Pet Boarding & Daycare

No More Runaways! Tips to Keep Dogs in Your Care Safe and Secure

No More Runaways! Tips to Keep Dogs in Your Care Safe and Secure

By Annalisa Berns

Ten years ago, a family dog climbed a six–foot fence and escaped from a boarding facility in El Monte, California. The handsome yellow–colored dog with pointed ears named Butter was never found.

Butter and his family are not alone in this experience. What could have been done to prevent something like this from happening? What went wrong?

In Butter’s case, the fence was high, but not high enough. Plus, it was chain link without a roof, so once Butter made it to the top, he was able to jump right over. There wasn’t a second fence, alarm system or video surveillance. Butter had separation anxiety, and either the facility didn’t thoroughly interview Butter’s family, or possibly a language barrier made it difficult to communicate his issues.

Here are some critical points to take into consideration when reviewing your own facility for dog safety, and when beginning a new build or improvements. 

Fencing, Fencing, Fencing

Eight–foot, solid fencing is ideal—not chain link where a dog can “get a foot–hold.” Eight–foot might seem ridiculously tall, but six–foot just isn’t tall enough and some dogs can scale it easily.

Put supports on the outside of the fence, not inside. That means that the “smooth” fence surface is inside. A dog can use inside supports as a ladder to climb out. 

To prevent digging, you can bury wire fencing in the ground. Or cement can be poured at the base of the fence to discourage digging.

Consider that, while the primary goal is keeping the dog safe inside the fencing, a second, but just as critical goal, is keeping other animals and people out. Coyotes and criminals both can attempt to enter a facility. 

If your existing fencing is six feet or shorter, consider extending the fence height with an overhang or wire. While it might not stop an escape artist, it could slow them down. 


Doors and gates are big “danger zones” for dogs. The doors to kennels need to be extremely secure. One thing to check is that the material and design doesn’t permit a dog to get part of their body out. This not only prevents escape, but keeps them from getting injured by another animal walking by. Small dogs can escape from a tiny space also.

No automatic doors—ever. Automatic doors seem like a smart idea, but it is a recipe for disaster with a run–away pet. 

Multiple doors and gates between pets and the great outdoors is of utmost importance.

Kim Buchanan, owner of Humble Founds Dog Training, commented, “Multiple gates are SO important when you have dogs going in and out. It’s just an extra measure to make sure that if a dog does slip out of a gate, then there is at least a second one to prevent escaping.”

Leashes & Identification

Double leashes are recommended by Cassandra Bauer of Grand View Canine Care in Arkport, New York. “We double leash everyone because collars and harnesses often are fitted incorrectly, leads break, and things happen,” says Cassandra.

Add an extra collar with ID tag with your business information on it or use a paper collar. That way, if a dog should go missing, you know for sure that the pet has valid contact information on it. And if one collar comes off, there is a back–up one in place. 

One creative dog kennel gives out identification tags to all pet owners that say, “I have friends at ______ Kennels” or “If found, call ___-___-____ at _______ Kennels” (for example). Not only could you help recover a lost pet and save their life, but your phone number is on their pet as a reminder of your business. 

Screening Potential Clients

Ask critical questions when interviewing potential clients to make sure they are a fit for your facility. Consider adding questions on intake forms specifically about separation anxiety, prior escape attempts and past boarding experiences.

Know your facility. If you aren’t set-up for escape artist dogs, don’t accept them as clients.  Consider having a short visit to see how the dog does. If you are concerned at all, don’t accept the client. 

Here are some additional safety suggestions from owners and managers of pet boarding, grooming and doggy daycare facilities:

“Use large railroad ties around outside yards to prevent digging out.”
— Nancy Jackson

“Modify driveway sensors to alert you when a dog gets to a specific height on a fence.”
— Angela Poore’ Heyer

“Have a heavy duty ‘level 3’ dog crate. A regular wire dog crate is primarily for dog training and keeping your average dog safe. For powerful dogs or escape artist dogs, these cages aren’t durable enough. Heavy Duty dog crates are made to be indestructible. Expect to spend some serious money on one, but in an urgent situation you will be thankful that you have them.”
— Lauren LaCount

“Cameras everywhere.”
— Shannon Courtney

“Cable tie two leads together in case one breaks there is a back-up. Since they are tied together, staff has to use both.”
— Phillip Roe

“More than anything, we try to provide a fun and enriching home and yard so that the dogs are less stressed and less bored so they don’t try to leave!”
Michael Nicols 

“Have rooms, not kennels, inside if possible. That way the walls go all the way up to the ceiling and it isn’t possible for a dog to climb out.”
Landa Coldiron