How to best confine my dog?
April 27, 2005 12:02 PM   Subscribe

My 18 lb. dog has been escaping from the yard during the day and running in my (annoyed) neighbors' yards. I keep nailing up boards, but after trying to keep her in the kitchen with a dog gate, I found she's actually leaping over the low portion of the fence. How can I keep her from fleeing?

I rent, so a new fence isn't an option.

I've tried a tether/corkscrew in the ground thing. She hung herself on a tree branch while trying to leap over the fence, wrapped herself around a bush and got caught up on a flower pot.

I've trying keeping her in the kitchen with two dog gates stacked on top of one another. She jumps into the top dog gate until it falls.

I can't just keep her in the house, as she's having... bathroom training issues. Let alone her vendetta against my business shoes and my daughter's stuffed animals.

I'm gone for too long during the day to feel ok about crating her all day.

The only other thing I can think of are those invisible fences with the sensor collar.

Is there something I'm not thinking of?

Has anyone used the invisible fencing? Is there a type/brand that's better than others?

(She's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel/Bassett mix. She's submissive and going through some serious separation issues due to a recent move, but was already weird as a rescue dog. It's a fairly large yard for the city.)
posted by Gucky to Pets & Animals (23 answers total)
It's not entirely clear from your information above (at least to me): are you leaving her in the yard all day while you are at work, or are you crating her inside?
posted by handful of rain at 12:17 PM on April 27, 2005

Sorryy, Gucky--I'm just having comprehension problems today. You did say that you don't want to crate her all day.
posted by handful of rain at 12:19 PM on April 27, 2005

Why not crate her and have someone come in to walk her a couple of times during the day? A neighbour who you can repay with a favour, or pay for a service to do this. Another alternative is a doggy daycare facility.

Invisible fencing isn't something I'm at all a fan of, for various reasons which I've enumerated here before. Your yard isn't secure, which not only means your dog can get out, but other things can get in. And as you've found, tying her up is a dangerous and bad idea. Crating her should also help with her housetraining, as long as you're reasonable about it (i.e. by making sure someone comes in to walk her at least every four hours or so, for most people's work schedules, this means just once a day).
posted by biscotti at 12:25 PM on April 27, 2005

OK, going for my third comment in the thread...

I think maybe you'd be better off spending the money you'd spend on a fence on a dog behavorist or trainer to address your dog's separation anxiety (which is likely only heightened by leaving her alone outside all day) and also on the housebreaking issues. It just doesn't sound like a safe and secure place for her to be: she can get out, other animals or people can have access to her--and dogs like to be with their families.

I've had great luck with crate training (which would control the bathroom problems), though my husband and I are able to come home for a 30-45 minute bathroom and exercise break at noon. Could you hire a dog walker, or maybe a neighbor, to give her some extra attention during the day?

On preview, what Biscotti said...
posted by handful of rain at 12:26 PM on April 27, 2005

You need to crate her and arrange for daytime dog walkers or visitors to check in on her. She is busting out because she is bored/lonely/scared, and the busting out (from every location) isn't going to stop until she gets more daytime attention. In the meantime, you need to keep her from being able to destroy other peoples' things or getting where she can get herself hurt or picked up by animal control. Dogs can get through electric fences if they want to ignore the shock (and it sounds like she will). So, you have to crate her. But this is exactly the situation that doggy daycare will be perfect for. That should be your first step.

On preview, I agree with the above...
posted by dness2 at 12:28 PM on April 27, 2005

I have two friends who use invisible fence with great success. While I can't say I'm a 100% fan of it either, I do have to say that its worked well, and the fact that the dog hears a signal before they feel any pain quickly teaches them to stay inside the marked boundaries. I am sure that one of the dogs has only felt pain due to the collar a single time (the time the trainer showed her what the collar would do), and I don't think the other dog has been zapped more than twice. The second dog actually does still wear her collar, but the 'zap' has been turned off since just the warning tone works well for her.

But what both owners have found is that the key to good invisible fence is to go with a reputable company, and not try the "do it yourself" route. Each had a person from the company come out, set the boundaries, and train the dog on the boundaries using a process that involved flags, a sound, a leash, and (finally) a single zap to the dog.

I'll also add that both dogs in question were healthy, active, well adjusted and very well trained and obedient. We live in a rural area, so both owners use the collar mostly so their dogs can run free on the property when the owners are already home ... I'm not so sure that leaving a dog alone with the collar is a good idea, since if the dog can stand the moment of pain they can easily run through the fence -- and sometimes will, according to the trainer that my friend used.
posted by anastasiav at 12:53 PM on April 27, 2005

I can't just keep her in the house, as she's having... bathroom training issues. Let alone her vendetta against my business shoes and my daughter's stuffed animals.

Whatever you do in the meantime, the long term solution is to

(1) Work on the housetraining until it's done.
(2) Keep the shoes and stuffed animals where the dog can't get them; ie in rooms with doors closed.

