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Help brainstorm on how to deal with a tenacious Lab

 
Emily Smith
Posts: 54
Location: West Central Georgia
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My Lab is determined to get in my garden, and noses under the fence, no matter where I pin it to the ground (chicken wire, though).  He pulls up plants with stalks (like peppers), and eats the veggies.  When I feed scraps to the chickens in the garden, he gets in and eats those.  Today I fed ham to my chickens in their hoop coop, to avoid the infiltration, and he squeezed in there.  I need to build a different coop anyway, but in the meantime I will reverse the door (it swings in right now, to sweep crowding hens out of the way). 

I'm not growing anything right now, of course, but I want to be able to grow in our existing garden and expand next year.  But it won't be worth it if my dog is going to eat all my plants and veggies.  I can't plant somewhere else on the property, and want a temporary but effective solution (i.e.: no chain-linked gardens). 

So far all I can think of is:
shock collar - expensive for good quality, supposedly effective, debatable ethics (I could argue both sides), single-function
field fence - 12 to 14 gauge, presumably less bendy at the bottom, cheaper, lots of linear feet for the $$, which means other applications
electric fence - fairly sure this will work, very $$$$ for energizers and just recently became a financial option, the most versatile and temporary choice, but if it doesn't work I'll be really salty

I'm kind of sound boarding, but I'd love any advice or wisdom anyone has to share.  Surely my dog isn't the only tenacious scavenger in the world?
 
Anne Miller
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Is your lab still a puppy?  We have found labs to be hard to train but have heard they are great dogs once you get them trained.

There is a fence we call welded wire or hog fence that the opening are about 2" x 3".  It is rigid so he might dig under but I don't think he could go under it.

If you got a fence charger you could string a wire where he is getting in.  They are only about $125.00 
 
Rose Pinder
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Location: Otago, New Zealand
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Another option is to get the dog to change its behaviour. How old is he? Has he always done this? Who is the alpha in the household?

Does he dig up plants even if he is not hungry, or is it related to him needing something i.e. can his diet be adjusted?
 
Emily Smith
Posts: 54
Location: West Central Georgia
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He's just over a year.  And yes, he's always done this.  He'll munch on clover, mulch sticks (useful), and pull up anything that's wooden and sticking out of the ground.  It comes across as sort of his hobby.
He's fed Fromm, which is supposed to be a good balanced brand, but I know it's not the best.  This is worth double-checking.
You've made me realize that my husband is officially the Alpha, but he hasn't played that role with this dog as much as our older dog.  We'll explore that.
Catching him in the act is tough because I can't stare out the back door all day.  This would be ideal and hopefully condition him to avoid this behavior when we're not around as well as when we are.  I'm just honestly not sure I can follow through.
Is hog wire also called "field fence"?  I could try that with the current fence as an apron?
 
Anne Miller
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What we call field fence has square openings that are about 5" x 5" and is not rigid.
 
Anne Miller
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This is welded wire:

http://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/welded-wire-48-in-x-100-ft
 
Emily Smith
Posts: 54
Location: West Central Georgia
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Ok, thanks for that clarification!  I'll look for that smaller spacing.  I'll see if I can make a point of catching him in the act at least some of the time, too.  Any other advice or anecdotes is welcome!
 
John Weiland
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I agree with Anne M. that the welded wire may be the best way to go and is probably the cheapest per linear foot.  Nevertheless, we like a slightly more expensive option with the hog panels:  http://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/feedlot-panel-hog-16-ft-l-x-34-in-h

They are 16 ft. lengths, so either I or my wife can move them independently depending on the project for which they are needed.  No way a lab would be able to lift one off the ground, especially if T-posted into place.  A large hog is another matter....and we've had big sows lift fencing, T-posts, and all connectors right out of ground if there was a sugarbeet field on the other side! 
 
Bill Erickson
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Lots of great suggestions regarding fencing.

With a couple of my now passed on dogs, I used the 2x4 welded wire fencing as an apron that came out from the fence about two feet. I wired it to the main fence line the whole way and it stopped most of their digging. For the spots they really went after I dug down a foot, put the welded wire in, backfilled and kept the apron. That worked.

Some other topics around the forum have had suggestions to dig a 1 to two foot trench, put the welded wire or cattle/hog panels in and back fill. This has had success for lots of folks.

For my movable hoop house tractor, the door opens out, has a spring to pull it closed and has a lock at the top and the bottom. That has kept my current dogs from getting in with the chickens. I ran an weighted down apron skirt of chicken wire along the front and sides, as they are elevated for moving, and this has kept all the critters out of the tractor.

Good luck on your quest to keep the lab out. She really sounds like she is a handful at the moment, but she appears to be showing you the predator weaknesses in your current setup.
 
