New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society: The Official Website

New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society

The Official Website

All content copyright © 1998-2013 New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material from any page of this website without written permission is strictly prohibited.

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Singer Security

[NOTE: The following text is an excerpt from a book in progress.]

6 EXCERPTS FROM BOOK IN PRESS AT KENNEL CUB BOOKS, Inc.
©Janice Koler-Matznick/Kennel Club Books 1/20/04
PAGES LISTED REFER TO THE FINNISH SPITZ BOOK
''' [ ] indicate sections that can be deleted without effecting continuity

Chapter 5. Singing Dog Security Requirements <3,179>

Singers are escape artists. Singers are escape artists. Singers are escape artists. The rule in education and public speaking is to say a thing three times to impress it upon the audience. This is the most important message that can be imparted to Singer owners and potential owners: Singers will take every opportunity and work with concentrated determination to escape confinement. If they are bonded to their humans and well treated, they are not interested in "running away," but they have a strong instinctive urge to go exploring and hunting. All of the Singers on record that have escaped came back, except for those that were hit by cars, captured by animal control personnel, or shot for attacking livestock or pet animals. Once loose and aware that it is loose, a Singer will come to a familiar person only for some extremely desirable reward or out of curiosity, not because it is commanded to "come!" The prospect of a bird in the bush or a mouse in the grass is much more interesting than a known human, and the possibility of finding prey can pull a Singer, joyfully oblivious to traffic, for great distances. Singers can also get their whole bodies through any opening wide enough to admit their heads, which for younger animals may be only a little over four inches in width.

Reality story

One young Singer was turned loose in an area surrounded by a six-foot tall wrought iron fence. The spaces between the vertical bars were about five inches, just narrow enough to prevent the Singer from sticking his head through. However, as in all handmade fences, not all the spaces were identical. The Singer tested one opening and found he could not easily get his head through. He then trotted up and down the fence a few times. Suddenly he turned and slipped between two bars. The space there was just slightly wider than average, and he had noticed this immediately. He did not pause, test the opening and then proceed through. He just went through. Fortunately, the owner was watching and with a "jolly routine" and the aid of his other dog, he was able to capture the Singer.

Doors and Windows

Singer keepers must at all times be cautious entering and exiting doors to the outside when Singers are loose inside. A whole new set of behaviors must be learned to the point of their becoming habitual. Instead of swinging the door wide, stepping through and pushing the door closed casually behind you, you must learn to squeeze through as small an opening as possible. [The routine sequence is this: (1) if inside, look around while approaching the door to located the Singer: if outside and there is a glass window in the door or next to it, look through; (2) if inside and the Singer is in the room, tell it to "stay back" or "wait" in a firm tone; (3) open the door slightly: if outside, and there is no handy window, look through the crack in the door to see where the Singer is; (4) turn your body sideways, stepping through the smallest possible gap; (5) begin to close the door as the trailing leg passes through, so there is no large gap around the leg; (6) test the door to be certain it is firmly closed.] If you are exiting from indoors, turn your head as you step through and be sure the Singer is staying back a few feet, not approaching close enough to dart past your leg. Most Singers quickly learn to remain a few feet back when asked to "wait" and then admonished a few times for trying to follow people through doors uninvited. If more than one person is gong through the door, they should do so one at a time, the first one holding the door almost closed until the second person is ready to step through. This it is the same way those who live in frigid climates conserve heat going through doors to the outside: use the smallest opening possible and slip through sideways. After closing, doors should be tested by pushing or pulling on them to ensure they are tightly latched. If the Singer owner has older children, they must be instructed in the correct way to use outside doors. If the children are too young to follow directions faithfully, latches should be installed above child-reach on all outside doors. If visitors arrive, a loose Singer should be held, picked up or put on leash before the door is opened.

Screen doors without sturdy grills or glass on the lower half are not much of a barrier to a Singer. They can chew or claw a hole in it in seconds. Metal grills with small mesh should be installed on all screen doors. If the latch on the screen door is not sturdy enough to hold the door firmly shut, a second manual latch should be installed.

Singers quickly learn to manipulate the lever-type doorknobs. They must either be replaced with the standard round type or the door must be actually locked or latched to keep the Singer from letting itself out. Even the round knobs are not impossible for Singers to use. There have been reports of Singers using their mouths to turn the knobs and even unlatching and clawing open sliding doors.

Windows are other potential escape routes that many people do not consider. As mentioned for screen doors, window screens are not much of a barrier for Singers. With their exceptional jumping ability and agility, Singers can easily jump up onto windowsills and balance there. If the window is open and the Singer becomes excited by the sight of an animal they can quickly tear the screen to get out. It is safest to leave windows open only a couple of inches, with a "stop" to keep them from opening wider. If they must be open wider, they should have protective grills installed either on the windowsill or the screen frame.

If windows are positioned so that the Singer can look outside and they have a place to sit or lie down, they will spend extended periods of time watching the world go by. This is great environmental enrichment for them. However, Singer keepers who allow their Singer a window view need to place curtains and drapes as far back as possible. Pull down blinds and slat blinds must be completely raised. Otherwise, an excited Singer may claw at them or grab them with their mouth, causing damage.

Climbing Barriers

An unmodified six-foot fence is only a minor challenge to Singers. They easily jump up high enough that their heads are about five feet off of the ground and scramble over the fence. There are reported instances of Singers leaping up to grab opossums off of the top of six-foot fences. If there is a tree that has rough bark or limbs next to a fence to use as a ladder, Singers will use it.

