digging/escaping under fence- HELP, please!

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#1
I am new to forum today- please forgive if I post this in worng place or way, thanks.

My boy, Caleb Luis, is aprox 3 yr old Black&Tan Coonhound/mix ( lab?!), has been with me one year and is rescue from shelter.

He came with MUCH neurosis (click table lamp ONCE and he cowers and slinks through house for several DAYS) that we have worked through and has now found his inner dogliness which is at once a blessing and a curse.

Being above difficult to train as he would not take treats from hand or floor, clicker drove him to duck and run and hands-on was not an option for the first 6 months, I am now the proud dog mom of a somewhat spirited and head strong teenage hound boy that makes his own rules! (He has learned sit, wait and come from watching my other dog)

We walk every day, we visit dog park 3-5 times a week, he lives with built in playmate, ShoutAnthony ( 5yr ish hound/lab mix) and they get along great, he has fenced in 1/2 acre with free choice doggie door to in/out of house 24/7.

Granted with winter set in the "hollar", sometimes it is diffiult to get out and walk so we substitute rough indoor play with ball and wrestling and "toy-search") when we can't walk outdoors.

Anywho- the point being, now that he has discovered his dogliness, he feels less inhibited and has taken to digging under fence to let himself out ONLY WHEN I AM NOT HOME.

The first time he left, he was gone- far! Took an hour of calling and traipsing through woods and driving over the hills and back before he came home. All subsequent trips he comes home within 5 minutes of me arriving and calling for him.

Recently, we no sooner get the last hole blocked up with heavy stones than he is escaped again from freshly dug hole in a different place. It is now a daily occurance- he has honed his digging skills to a T!

Running free is NOT an option here...unscrupulos folks set wildlife traps ( we have several tri-pod dogs in the hollow), hunters will shoot any dog that disturbs their quarry and Caleb is not yet where he will approach a stranger if lost...

I don't know how to keep him from digging out....I just don't know what to do to keep him safe. :dunno:

As a very last resort, I have purchased all the paraphenalia to hook up an electric fence at the base of their fence outside, the idea being to try to relate (as closely as possible) digging at fence line with negative results.

I have not yet put it out there and I don't want to. IF I do put it out there, I will force myself to touch it first before I subject my dog to it. If I can't handle it, I won't leave it up for Caleb.

Can anyone offer any other helpful suggestions to keep him from digging so I don't have to put up the wire??!

- He only digs out when I am not home, training still requires heavy creativity and thought as he still does not take treats from hand readily and the clicker is still not an option for training, though many of his issues are subsiding as he grows into his own courage- we are just not there yet.

He's a pickle of a boy, but I just love him!

Thanks in advance for helpful suggestions!
 

milos_mommy

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#2
Using any kind of shock or correction collar (like an electric fence) on a dog that was very nervous is a BAD idea. It might turn him back into a slinking, untouchable, terrified dog.

He should not be outside, even in a fenced yard, with no home to supervise. If he only does it when you're not home, he may be trying to dig out to go look for you, or just be getting bored.

There should be a way to lock the doggy door...why can't you just lock it to keep him in the house before you go out, or block off the room with the door in it? Giving him something like a kong or raw meat bone before you leave will keep him from getting bored or destructive in the house. Is he crate trained?
 

milos_mommy

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#3
Also, if he is afraid of the noise of a clicker, you can always use a word marker or hand signal instead of the scary noise. Just say your word (lots of people use "yes!" or "good!" but you could even just speak the word "click") and then treat him, so he associated the sound of your marker word with getting a treat.
 

Maxy24

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#4
I too would be wary of using the electric fence on a dog that skittish. I'd worry that he would refuse to go in the yard at all again. Does he absolutely have to be outside when you are not home? Could you use a tie out during these times instead?

