Real Life Story - The Escape Artist
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Time for another real life story! This one comes to us courtesy of a dog still available for adoption from Love Mutts Rescue known as Bandit (left in the picture). Bandit had a reputation of being a bit of an escape artist. In fact, whenever his fosters opened the door, if they weren't careful, he'd shimmy past them and go immediately for a joy run, which is a very hard tendency to deal with! If you or someone you know has had an escape artist dog before, or you'd like to hear Bandit's turnaround story for tips on how to address that, read on! In fact, if this has been a problem, go ahead and contact us at info@Bandits-Buddies.com so that we can put together a plan to help your dog!
Bandit had his reputation for good reason. When I was put in touch with his foster family, they had told me he'd broken out 3 times that week alone...and it was Thursday! So he was not only looking for every opportunity to get outside, but looking to squeeze past people on the way if he needed to.
The odd thing is that Bandit's foster family was great with dogs! They were loving and took him for plenty of walks, so the fact that he wanted to run had absolutely nothing to do with him. Bandit's issue wasn't because of neglect or a negative environment. Actually, dogs usually don't run when they're in a negative environment, usually because they're too scared. More often than not, they want to be chased. It's a harmless and innocent motive, but it's also very difficult and dangerous to deal with.
Bandit's time with Bandit's Buddies:
Using my back, sliding door, I could quickly test Bandit to see how quickly he tried to get out and how aggressive he was about it. After sliding it open even slightly, Bandit was completely locked in to the outside world, no longer looking up for additional instruction. He tried to get closer to the door to look out, but I didn't give him enough space to get outside. He still managed to poke his head out, and was showing the obvious signs of excitement. Even if he got out, he'd only get onto the screened in porch, but I still didn't want to let him get his way.
I also noticed pretty early on that Bandit was pulling on the leash at times, trying to decide where we were going and to go closer to other dogs, bunnies, birds, cats...anything other moving creature he could find. Seeing this fascination with the surrounding nature linked a pretty obvious clue as to why he wanted outside so often, which isn't a problem. Naturally, dogs are quite curious. The problem is making the wrong decision by running!
The problem for Bandit didn't actually seem to be his wanting to run. The problem was actually that he wasn't looking for instruction from his owners during walks. That's why not only would he try to shimmy out immediately, but he also tried to lead the walks wherever he wanted. In this case, like many others, the behavior he came to us for training for wasn't the real problem at all, but more of a symptom of it, or a by-product. We needed to teach Bandit that he needs to look for instruction instead of making every decision himself.
To start with this, we put Bandit through our Basic Leash Walking course, which focuses on staying to the side, not pulling, not becoming distracted, and we put a special emphasis on stopping at crosswalks. Why? Because we don't let our dogs cross until they look up at us. This re-focuses them and reminds them who is leading the charge here. When Bandit did well with the leash, we started phase 2.
Phase 2 was to make sure he didn't run when the door was opened. We started by simply keeping him on the leash when we opened the door, and pulling him back if he tried to go outside. This taught him for the first time that going out could have negative repercussions, and that there might be an additional step now that he didn't know about before.
From there, we were able to establish ourselves as the barrier between him and the outside, and taught him that until we moved, he didn't have permission to go outside. The final step was to teach him that staying while the door was open would be positively rewarded, which Bandit loved, because he LOVED him some treats!
After 5 days, Bandit didn't want to go outside just because the door opened. When the door opened, Bandit looked up at me to see what he should do next, which is PERFECT! He did super well. I'm actually quite amazed Bandit is still available for adoption! If you want to see, check out his page at https://www.petfinder.com/dog/bandit-mighty-42599187/nc/raleigh/love-mutts-rescue-inc-nc716/
Thank you for reading. Look for more Real Life Stories from dogs we've trained in the future, and contact us if you have similar problems with a dog you have. Hopefully through these real life stories, we can spread awareness on treatable behaviors that dogs develop, as well as give owners hope that they can strengthen the bond between them and their dogs through behavioral training.