As the Rattlesnake House project draws ever closer to finish, now I must begin the process of building the dog pen. I know it will be completed soon. I just have that gut feeling where my laziness is telling me we’re going to be working hard soon and not laying around sleeping late on weekends.
Building a good dog pen shouldn’t be too bad, right? I have one large size (not as large as Alfred), one medium size, one small size, and one toy size dog. Just make sure any fence we build is tall enough for the large not to step over and small enough wire for the toy to not slip through, right? Well, if the medium size wasn’t my trusty husky/collie Wink, that would be true. Wink digs, jumps, and climbs. It seems that if you can throw water through a fence she can get out of it. She favors more husky traits than collie, and I had hoped for different when it came to being able to escape from things even Al Capone wouldn’t have tried to escape from.
She got really bad about jumping out of her first dog pen. So we raised it a couple of feet. She was not deterred. She just started climbing out. I tried an electric wire across the top of that dog pen. I favored that rather than the punishment the highway we lived on would have provided. She learned that a quick pop to the nose and just pushing through to the thick double coat on her neck would allow her passage under it. Then she figured out how to avoid the nose pop.
I looked into underground fencing. The collars are designed to send a mild shock when they get too close to the buried wire. The collar wouldn’t go through her hair. Other husky owners also regaled me with stories of how that wouldn’t work and she would just keep running the other way until it lost signal if it even managed to hit a spot of skin.
She can go over, and under. So now what? She can’t be just locked inside the house all of the time, apparently. She has broken a couple of windows too. The first was her and the big dog, Sarge, who were after a threat to their property. Now she just knows that she can, so she will. She has to go outside sometimes for exercise and doggie business anyway. She hates the leash, and I don’t do chaining or dog runners unless I have no other option.
I staked her out once while cleaning. The stake and wire was rated for 200 pounds. She is only like 45 or 50, so it should work, right? A little overkill to do the job. They were incorrect when they left off, “Ineffective for huskies once they are able to open their eyes.” So how do we keep a Wink inside of a fence? Is she doomed to only be able to go outside on a leash and never have any freedom? That’s not good for a husky. I started doing my homework about how to treat the bad traits rather than just training. That was step one.
New Ideas for that Pesky Husky
Huskies are just notorious escape artists anyway. The more room you give them, the more they want. They are just natural explorers and roamers. They are designed for long distances and stamina. She is not needed for that, but her instinct calls to her that she should be doing that. Her inner monologue tells her to seek out new lands and add more to her property. Or if she doesn’t want to add, she should at least see every piece of land that Texas has to offer this year, and start a new state next year.
At Rattlesnake, I have about 1/2 to 3/4 of an acre roped off just for them, and access to a dog door. The entire 7 acres would not be enough for her. 7,000 acres would not be enough for her. She likes to be inside for food and cuddles, but she loves being outside and acting like a dog, too.
I have been consulting with Ryan for the last few months and also contacted a few husky breeders for advice. Husky breeders manage to keep their dogs in. Most of these dogs are show dogs with an inside/outside life like she will have. They are especially adventurous when it is cold. That is the perfect weather for them. Wink and Sarge love to be outside when it is freezing cold. It isn’t appropriate for the smaller ones, Sully and Maggie, but the other two would never come back in if it wasn’t necessary. After many hours of research, and hashing out ideas, I think we have a plan! It is certainly not going to be easy to build, but it should make a great husky-traz.
Here’s the Plan!
There will be heavy-duty rolled panels of the actual fencing, similar to chicken and rabbit wire. We will buy the 6 feet tall roll, and the bottom 2 feet will be bent to the inside of the fence and buried. This will prevent the digging for 2 feet out, which should work nicely. At one foot from the fence, she would back up, but she will not go back as far as two feet.
Digging is not Wink’s favorite activity, oddly enough, as it takes too much time and effort. That is actually a dominant husky trait. They don’t like to dig if they can find another way out. Digging just isn’t fast enough for them. They prefer quick in and out escape methods. That buried fence will cause dirty looks, but will keep her inside from the bottom. It has to be all the way around the bottom. Remember how they said the raptors would systematically test the fences in Jurassic Park? Well, Wink may as well be part raptor in this sense. She will just move to a new spot.
What about the top? Well, there are several ideas for that. You can order a device called a “coyote roller” or you can create a homemade version by running a strand of straight wire across the top with L brackets mounted upside down on the posts and sliding a piece of 3 to 4 inch PVC pipe over it. When they set a paw on it, it just rolls. This type of top is said to be able to keep cats in or out as well. This would also be handy to keep other critters (like coyotes) out of your fence.
Considering how big the perimeter of this fence will be, I don’t see a roller as a viable option. That is just way too much PVC to buy. It will also add a bunch of weight to the fence itself and could cause sagging. Materials should be kept to a minimum where possible. The more pieces, the more maintenance, the more risk of failure somewhere, especially when you add moving pieces.
We have decided to instead go with attaching a piece of rebar to the tops of the posts and running barbed wire (a couple of strands) across those with a slope to the inside of the fence. Very similar to a prison fence. Yes. I’m sure it will look hilarious from the road, but people experienced with huskies will be able to spot it, and immediately know why. I have passed some of these types of pens with coyote rollers and prison yard designs and I have either seen a husky in it, or a sign that says one lives there. We should have support groups.
The rebar and barbed wire will have to come to the inside at least a foot so that she does not feel like she can just clear it by jumping from far enough back, but she also will not be able to climb out. I have seen her do some impressive things, but never hang upside down. If her toes were longer I’m quite sure she would just hang by them and climb out anyway. I won’t say that no husky can do that, but she has really short toes. They seem to hold her fine if she is vertical, but horizontal doesn’t look like it would work very well.
Cross Your Fingers!
I hope this works the way I expect it to. It would be nice to look out in the yard and see her there instead of by the other door outside of the fence because she has been out for a while and is now hungry and tired. She is exceptionally intelligent which is a great thing, and also not. I have been known to say that any dog I own after her, I want to be so dumb that it can’t keep it’s tongue in it’s mouth.
Training has been a breeze with her. She just gets it, and catches on usually the first time. Especially with positive reinforcement. This is also what makes keeping her in a pen so difficult. She learns the first time, and getting out is positive reinforcement. I don’t spank or hit my dogs for bad behavior. I ignore the bad, and reinforce the good. She is also a trained service dog and will not take treats from anyone except me, even if offered. If someone offers her a treat she refuses, and if I try and give it to her, she will refuse it again, because she knows. She wouldn’t even take bacon from my Mom. I can leave a plate of food laying on the couch next to her and she won’t even sniff it. That’s when she is off duty.
She mostly is off duty nowadays, and has eased back into more of a sleep comforting partner. It eases me greatly just to know that if I need her, I just have to put her badge on her and go. On the leash or with me right there, she is golden. It’s when I turn my back and take off her harness and badge that she goes full on husky again. She hasn’t been on active, public duty in almost a year. But she is incredible at it! I don’t take her if it is unnecessary. It does me a world of good just knowing that I can. Usually just spending time laying on the bed holding her while she breathes in my face in the evenings suffices the comfort and support that I need from her.
Wink is definitely one of a kind, and gets her name from an improperly formed eyelid on her right eye. As a puppy, she could barely open it at all. The vet advised against surgery that had the potential to blind her, and felt sure that Wink’s eyelid would stretch as she grew. They vet was correct, and here’s a fun fact: Wink can move that eye independently. So she will be watching and listening to me, but will follow someone walking by with the other eye. She’s just as unique as me, and almost as quirky.
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