Perhaps you could have fence put under ground some way or pour concrete around the base of the fence so that he cannot dig there.
 

milos_mommy

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#5
I don't really like to see a dog on a tie-out unsupervised (especially if the person's not home...a dog in the yard or on a tie-out when you're indoors and can peek outside every once in a while is fine). I've heard way too many horror stories of accidental hangings.
 
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#6
thank you for your feedback and suggestions, they are much appreciated.

I agree about the electric driving him back into his neurosis....I have put this off and put this off and blocked the fence woth heavy rocks and walked him into a frazzle and just everything I know of in my arsenal.

I am going to go back and read some of my dog books for measures I may have forgotten.

I thank you for your input as you just affirm what I know- the electric fence is a terrible idea!

I've considered leaving him inside- it would be both dogs. I worry leaving them cooped up in the laundry for 8 hours-ish will just add to the problem.

I do block them from the entire house while I am away- too many tempting things and an elderly cat to protect, but they have full run of large laundry and small hall with comfy blanky and water, etc... They have full run of entire house when I am home, though.

leaving chew bones I fear would cause a disturbance between the two boys. Shout is very possesive of food items and would either consume on his own both bones, or a fight would ensue in my absence, I think. ( we are a work in progress on this subject)

I did consider the tie out...you know, I have NEVER put Caleb on a tie out!

ShoutAnthony, whose middle name is Houdini, wriggles out of the tightest restraint and he has trained me that dogs are not to be left on leashes, so it only recently occured to me to tie Caleb up, but again I just don't think he would fare well being restrained after so much freedom living here.

Also, Shout came to me with a raw neck from a too tight collar, and that sort of keeps me from putting anything around either of their necks...I use harnesses when we walk. I imagine Caleb would eat a harness he was tied out on.

His shelter (farm scene with dog pens) where he grew up had electric wire along the top of the fence to keep the dogs from jumping out. Our fence here is taller than he jumps, so far, so...

I thought about the concrete, too...we have 400 linear feet of fence and that is more concrete than I can afford right now...as with many folks, money is uber tight here right now.

I also thought to expand their fence the other 2 acres or even another 100 feet in all directions to give them more and new space to occupy attention, but again- money...

I even thought of taking them to work with me- I am a landscape contractor and normally don't work winters, but am trying to make extra money for bills so we are on a decent sized job now when weather permits, doing some concrete and retaining wall work...I thought about hauling my 10'x10' chain link kennel over there with customers permission, but then the liability and unprofessionaliasm creeps in. And the idea of them both in the cold all day where they usually have the laundry room for warmth...ergh.

I don't mean to poo-poo every idea. I really want help and I really want an alternative to installing this hideous electric thing.

Caleb is just such a different kind of fellow...

There HAS to be answers out there, though. There HAS to be something I haven't thought of that would work for my Caleb Luis Floppy Puppy Jungle Chicken!
 
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#7
oh- and Milosmom, I like your idea of the word marker...we sort of do that now with what he has learned from my other dog.

The treating thing is a problem, though. He absolutely will not take food from my hand in a manner consitent with learning the treat is from the good behavior.

He is a very cautious and picky fellow. A hand jutted into his face, even mine, is not acceptable. He will inspect my hand if I drop it down and make happy noises, but then it is a cautious sniff....he'll walk away, come back for another sniff and if it is something like steak or chicken he might take it from my hand, but more times than not I have to toss it to him fo rmore sniff/walk awy/return stuff.

Even just simply tossing has its trials as he has to do the sniff/walk away process, just not as many times, and I have ot hold Shout back form eating the treat which bothers Caleb.

I just think by the time he actually takes the treat, the teaching moment is past and he won't relate the treat with the positive behavior.

I am able to teach him things through Shout, though... When he sees Shout get treats for behavior, Caleb will many times repeat the behavior himself, even without the treat.

Caleb will also go about anywhere that Shout goes- that is how we got Caleb to accept touches from a few other select people at teh dog park...getting Shout to go to them and get treats....Caleb eventually comes on his own ( after LONG time and MUCH patience!) and after repetitious visits Caleb will go to certain people on his own.

