Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Fostering Part Four: In Praise of Tie-Downs

This is Part Four in our series on fostering, written in hopes that it helps more people say 'Yes.'
New guy Huck was very very naughty in his foster home. While his people were away, he rammed his big fat head against his crate and chewed and squeezed and pushed until he was free, free, FREE! to piss! poo! chew! and otherwise rampage to his heart's content.... Wheee! Needless to say, this did not go over well with his hosts, who promptly bounced him back to BR headquarters for problem solving.

Some dogs just hate having a barrier in front of them. Occasionally these are dogs that have lived their lives on chains or tethers, and/or dogs that have been locked up (in a shelter, for example) until they build an aversion to confinement that just won't quit. If you're a tenacious lil' pit bull - or a dog with a head the size of a bowling ball like Huck - a little piece o' vari-kennel plastic and some bendable bars ain't nuthin'! Especially if you have eight or more hours to spend on designing your perfect crate-escape.

Many people mis-diagnose dogs with crate aversion as having separation anxiety. That may be true in some cases, but if you're dealing with an otherwise well-balanced dog - a pit bull especially - crate fussing is generally connected with 1) a bored, under-exercised dog 2) who is more than happy to spend his unused treadmill or spring pole calories on destroying that obnoxious barrier that's getting in the way of his fun.

Huck is not what you'd call an energetic dog, but he's happy to use that big head to get what he wants...Namely, freedom. Stuffy vari-kennels were a no-go for him. A reinforced wire crate was more his style, but first we had to get him over his funk about the whole mess. Lucky for us, he's accepting the tie-down with no more fuss than this classic "Woe is me" face. He's not obsessing on a barrier in front of him so he's happier, and since he can't graffiti our house with urine, we're happy too. Tie-downs are a rescuer's best friend. They give us a valuable alternative to crates so we can build up a dog's tolerance for confinement while fine-tuning their exercise needs and basic house manners.



Dog trainer Shane Stanis wrote one of the best how-tos for tie-downs that we've seen, back when we worked together at the East Bay SPCA. It's a few years old, but the info is still good. We only have two exceptions: Some recommend against leaving dogs on tie-downs when no one's home to supervise. While that's good advice for new adopters, experienced foster homes can usually make that decision at their own discretion. We do it all the time. The trick is to use a tether that can't be chewed - we like a plastic coated cable - and make sure the dog is 100% comfortable and relaxed on this set-up before leaving the house.


To secure the tie-down, plug a heavy duty eye-hook into the hardwood molding of the room. If you're a renter and are afraid of causing damage -- don't fret. You can plug that hole up with wood paste before you leave and your landlord will be none the wiser. Give the dog the coziest bedding you can find and turn on the telly or radio. You'll also want to make sure that your dog can't reach any illegal chew items, and have that lovely stuffed kong all frozen and ready to go.

Tie-downs are also a great way to help dogs that don't know each other get acquainted. You might've read that in Yvette's blog about: Dog/Dog Intros

Read: TIE DOWN BASICS

Good luck! And please share any favorite tips you've found for helping your dogs stay safe and confined while they acclimate to life in a house.

31 comments:

NorCalRose & Riddick said...

The Foster Blogs are wonderful. We have never fostered and would like to one day. These posts provide a look at real scenarios as well as education and solutions. It's great to see some of what we can expect.

Donna said...

Thank you Rose. You and Riddick will make a fantastic foster home duo when you're finally ready to take that big leap.

The Foster Lady said...

While Tie-Downs may work for some, in the case of SA (sep anxiety) this did not work for my foster (now permanent) dog Cutie. She was and is, strong enough to pull that eye hook right out of the wall. I tried this, with a reasonable heft chain (and began to feel like, hey, am I a dog-fighter in disguise, chaining a dog in a basement..lol) and it lasted for about an hour before she pulled the entire thing out of the 4x4 in my basement!! She had already pulled a Huck with the plastic airline crate.

For me, what worked was an aluminum crate from this website:
http://www.gundogsonline.com/dog-crates/metal-dog-crates/zinger-deluxe-3000-dog-crate.html

That is what finally worked. She's over the worst of the SA now and is no longer crated (but has her own room at home), but I simply could not have her roaming the house with 5 other pibbles there.

Sounds like Huck was just a bored, big-headed monster.

Pit Luver said...

I have a question. When crating a dog, is the ultimate goal to get them to be alone in the house without distruction/accidents (i.e. to eventually move them out of the crate and loose in the house)? Or can this be a long term habit when done responsibly (i.e. with kongs and such to help stave off boredom)?

