How to Escape Proof Your Home for a New Rescue Dog

It may take time for your new dog to feel safe in his new environment and learn to follow the rules. Until then, make sure he can’t escape and put himself in danger.

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Buster came to us as a foster about a year ago, and although we decided to keep him around, there was definitely a learning curve. Our other dogs are rescues as well, but they came to us as puppies, so we were more diligent about training and setting the rules. In hindsight, it is just as important to be diligent with older dogs — Buster was 3 years old at the time — but for whatever reason, we let things slide a bit with him.

Within the first few days of Buster living with us, he bolted out the door. I was horrified. We have had a dog get hit by a car, and I certainly didn’t want to relive that experience. The good news is that we got him back, but we learned a valuable lesson about the importance of escape proofing our home while everyone gets to know each other better.

Here’s how you can do the same.

1. Put up a barrier by the door

This can be a baby gate, though we actually unfolded an x-pen to create a barrier in front of our front door. This is especially helpful if you have other dogs who like to come say hi when you get home, as it keeps the new dog from sneaking through in all of the excitement.

2. Consider crating your dog when you aren’t home

Beagle in crate by Shutterstock.
Beagle in crate by Shutterstock.

Many dogs learn to love the crate and see it as a safe haven, and it also can keep them out of trouble when you aren’t home. If you don’t know your rescue dog’s history with crating, start by just leaving it open in a common area and letting him explore it. There are some great tips in this Dogster crate training article about the next steps. The most important part of crate training is to go slowly (start at a few minutes and build up to a few hours), unless of course your dog takes to it easily.

3. Make sure your doors are closed securely

This one seems obvious, but if you don’t have a door dasher, you might not think of it. A quick double-check can’t hurt. This one is especially important with screen doors in the summer because they don’t always close all the way.

4. Train “wait” or “back”

This one has less to do with the house and more to do with training, but it’s important nonetheless. Teaching your new rescue (and your current dogs) to back up when you tell them to or when you are bringing in groceries will give you some space to get in without anyone trying to sneak out the door. “Wait” can be very similar to “stay,” but I think it is a little easier to train. This Whole Dog Journal article goes into great depth about it.

5. Check your fences for holes

Dog in fenced backyard by Shutterstock.
Dog in fenced backyard by Shutterstock.

Some dogs will escape through holes in the fence or even dig underneath it. If you have a digger, you may want to put some chicken wire under your existing fence to keep him in, or bury the bottom of your fence a foot or two down under the dirt. You can also partially bury large rocks along the bottom of your fence so your new dog can’t get through.

6. Put a roll bar on top of your fence

Some dogs go under a fence, but others may go over in an attempt to escape. You can buy a roll bar or DIY with some PVC, which makes it very difficult for your dog to get traction on the top of the fence to get over.

You may be wondering, “Why don’t we just put up an invisible fence?” There are many problems with invisible fencing, which is why we do not recommend it. The first is that it doesn’t keep anything out of your yard. This means potential predators or other dogs can freely move in and out of your yard. Another reason is that it doesn’t teach your dog anything, just makes her afraid to approach the yard boundaries. In the event that your dog is highly motivated to go through the fence to get to another animal (rabbit, squirrel, dog, cat), it is unlikely that your dog will come back to your yard for fear of getting shocked on the way back in.

7. Make sure your dog gets enough exercise

Buster on a walk. (Photo by Abbie Mood)
Buster on a walk. (Photo by Abbie Mood)

A bored or hyper dog is more likely to want to run out the door or not listen when you are trying to get in the door yourself. If at all possible, take your dog for a walk in the morning and in the evening, and give him something to do during the day. If you have multiple dogs, I wouldn’t leave high-value toys/treats out, but if you are crating your new rescue during the day, then stuffing a Kong with some good stuff and putting it in the crate with him would be a great idea.

If the need to escape becomes excessive or continues even after your dog has been with you for a few months, it might be a good idea to get a positive-reinforcement trainer involved for some additional input and training.

Top photo: Briard by Shutterstock.

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Abbie Mood, Dip. CBST

Abbie lives in Colorado with her dogs Daisy, Sadie, and Buster, and can usually be found outside with one of them. She is a dog trainer and freelance writer who loves to explore environmental and animal rights issues. Find out more about her at abbiemood.com and lifediscoveryproject.com. Follow her on Twitter @abbiemood and Instagram @abbiemood.

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