OVRS_iStock_000019191267_Large (1)You turn your back for a minute, and he’s off! A pet escape artist can maneuver through the narrowest of passages, wiggle under any fence, or slip through an open door with the stealth of a ninja – or at least it can seem that way. The truth is, when your pet likes to roam, there’s really no letting your guard down.

Pets escape for a number of reasons. Getting to the core of what prompts your particular pup or kit to want to wander is a good place to begin.

Understanding the Cause

Dogs and cats are natural roamers. Instinctually, many breeds can travel several miles each day, marking territory, communicating with other animals through scent, and seeking out a mate. However, when it comes to your beloved pet, we discourage the indulgence of these instinctual impulses through training, providing enrichment at home, and spaying or neutering before the first heat.

For some pets, there can be additional underlying causes that contribute to his or her urge to roam. For others, it is simply a of lack of training and socialization. However, it does seem like there are a few universal underliers, including:

Boredom – Lack of exercise or enrichment can create anxiety, stress, and boredom in pets, particularly in high-energy breeds, such as sporting or herding dogs.

Fear – If your pet has noise-related anxiety or similar phobias, loud noises such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or a car backfiring can send him or her on the run. Fear of people or confinement can also prompt a pet to escape. Separation anxiety is a common behavioral challenge, too; and can cause a pet to hit the road in search of his or her pack.

Loneliness – Pets, and canines in particular, are social creatures who require socialization to thrive. Some dogs are less likely to escape when they have another playmate, can spend time with other dogs at daycare, or spend time with other pets and people through a group dog walk.

Aggression or territorial behavior – If your pet has strong territorial instincts, this may encourage an escape to chase off a perceived intruder.

Estrus – If you have not had your cat or dog altered, he or she is more likely to set out when in estrus or “heat” to find a mate. If this is the case, the simple answer (and ethical one) is to have your pet spayed or neutered.

Pet Escape Proofing

Before we get into the at-home suggestions to prevent escape, keep in mind that training and behavioral modification may be needed. Likewise, pets responding to strong fears or phobias may be better helped through medication and veterinary care. Consult your veterinarian in both of these cases for further instruction.

Once you have ascertained what you believe to be the reason behind your pet’s disappearing act, the next step is to intervene by escape proofing your home and yard. Consider the following:

  • If your escape artist pal is the family dog, consider installing 6 ft. fencing that extends one foot beneath the soil (especially for those prone to digging).
  • Reconsider allowing your cat to roam outside, particularly if he or she is known to leave the yard or block.
  • Provide several toys, an agility course, and other enrichment items for your high energy dog – and don’t forget those important daily walks or runs.
  • Consider adopting a second pet for “only child” pets – sometimes having another companion makes all the difference.
  • If you work long hours, perhaps dog daycare is a good choice for your precocious pet.
  • Secure all window screens, doors, and entryways and ask guests to be mindful of closing the door behind them.

In most cases, positive obedience training and behavioral consultation will prove to be the most effective way to address issues of escape. Attending to your pet’s daily exercise needs and providing ample interaction and enrichment is often the key to keeping your hairy Houdini from performing his or her disappearing act.

If your at-home adjustments fail to inhibit your pet’s behavior, we encourage you to seek professional guidance.