Donna said...

Sorry to hear about your SA girl, Dina. We haven't seen much of that in our foster dogs, although Piglet gave us a run for the money with anxious behavior in the crate and the tie down was her saving grace. I wouldn't put a strong hefty dog on a tie-down if it was truly anxious. But then again, we probably wouldn't pull a strong hefty dog from the shelter if it was giving us those classic signals (panicky, drooling) that foretell trouble ahead. Sometimes you don't see it in advance though, and I agree -- that fort knox crate that you found can be a godsend.

Hi Pit Lover. The ultimate goal with creating a comfortable mode of confinement for each dog - an urban dog especially that doesn't have the luxury of a big dog outdoor run - is to give homes some tools for teaching and reinforcing basic obedience, house training of course, and for separating pets that might get into trouble together when unsupervised.

It's also nice to help dogs accept confinement for times when they need to be still (after surgery for example), for times when you want to travel with your pet (we took a crate with us for a big multi-dog camping trip) or when dog-shy guests come to visit. The crate can give a dog a respite from tormenting children, too. And I hate this, but we recommend anyone and everyone that has a pit bull to crate their dog before opening the door to a police officer. Way too many exuberant dogs have been shot in their own doorsteps by trigger itchy police.

Dee said...

Thanks for the advice. I will use this when I get a home. My one dog HATES the crate and will do anything to get out. She is so strong that she has dug tunnels through carpet to get out of a closed room. Now her SA is manageble but she still won't tolerate the crate alone. So we put her in it with the door open a crack. At this point all she is doing is having an occaisional accident, and with tile floors I guess I can live with that. My other two dogs sometimes whine in the crate but fortunately are not "crate crazy".

The Foster Lady said...

Cutie was not hefty, but she was determined! In fact, she was so slim, such that any pharmaceuticals (Clomicalm, Prozac, Melatonin, DAP Diffusers, Xanax and Elavil at max dosage) had no effect on her whatsoever, as there was no fat to absorb the drug!

Thankfully, the passage of time is really the only thing that worked and even today, she has great difficulty hearing when others are having 'fun' with Dina and she is not part of it...and cannot be part of it, as she will, as you so politely put it with Fa-Fa-Frieda, will spit expletives and more at other females. But she is a love-slut with people and that, in the end, is all that really matters to me.

Anonymous said...

Oh Donna,
I hope the Huckster will get another chance!

Diane said...

Who could say 'No' to "piss! poo! chew!" Wow! Huck looks so innocent in the photos.

Seriously, though, great series of articles, very informative. I hope to foster some day, too. Just waiting for the right time. I'm ready, the house is ready (I have a perfect setup to keep two dogs separated), but my dog is not there yet. Hopefully, soon, because I would love to start helping in this way.

Dianne said...

This is great. Our puppy mill dogs don't like to be crated (or so we think) and so we recommend using an Xpen like Yvette shows in steps 3 and 4. Give them an area to piss and poo, maybe put down a frame with sod or other puppie pottie. Of course they are little companion dogs and don't need a tie-down. Amazingly, the huskies who were kept in tiny little boxes, zoom right into our oversized crates in the adoption rooms.

It's one of the more frequent reasons for dogs being returned. A couple of second timers have gone home recently and I've got my fingers crossed for them. A lot of times I think they just get more dog than they bargained for.

Anonymous said...

My lovely Rosie had issues with then crate when she finally decided she no longer wanted to be crated. Through the process of elimination we found out that if we leave the balcony door open where she can lay in the sun did the trick. Although my house is freezing when I come home in the winter I think that little bit of indenpendence she has works for her. We are high up and my balcony is completely enclosed so she can still see what she is missing on the outside. Also, I have a wonderful dog sitter who comes daily just to break up her day. Its worth the $ for a little piece of mind for my Little Houdini..

Twinkietinydog said...

A positive take and an informative post on tie-downs. I'll have to share with my mom. She's miserable on the rare occasions she uses a tie-down for my older sissy and I keep telling her it's for the best.
Twink!

Lexi said...

My dog also suffers from SA and can go through crates (or walls) in about an hour. Finally after coming home to her out but with a collapsed crate hooked into her skin and being dragged around the apartment I gave in and bought this.
http://www.petedge.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=45512


I would much rather let my dog have the run of the house, a room or even a tie down. I don't see that happening with this dog since we've been one step ahead of each other for 6 years now. Thank you for this article I plan to share it with some people who want to try tie downs!

