Climbing The Walls

11th Mar, 2024

Written by Greta Wilson, in collaboration with COAPE Animal Behaviourist Judy Post

I’ve had six Boxers and only my Mango has leapt my wall... repeatedly. Here’s my experience.

Mango and I took up dog jumping “agility” classes when she was six months old (she’s now in her sixth year). Not for lack of enrichment, she took to jumping the wall big time when my mother went on holiday and I joined a friend for coffee up the road. But she’d also given us a hint of this behaviour the day before when a client fetched product from me and Mango wall-leapt to the bemused client in the road.

I must be clear: my dogs don’t lack for enrichment – there are Kongs, lick mats, scatter mats, a Robustaball, thick, long boating rope tied to a tree for tug games, a tyre on which to chew, dental enrichment chews, regular walks, not to mention that my mother’s almost always home with my dogs.

Mango’s new habit

When sweet Mango was almost four years old, her little world fell to pieces when my mother went away on holiday (many hours in Mango’s daily routine comprise veranda cuddles with my mother), and the behaviour was then learnt. Jumping walls gets one self-rewarding sniffs on the other side of the wall, and adventures running around the lake and adjacent field.

Fortunately, I live in an area that has only two entry roads, and neighbours – many of whom have dogs – look out for one another. Everyone knows about Mango, as I made it my business to alert all that she’s taken to wall jumping.

This was different to when she’d also wall-leapt as a puppy. This occurred on several occasions, but there was always context. We visited neighbours across the wall with my other two Boxers and she had a serious bout of Fear Of Missing Out, jumping over to join us. She wall-leapt to us again when visiting the same neighbours, although on this occasion I’d left all my dogs at home. If either my mom or I walked up the road, Mangolina would jump the wall. On another occasion we were out and Mango leapt over to their yard – horrors!

I must hasten to add that the 6-foot-high wall has had spikes for many years, even before Mango arrived. No problem for Mango, who leaps park benches, children’s swings, swims to retrieve sticks in lakes, and clambers over children’s playground equipment in the park.

The Mango-proofing mission

Fast forward to what has been done to try to stop Madame, though her determination still wins on occasion. PVC roller bars (pipes) that spin on their axis as steel cable runs through them was installed on top of the wall, to which I even zapped Mr Min to make the PVC extra slippery. I later added thick and tall dead branches all along the wall as well as a generous gifting of many Yucca plants from a friend who’d faced the same challenges in the past of a wall-leaping dog.

I founded Boxer Rescue South Africa and am painfully aware of the plight of straying Boxers, among the breeds renowned for escape artistry, including Huskies, German Shepherds, German Shorthaired Pointers, and Malamutes, to name but a few.

Basically, the drive to get over is so strong for Madame. We have to lock her away from the front gate when we’re out so it’s much harder to get over the wall from the garden. Mango’s extremely athletic and has no hip, spine, shoulder, elbow, or knee issues, so it’s a cinch for her to leap over anything.

I must stress that I’d never consider electric fencing. I’m strongly against aversives and advocate management of containment of escape artist dogs as stressing only fear-free methods.

Mango tends to lie beneath the tenant’s or her grandmother’s bedroom windows when we’re out. We’ve had feedback to this effect. She trots away after we bid her farewell when driving off. We’ve assumed that Mango is fine. No one wants to hear the news their dog is straying.

Cost: R5,100 labour and installation of roller bars, which a friend generously paid for. Mr Min cans. And the nine Yuccas given by a friend from her garden (each valued at R700, thus R6,300). R11,480 to safely contain Mango (this excludes severe emotional trauma during this episode, and one can’t put a price on that).

When we first installed the PVC roller bars my mother and I staged a “Great Escape”, taking turns to walk up and down the road, recording areas where Mango especially tried to get out. Friends sat glued to their Facebook, popcorn in hand, and some tweaks were needed to ensure each roller bar continued to spin on its axis if paws touched it.

All sorts of assumptions and judgements come one’s way from those not on the ground, but as with anything in life, if you’ve not walked the mile...

Mango’s among my dogs where I turned to COAPE behaviourist Judy Post. She agreed that Mango has a very strong bond with me and my mother and so doesn’t want to get left behind – that she was exhibiting a level of separation distress.

Judy Post, COAPE Animal Behaviour Practitioner (dogs and cats), adds...

Dogs escape from properties for various reasons, such as the following:

  1. Young athletic dogs may escape from a property because it’s not difficult for them to do so from a physical point of view, and so it doesn’t take much effort to scale a fence or dig under a fence to investigate something interesting off property.

  2. Some dogs, especially newly adopted ones that have learnt to wall jump or dig their way out of a property in the past, may continue to do so if they are able to, because it’s become a self-rewarded habit for them, even if they get enough mental and physical stimulation at home.

  3. Dogs might escape the property due to their attempting to reconnect with their caregiver if they aren’t used to being left alone, or if they suffer from separation distress.

  4. Lack of stimulation at home may make a dog seek appropriate stimulation off property.

  5. Dogs may get lured to escape their property if they hear other dogs on the other side of the fence, either to seek their company or to investigate them, or to chase them away.

  6. Territoriality may cause a dog to escape the property to chase away a perceived intruder.

  7. Dogs that suffer punishment or abuse (deliberate or inadvertent) at home may escape to avoid further abuse.

To prevent one’s dog escaping one’s property, it’s necessary to provide sufficient physical barriers to prevent it from happening repetitively, as Greta did for Mango. It’s also necessary to determine the cause of the dog having the drive to escape the property, and address it accordingly to prevent the dog from wanting to escape. If one can’t determine the reason for this behaviour, I suggest contacting a COAPE qualified animal behaviourist such as myself for assistance.

For any further advice in this regard, call Judy Post on 082 732 5645 or email

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