How to Keep a Dog in the Yard

Three Methods:Identifying Escape RoutesMaking Other AdjustmentsDealing with Behavioral Issues

Dogs are clever and if they are motivated enough, they can find a way to escape from a yard and go exploring. Common reasons why dogs try to escape from their yards include weaknesses in the fencing, boredom, and sexual urges. Dealing with these problems is essential because escaping from the yard puts your dog in serious danger, such as getting hit by a car or getting attacked by another dog. Identify your dog’s escape route and then take steps to prevent your dog from getting out of the yard.

Method 1
Identifying Escape Routes

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    Observe your dog while he is in the yard. Figure out how your dog is getting out of your yard, sit by a window and watch him while he is outside. Try not to let him see you or he may not reveal his escape route. As you watch, pay attention to where your dog goes and what he does. This should give you clues about his preferred method of escape.[1] Common methods of escape include:
    • Jumping over the fence.
    • Climbing the fence.
    • Digging and going under the fence.
    • Slipping through a weak spot in the fence.
    • Undoing the latch on the fence gate.
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    See if your dog is jumping the fence. If the fence is too low or there is an object the dog can climb on, he may be able to jump over the fence. In this case, try raising the height of the entire fence. Make sure that you also remove anything that he can use to climb over the fence, such as lawn chairs and tables.
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    Watch to see if your dog climbs up the fence. Some dogs will climb a fence to get out of a yard. If your dog is climbing the fence, then making the fence higher might not solve the problem. You may also need to create and internal overhang to stop your dog from going over when he gets to the top. These overhangs are similar to the ones you see in zoo enclosures.[2]
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    Determine if your dog is digging his way out. Some dogs will dig away the soft dirt at the bottom of a fence and escape that way.[3] If your dog is digging his way out, then there are several things that you can do to stop him from escaping from the yard. Some thing you can try include:[4]
    • Laying chain link fence over the ground at the base of the fence.
    • Setting large heavy rocks or bricks along the base of the fence.
    • Extending the fence downwards with chicken wire that is buried under the ground. If you use this method, make sure to turn under any sharp edges so your dog cannot cut or harm himself as he digs.
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    Watch for other methods of escape. Make sure that the gate is shut and latched before you let your dog out into the yard. Remind all of your household members to do the same. If the latch is weak and your dog can push it open with ease, then consider installing a new latch.
    • Some dogs know how to undo the latch on a gate and can let themselves out when they please. If your dog is using this method of escape, then you can add a padlock to the gate or put something on the other side of it to prevent her from opening it.
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    Inspect your fence often and make repairs as needed. To ensure that your yard is secure, check it often and look for weaknesses such as rotten wooden slats or gaps in the wire mesh.
    • Check for loose boards as well by pressing on the fence as you walk the perimeter. If you notice any weaknesses, then repair these right away.

Method 2
Making Other Adjustments

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    Consider adding an airlock. Many dog parks and pet care facilities have an air lock, or second gate that dogs must get through before they can get out. This ensures that a dog cannot take off running if he happens to make it through the first gate.[5]
    • If your dog tends to unlatch or push open one of your gates, then you may want to install a small portion of fencing and a second gate so that you can stop him and bring him back into the yard if he get out of the first gate.
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    Keep your dog on leash or lead. If your yard is not fenced in, then take your dog out on a leash or put her on a lead when she is out in the yard. Some people attach leads to lines that extend the length of the yard so that the dog can run. No matter how you keep your dog in the yard, make sure that you monitor your dog and do not leave her out for too long.
    • If you have a big dog that tends to pull on her leash, then try using a front-clip harness to help you maintain control of her. Front-clip harnesses help to keep your dog focused on you and stops her from pulling.
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    Look into an electric fence. Some people use electric shock collars with an invisible fence system to prevent their dogs from going beyond the yard's boundaries. These collars work by emitting a sound and then delivering a shock if your dog goes beyond a certain point in your yard. The shock levels range from a mild sensation that is similar to a tickle to a painful jolt.[6] There are moral and welfare issues to consider before using an electric fence. Used incorrectly, they can cause the dog to be unduly fearful and/or cause physical harm to the dog. Also, a court of law does not regard an electric fence as a suitable barrier, and if your dog bites a person who comes onto your property or escapes off it, you will be held culpable because there wasn't an adequate barrier in place.
    • An electric shock collar might be a good option if you do not have a fence.
    • Never use an electric shock collar as a training device.
    • Check your dog's neck often if you use an electric shock collar. They can cause redness and irritation.

Method 3
Dealing with Behavioral Issues

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    Spay or neuter your dog. Entire dogs (dogs that have not been spayed or neutered) are at the mercy of their hormones. Entire male dogs have high levels of testosterone and this makes them keen to find a female dog in heat and mate with her. Male dogs can detect this scent from miles away and may escape to seek out the scent.[7] Female dogs may also be more likely to wander when they are in heat.
    • Talk to your dog’s veterinarian about spaying or neutering your dog.
    • Spay or neuter your dog at a young age to prevent behaviors from becoming too ingrained in your dog.[8]
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    Exercise your dog every day. Healthy dogs that do not get enough exercise may put their energy into things like escaping from the yard.[9] Try to take your dog out for two 30 minute walks per day.
    • If you get tired before your dog does, then consider teaching her to fetch a ball or play frisbee. That way she will get plenty of exercise and you can just sit and throw the ball or frisbee to her.
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    Provide lots of mental stimulation. Being shut in a yard for long periods of time can cause your dog to become bored and make him want to escape. To keep your dog mentally stimulated, vary his toys and give him toys that will challenge his mind.
    • Change out his toys every day so that he doesn't become too familiar with his toys and become bored with them.
    • You can also try giving your dog toys that have treats inside, such as a stuffed Kong toy. This will give him a mental challenge and he will be rewarded with a treat when he figures it out.
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    Supervise your dog at all times when she is outside. If your dog is an escape artist, then you will need to keep a close watch on her at all times. When you cannot watch her, keep her inside the house.
    • If you are often gone for long periods of time, such as while you are at work or out shopping, consider hiring a dog walker to come by and check on your dog or take her for a walk.
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    Train your dog. Regular training sessions can also help you to keep your dog mentally stimulated and make it more likely that she will respond to your commands if you catch her in the act of escaping.
    • Keep training session short and regular. Two five to 10 minute sessions per day is a good place to start.
    • Use positive reinforcement. Give your dog treats and praise when she responds to a command. Do not punish your dog if she disobeys you.
    • Start with basic commands. After your dog has a good grasp of sit, stay, and recall, then you can start teaching her more complex commands such as “come away.”
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    Create a safe space for your dog. Some dogs will try to escape if they become fearful. For example, if your dog hears a sound that makes him anxious, then he might flee from the yard in fear. If this happens often, then give your dog a safe place to hide when he feels scared.
    • Try providing your dog with an outdoor crate or kennel, or give your dog access to the indoors via a doggy door.[10]


  • A dog that often escapes from a yard is at increased risk of being hit by a car, getting bitten by dogs and other animals, getting sick, getting pregnant or impregnating other dogs, and being stolen. For all these reasons, it is crucial to figure out how your dog is escaping and deal with the problem right away.

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Categories: Dog Obedience