HOUDINI DOG – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Tom’s brother, Todd, came for a visit with his dog, Houla, a Catahoula Leopard Dog. She’s only fourteen months old so she’s still a puppy, with puppy energy and a puppy’s desire to play constantly with my two, older dogs.

My three-year-old dog, Remy, played with Houla a lot and the two of them chased each other around the yard at top speed. What’s surprising is that my nine-year-old, Lexi, also played with Houla. This is great because it gave my otherwise couch potato dog some exercise. So the three dogs got along fine, unlike Houla’s younger days when we constantly had to intervene to break up overly aggressive or enthusiastic wrestling matches.

The problem is that Houla discovered a way to get out of our fenced in backyard. We have a tall, reinforced fence covering a large area around two sides of our house. Our dogs have not breached the perimeter for years. Remy found a hole in the fence when we first adopted her but has not found another way out since we plugged that hole. Apparently, she just wasn’t looking.

Houla six months ago

One day we realized that Houla was not in the room with us and we went looking for her. She wasn’t downstairs and she wasn’t upstairs so we went out to the backyard and called her. She instantly appeared, happily wagging her tail at us, from the outside of the fence. We brought her back inside and in short order, she was out again.

Houla outside, looking for trouble

We had to figure out how she was getting out so we all took turns watching her when she went out. After a very short time, she made a beeline to a spot in the fence and started digging and prodding the fence with her nose. Houla had found a small area of fencing that had a hole on the inside, which Houla made bigger. Then she managed to pull on the fence with her teeth and dislodge it from the ground so she could wiggle under it and out the other side.

Houla in a rare quiet moment

This was the beginning of a two-day battle of wits and wills between Tom and Houla. Tom started by putting logs up against the loose part of the fence, but Houla just pushed them aside and escaped under the fence again. Tom then put a large garbage can on the outside of the fence and rocks and more logs on the inside. No problem for Houla.

Tom’s early attempt to stop Houla from getting out

Tom was frustrated and kept piling more things on the trouble spot. Each time he was sure that he had come up with something that Houla couldn’t possibly get around. His confidence was adorable, but he was always wrong. He even used stakes to keep the fence attached to the ground – to no avail.

Another cute photo of Houla as a younger puppy

To add to the problem, when Houla got out, she found a large mud hole to splash in and kept reappearing wet and dirty at the outside of the fence. We had to hose her down and dry her off before I would let her back into the house.

Houla with Todd

Now things got serious – except that I kept laughing at Tom each time he’d get outsmarted by a dog. But we couldn’t all leave the house at the same time because while Houla was adept at getting out, she couldn’t get back in and we didn’t want her wandering out to the road or getting lost in the woods.

Finally, Tom pulled out all the stops. He put a heavy bucket of salt from the winter on the outside of the hole and blocked the inside with an even heavier metal ramp that we use to get the dogs on and off our boat. Success! Houla has gone outside and poked around her escape route but has not managed to get through again.

Tom finally managed to plug the hole in the fence

Crisis averted! Tom is vindicated! For now.

18 thoughts on “HOUDINI DOG – BY ELLIN CURLEY

  1. What a wonderful story! Loved every line of it – and shouted BRAVO to the Houdini dog. Already the title is a winner!!!! We had a Houdini dachshund, already really quite small and squeezing herself in every opening from where she couldn’t come out again, although she was becoming a spectacular act in backing out of things. But never in places where we had no chance of helping her (in the woods, or in pipes in the canalisation)…..
    And to top off your beautiful tale, Houla is a really, really beautiful dog – one CANNOT possibly be angry at her doings! I’ve never heard of this race but I’m totally in love with her. Great post, thank you.

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  2. We had a squirrel hanging on our feeding, trying to make sure there was nothing left for the birds while two doves were actually mating on the table on the deck. Duke can’t get to the deck — the gate is closed. But the moment the squirrel got down from the feeder (finally!) Duke ran out, jumped the fence, and headed after him into the woods. Unsuccessfully.

    Dogs chase squirrels, but they don’t catch them. Healthy exercise for all. Now he’s resting peacefully on the sofa and the Cowbirds have taken over the feeder. We have FLOCKS of birds and Garry is always watching for when it’s time to fill the feeders again. I suggested we add a bird bath and maybe a few birdhouses so they could have a complete spa. They could live permanently on our deck and we would never be able to use it. As it is, I wonder if we will use it.

    You just can’t keep Duke in the yard. Garry worries that he’s going to discover he can’t jump by hurting himself, but I’m pretty sure that’s HOW they learn. Talking to him has not worked well.

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    • It’s scary when a dog gets out of the yard. I worry that they will get lost in the woods or get hit by a car on the road. They don’t know the area outside of their yard and are not savvy about walking on the road.Both dogs are chipped, but my worst nightmare is still coming home and finding one of the dogs missing. I get a knot in my stomach when I see posters for lost dogs.

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      • So do I. But short of tying him up, he’s unstoppable and none of our dogs EVER jumped the fence before … and many of them were bigger than the Duke. I’m not sure WHAT to do. No one is.

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    • I had never heard of this breed before either. My brother-in-law saw a litter of Leopard Dog puppies and fell in love. He bought Houla on the spot. I would research the breed for dominent traits and temperment before I got one based on their beautiful looks. My dog, remy was much calmer and more amenable when she was Houla’s age. Houla has a wild streak that makes here hard to manage.

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      • We got Duke because he was homeless and Kaity knew we would take him in. She just knew us and knew we wouldn’t let him be homeless, especially because he’d been dumped from two other homes and I didn’t think he’d survive another one. He is a lot nutsier than any dog I would voluntarily take, but he is also — as he gets a little older — calming down a bit. And he is absolutely committed to us. He literally sticks to us like glue. He’s not a biter or a fighter, either. He’s just a wild and crazy boy with no pedigree that we can discern. He loves the woods and I’m fine with the woods. He won’t get lost. Dogs don’t get lost in their own woods. They have GPS. The ONLY time he ever went up to the road is when he saw Garry at the mailbox and had to go greet him. It terrified Garry, so we are careful to try to sneak out without letting him know we are leaving. But it’s tricky and until he gets old enough to NOT jump, short of re-fencing the entire yard which we really can’t do, and it would have to be a REALLY high fence … ??

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    • Catahoula Leopard dogs are very beautiful but also very energetic and stubborn. Not the easiest dogs to train. Houla is very sweet but not very obedient. Maybe she just hasn’t been trained properly, or consistently.

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      • He’s a hound. Hounds are VERY smart and VERY stubborn. They live and die by their noses. It’s why it’s so hard to keep them constrained. They will follow that nose anywhere, everywhere, and pay no attention to anything else. I loved our hounds, but when they passed, I knew that was it for me and hounds. You need a lot of energy to get them to even listen long enough for training. They require real dedication.

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  3. These Houdini dogs. Cindy is or was a climber. I don’t dare leave her outside when I go out in case she gets over the fence. When I am home it’s not a problem, she’s not interested but she frets without me and I worry she might try to look for me and end up on the road. She’s 13 so maybe a little past it but she’s still a fit dog. I guess if Houla visits often Tom might have to come up with something a bit more permanent to keep her in.

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    • Some dogs try to get out and others don’t seem to care. My Lexi doesn’t want to be anywhere but with me. When we’re out, I think she stays on the sofa or on the bed and waits for me to get home. Maybe very anxious dogs feel the need to get out and look for their humans and others just like to roam and explore.

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