Kirsten said...

Oh Huck. Tenacious little man! :)

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Anonymous said...

We have fostered a few dogs in the past, some for just a weekend to get them out of the shelter, the longest five months. In the past we have used a strong wire crate to keep fosters in when we can’t be there to supervise. I like these better than plastic travel crates since the dog can see what's going on and doesn't feel like it's in a box. I usually drape a large towel or throw partially over the top and sides to give it a den-like feel.

My last foster who I had a week, could never be crated, we learned that the hard way because she broke two of her canines and cracked two other teeth trying to get out. After realizing this we kept her in a spare room with the door closed. She was a very sweet dog with a little separation anxiety. After expensive dental surgery, we found Lily a very nice home with the instructions never to crate her. Since she was to be the only dog, we didn’t see a problem.

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh when I read this, although my heart goes out to the foster family who came home to a mess- I imagine the poor folks weren't laughing then. I went through a similar (though far more drastic) situation with a foster dog years ago. She bashed her way out of an airline crate and proceeded to piss, poo and chew her way through my house, tearing down and splintering an inside door in a herculean effort just for good measure. When that didn't suit her fancy she jumped (!) out of a downstairs window, smashing the antique glass and tearing a cruciate ligament in the process and disappeared down the road to terrorize my unsuspecting neighbors who haven't spoken to me since. Needless to say, I wasn't too pleased when I came home.
I agree that it would probably be best to avoid a dog like the one described above to begin with- the signs were all there, and I just was not equipped to prevent such a situation from occurring.
(there was a happy ending to this particular story though)

The Foster Lady said...

Oh, wow...last comment, a window too? My SA dog, Cutie, did also dig up the wall to wall upstairs (never did like it, so that was my reason to expose the hardwood floors, though I wouldn't have done it that way), eaten the solid oak door on the bottom (testing my historical renovation skills mightily) and finally 'leaned' too hard against a window to get to me, shattering it in the process. So, I want to know: what's the happy ending? I won't adopt Cutie out, but I'm wondering about yours?

Anonymous said...

I just saw a note on Animal Farm Foundation's site that you have have lost Simon. Is it so? {HUGS}to you both. You don't have to publish this comment--I just want to let you know how sorry I am to read this.
Krista

Anonymous said...

my sister and i have two rescued pitty girls. one is 3 years old now, and we've had her for about 2 years. the first 8 months, or almost a year was hell.

we figured out that she was getting too much freedom in the house when we weren't home and frantically freaking out and panicking. some would misconstrue it as her having fun- but it was sad frenzied panic mode: she would chew anything and everything, she would pull stuff off the highest shelves and eat it, she dragged bottles of bleach out from a locked cabinet and it got all over her and the carpet, she chewed records, cds, plastic anything, bottles of vitamins tucked high on shelves, glass jars (broken, bloody mouth), pull everything out of the kitchen sink, chew anything plugged in (!) and basically wreack havoc in an unsafe manner to herself and our other dog. our house was so child/doggie proofed it was insane. we constantly checked and double checked every possible thing she could get into. but she kept on discovering new things.

we tried keeping her in one room- and she would panik and throw herself against the door violently and against the walls screaming in desperation. we tried crating her, and she persisted in pooping and peeing inside the crate- which was small enough to not be "too roomy".

and then finally, we tried a tie down. lordy lord!!!!!!!!!!!!! we embedded the hook/eye into the moulding, and made a tie long enough to reach two couches with pillows, a window area for sunning, and a water area for refreshments. she could only reach those things, and all else was out of her reach. we also employed the tie down around the leg of our uber heavy couch.

boy did this calm her. at first she would drag the couch and furniture as far as she could, but this stopped after a few tries. we practiced using a gentle calm voice and a special tie-down-time command ("let's be calm" or whatever works for you) with treats and gentle voiced praise... she learned it was quiet time when she got tied. we would leave without any fuss, and arrive without fuss- like nothing out of the ordinary was happening... whenever we were about to leave, it got to the point where she would trot to her spot, and relax visibly for the tie down. she'd lean into the couch and rest. she would calmly hang out while we were out of the house. no more scary incidents. no more frenzied frightened frustrated panicky dog. it worked! we did this for 6 months, and now she has been great home alone for the work day length (dog walker comes mid day) and no problems. try it! done right and with treats and with love, it works.

