We have to admit that we’ve never had to worry about balconies until now.
We live in a house and don’t open the windows wide enough for our boy to dive out of. But we’ve recently been invited to our friend’s rental property for a short break and it has a third-storey balcony.
We want to be able to enjoy the outside space as the weather is supposed to be glorious but I’m a little nervous about letting him outside when there’s a drop on the other side. This isn’t something we have to think about when we take our dog camping.
Of course, people live in apartments with balconies. Many dogs must be perfectly OK and safe relaxing on them, so we wanted to ask will a dog jump off a balcony? and what owners can use to make their balconies safer for their pets.
Will a Dog Jump Off a Balcony?
Dogs can jump off balconies.
Read enough online forum posts and it’s enough to make you want to board up your windows and move to a bungalow. But just because dogs can jump of balconies doesn’t necessarily mean that they will.
We don’t want to scare you but knowing that dogs can (and have) leapt from buildings means that you can take steps to protect your pet in the future.
Why Do Dogs Jump off balconies?
There are several reasons for the behavior.
When dogs are anxious or distressed, they don’t think straight. The adrenaline kicks in and they just want to flee. They can become so preoccupied with escaping that they don’t realise the danger of jumping off a high ledge. This is something that can be more common around holidays where fireworks can be terrifying to pets. A car backfiring or even a siren can be enough to trigger a fear response and send a dog scrambling to getaway. If all other exits are blocked or if they can’t think straight to go back inside, the quickest way out of that situation is by going over the side.
Dogs may have been domesticated but much of their behaviour is instinctual. Much like the fear response, it can override their self-preservation. This isn’t only dogs, we’ve seen this happen in our cats, too. On balconies, it could be a dog catching the scent of another animal, a bird or a dog. Hunting is still a real trigger for all dogs but some breeds are more prone to this. The sight of a small animal on the street below can be enough to tap into that instinct. This can drive the pet to zero in on that to the detriment of everything else.
Dogs in season can also act irrationally to find a mate – females and males. You might think it sounds ridiculous, that a dog would go over the side for sex, but it’s such a biological instinct that there’s not always much that a dog can do.
Puppies often haven’t learned to understand what height means and so can be more prone to falling from height. Combined with their fur-ball-out-of-hell energy, and it’s easy for them to misjudge height or speed.
Puppies and small dogs can also slip or fall between railings or push their way through badly protected balconies. This isn’t always deliberate but can be the result of overzealous playing. Poorly secured balconies can also make it easier for scared or dogs to act on instinct to escape.
Dogs who lose toys over the side may be tempted to chase after them. This is also tied to instinct. You may find some breeds are more susceptible to zeroing in on their ‘prey’ during play and going over the top. Be careful about throwing toys around near balconies or open windows.
Dogs have better depth perception when they’re looking at something head-on. From their peripheral vision, it can be harder to judge the drop of something. Again, playing with dogs on the balcony could be to a fall.
Dogs with poor vision or no vision in one eye can be more susceptible to falls from windows and balconies because their depth perception is affected.
Separation anxiety has been known to cause dogs to jump from windows. The dog may be so eager to find the owner, that they’re willing to jump out to get there. Dogs have also been known to jump out of the window to get to their approaching owner in excitement.
How High Can a Dog Jump Down?
Dogs landing in deep enough water have a better chance at survival than those jumping onto land. Truthfully, cats are far better than dogs at being able to survive falls from greater heights. According to Canadian Veterinarians, some cats have survived falling from 32 storeys. But dogs, much like humans, rarely survive falls from more than 6.
You will find examples of dogs jumping from a height and then walking away completely fine. Other dogs aren’t so lucky and require extensive medical help. If your dog has taken a tumble, even if they seem OK, it’s worth getting the opinion of a veterinarian because some serious injuries may not show up until later and adrenaline can mask aches and pains.
How to Dog-Proof Balcony Railings
There are things owners can do to make their balcony railings more secure.
One thing we’d add to this list is that you should watch out for things they can climb onto such as garden tables, chairs, etc as this gives them the ability to jump over railings. Also, be mindful of your dog’s personality – netting isn’t going to work if your dog likes to chew or claw through things. Railings that look secure could still be big enough for small dogs to wiggle through. Even if they don’t get out, they could get stuck.
Always be mindful of any gaps. If your dog is anything like ours then you’ll be wise to keep an eye on them. Don’t leave your dog unsupervised. You could also take them outside on a leash or harness.
Many owners recommend using chicken wire as it’s cheap and easy to clean. It also won’t block the view and can be easily secured.
Supervising your dog when it’s outside on a balcony can also help prevent any accidents.