It was never the plan to have the dogs tied, we’d rather have them free range, but our older dog grew up in the city. No free ranging for him because if he gets loose, he is on the road checking out the greener pastures. This usually means he ends up at our neighbor’s dairy farm and that is not okay.
They have been gracious about it each time and to be honest, he is a pretty nice dog, a neutered male who just loves to mark the world. But, if he ever had enough time to chase the calves or the horses or investigate the less than secure bunny hutch, I am not 100% that he would still be in any one’s good books.
Our two younger farm dogs will have jobs when we get the money to install fencing, but until then we don’t trust them to stay on our place. Twenty years in the city has deeply affected our sense of dog boundaries.
For instance, your dog should not bark all night if it’s going to be heard by your neighbors at close range. The dogs should not be free if they will trespass or potentially cause harm on someone else’s property. Finally, my dogs should not menace folks passing on the road. Yet these are natural places that dogs will get into trouble.
We live on a fairly small 20-acre corner property with A LOT of frontage and the house is right on the road. One of those roads is busy, and when it’s not busy the random car is going fifty-five mph plus through a small hollow and up a curving hill, flying past our semi-hidden driveway. If a dog stepped out at the wrong moment most people would have zero time to respond. So our dogs spend their unsupervised outside time on leads.
(Disclaimer: We walk our three dogs every day, twice a day, over a mile each day. They get playtime and we are working on saving for fencing that will give them some safe roam space. There is ample evidence that dogs that are chained or tied out for the bulk of their lives experience heightened aggression. This post does not encourage tying out but rather acknowledges it is often necessary in certain seasons.)
Initially we bought twenty-foot plastic coated steel leads, and clipped one around a t-post, one to a trailer, and one to a pound-in dog stake. The pound in stake was fine until a heavy rain loosed the soil and Mr. Roamer went for a walk-about dragging a two-foot spike. Then we moved him to a tree.
By wrapping the lead around the tree or post and clipping it to itself (not recommended by the manufacturer by the way) we shortened the lead a bit and it wore out very quickly. As the dogs moved and ran about the post the steel lead became twisted, the plastic buckled and chipped off, and the lead corroded. We began to joke that we should invest in plastic coated steel dog tie outs, which at anywhere from $8 to $24 are not cheap (price depending on length and gauge of wire based on our dog’s respective weights).
The pound-in spikes presented two unique problems. The first was that somehow the dogs always managed to get their leads so twisted the tie out begins to buckle and knot over themselves and bind the dog to the spike. They have a rotating clip in the center to prevent this but it happens anyway.
The other problem is the mower. In the winter it was obviously not an issue but come spring, when the grass starts to grow, these posts are really easy to lose because they only stick up about 3 to 5 inches. However, that also means if I forget they are there and the mower hits the post then the blade takes a beating and the post gets bent or worse.
So we finally came up with a working solution to this temporary problem. We have taken to hammering six-foot t-posts and buying heavy duty metal rings with two inch diameter (see here for an example). We drop the ring onto the post once we have it pounded in where we want it and clip the lead to the ring, for our big dog, we used two rings to ensure there would be no failure. Now the dogs can race around and play with each other without tearing up their tie-outs nearly as quickly.
We also learned to overlap their respective areas just enough that they can wrestle but not enough that they can get tangled with each other. Further we discovered if you can’t find a six-foot t-post and use a shorter one and the ground is soft and the dog pulls and leans the post they can slip the ring off the top. So in that case, we very quickly duct taped a plastic jar (read: anything wider than the ring) over the post and secured it so nothing can slip off the post. So taller posts are better and you are less likely to mow over a post.
Obviously our farm dream is to have the dogs caring for the livestock, hunting rats and raccoons and walking into the sunset with us, but until we have a safe space for them to do that, smart tying-out along with vigorous exercise will have to do.
Nicole Carlin is the primary farmer of an “in-progress” homestead with lots of help from her husband and children. While her empty nest days are looming, she still has two more years with kids at home.
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