Always pet proof your home and fence
Don’t let Animal Control take your dog away because it’s not built for control
I don’t believe in two-against-one fights, but if it comes down to my dog against your dog, I’m riding for my dog all the way. Judge me! That appeared to be the situation I was going to have to deal with earlier this week. I was walking one of my top-five favorite dogs ever — a hyper Miniature Pinscher who thinks sidewalks are overrated. If ever there is an opportunity to climb on a fence, a tall rock or just about anything that requires me to hold my arm straight out like I’m pointing, this dog will do it.
This Min Pin will wake you up quicker than coffee. You have to be ready for action at all times because he’s lovable but high-strung. And when I walk a dog such as him, I’m always alert around other dogs. (I’ve already seen him jump on another dog’s back out of nowhere. He clearly thought it was carnival ride time.) I apologized profusely and never let this happen again. Karma clearly caught up with me anyway because a small, off-leash puppy did the same thing to him. He looked up at me, mortified that this dog had crawled underneath him. That was his job, not other dogs.
But sometimes dogs that appear to be friendly can be sneaky. I learned that the hard way. It also taught me a valuable lesson about proper home preparation.
I saw the brown and black crossbreed sitting quietly behind an iron gate. He didn’t bark. He barely blinked. He just looked at us. And I was startled by him at first because he resembled my first dog, Shep, so much. He seemed pretty well-behaved as me and the Min Pin walked by. But again, I already know how this Min Pin acts so I kept him on a tighter leash. And I gasped as the Shep Lookalike made one long leap and lurched his body halfway through the iron rod gate. He let out a low growl, while my Min Pin pretty much ignored him. But all I could think of was, “If I’d let this Min Pin walk on a loose leash, the dog behind this gate would’ve easily bitten him. And I would’ve had to explain this to the owner through buckets of tears after I explained how I grabbed everything in sight to fight this dog off.”
My first instincts were to protect the dog, not fear.
Then my second thought was, “Why is this dog, who is slim enough to squeeze through the gate, unsupervised? It’s not going to take him long before he figures out how to squeeze the other half of his body out.”
The dog didn’t move backward. With his head and one shoulder still hanging out of the gate, a lady behind me ran backward and was scared to keep walking. I turned around and urged her on, still staring at the dog and adjusting my keys into brass knuckles the way my grandfather taught me. Eventually she walked all the way in the grass and kept coming, thanking me for the encouragement. I smiled and said, “See, you survived!” Apparently her house was a few feet down. But before she walked inside her gate, she turned back around and said, “I’m so glad your dog did too. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with that mental picture.”
Then the mental picture of what could have happened hit me. My first instincts were to protect the dog, not fear. I left detailed notes for the owner to avoid this block and called 311 immediately to report this dog.
Prepare your home for your dog and the neighbor’s dog too
Before you get a dog, specifically if it’s a puppy, get familiar with the average weight and height of this dog once it’s fully grown. I can’t count the amount of times that I’ve seen dogs who were entirely too tall or too skinny for the gates they were behind. While I’d never seen anything like the Shep Lookalike who squeezed his way through a gate, I’ve seen similar instances. When I had a German Shepherd named Faith, a family with a Pit Bull moved in a few years later. The Pit Bull used to quietly wait until any of my family would come close to the gangway gate, and then bark and bang against the gate.
This was alarming at first. But Faith was ready for all the smoke and responded so viciously to this dog that I was more worried about Faith than the other dog. Walking Faith with this other dog outside proved to be problematic. Before that Pit Bull arrived, we always went through the gangway. But that dog noticed and would stand at the corner, moving his mouth toward the gate gap. Imagine trying to keep your own dog, who is about that life, away from another dog who is equally ready for action. It’s no mystery why I decided to start using the garage door and/or front door instead. Watching these two around each other by the gate was just too much. The neighbors had to build a rock blockade to keep both dogs from snapping at each other.
And they call it puppy love
Ironically my own family was to blame for two other instances when it came to dogs and gates. On the other side of our fence, long before Faith came along, was a dog named Lady. She was the cutest medium-sized black and white dog, and she was into Shep — my Shep, not the Lookalike. And Shep was into her. My family thought it was cute puppy love until Lady decided to start digging a hole to try to get under the gate and over to Shep.
I’m a dog lover! And I love puppies. While I stand by my belief that it’s not our fault that Shep was irresistible (who turns down a dog who looks this good in sunglasses?), the fact was that our neighbor would’ve had to deal with a pregnant dog and puppies. So we built a barricade to keep Lady from digging a hole to Shep. That didn’t stop those two from putting their noses together and standing near each other the entire time they were outside, but at least we knew there would be no puppies.
When your own sneaky dog learns new tricks
In my family’s mind, we thought our home was prepared for anything. We had a tall gate in the back and an alarm system inside. But we never got around to building a fence in the front yard. Minus a few bad-ass kids who loved to litter their chip bags on our lawn, it wasn’t a big deal. That is, until I strolled home from school and saw Shep sitting on the front porch like a statue. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, until he eventually moved and then leaped to jump on me as I walked up the steps.
I walked through the house and into the backyard to figure out how he got out. The back gate and gangway gate were secure. Nothing seemed out of place. I pondered on whether he leaped over the gate, which wasn’t a totally unbelievable idea but I’d never seen him leap over a gate that tall before. The next day I came home from school, and he was sitting on the front porch again. And then the day after that. My family and I were genuinely confused about how he kept getting out.
Of course, here comes Lady’s owner to gripe about our dog again. It turned out that my very fluffy Lab/German Shepherd mix was much slimmer than we thought he was. Because of all of his fur, he appears to be a much thicker build. It is only when he is bathed that we realize he is a pretty skinny dog. And Shep the dog apparently decided he wanted to be a mouse. My neighbor caught him contorting his body through a one-foot gap on the other side of our house — full of sticks, grass, half of our neighbor’s gate and bushes — to squeeze his way through to the front of the house. And once he got there, he would just sit patiently on the front porch.
We were always at work or school and never could catch him in the act. But the proof was in all the trampled bushes and a few sticks and grass in his fur. Luckily, no one called Animal Control. Even luckier, Shep seemed to have no interest in bothering anyone who walked by. He just wanted better scenery. Still though, we had to build another blockade to keep him from squeezing his way through the two houses. On Day One, Shep climbed over the blockade and sat on the front porch again. But by Day Two, we’d figured out how to get this skinny dog to knock it off.
As fun as these stories are to tell, all of them could’ve ended far worse had other people or other dogs been victims in these stories. My dogs were (reasonably) sane and didn’t just snap at other dogs unless the other dog started it. Still though, anything that has teeth can bite. While I hope that 311 will just make the homeowners of Shep Lookalike build a blockade to keep this dog from leaping through the fence again, it is really up to the dog owner to stay abreast of the sneaky antics of their dogs.