Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
Never Underestimate a Dog's Determination to Squeeze Through a Gate!
To stop a dog from escaping through the bars of a gate, you often need to be quite creative. Outsmarting your dog is not always easy because you'll have to "think like a dog" and consider how determined dogs can be at times.
Many times, dog owners underestimate a dog's determination and ability to escape a gate. Some dogs seem to escape the laws of physics, squeezing through the bars of gates as if they were made out of Play-Doh or butter!
The Impact of Emotions
Here's the thing: When dogs are too excited or anxious about something, they seem to become gifted with some sort of Houdini magic. As the saying goes, "When there is a will, there is a way."
Many dogs will therefore squeeze through fences out of the sheer excitement to go play with other dogs, chase a cat or reach a female dog in heat.
Anxiety may also be a factor in a dog's determination. Some dogs are so frantic about being left alone that they will squeeze through gates to follow their owner's car in hopes of being reunited.
When There Is a Will There Is a Way
This reminds me of a potential service dog I had in training when I worked for a company whose mission was to pick up rescues from shelters, get them obedience trained by trainers and then match them up with a veteran in need who then continued to work with the dog going through an advanced training service dog school.
So they provided me a dog fresh from the shelter which I knew very little about other than maybe she had a hint of separation anxiety. I worked with her right away in getting her used to being in the crate for an entire week, gradually increasing the time she spent in it in hopes that I had built it up enough time for the day I had to go grocery shopping.
She improved gradually, and we were able to increase her crate time for a good half hour. I calculated that was enough time for me to go grocery shopping and come right back.
So the big day arrives—I walk her, then place her in the crate with a stuffed Kong, and a few extra long-lasting goodies just in case I was a bit late.
So I go grocery shopping. While there, I am stopped by a client who chit-chats with me for a while, then the cashier has some problems with her credit card machine, and then on the way back, I am stuck in a big traffic jam.
Moral of the story? A half-hour turned into an hour, and by the time I got home, with terror, I noted that 1 hour and 15 minutes flew by.
Since I didn't know much about how bad her separation anxiety was, I imagined all sorts of horrible scenarios, like chewing her paws raw or breaking her teeth chewing on the bars. At a minimum, I was expecting to find her howling and laying in a mess of pee.
When I opened the door, I went straight to the crate and to my shock, it was empty! But wait....what really got me was that, not only the crate was empty, but the crate door was still latched!
What? OMG, the crate was latched and no dog was in it? Did somebody break in and steal the dog? Was this a joke or what? Did she get out of the crate and then latch it? If so, how? And where in the world is she if she's not in the crate?
I go into panic mode and finally find her in the bathroom, looking up at me and getting up from chewing the toilet roll into pieces with toilet paper pieces everywhere as if she just had a party and tossed a bunch of holiday confetti!
What Really Happened
As I wondered whether I just stumbled on a dog capable of some odd hat tricks, I scratched my head in disbelief. OK, the dog is here and the crate is latched! How is that possible? It seemed to defy the law of physics! So I put on my detective hat and went to inspect the crate. As I pass my hands on it, I notice there are little signs of slight bending in the bottom wires.
With horror, I rushed back to check on her, imagining her being disemboweled or something horrific. I checked her belly and there are very, very minor, barely visible scratches.
To this day, I wonder how she managed to push through the bottom of the crate and I am so very grateful she wasn't injured.
When I told the coordinator, she couldn't believe it either. She never heard of anything like that. I had recorded her while I was away, but it unfortunately my recorder didn't have enough space to record for the whole hour and 15 minutes.
The footage stopped at 38 minutes during which she was sleeping after having emptied the Kong and the other goodies. I am sure if it had been recorded, the video would have gone viral. I even had a good title for it: "Houdini dog gets out of a crate and leaves it latched!"
Sounds hard to believe? Watch below some footage on what determined dogs are capable of doing.
3 Ways to Stop a Dog From Squeezing Through the Bars of a Crate
A dog escaping a yard is a dangerous practice. They are very similar to the many dangers of keeping dogs off leash, and dogs can soon become repeat offenders.
Fortunately, there are several options to stop a dog from squeezing through the bars of a gate, but it's important to consider that not all of them are totally fail-proof. Following are some ideas.
1. Cover the Gaps
For instance, you can place some chicken wire or mesh over the bars of the gate or you can add some panels of chain link so to cover the gaps and prevent your dog from squeezing through them.
2. Invest in Puppy Bumpers
Some of my clients have used Puppy Bumpers with success with their small dogs. The bumpers have some loops on the inside which allow the Puppy Bumper to be attached to the dog's collar to prevent it from coming off.
Of course, you will need to monitor your dog every now and then (some dogs chew them off) and routinely check the bumper for any wear and tear.
3. Try a Safe Behind Bars Harness
Sold by Dog Gamutt, the Safe Behind Bars harness consists of a harness the dog wears with a horizontal bar on top that lodges when the dog tries to squeeze through tight spaces.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 18, 2021:
Hi Pam, I still think about that story, and even as of today I can't grasp how she did that. So sorry your black Lab escaped the fence and ended up sustaining a broken bone. It's scary how these dogs would risk getting hurt and even risk their lives just for the thrill of an escape.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 18, 2021:
That story of the dog getting out of the bottom of the crate is scary and funny. She was sure determined. I know dogs love to get out of fences. I had a black lab that jumped our fence one time, and he had to have surgery for a broken bone after that. This is a good article, Adrienne.