Trouble is, Shout NEVER leaves the fenced area when Caleb digs out....I wish I could somehow teach Shout to stay in the fence and have Caleb watch, but Shout already stays in! LOL!

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for the idea of marker words...I'll see how I can work that into every day stuff...

Thanks!

ETA- spelling was terrible!
 
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#8
okay, I am sure I am posting way too much, but you all have me thinking...someone mentioend this here- do you think it is a delayed detachement response or...what do thay call that? Seperation Anxiety?!

I mean, he stayed IN the fence for NINE months, without a single question or trial...now suddenly he is out all the blamed time!

What has changed? He is more comfortable here now...he's found his inner dog and run with it finally...he also, I noticed about a month ago, actually comes TO ME for sooting now...he used to run AWAY when a noise or something unknown scared him...he'd run outside and camp there until I physically went out to be with him, talk calmly and persuade him back inside.

About a month ago for the first time, he came directly to me and hunkered down under my feet at the chair, then another time recently he zipped up onto the couch where I was sitting and tucked himself under my arm.

I do notice the tracks in the snow when he gets out of the fence, follow my truck tires down to the road (one lane country road), but then back up...he leaves a few tracks in the road, but mostly he is up on the hill by his fenced area or in the woods just behind- sometimes he is sitting just outside the fence where he dug out and Shout is on the inside right next to him when I get home...but he DOES go down the driveway where my truck tires go when he is out...coincidence?

I am sorry for writing so much...I am so beside myself trying to figure this out without using the electric fence...

*sheesh!

Thanks for reading.
 

milos_mommy

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#9
No such thing as posting too much!!

It definitely is hard to train a dog who won't take food from you, especially if he won't even take it if you drop it, or if it's a bit of hot dog or steak or something. I wouldn't expect a dog from that kind of situation to like toys, either. So you probably do need to keep working on him taking treats from you or getting him toy-motivated before you clicker (or word-marker) train. I don't know if anyone else on here has any suggestions about that.

If the dogs are getting sufficient exercise when you are home, plus mental stimulation, they should be okay for about 8 hours a day inside without having a lot of room to run. You might want to try that for about 4 or 5 hours, see how they do, and if they seem okay with that, leave them for longer. If you fear there will be a scuffle over a food-stuffed toy or bone while you're gone, definitely don't try that. If they're together, they can keep each other occupied somewhat, and will probably sleep a lot of the time.

If you really don't think they'll be okay indoors for the entire time you're at work, maybe you can get someone to check in on them midday for a romp outside? I know it sounds costly, but if you can find a local high school student you think would be responsible, or even a college student who could stop by on their way home from class or something, they'll probably do it for pretty cheap. A retired, dog-loving neighbor might be a good person to check with, too. You could post an ad on craigslist with whatever price you're willing to pay and see if anyone responds, and ask for a background check and references, or ask family/coworkers/etc if they know anyone. I know he's shy, so you might want to accompany this person on some walks and let him get used to the person beforehand.

I do think Caleb Louis might have a little bit of separation anxiety...or it might not be anxiety, he could just have started to realize that you're the most fun person to be around and that he can dig out and it may seem natural to him to go looking for you.

It's great that he has Shout to teach him and keep him company, and it sounds like he's bonding to you very well.
 
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#11
Thank you for the encouragement, THAT is also much appreciated! I have never worked so hard with an animal in my life as I have with this Caleb Luis!

At once, I have never LEARNED so much from an animal as I have from this Caleb Luis!

You bring up something- A TOY.

He has ONE single toy that he will play with- actually goes quite ga-ga over and after about half an hour will actually growl at anyone approaching and has made aggressive actions at Shout over it as well.

Actually, it is about the 15th replacement of said toy- a JW squeaky ball, at $6 a pop...boy has expensive taste!