C. Hunter
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I'd strongly recommend hopping to the electric fence option. It honestly shouldn't be $$$$. Dont' use polymesh, but run a line about 6" out from the bottom (about nose height) so when he sticks his head down to shove his muzzle under, he gets zapped. This works VERY well on fence-busting dogs in general. A middle line (about standing nose height)  and a line at the top (in case he tries climbing) and you should be set. The rescue I volunteer with recommends this setup for escape artist northern breeds and usually one can get setup for under $200 for a standard backyard size.

I'd also recommend giving the dog more to do. Not just exercise- you will never, ever wear a teenaged lab out unless you are a marathoner or hunting full days every day - but you CAN wear his brain out. Teach him scentwork (k9 nosework as a search term will bring up some good links), teach him silly tricks, work on obedience skills- just anything that uses his brain and exercises self control muscles, which are generally at their weakest with this age anyway
 
Emily Smith
Posts: 54
Location: West Central Georgia
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I appreciate the link!  And great additional suggestions!  Hog panels is intriguing; very modular--expanding would be pretty easy.

Honestly I hadn't thought of stacking single strand wires.  >.<  I was looking at polymesh and solar chargers for ease of set up, and you certainly pay for convenience!  I'll look into the cost and installation for single strands.

Thankfully my Lab is a conformation Lab, so his energy level isn't off the charts, but he still has a good bit.  I'm also thankful he's not interested in the chickens themselves!  But yes, he's definitely shown me we're lucky not to have had a raccoon get in there.  We have a fenced yard, so I don't think coyotes could have, but you never know.  I hear they climb?

I've reversed the hinges so the door swings out, with stops top and bottom, and a hasp lock with a clip (I don't know the name of it).  Of course now it's hard to keep the birds in when me or the kids come do stuff.  That's a whole other thread. 


 
Annie Lochte
Posts: 33
chicken forest garden goat
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I have to plug the electric fence option also... A pet strength charger, ground rod, some aluminum wire, and the step in stakes are quite reasonable and can be moved easily... A good ground is essential and with our dry conditions my fence (north central FL) is not working well for the love crazed billy goat... but all the other critters don't dare to try it. Usually only takes a short training period. (But I know labs! And some are persistent!) still think its worth consideration...
 
Kim Goodwin
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This may sound funny, but I think you may be able to solve your problem by feeding your dog more vegetables, and switching to raw food if you can.  I've fed my dogs raw food for 10 years now, and I noticed that a lot of behavioral issues went away. I have one dog who is extremely food motivated, and a tremendous hunter, too  - the sort of dog who you would think would get into everything, because she is so driven.  She's a black lab/ St. Bernard mix who digs like a badger, and has killed a deer, otter, countless small animals, and once pinned a bobcat in our creek.  That was a memorable late night experience when my husband pulled her off the bobcat, not knowing it was a bobcat...

Anyway - she's been a handful.  And she used to break into our fenced garden, both to eat veggies and fruit and dig up voles.  Massive destruction.  She also ate an entire bed of garlic - twice!  I switched to leaving the compost heap outside the garden, and that seemed to do it.  She started supplementing her own diet (which was already raw meat and raw and some cooked veggies), and left the garden alone.

My husband and I see a nutritionist, Dr. Steve Nelson, a really knowledgeable guy.  He also helps animals.  He says that animals "eat what they need, not what they want" - which means that if they eat something weird, they are innately trying to solve a nutritional problem.

Here are his guidelines for feeding dogs and cats, my comments in (parentheses):

1. Home cooked or raw food is best.  About 80% protein, 20% vegetables and fats, no fruit.  (The ratios are slightly different for cats vs dogs, it's best to look these up.)

2. Most dog and cat food sold in stores is not good for your animal.

3. Dogs and cats are carnivores.

4. Protein from beef, turkey, chicken or lamb - free range or organic is best.  One organic raw egg a week is good.  (He's hesitant to recommend fish, as he's found its very high in parasites.  If you use fish, it should be cooked, not raw.)

5. Grains should not be a part of your dog or cat's diet.

6. Animals eat what they need, not what they want:
- If the eat their stool, they are lacking digestive enzymes or having digestive problems
- It they eat socks, they want fiber
- If they eat grass they have a sour stomach
- It they eat women's panties they may be low in iron or other minerals

7. Dogs and cats are hyperchlorhydric by nature. (So, they digest through having highly acidic stomachs designed to eat protein and digest bone, not sugars, carbs or high amounts of fat.)

8. Please do not sleep with your pets. (He sees a lot of people and pets with the same parasite issues...)


So, those are his recommendations.  I've fed my dogs raw food for about 10 years now, there are specific guidelines for what vegetables are safe for most dogs that you'd want to look at if you consider this option.  The short list - they shouldn't eat onions, brassica veggies should be cooked, parsley can irritate their kidneys, and legumes are hard for them to digest.
 
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