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The Kid has expressed interest in getting a dog, and wants something husky-like. I know that a husky would need lots of exercise, but here I have a bored 16 year old ready and willing to provide just that.

The shelters I contacted require us to have a fenced in yard as a condition of adopting, so I've spent the last couple of months reading up on the topic and getting quotes.
Invisible Fence would run about $2,000 and works for most but not all dogs.
Extending our current scrap of fence all the way around the yard, with something that looks really good is almost $8,000.

My question to LJ: how necessary is a fence really (aside from the fact that the shelters require it)?
If I go minimal, what's a reasonable size for a fenced area for a mid-size dog?


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Feb. 16th, 2009 05:44 pm (UTC)
We had a boxer (75#) and a minimal back yard - we called it the back 40 because it was 40 long and about 12 ft wide. It was fenced but another house we lived in had no such fence and the dog got along fine with a chain.
Feb. 16th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
The shelter was explicit that a leash on a chain wasn't sufficient.

With all the input here, I'm probably going to look into an invisible fence again - but do the installation ourselves.

The other important point sounds like getting training for the dog and the kid. Perhaps we'll all go.
(no subject) - sff_corgi - Feb. 19th, 2009 01:36 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 16th, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)
That price for the "invisible fence" sounds way high. Like, about a factor of 4 too high (ours was on the order of $500, and we installed it ourselves, which didn't take as long as you might think). Our larger dog is generally kind of "husky-like", and the invisible fence worked on him just fine once we got the collar with the probes long enough to reach all the way through the hair on his neck.

I would expect it to work well on any dog that (a) really likes people, and so is inclined to hang around you anyway, and (b) isn't so bull-head aggressive that his response to a shock is to charge forwards. It took about a week to get our dogs fully trained, and I don't think they get out of it as often as they would with a full-blown conventional fence.
Feb. 16th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
and (c) isn't too smart for it.

My parents installed an invisible fence as a backup to the physical fence around our back yard when Spooky (see icon) figured out that he could climb a chain-link fence and go exploring the neighborhood whenever he pleased. (The property backs up on the commuter rail - the two-footed people did not approve of him going walkabout.) The problem we had was that both the collar *and* the fence were battery-powered. (Yes, the box mounted in the house had a battery in it, rather than hooking up to household current. Please don't ask me why. I'd moved away from home before all this happened, and wasn't around when my parents bought it.)
Spooky quickly figured out that, if his collar beeped and he kept going, he'd get zapped by the collar. All very well and good; this is the point of the invisible fence. Unfortunately, he also quickly figured out that if he approached the fence and didn't hear a beep, that the fence (or the collar) wasn't working and he could go with impunity. So much for that bright idea.

The other downside to the invisible fence is that there's quite a bit of undergrowth along the fencelines of my parents' property, so installation and maintenance of the ground wire were difficult.

(no subject) - alicebentley - Feb. 16th, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tceisele - Feb. 16th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mbcrui - Feb. 16th, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jerusha - Feb. 16th, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sff_corgi - Feb. 19th, 2009 01:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 16th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
We found no fence could keep our husky-sized dog in, if he wanted to go visiting. A 1/2 inch steel cable won't keep him in, if he wants to go.

My sister has had good luck with her Wheaton Terrier (mid-sized dog) and the invisible fence. drsulak's lost one of their airedales when he realized that it was just a short jolt and then he'd be free (he was hit by a car). I would say from this evidence, they work well with dogs about 50 lbs or below but not well with those over 70 lbs.

Something you should be very aware of with huskys is they're VERY territorial and don't like to share their food. If you have cats, you probably shouldn't get a husky or a husky mix. They also require an alpha, talk to Ron and Liana Winsauer who have 2 of them.

A reasonable size fence for a mid-sized dog depends a lot on the dog and the amount of outside exercise s/he gets. If you're going to walk the dog 45 minutes a day or so, or play fetch, ball, etc every day or take it running then a smaller fenced yard is fine (just something to run out and go potty). If it's not going to get exercised regularly, you need a bigger area. We had an urban backyard and it was enough (usually) for our 70 lb mutt... Now we have a clothes line which runs from the house to the back of the yard, and a steel cable from which he can access the entire back yard as well as about 30 feet into the field behind the house. It's more than enough, he's an old dog. He doesn't need much exercise anymore... the run and the daily lunchtime mile walk are enough.