Anyway, once he is on it ( has to go through the sniff/walk away/return/sniff thing first) he is inseperable from it. Caleb is very playful with the ball and will interact freely with me and one good neighbor friend that frequents the house. We have to wrestle it away from him to throw it until he is too exhausted to wrestle, then he will drop it at our feet ( after about an hour!) to throw it.

So - he does have ONE thing I can use, if you all could suggest how it would be useful for training to stay in the fence.

Mind you, I cannot leave it without supervision as 1) he WILL fight Shout over it and 2) he WiLL eat it!

I also don't want to bring any negative association with it as it really is the ONE and only toy he will play with ( out of 50 bluezillion others in the house!) and I don't want to ruin that for him, you know?

So, there's that...any ideas?

Thanks again for the understanding and kind words.

You did spark an idea about a lady we met at the dog park that is a cancer survivor taking the last of her treatments and is not working right now...we live pretty far out in the woods, but I bet if her vehicle could get here, she'd come for just gas money. For no longer than I will be on this winter job, the cost would likley amount to what I paid for the electric fence and I can take that back since I have not yet installed any of it.

What she would do once here is another matter...Shout would love the snot out of her! But Caleb I know would stay far away, however just her presence as a diversion from boredom might help the fence digging.

No other neighbors to be helpful, really...there's the guy I took Shout from and the one that frequents the house actually works for me, too, so when I am gone, he is gone. :rolleyes: -"neighbors" out in the hollow are folks that live within a mile of you if you are lucky! LOL!

Thoughts to ponder, though and much appreciated, thank you!
 
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#12
There are different reasons why dogs dig underneath the fences to get out.

Maybe it's due to sexual urges; is your dog neutered?

Maybe it's due to the joy of digging; I read somewhere that making a sand pit in the yard can be very helpful.

Maybe the dog should not be left unattended in the backyard.

My advice is always... ask your vet.
 

Romy

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#13
Just on the digging issue, you can lay chicken wire on the ground on the inside of the fence and either wire or nail it to the fence (depending on what type it is, wire or wood). Our neighbor's lab kept digging giant pits under our fence to come play with our dogs. Her owner got a 2' wide roll of chicken wire for their side of the fence. It did the trick. You can stake it to the ground and let grass grow up through it or cover it with beauty bark or something too.

ta da!
 

milos_mommy

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Just on the digging issue, you can lay chicken wire on the ground on the inside of the fence and either wire or nail it to the fence (depending on what type it is, wire or wood). Our neighbor's lab kept digging giant pits under our fence to come play with our dogs. Her owner got a 2' wide roll of chicken wire for their side of the fence. It did the trick. You can stake it to the ground and let grass grow up through it or cover it with beauty bark or something too.

ta da!
Yeah, we tried that with Milo. And when that didn't work, we laid brick around the perimeter of the yard next to the fence.

He still managed to dig underneath it in under 5 minutes.
 

lizzybeth727

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#15
So - he does have ONE thing I can use, if you all could suggest how it would be useful for training to stay in the fence.
I just want to point out that it is extremely unreasonable to *train* your dog to stay inside the fence when you're not home to enforce the rule and he's already learned that it's a pretty fun behavior. The ONLY option you have at this point is management - make it impossible for him to dig under the fence. The chicken wire idea that Romy posted is a good one, I have several friends who have done that with great success.... One friend even buried the chicken wire about a foot under ground and attached it to the fence, so that when the dog started to dig, he'd hit the wire before he got too far. It was a very difficult job, but well worth it. Besides that, your other options involve physically preventing him from getting to the fence - keeping him inside when you're gone, using a tie-out, etc.

But Caleb I know would stay far away, however just her presence as a diversion from boredom might help the fence digging.
I'd be very careful with this. I think the person who suggested a neighbor come over and let the dogs out had in mind that the neighbor would let them out, play with them for a while, and then bring them back inside. So again, the dogs would not be outside unsupervised while you're not home. But, if Caleb is scared of strangers, having a stranger in the yard with him might be more incentive for him to want to dig out. I don't think this would be a good idea.
 

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