They have to be durable to make it through husky rough playing and rolling and digging in the dirt. I do not walk Gracie and Echo by their collar, but I still want a durable ring on the collars for the ID tags. If the ring on the collar breaks, your tags are gone.
- Update your pet’s ID tags and check for damage. Just like with the collars, you need to check your dog’s ID tag for any damage. Gracie’s ID tag will get damaged from her playing with other dogs. I check it to make sure none of the information on her tag has been worn off. Also, be sure to update your dog’s tag if any of the information has changed, such as a new address or phone number. Gracie’s tag had become too worn and the information was difficult to read so I bought her and Echo new tags from Ebony Paws Pets on Etsy. I included on Gracie’s tag that she has seizures, which Ebony Paws Pets put in bold red font for me. I also include their names, my phone number, a phone number of a trusted family member or loved one, and the phrase “I am microchipped.” If your pet has a medical condition or requires daily medicine it is important to include that on their ID tag. In the case that they are lost and someone finds them they will know that this pet needs to be returned ASAP for their medical needs. Some people also like to include that there is a reward for returning their lost pet.
- Inform local vets, shelters, and animal control that your pet is missing. If your pet does go missing, let all local vets, shelters, and animal control know. Depending on what kind of pet your have the distance of which you notify may vary. A Siberian Husky can travel hundreds of miles in a single day. So if you have a husky you would probably want to not only notify those in your county, but also surrounding counties within that distance.
Hopefully following some of these tips will help prevent your escape artist dog from being lost. Luckily even though Gracie has escaped on multiple occasions over the years, I have been able to get her home within a few hours. Those few hours are still very scary! I do feel better knowing that if someone were to catch Gracie before I do that they would see her ID collar and know that they can call me or have her microchip checked at a vet’s office. They would also know that she is a special needs dog and could have a seizure.
Please check out other posts from Lost Pet Prevention month and learn more about Lost Pet Prevention month on PetHub’s website.
Thanks for reading,
-Katie, Gracie, and Echo