Good luck. Make sure you like the dog, too, as the kiddling will be heading off to college in a couple of years (gods, how did THAT happen?) and you'll have the dog.
Feb. 16th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
We do have cats, but I'm hoping that by having half the house and the vast majority of outside be dog-free the cats will be at least tolerant of the change.

The two feeding areas would be entirely separate and not visible to each other. From what I know of dogs, their food won't be around long enough for the cats to show any interest in it.

A dog's need for exercise is one of the motivating factors in saying yes to getting one. The kid has plenty and too much energy, which even starting in Crew has not bled off. And I would benefit from some forced marches myself.
(no subject) - mbcrui - Feb. 16th, 2009 10:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 16th, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)
That's an interesting question. If all you want is an area for the dog to be let out into at 2am when it needs to go out, but no one wants to take it for a walk - relatively small. I'd guess that the size of my back yard (about 40'x40') would be sufficient.

If you want something it can get itself some exercise in - significantly bigger. If you can train it to play fetch or something equivalent, you'd want something it could keep going at speed for at least a few seconds. I'd guess in the 100'x40' range.

The American Kennel Club (http://www.akc.org) has a breeder advertising service. It lists 33 breeders within 50 miles of 98101 (at least I think it was 98 - I'm certain of the 101, and I'm not going to back to re-do my "seattle wa zip code" google). In my experience, breeders tend to be more than happy to talk about what it takes to properly care for their breed - there's a German Shepherd breeder and a Golden Retriever breeder on the first page. They might also be able to put you in touch with the local breed rescue - those are at least different from the shelters, and might be willing to work with you on the 'fence required' thing.

FWIW, my experience with Shih Tzu rescues was that the breed rescue was actually cheaper than the shelter. And you're dealing with a person (usually a breeder), which gives you some more options.
Feb. 16th, 2009 06:37 pm (UTC)
I really decided we needed containment, but we're actually prohibited from having a fence. Invisible fence worked great for us.

If you are able to install it yourself, you can do an invisible fence for about $400 or less. PetSafe sells an excellent DIY system. Wire is available on eBay for about $21 / 500 ft spool. Installation = use a hand edger, hopefully after a rain or in the spring when the ground is soft to open a 2" deep trench around the property, pushing the wire in as you go. I redid ours last fall, it took me about 2 days of working about 5 hours per day to do 1500 feet.

We previously had a very early PetSafe collar that we did our initial training on. It wasn't waterproof and didn't have a remote which I wanted for vacations, so we "upgraded" to an Innotek, which was fairly expensive. It was also crap. The transmitter got exploded by lightning a couple of years ago, and I bought a new PetSafe system and extra wire on eBay. The transmitter was about $45, the collar about $50, IIRC.

Training requires a little patience, but it's not bad. You may need to do a little hair cutting on a husky to get the training done; the probes need to touch skin.

Our dog will still run the fence if she really wants to, but that ONLY happens for us if I am outside the property and visible to her and I ignore her for long enough. She decides that it's worth the momentary pain to be with me and I will hear a "YipYipYip" and then a few seconds later she'll come trotting up.

Other than that, unless I let the batteries die and don't notice it for a few weeks, she stays home.

Before the fence, she was all over the damn neighborhood.

We still have neighbor's dogs visiting, but I don't really care about that as long as they're friendly.

Edited at 2009-02-16 06:39 pm (UTC)
Feb. 16th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)

I don't know what shelters you are talking too, but the Seattle Animal Shelter doesn't require a fence in order to adopt a dog. I think it would illegal for them to require that. If they can't deny adoption to folks that want to declaw a cat, I don't think they can deny adoption to folks without a fence.