As a short term answer, I'd suggest crating. It might feel cruel, but your dog won't get hurt in a crate and has almost been hurt in your yard, and could easily get hurt or smushed if she escapes again.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2005

I'll third (or fourth) the crate with a dog walker suggestion. Your dog sounds bored. Do you take her for walks? or is most of her activity confined to the house and yard? We have a very, very, very energetic german shephard/huskie mix who gets a walk in the morning, a walk and/or park in the middle of the day from the dog walker, and another walk and/or park visit after work and I swear that's why we dont have any major behavioral issues. He is nuts when he doesn't get that middle of the day excersize.
posted by drobot at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2005

Crating may aleviate some of the bathroom issues as well, as dogs don't like to eliminate where they sleep.
posted by SashaPT at 1:06 PM on April 27, 2005

Oh, and to reinforce what drobot said about the walking, I would also suggest watching The Dog Whisperer if you get the National Geographic Channel. It really changed the way I approached raising our puppy, and he addresses many different anxiety issues in dogs.
posted by SashaPT at 1:09 PM on April 27, 2005

Another one for crating. It's really teh best way to train her out of the "bathroom issues" as well as separation anxiety.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:10 PM on April 27, 2005

We have a chow/shepard mix, and the invisible fence doesn't work for her as the shock doesn't reach her skin through the mass of fur. The invisible fence guy warned us about this, but we had to try anyway. Luckily, he was a good businessman, and refunded our money.

Just a word of warning, should you go down that route.
posted by thanotopsis at 1:18 PM on April 27, 2005

In addition to the crate training, which is great for your dog, you could also try some Kongs in the backyard. A well-stuffed Kong should take a pretty good while for your pup to clean out. If she's bored, they give her something to do.
posted by MrZero at 1:21 PM on April 27, 2005

Adding to the crating crowd. It isn't cruel. It's the best possible thing you can do for your little buddy. Get one that's nice and open, not one of those domed monstrosities, and put favorite stuff in: blanket, snax, water. Try to come home same time every day and when you leave the house with the dog in the crate don't make a goodbye fuss.
Also: if you have a basement and you have a column in the room for anchoring , make a 10' radius run with outdoor-type tether. The dog's likely to get more anxious than in a crate and will take longer to resolve bathroom issues, but it might ameliorate your own misgivings about crating, which just about any experienced dog owner/trainer recommends.
posted by nj_subgenius at 1:39 PM on April 27, 2005

Ok. Just another reason I love Ask MetaFilter.

I guess I should have asked about my larger issues -- the fact that she won't go in front of people because of her previous abuse no matter how much I walk her, the fact that our training routine got all thrown off because of the move and the impracticality of caring for such a dependent dog on my own that's driving me to near madness.

Striking the invisible dog fence idea. Trying to find cheapish dogwalking/doggy daycare -- on the to do list. Sending resumes to those workplaces that let you bring your dog -- done. Getting used to the whining sound of her in the crate as I leave for work -- preparing to brace myself.

Thanks everyone.
posted by Gucky at 1:57 PM on April 27, 2005

I agree with the crating as well and want to highly suggest activities in the morning and evening that provide an outlet for boredom. If the dog is even reasonably intelligent she may be so energetic/destructive/anxious/disobedient due not having a job. Put your dog's brain to work! Obedience training is well worth the money. My German Shepherd has destroyed a full sized padded rocking chair down to wire, stuffing, wood and fabric because I snoozed on walking him in the mornings for a few days.

Back on the crating: Dogs are pack animals and den animals, and very much creatures of habit. That means they like to be with other dogs and/or humans or they like to be in confined areas and once you adhere to a schedule with their food/water/elimination/training, they'll become much easier pets to enjoy. I totally didn't buy the crating mentality for my entire life until last summer when we got our shepherd. Now I wouldn't have it any other way for future dogs I'll own. Due to my commute, financial situation and neighborhood community (or lack thereof) I cannot make it home mid-day to play with him and let him our to whiz. Even so, he's fine all day in the crate. But if you can afford doggy daycare or having someone come over to your place once or twice during the day to play with her, I say do it. But, yeah, think very hard about crating. She won't like it too much at first, but will adjust very quick.

On preview, about the abuse issue, training will help this problem substantially as well. Get back in that routine! :)

Kudos for you for researching though. Some people would just make the chain shorter.
posted by sublivious at 2:06 PM on April 27, 2005

Good posts here! I suggest you get Ian Dunbar's book "Before and After You Get Your Puppy" (even though your dog isn't a puppy), it has a really good crate training section. And/or Jean Donaldson's "The Culture Clash". Lots of exercise, lots of training, as others have implied, a HUGE number of behaviour problems are directly related of inadequate exercise and insufficient regular training (training is like teaching your dog to understand English).

