The Dogcharmer: Run, run, runaway

Siberian husky likes to break free.

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Courtesy Jenna Lambert

Dear Dogcharmer,

Jenna here, I work for The MV Times and love reading your doggy advice! As it turns out, I actually need some doggy advice of my own. My boyfriend and I have a 6-year-old Siberian husky. He is sweet and playful and perfect in every way but one — he is a runner. If you aren’t extremely careful when entering or exiting the house, he will slip out. We take him for a walk at least once a day, and we also let him out to pee or poop multiple times throughout the day. We have a big fenced-in backyard that we let him out to run around and play in, but if we leave him out there for more than five minutes unsupervised, he will jump the part of the fence that opens to our porch and run away. Recently, he even dug a hole under the fence in the back corner of the yard so that he can slip right out whenever he wants. He has even opened windows and broken through screens in the house to get out.

He is extremely well loved, well fed, and well exercised. I just wish we could get him to stop running away. He has GPS on his collar, so when he runs away we just follow him around and try to catch him. He will rarely come to us, though — he thinks of it as a game. Usually we get him back if we bribe him with a treat (this sometimes works) or if someone else finds him and calls the number on his collar. Is there anything we can do to prevent this? It is so stressful and time-consuming, on a daily basis!

 

Thank you in advance,

Jenna Lambert

 

Dear Jenna,

In order to keep HR (Husky Runaway) safe going forward, there are several issues that need to be addressed. I’ve often been asked, “What’s the smartest breed of dog?” And more than once my answer has been, “Let’s say you leave two dogs in two crates and leave for a month. One of the dogs is a border collie that understands 100 different commands and is totally reliable and cooperative off-leash. The other is a husky that doesn’t respond to the word ‘sit,’ and would be gone in an instant if taken off the leash. So left in crate without water or food for a month, the border collie dies, but the husky somehow breaks out of the crate and survives. Who’s the smarter dog?”

Jenna, to me, the key to training is, How “cooperative and desirous of pleasing” is the dog? It also needs to be said, “dogs are very strong creatures of habit,” and unfortunately, after all this time, HR is seriously “habituated” to taking off and following his nose and the joy of roaming. That said, the GPS is great, but has to start to be seen as a last resort. First line of business, preventing the escapes, starting with the fence. It has to be high enough EVERYWHERE, and not the type where he can get his paws in and climb. I didn’t believe a beagle owner when she said her dog was climbing her eight-foot-high fence to escape until I witnessed it. As for digging under, you need about 14 inches of chicken wire the length of the fence. It gets attached to the bottom of the fence, going down into the ground about six inches, with the other eight inches coming in toward the yard. Now, when HR digs, he’ll hit the chicken wire at about six inches, which will dissuade him from continuing. Next is what I call a “”passive command.” HR needs to be taught, without being told to “stay,” to stay when it comes to open doors. When left wide open, be it the car door, house door, porch gate, HR does not cross the threshold to depart unless he hears a release word. My dog will not exit through any of my open doors unless she hears me say “OK.”

HR’s breaking out through windows probably represents some separation anxiety. I suggest that the only time on Planet Earth that HR gets people food is when he’s left alone in the house. Three hollow marrow bones, each stuffed with a different piece of meat or cheese, the bones being long enough so that he can’t get to it, so that it keeps him working at it, should be left when you leave him alone. Very important, those “special toys” are removed when you get home. He only gets them when left alone. Also, de-emotionalize leaving and coming home. Don’t drop to your knees and hug and kiss him because he was alone for awhile. Just say “Hi” with a pet, and go put on a cup of coffee. Also, practice his recall. Indoors and out in the yard, when he doesn’t expect it, call HR to come, and give him a treat most of the times when he arrives. You’ll probably need the help of a pro with the passive-command lesson.

 

Best of luck,

The Dogcharmer

 

Have a question for the Dogcharmer? Write him at dogsrshelby@msn.com. Find him on Instagram at DogTrainer Diaries.