Here is the website:


Good luck!
Feb. 16th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
My first piece of advice is: DO NOT GET A PUREBRED ANYTHING unless you're looking to show or breed. Stick with mixes and mutts. They're much calmer, less bone-headed, and tend to have fewer health problems down the line. I have little experience with huskies but I've had TONS with territorial dogs. As long as you don't have any timid people in your household the dog should fit in quite nicely. My previous dog (a Chow/Shepherd cross, about as territorial as you can get) loved cats and other animals, even other dogs. Most dogs are going to be quite comfortable with other animals because they're pack animals. Herding dogs may nip and try to "herd" other animals and people. Hunting dogs could possibly be dangerous around small animals. Although one of our current dogs is half bloodhound and he gets along quite well with the cats. It really depends on the individual.

The territorial issues have mostly to do with humans so the dog might become aggressive towards strangers. We had to lock our chow/shepherd away every time we had guests.

Unless you plan on keeping your dog inside all the time, get a fence! Outside dogs are considerably easier and less time-consuming to care for than inside dogs. Being kept inside it'll have to be walked every day and taken outside every few hours. When you go on vacation or even just leave for the day you'll need someone to dogsit for you.

I've never used an Invisible Fence so I have no idea how effective it is or what kinds of dogs it'll work for. However, we've always had just a plain 6' wooden privacy fence and have never had a problem with it. Some dogs learn to jump them but none of my dogs ever have so again, I don't have much advice there. I'm betting that the bigger your yard is and the fewer outside distractions there are (neighbors, cars, other dogs) the less likely a dog will be to try to jump the fence or dig under it. Although usually smaller dogs are the diggers. We have 2 acres of rural property so our dogs have never had the desire to leave. They're quite content to run around the back pasture and chase ground squirrels all day.
Feb. 16th, 2009 08:14 pm (UTC)
This dog is really for you, right?
What are you thinking, Alice?

That kid is off to college in 2 years and then he's outtathere and you're left with a dog... *and* a brand-new EMBA *and* (we all hope) a high-powered job. Where does exercising the dog fit in then?

I know I can do the mean mommy schtick better than almost anyone, but if I had a bored teenaged boy at home I'd be darned tempted to tell him to get a job. What? There's absolutely no work for him on that island? No mowing lawns or pastures or cleaning horse stalls or repairing bicycles? Dang. How about writing apps for the iPhone, then...

Marty is SO lucky he got *you* for a mother.
Feb. 16th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC)
Re: This dog is really for you, right?
While I like dogs well enough, I'm more of a cat person. I'm thinking two and a half years is a pretty long time, and that four years away for college doesn't seem like that long. There's also the whole "college? really?" thing right now. If he does the Community College thing (very popular around here) he would be living at home anyway.

Re: jobs. The kid has made a fairly serious effort to find paying work, but there are plenty of adults already pounding those pavements, as well as employers who are trying to do without for the time being. The one business with a history of hiring teenagers - the NAPA auto parts store - just closed a couple of weeks ago.
Re: This dog is really for you, right? - isherempress - Feb. 16th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: This dog is really for you, right? - sff_corgi - Feb. 19th, 2009 01:42 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: This dog is really for you, right? - jerusha - Feb. 19th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: This dog is really for you, right? - sff_corgi - Feb. 19th, 2009 06:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: This dog is really for you, right? - jerusha - Feb. 19th, 2009 06:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: This dog is really for you, right? - minnehaha - Mar. 11th, 2009 09:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: This dog is really for you, right? - alicebentley - Mar. 11th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 16th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
A friend who had a part-husky put it like this: you know how a dog sees something interesting down the block (tree, hydrant, squirrel ...) and runs to it? Well, a husky does the same thing -- except it looks for something on the horizon. Good for pulling sleds across the tundra; bad for staying inside a fence.

Are you close to any shelters or vets who need volunteers? Around here, the shelters are happy to have responsible teens come in after school to walk the dogs, play with the cats, and do general clean-up. He'd have plenty of dogs for company and a good service project to put on his college applications -- and you wouldn't be left with a dog when he moves out. Just a suggestion from a mom who's soon to inherit an elderly ferret who needs meds twice a day.
Feb. 16th, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC)
As far as the "husky-like" thing goes: ours was billed as being a "Lab-German Shepherd Mix", but I honestly believe that he is just a "dog", and none of his ancestors were ever a purebred anything[1]. We got him by going to the animal shelter, and asked for "the dog that they most thought deserved to be adopted". He'd been one of a litter of puppies, and his litter-mates had all been cuter, more active, and more attention-getting, so they'd all been adopted. He, on the other hand, is the ultimate "Omega Dog": he doesn't have a dominant bone in his body, and will let our daughter crawl all over him and sit on him without any protest. He loves to be with people, and will stay with whoever is walking him, but is certainly energetic enough to go for runs and play vigorously. I bring this up because we never would have been able to sort him out from the other dogs without the advice of the people at the shelter. If you tell them what kind of behavior you'd like to have from a dog, they can probably steer you right to the one you want. And a dog like ours is exactly the sort of dog that an "invisible fence" works well on.