Eve Russell said...

I used this advice to introduce my silly and fun, but insecure, bull to my former roommate's totally aggressive shepherd mix.
After a month on the tethers when not separated by doors, they could be loose in the house with us and pay absolutely no attention to one another, making for another six months of life with a dominant, super-smart & aggressive dog totally painless.

Rachel said...

How old is too old to crate train? I have a 4 year old pit and he has never been in a crate. During the day he is in the laundry room with access to the back yard. He is not destructive so I haven't felt the need to crate him but would like the option.

Trainer - Dog Training Advice said...

This is a really interesting subject, not many people are aware of tie-downs in training your dog, but they can be very effective.

Dog Crate End Table said...

Taking on a new pet is a big new responsibility. As a pet owner you should be ready for this. I've seen a lot of pet owners shy away from having a dog after seeing how the dog looks - and that's a bad thing.

Lauren said...

I am a first timer when it comes to pits, and I have a 8 month old Pocket Pit. She has severe SA, she doesn't mind the crate so much but heaven forbid I put her in the fence at my mother's (which is an acre lot btw). She whines, screams, and pants until she can't hardly breath. I'm afraid the neighbors will call Humane Society on me because they might think I'm mistreating her. What should I do?

selkie said...

I guess I am a little confused with the whole concept of tie-downs - first, I would be terrified that a dog would strangle itself (especially a high energy, highly anxious strong one), and then again, I'm not sure (and not being rude or ignorant here) - what the difference is bewteen that and chaining them? I do understand the dilemma when you have a difficult dog. My former foster Rockey destroyed a strong steel cage! in fact, TWO of them! Once he was out, he actually was pretty good LOL - I would walk into the room where he was supposed to be in his cage and he would be happily curled up a dog bed. I could NOT give him the run of the house for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which he would kill my male GSD and probably eat my cats! But he would be SO happy to see me! I did invest in a super heavy duty cage and bungee cords! and went through three weeks of HELL as he howled, screamed, yelled and generally almost sent me into a nervous breakdown worrying that my neighbours would have so many complaints that I would be evicted with my menageries. But he DID eventually adjust! I can't conceive of ANY screw that he could't rip out of teh wall in about three minutes - he was the most incredibly strong dog (pittie rottie cross) that I have ever met. and yes, he has his own forever home now

rrhoop5469 said...

I so wished I had seen this site and these articles before I tried to introduce a new dog to our 2 other dogs. I had hired a professional trainer to come and do the dog introductions. Because one of our dogs is a bit over protective of the house, he wanted to work with him a bit. What he did was place a prong collar on him, paraded him up & down the sidewalk, forcing him to do sit & do things he was never trained to do. What he did was work him up until he was scared and tense...THEN tried to introduce the new dog which obviously didn't go well. So later that evening, we started our group walks (rotating who's in the lead and side by side with 1 person in between) as well as bringing the new girl's crate into the living room. Things are going great. Still have more work to do before real face to face contact but I just couldn't believe that "trainer". I have him a piece of my mind too! It was mainly my fault for trying to rush the intro's but any joe-donut knows you don't rile up a dog and then do an intro.

Lawrence said...

In my point of view, successful dog training is not only about getting your dog to understand you—it’s about how much you understanding your dog. Dog training will improve the relationship and interaction between you and the dog, once your dog was well trained, you will have fun with the dog.

Rachel Tan said...

I enjoyed reading it. I'm supposed to be somewhere else in a minute but I stuck to reading the story. I like the quality of your blog, I love dogs.

KrisAndCase said...

Tie downs are a much better choice than a crate could ever be. Crates are too confining and cruel in my opinion. After a time, the tie down can be removed as the dog has learned the boundaries and remains in his designated zone. When I leave the house for an extended time, my dogs go into a heated shop where they can be safe and free.

c.creativity said...

Hey, Donna, I shared your "A New Dog in the House" handout with a friend who is hoping to bring home his first dog very soon and basically he freaked out and shut down. He thought maybe the content would be better served up in a blogpost, so I tried to share blogposts, but even the title "Boot Camp" (for the story of Tater), was so upsetting to him that he couldn't read it. He promises he's pro-structure (I explained that anxious dogs need this structure every bit as much as boisterous dogs), but he refuses to use these methods on the timid little fluff muffin he's applied to adopt. So... I was wondering if you have any favorite "new dog" resources that wouldn't be quite so intimidating to a soft-hearted first time dog-owner.