Is your Brittany an Escape Artist?

The Brittany Escape Artist

Escaping is a serious problem for both you and your Brittany, as it can have tragic consequences. If your Brittany is running loose, he is in danger of being hit by a car, being injured in a fight with another dog, or being hurt in a number of other ways. Additionally, you are liable for any damage or injury your Brittany may cause and you may be required to pay a fine if he is picked up by an animal control agency. In order to resolve an escaping problem, you must determine not only how your Brittany is getting out, but also why he is escaping.

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Why Brittanys Escape:

Social Isolation/Frustration

Your Brittany may be escaping because he is bored or lonely if:

  • He is left alone for long periods of time without opportunities for interaction with you.
  • His environment is relatively barren, without playmates or toys.
  • He is a puppy or adolescent (under three years old) and does not have other outlets for his energy.
  • He is a particularly active type of dog (like the herding or sporting breeds) who needs an active job in order to be happy.
  • The place he goes to when he escapes provides him with interaction and fun things to do. For example, he goes to play with a neighbor’s dog or to the local schoolyard to play with the children.

Recommendations:

We recommend expanding your dog’s world and increasing his “people time” in the following ways:

  • Walk your Brittany daily. It is good exercise for both of you.
  • Teach your Brittany to fetch a ball or Frisbee and practice with him as often as possible.
  • Teach your Brittany a few commands and/or tricks. Practice these commands and/or tricks every day for five to ten minutes.
  • Take an obedience class with your Brittany and practice daily what you have learned.
  • Provide interesting toys to keep your Brittany busy when you are not home. You can also rotate the toys to keep them interesting.
  • Keep your Brittany inside when you are unable to supervise him.
  • If you work very long days, take your dog to a “doggie day care,” or ask a friend or neighbor to walk your dog.

Sexual Roaming

Brittanys become sexually mature between six and twelve months of age. An intact Brittany is motivated by a strong, natural drive to seek out a mate. It can be very difficult to prevent an intact Brittany from escaping, because their motivation to do so is very high.

Recommendations:
Have your male Brittany neutered. Studies show that neutering will decrease sexual roaming in about 90 percent of the cases. If, however, an intact male has established a pattern of escaping, he may continue to do so even after he’s neutered, so it is important to have him neutered as soon as possible.
Have your female Brittany spayed. If your intact female dog escapes your yard while she is in heat, she’ll probably get pregnant. Millions of unwanted pets are euthanized every year. Please do not contribute to the pet overpopulation problem by allowing your female Brittany to breed indiscriminately.

Fears and Phobias

Your Brittany may be escaping in response to something he is afraid of if he escapes when he is exposed to loud noises, such as thunderstorms, firecrackers or construction sounds.

Recommendations:
Identify what is frightening your Brittany and desensitize him to it. Check with your veterinarian about giving your Brittany an anti-anxiety medication while you work on behavior modification.
Leave your Brittany indoors when he is likely to encounter the fear stimulus. Mute noise by leaving him in a basement or windowless bathroom and leave on a television, radio or loud fan.
Provide a “safe place” for your Brittany. Observe where he likes to go when he feels anxious, then allow access to that space, or create a similar space for him to use when the fear stimulus is present.

Separation Anxiety

Your Brittany may be escaping due to separation anxiety if:

  • He escapes as soon as, or shortly after, you leave.
  • He displays other behaviors that reflect a strong attachment to you, such as following you around, frantic greetings or reacting anxiously to your preparations to leave.
  • He remains near your home after he has escaped.

Factors that can precipitate a separation anxiety problem:

  • There has been a change in your family’s schedule that has resulted in your dog being left alone more often.
  • Your family has moved to a new house.
  • There’s been a death or loss of a family member or another family pet.
  • Your dog has recently spent time at an animal shelter or boarding kennel.

Recommendations:

Separation anxiety can be resolved using counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques

How Dogs Escape:

Some Brittanys jump fences, but most actually climb them, using some part of the fence to push off from. A Brittany may also dig under the fence, chew through the fence, learn to open a gate or use any combination of these methods to get out of the yard. Knowing how your Brittany gets out will help you to modify your yard. However, until you know why your Brittany wants to escape, and you can decrease his motivation for doing so, you will not be able to successfully resolve the problem.

Recommendations for Preventing Escape:

For climbing/jumping Brittanys:

Add an extension to your fence that tilts in toward the yard. The extension does not necessarily need to make the fence much higher, as long as it tilts inward at about a 45-degree angle.

For digging Brittanys:

Bury chicken wire at the base of your fence (with the sharp edges rolled inward), place large rocks at the base, or lay chain-link fencing on the ground.

Punishment
Never punish your Brittany after he is already out of the yard. Brittanys associate punishment with what they are doing at the time they are punished. Punishing your Brittany after the fact will not eliminate the escaping behavior, but will only make him afraid to come to you.
Never punish your Brittany if the escaping is a fear-related problem or is due to separation anxiety. Punishing fear-motivated behaviors will only make your Brittany more afraid, and thus make the problem worse.

NOTE: Chaining your Brittany is not an option as it is illegal in most Texas cities and detrimental to their health.