[1] I suspect, but can't prove, that he's descended from the dogs that the local Native Americans had.
Feb. 17th, 2009 12:16 am (UTC)
I'll add my type-of-dog opinion (worth, as ever, exactly what you paid for it):

I grew up with Standard Poodles, and love them, and will probably end up with poodles again if/when I live someplace I can have a large dog. As isherempress notes, they were originally bred as water retrievers. Like most retrievers, they're people-focused and very trainable. As I alluded to above, they're also very smart - most attempts to rank breeds by intelligence put them first or second (following only border collies). Unlike some other working dogs, following their person/people around and being attentive to them seems to be enough "job" for them (unlike herding dogs that start herding family members).

As you'd expect, being both smart and people-focused, poodles are generally very trainable. However, being smart and stubborn, they sometimes get the 'don't-wannas'. I've interacted with dogs who just don't understand what you want when you tell them to do something. That's frustrating, but you reach a whole new level of frustrating when you can see the dog understand what you want and decide that they just aren't going to. (Fortunately, it's never been with anything serious.)

Poodles do tend to be protective of their people and their property, although not as strongly as some other breeds. We've only had two agression/biting incidents with any of our dogs, neither serious. One was when Nick bit my brother's girlfriend. They were horsing around in the back yard, and she jumped up on my brother, piggy-back style. Nick thought she was attacking my brother, and bit her. The second was when the paperboy (a stranger to the dogs) put his hand through the fence to pet one of the dogs. Oops. (Neither bite was serious; while they broke the skin, they were not full force. Neither dog continued to seek to attack once the "invasion" or "attack" ended.)

We've had up to three dogs at a time and never had any inter-dog aggression. We've never had cats or other (loose) pets, so I can't speak to inter-species interaction. (I put loose in parentheses because there's not much interaction that goes on between a dog and, say, a tortoise in a tank, even if they're in the same household.)

In terms of food behavior (at least among the poodles I've observed), they don't tend to be particularly food-focused or food-protective. Most of our dogs have been able to be on 'continuous feed' (i.e. keep the food bowl topped up; they'll eat what they need), which many dogs can't handle. (Friends of mine have hounds - one beagle, one basset hound - and either one of them would happily eat themselves spherical if given unfettered access to food.) All of our dogs have been easily trained to have soft mouths (you don't have to count your fingers after feeding them something by hand, even if it's something really attractive like a piece of deli meat or a steak trimming.

[exceeded comment limit; continued on next rock]
Feb. 17th, 2009 12:24 am (UTC)
[continued from above]

Poodles tend to be high-energy. We have a hill in our fenced back yard, and the dogs chase one another up and down (and up and down, and up and down) it. Fetch is also a favorite activity. (Nick, the dog in the icon, played fetch with a soccer ball. He picked it up in his mouth and brought it back up the hill for us to kick it again.) However, they tend to be pretty calm in the house (although there's a certain amount of leaping and bounding involved in greeting people, whether 'their family' or visitors.

Grooming is less bothersome than many sites/breeders/etc will lead you to believe. They do need periodic haircuts (minus) because they don't shed (plus!). Actually, let me rephrase that - they don't make drifts of hair, and they don't have seasonal sheds. Their coat is much more like human hair than fur, so they'll sometimes leave wisps here and there, like a human does. You absolutely do not need to keep them in anything resembling 'show cut', unless you want to show them. We keep ours in something called 'puppy clip', which is short all over, with the face, feet, and base of the tail clipped very short, and the top of the head, tail, and ears left longer. (Most people don't recognize them as poodles if they're out of 'show cut'.)

