Do you Practice Escapes with your Dog?

All dog lovers need to work on getting a good recall on their dog; it is a behavior that can save lives both human and canine. But there is one group of owners I believe need to practice this behavior more than other— owners with fenced yards.

I know this seems contrary; after all fences are built to keep our dogs safe and in place while keeping unwanted adventurers out.  However, they provide a peace of mind that can lead to a false sense of security. Even if all dogs aren’t escape artists, most are curious opportunists and defenders of their yard. Opportunities or all sorts of lurk just beyond, grass being greener and all.

If you have a fence that is constructed properly, in good repair, high enough, and locked so that no one can accidently open a gate, then you have my hearty congratulations (along with my envy). But if you are like me then you fence may be less than pristine. Land erodes around the bottom of the fence; lawnmowers like to play tug of war with it. Locks are to inconvenient for daily use, and steel and wood weaken with age.

Remarkably, back yard escapes are often discovered right after they happen. It’s the one time we’re glad our dogs bark and we notice the different tone that indicates something is apaw. We look out the window and there on the other side of the fence— our gallant protagonist is giving chase to the villain who dared venture to close to his domain. We dash out the door on our sacred quest; Dog Quixote is off tilting at windmills and we must endeavor to soothe his adventurous soul and call him home; but how do we do it?

Would you simply work on a basic recall and trust that to gather our errant knight? Or, would you actually setup controlled escapes and practice those with your dog? How would you reward the recalls from the practiced escapes and would you allow a controlled escape to serve as a reward for a successful recall?

It’s an interesting training situation for a specific real life situation and I would love to hear how you would go about preparing for it. Whether an accomplished trainer, or an owner who enjoys working with their dog, please share your ideas with us.