CANINE HOUDINIS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

This is the saga of dog versus fence. We have an eight foot high deer fence around two sides of our house. It creates a large play area for our dogs.

This fence has a long and humiliating history of dogs outsmarting humans.

Many years ago we had a simple, six-foot tall fence in our backyard. We also had a Pit Bull named Penny who was a clever and determined escape artist. We watched her jump over the fence (it sagged at the top from her weight, so she didn’t have to clear the full six feet). So we hired a neighbor named John to extend and reinforce the fence at the top. Now it was eight feet and wouldn’t sag any more.

Penny was still getting out – greeting us happily as we drove down the driveway. But she was devious. She would never escape while we were watching her. We had to pretend to leave the house, then sneak back in and peek out the kitchen windows, without her seeing us, in order to watch her. Now she was digging under the fence and slipping out through the bottom. John came back and had to nail down the bottom of the fence every few feet. This was becoming a personal feud between John and Penny.

Penny

I called John two days later. “Well, John. You managed to hold her off for 48 hours. Want to try for 72?” Now she was chewing her way through. John had to reinforce the entire length of the fence.

A few days later, John was back again. He was getting sick of being outsmarted by our dog. There are two large metal doors at either end of the fence. Penny was using her nose to push the door off its hinges in order to create a Penny sized hole! John fixed the door.

At this point I think we finally managed to contain our wandering dog.

This is what the fence looks like now, if you can see it

Skip ahead over ten years. We have a new set of dogs, Lexi and Remy. Remy is 45 pounds, and a year and a half old. We’ve had her since she was eight months old. She is a beautiful reddish-brown hound with hazel eyes and a sleek body. Unfortunately, she began channeling Penny.

One day Remy bounded into the house soaking wet, covered in mud and smelling awful. There is no water or mud inside the fenced in yard. We gave her a bath and started watching her closely.

The next day we saw her outside the fenced in area. We called to her and she happily ran right through the fence and bounded up to us. At least she’s not sneaky and secretive, like Penny was. We saw where she breached the fence and went out and plugged the whole with extra deer fencing.

Remy

She got out again. This time Tom walked the perimeter of the fence and fixed all the holes he could find. And there were many. The fence is getting old.

A few days later, Tom found Remy at the top of the driveway, coming back from the road. Not good. Now I got out there and managed to find a few more holes in the fence. The holes were small but the plastic is stretchy so we think Remy could manage to squeeze through a relatively small hole.

Remy and Tom

At this point we realized that our home remedies weren’t cutting it. I called my landscaper and told him we had a dog emergency. He came the next day with metal chicken wire fencing, He reinforced the entire fence and added extra stakes to make the structure sturdier.

Cut to the next day.

I’m watching Remy from the kitchen. She starts pacing back and forth along the fence, sniffing and poking at regular intervals. When she finds what used to be her go to doorway, she starts butting her head against the fencing. Then she starts using her paws to punch at it. Finally she tries to dig under it.

Remy playing poker with us and friends

I yelled at her and she came running to me. I hope she has realized that her days of roaming free are over. Otherwise, we’ll be back to trying to outsmart a determined dog with a flimsy fence.

12 thoughts on “CANINE HOUDINIS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

  1. I am sure that Duke will figure out a way out of the yard. He could pretty easily jump out or dig out or something. Fortunately, he doesn’t seem interested in escaping. We are his third home. I think maybe he figures he should hang on to a good thing. But I’m sure he could find a way out. He is way too clever.

    Jeff and I had a Keeshond when we lived in Uniondale. He could scale pretty much any fence. He found a home a few blocks a way and he like their other dog (an old English Sheepdog) and preferred their food — and he moved in. I was so humiliated. My dog didn’t want to live with us. He wanted the other couple a few streets away. I just gave him to them. They LOVED him and bought two more just like him. It was pretty strange.

    We were rejected by our dog.

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    • Maybe your dog just liked the other family’s dog better than your dog. It may have had nothing to do with you. Sometimes dogs make best friends and don’t want to be separated. But it was so nice of you to let your dog choose to be with another family. Especially since they were thrilled to have him. You did right by your dog!

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  2. Before I met my partner, I was absolutely sure the dog was safe at home behind the dog-proof fence (I did wonder sometimes how she was getting to be so chubby with the food she got – genetics, I thought). When I met my partner, he made the mistake of having a different schedule to me, and arrived home to find – no dog! He went running up and down the road, yelling and whistling, knowing he was a dead man if he’d lost my dog. Said dog slunk along behind the shrubbery, in the shadows, refusing to look at his face, got to the fence, climbed it like a ladder to the roof, and slid down via the water tank. Sat at the back dooor, wagging her tail.
    I wouldn’t have believed it, and even laughed at his wild story, but several neighbours felt obliged to come around to drop off her favourite sausage treats – ‘cos she gave them ‘that’ look, and they missed her regular visits. It didn’t take her long to figure out the new schedule and ensure she was home before either of us could catch her out again.

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    • What a great story about a dog determined to get out and explore! The gymnastics she went through to get out sound more like a squirrel trying to get to a bird feeder. Very talented dog.

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      • Much too smart for me! Well, no – she got everyone wrapped around her paw one way or another. Like the time we left her in kennels while on holiday, and came back to a fat dog, carried everywhere, and they all cried when she left – what did she do? I’ll never know!

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        • Some dogs just have charisma and everyone loves them! I have one of those now. And I feel bad for our other dog, who is wonderful, just not as magnetic and winning to most people. You have to get to know her to appreciate her special quirks.

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