Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Why Is My Dog Escaping From the Crate?
Dogs are pack animals that have a strong desire to be with their favorite companions; their pack members and their family. Some dogs have a stronger pack drive than others. German Shepherds and Siberian Huskies are notorious for suffering from anxiety when left alone and are often prone to destroying crates and other barriers that keep them away from their family.
Containing such dogs can be quite a problem; once out of the crate, they will likely engage in all sorts of unwanted behaviors such as chewing on carpets, scratching doors, urinating or pooping around, pacing, panting, and endless barking. These are often symptoms of separation anxiety. The dogs in these cases is not acting out of spite or to get back at the owner because he was left alone. Rather, these are signs of distress, or pure panic to put it merely. The dog needs help.
Is My Dog Escaping Due to Separation Anxiety or Just Boredom?
Separation anxiety must be distinguished from a pure reluctance to be crated due to excessive energy and poor mental stimulation. These latter dogs are generally bored and are just seeking out ways to stimulate their mind. Once out of the crate, these dogs will feel free and will celebrate their freedom by chewing and finding other stimulating things to do. Their state of mind is a far cry from the anxious pacing and crying of a dog suffering from separation anxiety. Generally, a dog escaping a crate due to boredom shows a capability to behave when their exercise and mental stimulation needs are met.
A dog suffering from separation anxiety, on the other hand, is basically suffering, not because of a lack of exercise, but because it feels lonely and panics the moment the owner is gone. It really helps to record your dog when you step out of your door so you can better asses what is really going on in your absence. Have a vet, dog trainer, or dog behaviorist take a look at the recording if you are unsure.
In both cases, however, escaping the crate is rewarding. In the first case, the bored dog feels relieved because it will have access to more fun things to do. In the case of the dog suffering from separation anxiety, he or she will feel closer to the owner because there are things left around that smell like the owner and he/she can scratch the door and engage in other behaviors that leads to hoping that the owner will return.
In the case of separation anxiety, the affected dog will need to be treated for this. A stronger crate may appear to solve the problem because the dog may be unable to escape the crate, but nothing is done to ultimately change the dog's emotional state. Nevertheless, some dogs will feel even more panicky in the crate which may ultimately lead to more distressing behaviors such as licking or chewing on itself, causing frightening wounds. If your dog is escaping the crate because of separation anxiety, consider seeing your vet and consulting with a dog behaviorist. In severe cases, your dog may require medications and a good behavior modification program.
If your dog is escaping the crate and is not suffering from separation anxiety, your best bet is to find a crate that will withstand those teeth and nails, and of course, strategic mind. I like to think of escape artist dogs as extremely intelligent dogs that have quite a creative mind. Indeed, breaking out of a crate is almost like solving a puzzle in their eyes. Once they're free, they must sense a purely exhilarating feeling of accomplishment. This explains why they do it again and again and again...
The Strongest Crates for Escape Artist Dogs
If your dog has chewed through fabric, wire, and plastic crates, you may feel at your wits end. You may visit your pet store only to find the same types of crates over and over. You may start wondering what your next step is. Truth is, there is actually a much stronger crate that has been reported to stop dogs from escaping. Such a crate, however, is often not readily found in pet stores, but it can be found online. What is the name of such a famous crate? It is called an aluminum crate.
Aluminum crates are designed in such away to make escaping unlikely, if not impossible. Often referred to as an aluminum box, these crates often have great reviews from owners of Houdini dogs. Zinger manufactures the Deluxe 4000 crate made for large dogs made of aircraft grade aluminum which is lightweight, yet sturdy. The manufacturer claims they are perfect for dogs who tend to destroy and escape from plastic or wire crates. Most of these crates are also great for travel and some meet and exceed airline requirements. While they significantly cost more than an average plastic or wire crate, these crates provide peace of mind since dogs are unable to escape. These crates are claimed to last a lifetime! Truth is, your dog endangers itself every time he attempts to escape from the crate, and once out, it's very likely that more trouble awaits him. Therefore, you'll want to keep your dog safe, secure, and comfy with an aluminum crate.
Carolyn Crow on August 26, 2017:
I was at my wits end with a rescued beagle with separation anxiety who repeatedly escaped from wire crates and even chewed through a large airline Vari-Kennel. After escaping, he would proceed to trash the house. I felt trapped, unable to leave the house without worrying what the dog was doing in my absence. I searched on-line and found the ProSelect Empire Dog Cage. It is heavy steel and not only did it solve my problem, the dog actually didn't seem to mind being in it once he figured out he couldn't chew through it. I bought the larger size so he has plenty of room and doesn't feel so confined. It looks like a jail cell in the middle of my living room, but I'm willing to live with that. The only drawback is, the crate is so large and heavy (75 pounds) that it isn't portable. There are wheels to allow it to move, but it isn't suitable for travel.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 27, 2014:
I am sorry you had such bad experiences. You would think with a 0ne-year warranty they would help you out if the crate isn't working for you and it's been less than a year. I have heard many good reviews on them, but as with everything, there are exceptions. I really cannot think of a stronger crate on the market.
Robert on February 27, 2014:
Although the Zinger Kennels look nice, the claims made on the zinger winger website are bogus! The kennel cannot contain an escape artist at all. I am surprised so many people have had good experiences with the kennel and/or the company! My experience with both have been beyond horrible. I have had the kennel for less than a year to crate my 9yr old Husky Shepherd and have had to get the locks replaced 3 times, purchase a heavy duty tow chain to keep the door closed, replace the entire front end/door frame, and now have a broken door. The product is under a one year warranty and with all these positive claims you would think the company would stand behind their product - DEAD WRONG! Zinger Winger is unwilling to accept liability.
Jennifer Angel on February 05, 2012:
anchoraly from Oly Washington on February 05, 2012:
Props on the hub topic. Very informative.
rodlyalcide from Miami, FL on February 05, 2012: