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Do you have a “Crate Escape” Dog?
Some dogs have a natural ability to escape their enclosure. They use either their intelligence, brute force, or are just lucky to stumble across a way to exploit a weakness in a crate to enable an escape. Ideally, we want our dog to stay safely in their crate, thereby reducing the risk of injury while attempting to escape, and to prevent the dog wondering the house unsupervised and getting into mischief. There are two questions that you need to answer to help solve this problem – how is he escaping and why is he escaping.
Identify HOW he is escaping.
Identifying how and where your dog is escaping will confirm the weak areas of the crate that need to be reinforced. The first thing you need to do is watch and observe how your dog is getting out. Unfortunately, most dogs will not try and escape while you are in the room. So, you can try hiding in another room to watch what he gets up to, or you can set up a camera and come back at a more convenient time to watch the footage.
Identify WHY he is escaping.
More important perhaps, is trying to understand why your dog wants to escape. If you can identify the reason why, then you can implement the right strategies to reduce their desire or frequency of trying to escape. This is a little harder to confirm as you can’t simply ask your dog why. So, when you are watching him trying to escape, take note of his behavior, body language, or other external factors. In my humble opinion, there are many reasons why a dog would want to escape from their crate (such as a bitch wanting to get back to her litter of puppies), but three main reasons that come to mind are:
- Boredom – he wants and needs more stimulation and attention before relaxing for his quiet time. Thus, he needs something to keep him occupied until he feels like relaxing, or he has not had enough exercise and needs to burn off more energy.
- Isolation Distress or Separation Anxiety – these are similar in nature. Isolation distress occurs when a dog is left alone. Separation anxiety occurs when separated from a specific person. They may bark a lot, excessively pant and drool, pace around, or become increasingly destructive to their bedding or crate.
- Poor crate training – he wants to get out because he has not been taught correctly that his crate is his den, his safe zone within the home. He feels like he has been put in the naughty box and wants out.
What can you do? How to stop him from escaping.
Since you now have a better understanding on how and why your dog may want to escape from his crate, you can now focus your attention on the key areas that will have the most impact:
- Reinforce the weak areas of your crate. Watching your dog escape has given you a clear understanding on how they are getting out. Whether your dog has:
- used brute force to bend the wire enough creating a gap to get out.
- maybe he chewed or dislodged the sides of the crate creating a gap large enough to squeeze through.
- he may have worked out a technique to wiggle or push the locks open.
- the crate you purchased is far too big and the gaps between the door and the sides of the crate are large enough for a small dog to squeeze through.
- Or in my case, my Rottweiler lunged a few times at the front door, applying enough force to bend and flex the wire door resulting in the latches popping open.
Now you can reinforce these specific areas. Personally, I have found using heavy duty cable ties along the joints and sides of my wire crate has helped improve the crates structural integrity. And the use of a few small carabiner clips on the doors keeps her secure. Just make sure that whatever you use can not harm your dog (ie I don’t recommend that you use wire as you might leave sharp edges behind that you dog can hurt himself on).
If your efforts to reinforce the crate are not good enough, then unfortunately you might have the wrong type of crate for your dog. A heavy-duty style crate might be more appropriate. See our review on the Heavy Duty Smith Built crate, or you can review our article on the different types of crates.
- Reduce his boredom. Give your dog something that he can focus his attention on, such as his favourite chew toy, a bone, or a kong toy with some treats inside. This gives him something to do, something that will stimulate his mind while quietly chill’n in the crate. Click here for Kong Puppy toys, or Kong Classic Toy.
- Exercise your dog. Apart from the obvious need to exercise your dog for their overall health and wellbeing, they should be well exercised before being put into their crate. This will help drain his energy and encourage him to relax and rest up in the crate. Don’t excite your dog just prior to putting him in the cage, there needs to be a little bit of down time before crating him, otherwise he will want to continue playing.
- Crate train your dog properly. There is the possibility that your dog hasn’t been crate trained correctly. Please review our crate training guide here and take the time to reinforce good behavior towards the crate. If this doesn’t help, then you many need to seek more advanced training techniques.
- Try placing the crate in different locations. A change of location might put your dog at ease. If your dog has been isolated in the garage, moving the crate into the family area where he is around family members might make him feel more comfortable about being in the crate. Conversely, moving the crate near a window that he can see out of might keep him occupied, or this could have the opposite effect as he starts barking at anything that moves by. Try a few locations and see what works best for him.
Hopefully, the above information has helped to rectify your situation. If the above tips haven’t helped and you dog is still escaping or showing signs of anxiety and stress than you may need to seek expert help from a Dog Behavior Specialist. You can always talk to your vet if you have any medical concerns, and they may be able to recommend a local dog trainer to assist. Some people might suggest medicating your dog to reduce their anxiety, I would suggest trying the above-mentioned strategies first, seek help from a dog behavior specialist, seek advice from your vet, and as a last resort look towards medications. Medications always pose the risk of side effects. It is far healthier to help your dog with solid training and routine but understandably some situations and dogs may need medicating.