Help my doggie run free!
September 14, 2006 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Help me let my energetic doggie play off leash in the yard while ensuring her safety...

My dog, a Patterdale of about 20 lbs, would dearly love to romp and play outside with the neighbor dogs, 2 big friendly labs.

I rent a house that sits on a fairly large piece of land, so there's ample room to play. There is some fencing, but I don't think it could hold her, and since it's not my home I can't really modify the fencing.

She answers when I call her, most of the time, but if she sees a deer or squirrel I fear that she might just take off. Her breed is bred to hunt, so she might just take off on a chase. (Yes, I know I need to train her better, and I'm completely happy to hear your suggestions on how to catch and retain her attention at times like this)

A "run" doesn't give her enough room. I am leaning towards having an "outside collar" for her, to which I attach an insanely long piece of rope (100 yards?) and I then fasten the other end of the rope to me. So she has lots of room to run and play, but she can't go too far. Does this sound reasonable? I of course don't want her to get hurt, or her playmates - but if the rope is long enough, they won't get tangled in it, will they? It should remain slack enough (unlike a shorter rope) that they can just run around and over it.

What am I missing, and do you have any better ideas?
posted by KAS to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
Invisible fence, or remote control shock collar.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:18 AM on September 14, 2006

They are going to get tangled in any line you attach. I have three wild rompers and their patterns of movement are defined only by chaos. They roll and climb on each other, and wrestle and spin. Someone could get his feet tangled in it and break several legs, just for a start.

I'm using green wire garden fencing, which uses metal stakes that you just push into the ground (I can't find an example online, but any large garden department should have it in rolls) to close the fence gaps since my landlady won't fix the fence. It's not perfect, especially for dogs that'll scoot under, but it's close enough that we can reinforce the bad spots. That, with some more work on training for recall, could be enough if you're going to stay out and supervise.

There's radio fencing, but holy crap is it expensive. On the plus side, it can be taken with you when you move.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:29 AM on September 14, 2006

My grandmother had a chihuahua whose regular leash was a harness and a many-many foot clothes line. Aside from getting hopelessly tangled around just about anything, the rope was pretty good for allowing her to romp. I will caution you to make sure that people and dogs alike don't get caught up though. I received the worst rope burn of my life once when the line had wrapped around my ankle and the dog took off running after something.

As far as training until you're comfortable with leaving her off the leash, the long rope might be good for that. You can let her run out, and then call/whistle/clap/signal her to come back while reinforcing it by reining her in. You could also use copious praise/treats/rewards when she does come.
posted by sarahmelah at 10:45 AM on September 14, 2006

i'll second lyn's suggestion on working on the fence. an hour or so with garden wire would probably give you pretty good security.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 10:52 AM on September 14, 2006

Two points about invisible fence...It does not prevent other animals from getting inside, and a highly motivated dog (like mine) might be willing to take the hit for some freedom.
posted by lobstah at 11:11 AM on September 14, 2006

Re: invisible fence ... realize that they work in both directions. The dog gets a shock approaching it from the inside. If the dog does manage to get out, the dog gets a shock approaching it from the outside, too.

Invisible fences are bad choices. Long ropes have a host of problems, too. Consider the type of cheap, rollable, vinyl fencing you see around construction sites.

But training and supervision is clearly the best.
posted by frogan at 12:11 PM on September 14, 2006

I doubt she'd remain gone long if she did run off. Most dogs are smart enough to know where their food bowl is.

That said, the way to chain a dog up without it getting tangled is to run a line parallel to the ground between two points, and thread that line through the hand loop of a shorter leash. This gives her plenty of play without leaving lots of slack at any time.

But I'd try just letting her run around, personally.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 12:27 PM on September 14, 2006

I cannot count the number of times I have heard first-hand stories of energetic dogs running at high speed past the invisible fence and then being unable to come home because of it. The only people I know who had any success with them at all used them in combination with standard fencing.

When you say a "run" doesn't give her enough room are you talking about a dog run in the sense of a long bowling-alley-lane kind of enclosed area or a lead attached to a long horizontal line? If the second, I don't see how that needs to be any shorter than just a long-assed lead.

I'd certainly try something like that before the single long lead since the line they could get caught in could be shorter and would to some extent be held up off the ground, reducing tangle.
posted by phearlez at 12:32 PM on September 14, 2006

There are some good ideas about quick, cheap fencing and other possibilities on this site.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:35 PM on September 14, 2006

We have a similar issue with our dog. He's all hound, and when he gets hold of a scent, it's like he's in a "zone." We have to physically get into his line of sight and snap him out of it, sort like waving your hand in front of a person who's zoned out. We also have an unfenced yard and have had to come up with creative control ideas. (See this question - we decided not to be "those people").

What we've come up with is to let him roam, but when he gets more than say 2/3 of the way toward the edge of the yard, we start reining him in. It works best with two people, but you can probably manage it yourself if you have to. It would require your active involvement, though, since you would pretty much have to stay between the dogs and the property line. That gives you the best chance of interfering with a sprint. Just drag a chair and a book out there, and keep the dogs in your periphery.

Dexter also takes off after bunnies and squirrels. We've learned to spot them before he does, which I highly recommend, because you can issue a firm "NO" while she's just thinking about taking off, not after she's already on the run. Also, eventually she'll learn to associate spotting squirrels with a "NO" command, which should help her not to take off every time.
posted by boomchicka at 1:00 PM on September 14, 2006

You might check out Cesar Millan's (The Dog Whisperer) site. He might have something. Love his show on the National Geographic channel.
posted by prodevel at 4:18 PM on September 14, 2006

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