I'll disagree slightly with nj_subgenius and say that the so-called "domed monstrosities" are actually far preferable for some dogs, since they are more den-like and make some insecure dogs feel much more secure (there is only one big opening, the door, so they don't feel completely exposed like they do in a wire crate, many people who have wire crates end up having to cover them because the dog gets anxious and feels more trapped out in the open in a wire crate). Some dogs don't like them, some really prefer them, it depends on the dog, but don't rule them out from the get-go, especially with an anxious dog, the whole reason crate training works (and is not cruel if done properly so the dog isn't left for hours on end) is because dogs are naturally denning creatures, an open wire crate is not at all den-like, whereas the more closed plastic ones are very den-like. Use what works for your dog. Good luck.
posted by biscotti at 3:15 PM on April 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

A dog that's been previously abused will respond well to:

1) A routine. 30 minute walk in the morning, same at night.
2) Crating. Really. I had a previously-abused Pembroke Corgi who loved his crate; when he didn't want to socialize, he went there, door open and all.
3) What sublivious said about keeping your dog mentally active.
4) Dog parks. The first several times might be disappointing. Keep going. Get your dog's social skills brewing.

Recommend you do not get a doggy day care person unless it's for exercise and FUN for a very limited amount of time per day, say 20 minutes. Don't let the dog get confused about who is alpha. And I defer to biscotti on a covered crate, I'm just prejudiced against them for no good reason.
posted by nj_subgenius at 3:43 PM on April 27, 2005

Don't let the dog get confused about who is alpha.

This should never be an issue, not least because dogs decide who is alpha for the most part based on leadership, not who walks them. It's a very outdated notion that we need to somehow "establish dominance" over dogs by "becoming alpha", simple common sense enhanced by some good reading and reasonable, regular training is all you need with most dogs. Sometimes I wish it was a requirement that any time someone uses the word "alpha" they had to go and read some modern dog behaviour research (not directed at you nj_subgenius, just a general comment), the concept is so misunderstood and so overused it's done far more harm than good.

If you act like a leader acts (i.e. you don't do silly things like the so-called "alpha roll" (which is what dogs lower on the totem pole do, not the alphas) and don't place your dog in dangerous situations and don't place the dog in the position of having to make decisions it shouldn't be making), then your dog will see you as a leader, no matter who walks him. A dogwalker is not going to usurp your position by walking and playing with your dog for an hour, and the benefits of having a well-exercised dog far outweigh any minor issues.
posted by biscotti at 4:11 PM on April 27, 2005

I guess I should have asked about my larger issues -- the fact that she won't go in front of people because of her previous abuse no matter how much I walk her

Crate training will help with this, too. As mentioned above, the dog won't want to piddle where she sleeps. Thus, being released from the den/crate is a natural trigger for a dog to go to the bathroom. After you've gotten the dog accustomed to the crate, she'll be likely to potty if you bring her out, throw the leash on her and head outside immediately.
posted by MrZero at 4:35 PM on April 27, 2005

I recommend crating too. Glad you decided against invisible fence--we returned a dog we found wearing a shock collar to its owner this weekend and found out he had also been roaming a few days earlier. And this isn't the first dog I've found wandering with a shock collar on.

I have found calming supplements like Ultra Calm very helpful in taking the edge off for our dog's anxiety during stressful situations. (I used it when we first got her for taking her on walks because she was so scared of so many things.) There are also other calming supplements--Rescue Remedy, Tranquility Blend, Pet Calm, R & R Essence, and I'm sure there are others. Trying something like these when you start crate training could really help. Check with your vet.

I second biscotti on the whole alpha thing. In addition to Jean Donaldson and Ian Dunbar's work, even people like the Monks of New Skete are backing away from stuff like the "alpha roll". As I understand it, Donaldson and Dunbar have pretty much concluded in the work they're doing now, that canine hierarchy, social structure, and communication are far more complex and subtle than we guessed. So much so, that it does a disservice to dogs to try and imitate it.
posted by lobakgo at 4:59 PM on April 27, 2005

I know you said a new or fortified fence isn't an option, but have you asked your landlord? Ours was happy to take the cost of installing one off of our rent.
posted by kmel at 5:33 PM on April 27, 2005

Crating is a good training method, but it's not the only one. My dog (also a shelter dog, very likely abused) hated his crate. For weeks, we kept expecting it to turn into a "he used to hate it, but now he loves it!" kind of thing that you see all the time on the 'net. Didn't happen.

He would go into his crate. He would freak the fuck out for the entire time he was in it. An hour. Three hours. Overnight. Whatever. We eventually wound up keeping him in the kitchen while we were gone/overnight with one of those plastic-covered-steel-wire leashes. It's attached to the wall with an eyelet screw in a doorframe, and short/low enough that he can't wrap it around anything. He's got his food, water, blanket, and toys in a large area that he can consider his own.

He still doesn't particularly like being penned up, but it works a lot better than crating ever did.
posted by billybunny at 9:03 PM on April 27, 2005

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