My Dog Is An Escape Artist—Outdoor Dog Run Fail

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

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.

Baxter the escape artist

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.

My dog is an escape artist

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?

Related posts:

Is it cruel to kennel/crate a dog?

How to stop a dog from digging in the yard

Read more of Julia’s posts HERE.

My dog Baxter is an escape artist

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12 thoughts on “My Dog Is An Escape Artist—Outdoor Dog Run Fail”

  1. When we moved into our current home six years ago, we wanted Suki to use the existing dog run as her potty area (thinking that it would be easier to patrol and clean up than the humongous backyard). For days we tried to make her do her business before opening the gate to the yard. For days she absolutely refused to go in the dog run. We even bought some scent gizmo that was supposed to make it an attractive spot, but no “go”.

    Finally I cracked and just opened the gate. She trotted out, looked back at me once, then trotted to the rear of the yard where there are only bushes and scrubs. And that, my friend, has been her potty area ever since.

    (Diva will pee anywhere in the yard, but only poops in the back as well.)

  2. It sounds like Suki ended up with a solution that works for both of you. One single spot to clean up and a spot where she’d actually “go” (gotta love the “no-no, I don’t have to go. I’ll hold it”).

    Bax must have a bush or a tuft of grass… or sometimes even a tree… to pee and poop on. It’s led to some contortions as he gets himself into some very awkward positions over his chosen plants.

  3. Lindsay Stordahl

    Since I’ve had Ace we’ve never had a yard, let alone a fenced yard. So Ace has never been left in a dog run or outdoor fenced area except when we traveled to Josh’s grandparents’ house. They had a dog run, and when I tried leaving Ace out there he sat at the gate and barked, wanting to come in the house with us. Well, Ace’s options were to be in the house in his small crate or out in the dog run. We ended up keeping him in his indoor crate because he was happier there! Silly dogs.

  4. Lindsay Stordahl

    Also, I used to do “home visits” for a rescue group, and I was told to reject a family (friends of mine) from adopting my foster dog because they had a dog run. The rescue was worried the dog would be left outside all day. Thankfully, the rescue ended up letting it “slide” and that dog is one of the happiest, most spoiled dogs ever! They never leave her in the dog run for the same reason you don’t use yours. Their dog also prefers to lounge around inside when they’re not home.

  5. Dogs are just intelligent beings. Sometimes they are more creative than humans especially when it concerns the wilderness.

  6. Sandy Weinstein

    my youngest child would get out of the fenced in pen, a large pen, over 30ft by 10ft and the fences were abt 4 ft tall. i could not figure it out, til one day i was watching her. i had put a tarp over part of the pen to give them some shade. she was jumping up on the tarp, walking across it and jumping out. i took pictures of her doing it b/c i dont think anyone could believe this little dog, abt 13 in tall could jump that high and walk across the tarp. smart little gal.

  7. Years ago, my family had a dog and we tried crating him when we were going to be gone for a few hours. Everyone reassured us that he would prefer the safety and comfort of his own “retreat” to being loose in the house. Those people were wrong when it came to Soldier. Although he was fine in his crate for short lengths of time and when sleeping at night, during the day he hated it. He would try to claw his way out until his paws bled. Instead, we began leaving him out for longer stretches of time. He never chewed anything up, never made a mess – he was, in fact, a model of good behavior. Whatever works best for your pet and your family is the right solution every time.

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