Note: Julia Thomson is a regular contributor to That Mutt. Read more of her posts here.
When we first adopted Baxter, our plan was that he would stay in an outdoor dog run when we weren’t home. We thought that was a nicer environment than being locked in the house alone all day.
There was a fenced run behind our small barn and it connected to an insulated dog house inside the barn.
We cut down the weeds, cleaned out the house and built an awning to provide extra shade. It seemed like a great space for a dog. Especially one like ours that loves being outside, sniffing all of the smells and watching all of the birds and animals.
However, Baxter hated the run.
My dog is an escape artist
The first time we put him in it, he didn’t even make it a minute.
It turned out the gap between the gate and the fence was big enough, and our dog is strong enough that he could push his way out.
I adjusted the hinge, tightened up the screws and closed the gap.
It didn’t work. Bax braced his shoulders and still pushed his way out.
I added a second latch at the bottom of the gate. The result of that was a tunnel.
We weren’t ready to give up though. My husband and my father in law laid mesh along the bottom of the run and wired it to the fence along the perimeter. I buried the mesh in dirt and then covered it all with a layer of wood chips. The result was more excavation and another demonstration of Baxter’s strength–this time in his teeth. He shredded the mesh.
We still weren’t ready to give up. I added patio slabs in front of the gate where Baxter most liked to dig.
Using training to help our dog adjust
While we were attempting to build an escape-proof run, we were also using the usual techniques to help him acclimatize.
Start with a short amount of time and slowly build up. Give him treats or a Kong (he was too upset to eat). I even tried staying in view—going as far as sitting in the run with him—to help him stay calm.
Our patio slabs eventually worked, and we managed to make it up to about 3 hours in the run at a time.
However, Bax still wasn’t happy. My husband and I didn’t feel confident that he would stay in the run if we weren’t home, and, most importantly, we didn’t want to stress him out all day.
Bax did fine when we left him alone in the house—even with complete freedom to the whole house—so that’s how we handle our days when we’re at work. To me, it doesn’t seem as interesting as being outside, but it’s what works best for Bax.
The lesson I take away from this experience is that it’s important to listen to what your dog is telling you, be flexible, be patient and come up with solutions that work for both of you.
Does anyone else have an escape artist dog?
Any other training failures to share?
Read more of Julia’s posts HERE.
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