Poodles are pretty weather-hardy (there's a team of Standards that have run the Iditarod!), especially if you space their haircuts so they have a heavy coat during the winter.

Size: According to the AKC standards, anything over 15" at the shoulder counts as a standard poodle (miniatures are shorter; toys are shorter still. "Royal Standard" and "teacup" are not official designations. The average size is quoted as 45-60 lbs; ours have usually been at least 55 lbs and at least 26" - I don't remember Nick's height at the shoulder, but at his heaviest he was 90 lbs, and wasn't fat, although he did get a little padded over the ribs after he got neutered.

As with all purebreeds, there are some genetic issues with poodles, which responsible breeders should be able to discuss with you.

If you're interested in a pure-breed dog of any sort, there are usually breed rescue organizations that can answer questions and help you decide if a particular breed is good for you.
(no subject) - jerusha - Feb. 17th, 2009 07:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 17th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
Back when I lived in the Twin Cities, I had a co-worker who had a husky. The dog really, really wanted to get out and run...all the time (and the dog did get to run with Jim, 3-4 miles, about 5 times a week). It required constant vigilance to keep it contained, and with the slightest mistake the dog was gone...Jim would get a call half a day later from someone 13 miles away who had his dog.

So before you go with a husky, make sure you're prepared to give it LOTS of exercise.
Feb. 17th, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC)
I see Mary already mentioned that we have huskies (on numbers 1 & 3).

A lot of our local husky (and Malamute) rescues will not adopt out to you if your containment is invisible fence - because (1) huskies are damned stubborn and will decide that whatever is on the other side of the line is worth getting shocked for; (2) they get up to speed and are across and outside before they can stop, if they even get the warning (greyhounds are even worse). Additional problems for any breed is that if the power is out, or something shorts out the invisible fence (ground moisture, roots, etc.) they can get just waltz right out, and then if the power comes back on, they're on the wrong side. Bad ju-ju.

As for food aggression, we haven't seen it, or at least not any worse than any other breed. Since Ron and I are the alphas, I can have both of ours cleaning the same plate at once. They eat about 10' apart, but Elrond usually finished first and comes within inches of Eowyn to get to the door. They can be quite bold when it comes to counter-surfing and stealing pizza off the plate in my lap (yeah, I'm looking at you, my red-headed wench dog), though.

The problem with cats, as I see it, is not food issues, except insofar as huskies will see cats as just as much a food source as bunnies and squirrels. In some cases they don't differentiate between small furry outside animals that go "squeak" when you catch them, and small furry inside animals that go "squeak." In some cases (yeah, looking at you again, wench), I think they know that they're not supposed to chase that thing, but they . . . just . . . can't . . . resist . . . CHASE! High prey-drive, yes-indeedy. It isn't nasty temperament, though. Our first male was a big old lovable boy, very mellow - who went through something like 8 cats at a farm. They couldn't believe he was the one doing it. Assume any husky is *not* cat-safe unless they've been tested otherwise. Good rescues/breeders will be up-front about this.

This is the group we got two of our beasties from: http://www.adoptahusky.com/

Here's their page on the Husky personalities: http://www.adoptahusky.com/education/Personality/Personality.html
Feb. 17th, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC)
My aunt & uncle raise boxers--a kennel (15x15') is fine if the dog gets out every day for significant walk/play (as others said above). How about a spitz-type instead of a husky-type? Same energy level & playfulness but much smaller. E.g., an Eskimo "Eskie." There are lots of rescues--which gives you an escape out if things don't work out--they take the dog back.
Feb. 17th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
My in-laws had a pair of Huskies, and as others have noted, they are determined about getting out. They also dig trenches reminiscient of WWI. And they ate my father-in-law's boat. And chewed siding off the house. It's like having howling goats in your backyard.

Huskies need a lot of space to run. They also need a companion, so they're less tempted to wander. Oh, they'll still get out, even though you have a solid wooden fence lined with an electric fence, but at least they'll wander less often.

My advice would be to steer The Kid toward a different breed. I'd also recommend a solid fence, because a lot of dogs learn how to climb chain link.
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