Whole Dog Journal's Blog April 18, 2013

Especially Embarrassing When Your Good Dog Is Bad

Posted at 03:25PM - Comments: (5)

I think of my dog Otto as a really well-behaved dog. And he is, mostly. But no dog is perfect. And he definitely has some flaws.

One is that, if an unnamed husband leaves one of the gates on the side of our house open, or even just unlatched, Otto will wander out to the front yard, and eventually, if he’s left out there unsupervised long enough, he’ll do something naughty.

There are two gates in our front yard: a wide one crossing the driveway, and a narrow one at our front steps. Our yard is about two feet above the sidewalk, so if the gates are closed (as they always should be) then the “naughty” thing Otto does is run along the fence (at waist to shoulder height to most people) and bark ferociously at anyone walking by. It’s scary, even if he can’t get out. I hate it when other people’s dogs do this to me when I’m walking down a sidewalk, and I hate it when Otto does it, too. If I hear him barking, and yell for him, he’ll come immediately and sheepishly. He knows I’ll be mad at him I catch him doing this. Of course, I’m even more angry at whomever happened to leave the side gate open!

The worst thing he will do can only happen if a side gate AND one of the front gates are open. Then he may well go out onto the sidewalk and bark at people. Super bad dog! Super-duper bad dog owners!

This doesn’t happen very often; I usually monitor the gates carefully, or take the dogs to work with me, and my husband is usually well-trained. But of course it just happened this morning, as I was just getting out of the shower. My husband has been doing a lot of yard work, and has been going through all the gates so many times that he’s been getting sloppy. I heard Otto barking out front, and someone yelling, “Hey! Go home!”

I don’t want to repeat what I thought, but I was furious with my husband, immediately. I yelled for Otto out the bathroom window, grabbed a towel and ran to the back door, still yelling his name. Otto was already slinking through the side gate back into the back yard. I looked out toward the street, and there was a guy I often see bicycling with his dog. He was just getting back onto his bike; he had obviously had to dismount to deal with Otto. When he saw me in my bath towel, though, fortunately, he laughed. “I’m soo sorry!” I yelled. “I’m going to KILL whomever left the gate open!” “No harm done,” he yelled back.

I turned around and saw my husband looking out the door of his office, which is in an outbuilding in the backyard. He looked as crestfallen as Otto. “Ah shoot,” he said. “Did I leave the gate open?”

I’ve owned dogs with serious behavior problems in the past. One of my childhood dogs was seriously dog-aggressive, and had to be managed assiduously. It was always upsetting if management failed and he did something awful (like attacking a visiting neighbor’s dog) – but I have to say that it’s almost more upsetting when my nearly perfect dog does something bad. Otto has never bitten anyone, but he certainly has had the opportunity to do so, and this makes me feel terrible.

Comments (5)

There is some back story here that I am leaving out for the sake of brevity. I had to 100% guarantee that my dog Rose could NOT get out. Period, ever. Next time she did she was going to be dead. Building a new fence is totally out of the question for monetary reasons. (there is over 1000 feet of fence line) So; and please don't send me hate mail here - I bought the "Stubborn Dog" in ground electric fence. Its turned down low-enough that she has to be within touching range of the physical fence before she gets fried. There is 1 gate that is not "hot" and it has an auto-closer and an automatic latch. The invisible fences are not something I would recommend to people as a first option. When you are out of all other options, when one is combined with a sturdy physical fence it seems to be a 100% affective dog containment system. If Rose gets out again she probably won't come home and death by 12 gauge is not pretty.

Posted by: Kate S | April 23, 2013 7:50 PM    Report this comment

Any time a dog gets loose, it can result in mayhem or tragedy. No one wants to be sued or be responsible for injury, either to the dog or an innocent passerby. Although a dog is still a dog, it appears that it is easier to train the dog not to wander than to train the husband to be conscientious. I have the same issue and I wear the "nag tag" even though HE is the one at fault. I like the mechanical closer idea but it is only as good as the latch. If you do not have a self closing latch, the closer may not be effective. High value rewards for a quick recall is effective, but a lot of training is required, and what if there is an even higher value outside the gate? With the fence along the sidewalk, the visibility of passersby could be eliminated or reduced with shrubbery, but if your dog is scenting the pedestrian, that may not help. Possibly the only answer is to get rid of the husband, guests and neighbors!

Posted by: Brigid C | April 23, 2013 6:30 PM    Report this comment

At least your dogs are in a fenced yard! My pet peeve is walking by houses where the dogs are let out loose. I don't mind walking by barking dogs that are securely behind a fence. Loose barking dogs are a different manner all together. We don't have a fence yet, but when we do that gate will be closed at all times. If I'm not out with my dog (and even if I am) he'd run off! He tried to run once when I accidentally put him out without hooking him to his tie-out. I was lucky he came back when called. He has horrible recall. :(

Posted by: Andrea J | April 23, 2013 4:04 PM    Report this comment

We have two hinged gates plus a rolling one for the driveway. Being on the corner of a busy street, our main concern is the safety of our four dogs. One did walk across the street years ago when a friend didn't latch the gate properly and it drifted open. Tilda was OK, but it scared the heck out of us.

The best solution I have found is to install mechanical closers on both hinged gates (all dogs have to go into the house before the rolling gate is ever opened). The ones that worked for us consist of a coiled spring, one end attachcd to the gate itself and the other end to the gate post on the hinge side. These are cheap and reliable, but there are many other types available. Just look for gate closers on the internet or in your local hardware store or Home Depot.

We've had no more close calls. Our dogs enjoy our back yard, and we enjoy peace of mind.

Posted by: RICHARD A. B | April 23, 2013 11:13 AM    Report this comment

I understand your pain. I too have a very good dog. But he is a dog.
We have 2 gates - both small and I seem to have a battle with my husband about insuring they are latched. I spent alot of time teaching Remy not to go our the gate unless his leash is on and then his is to sit by the gate until it is closed. This was very helpful as one morning someone left the front gate opened and I didn't see it. I let Remy out the back door warly in the morning and when he didn't come back in for breakfast - I went out front to see where he was. There he was sitting in the yard in front of the opened gate. I calmly ( after takeing several deep breaths) opened the front door and called him in. He came right in the house without a concern. So now my husband thinks it OK to not be so worried about the gates. I disagree. What if one of the dogs that he despises walks by. I know Remy isn't going to stay in the gate. If anyone has ideas on hos to insure that gatess stay closed, please share!!!

Posted by: Remysmom | April 23, 2013 10:37 AM    Report this comment

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