Advice · Blog

Living with an Escape Artist Dog

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.Pet Lost Prevention Photos (Echo 6 months) 016

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!Pet Lost Prevention Photos (Echo 6 months) 027

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.Pet Lost Prevention Photos (Echo 6 months) 002

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.Pet Lost Prevention Photos (Echo 6 months) 058

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:Pet Lost Prevention Photos (Echo 6 months) 057

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 Pet Lost Prevention Photos (Echo 6 months) 015not 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: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.Pet Lost Prevention Photos (Echo 6 months) 140 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.”655 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.
  4. 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. Pet Lost Prevention Photos (Echo 6 months) 120

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

 

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37 thoughts on “Living with an Escape Artist Dog

  1. Phew, it sounds like your huskies keep you on your toes! We work on recall daily, and while Matilda shoots up like a rocket even if she THINKS I’m calling her inside the house, she takes her time getting back to me outdoors – but she always comes back *eventually* – which isn’t good enough to trust her in unsecured spaces. Still, even working towards an imperfect recall makes a difference. Great tips!

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    1. Yes! Recall truly is something every dog needs to work on regularly. Echo is better than Gracie. He’d learn to play the guitar if it meant he got a treat! Gracie, however, could care less about treats or toys. It makes it hard to train her! I have to catch her at the right time with the right treat for her to be responsive. She definitely has selective hearing too! However, if we go to the dog park or out in public suddenly she is the perfect dog. Lol. I guess I’d rather her training to work in public if I had to pick.

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  2. Wow, I can’t believe Echo managed to get out of the crate! You have two Great Escape artists on your hands for sure. I’m lucky my Husky isn’t much of an escape artist at all, unlike most Huskies. I have PetHub tags for both my dogs too and they’re both chipped.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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    1. I know! I think he was just trying to show me that he could get out if he wanted to- he hasn’t even tried to escape since then! I’m still hoping that he won’t be as quite as much as an escape artist as Gracie.

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  3. Echo broke out at 8 weeks??? Wow! My corgis have never done this, but I had a dalmatian once who was nicknamed Houdini. He never got lost. miraculously
    Such important info for people. I’ll add (and I need get with this myself) to get one’s pet’s microchip scanned every now and then, just to make sure it’s still working.

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    1. Yes! I couldn’t believe it. He is a smart puppy for sure. Maybe the intelligence of a border collie and the mischievousness of a husky isn’t such a good combo! Lol. Luckily he has broken out since then, but I don’t think he has tried. If he tried to, I believe he could get out again.
      Luckily I have never lost Gracie either.
      Yes! I’ve also heard that microchips can migrate and move from the original injection spot. Especially when put in puppies and kittens that are still growing.

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  4. As a dog trainer, I see huskies who take escaping to a whole new level of fun!! My favorite one, was a dog who managed to go from the yard into the duct system of the house, (which was under their deck) and busted out the front vent to freedom!! You’ve provided lots of great tips to help folks who live with a fur covered Houdini!!

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    1. Oh wow! There is a husky where I work (doggie daycare) that pretty much goes wherever she please because she can open the doors and escape the crates! We can put her in a crate within the play yard and she will get out of both and open the 2 doors going up to the front desk.

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  5. Your dogs are really smart! It is pretty amazing what they have been able to break out of. Great tips on getting the right fencing for your yard. That is just one of the little details you have to worry about when choosing a pet.

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  6. Great tips thanks. Isabelle (RIP) was a notorious escape artist and Kilo the Pug is surprisingly wily and nimble. He opens things and has escaped his crate, the garden, the house and his harness. When he tastes freedom, he sprints off at full speed, shouts at people and dogs and eventually comes back to me for treats or when he panics. We are extra careful now as so scary. His is microchipped and watched.

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  7. No escape artists dogs here, but I do have a couple of cats who try to slip out the front door sometimes! My cats are microchipped though, thankfully. Thanks for these great tips!

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  8. These are all excellent tips, especially to add medical information to your pet’s ID tag. Fortunately my dog is not an escape artist, but I always take extra measures, just in case.

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  9. Layla sticks to me like glue in the park and we have security doors in the building so she cannot go too far, but she wears a collar all the time – I only take it off at night

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  10. Haha, I also have a Houdini at my house!! Pippa used to be a Greek stray dog, so she doesn’t like to be limited in her ways. I mean, with my mom her dog, we have 5 dogs. None of them escaped before! But Pippa escaped already 5 times! We checked the fence and there were some tiny tiny holes! For now, we are already 6 months safe (knock on wood!)! Microchipping is just crazy important!! Thank you for these awesome tips!!

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  11. Ruby is fortunately not an escape artist. She has some separation issues and likes to stay as close to us as possible. In the past, I had a cat who was a total escape artist and we had to put up all these booby traps to keep her from running out the door when we entered and left.

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  12. Excellent tips from one Husky Mom to another! My Gibson was super at opening child-proof gates, door latches, and even door knobs! The other four would line up behind him (and I swear they were cheering him on!) and once he opened up the gates/door, they all charged in behind him! Thankfully, outside we have “husky-proofed” our yard (fences, concrete slabs, railroad ties, etc., etc.!) Sharing and Pinning!

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  13. I have a schnoodle who’s gotten out more times than I can count. Sometimes he takes off for fun, though is getting better with that. I must admit I walk him off leash. There have been times when people have ‘found’ him and started to walk away without noticing me running behind them waving my arms. (Look around when you find a ‘lost’ dog in the park). But mostly people call the number on the tag. Or my neighbours now know him.

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  14. Really great tips! We called my last dog, a border collie mix, “Houdini” (his real name was Tux) because he was also an escape artist! He even managed to break a tie-out that claimed to be strong enough for a 500-lb dog. Nope! I miss him, but am glad that Henry doesn’t seem to share his escape skills or desires.

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    1. Both of mine would wander if given the chance. Every time Gracie has gotten out I’ve been able to follow her through the woods and eventually catch her. It helps that a lot of my neighbors have dogs, so I just follow the dog barks! Lol. It’s very scary though.

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