All fences where Singers will be left untended must therefore be at least five-foot high and have a barrier at the top. This can be 45-degree, inward angled arms at least 16 inches long made of metal or wood, with mire mesh or fencing attached. Chicken wire is fine enough to have low visibility but strong enough that a Singer clinging momentarily to the fence can not chew through it. An alternative is an electric hot wire system. Consult a feed dealer or fence specialist about the appropriate type for use with smaller animals. The insulators are small and the wire almost invisible. One disadvantage of some hot wires is they go off if the power goes off. However, there are chargers with back-up batteries, or that run on batteries that are recharged on house current. Another problem with hot wires is designing their installation at gates so it is easy to use them.

Another way to prevent climbing escapes is to use chain link or other heavy duty wire fence at least seven feet high, and attach it to posts on the inside of the fence only up to the five foot level. This leaves about two feet of loose wire at the top. This looks like a "regular" fence until a Singer tries to jump up and climb over. Then the fencing will bend inward and the Singer will drop off.

Digging Barriers

Singers are very efficient diggers. They can quickly tunnel under a fence and will move even fairly large rocks to do so. A digging barrier must be put on the bottom of any fences where Singers will be left untended. Wire fencing two feet wide can be attached to wooden fence with fence staples and to wire or chain link fence with "pig rings." Pig rings are usually available at livestock supply stores and are open brass rings closed with special pliers. The smallest size holds the fencing tighter. The wire footing can be recessed a few inches in the ground by digging a shallow trench before attaching the wire to the fence, or just be pegged down with tent stakes on the loose edge and covered with soil. Ground cover and other plants can be planted on top to conceal the footing. If you use a wire dig barrier, be sure to check it a few times a year, as they will rust out.

Some choose to put a cement digging barrier about 18 inches wide around the inside of the fence. This must extend under the fence if it is wire or chain link and right to the fence if it is wooden, and needs to be about two inches thick. A third alternative is to run a hot wire along the bottom of the fence just above the ground.

Gates

Whatever barriers to jumping and digging are utilized, the gate areas must be equally secured. It is advisable to have keyed locks such as padlocks, on all gates to the outside, and to have these locked whenever the Singer is loose in the yard. This prevents the casual opening of the gate, or the malicious opening of the gate to let the Singer out.

If possible, the yard should be secured as outlined above (with the exception perhaps of the digging barrier as long as the fence is tight to the ground) as an area for the Singer to run in only when it is being supervised. A separate, smaller Singer-proof pen should be erected for times when the Singer will be left untended. A minimum size for a pen for one or two Singers that get some free running each day and are confined for no more than 12 hours daily (the remainder of the time being in the house or running supervised, etc.) is about 6 foot wide by 12 feet long. The nicest, easiest way to build such a pen is by using chain link panels set on railroad ties. Chain link fabric can then be laid in as a dig barrier, attached to the ties, and gravel added to about three or four inches in depth. If gravel is to be used with regular in-ground chain link, 1 X 12 boards can be installed around the inside of the fence to keep the gravel from being pushed out. If the pen is erected in an area with poor drainage, French drains need to be installed to direct run-off away from the pen.

Fencing

Most wire fencing is not sturdy enough to stand up to a Singer determined to be on the other side. They have very powerful jaws and can bend and break even heavy gauge wires. Welded wire fence is the least useful as the welds are easily broken. Wrapped wire fencing with mesh no larger than 2 inches by 2 inches is best used only to line the "dog side" of wooden fences, or as barriers in places the Singer is not likely to be left untended.

Chain link is the best all-around Singer fencing. Pre-made panels, especially those with an extra cross brace in the middle, are ideal for Singer pens. They are usually more securely attached at the ends and bottoms than in-ground chain link fences. Inspect the bottoms of chain link gates and panels to ensure the fabric is rigidly attached to the bottom rails. Pull up and out as hard as possible. If the fabric can be pulled even an inch above the rail for more than a couple of inches distance, it is not secure enough. In that case, add more wire retainers.

Wooden fences in areas where Singers will be left untended should be lined with wire fencing to prevent chewing. In their desire to get out of the boring enclosure and into the exciting rest of the world, they will chew on wooden posts and boards. With their strong jaws it takes only minutes for them to chew a hole in a one-inch thick board or through plywood. Any exposed edges of boards, posts, etc., should be covered with metal. Singers do not like the feel of metal on their teeth. The metal corner beads made for dry wall installation are inexpensive and easy to work with. They can be cut with tin snips or cut by scoring and bending, and attached with screws. Screws are better than nails, as they are harder to pull out and easier to remove or replace.

Collars

Singers should never be walked outdoors using only a buckle collar. If a buckle collar is adjusted to be comfortable to wear, the Singer could back out of it. If it is tightened up enough so it will not pass over the head, it will be too tight for comfort. Singers being taken outside of secure fencing should always be wearing a buckle collar with license and nametag, just in case they escape. However, a martingale collar or a slip collar (commonly called "choke collars") should be used with the leash. These collars will tighten around the Singer's neck if they fight the leash in a panic or try to back out of them, and so are the most secure. Slip and martingale collars for walking can be made of chain, round nylon or flat nylon tape. They should be sized to just slip over the Singer's head. A martingale harness, which has a chest piece shaped like a Y is also secure for walking Singers. A regular dog harness, with a single horizontal front strap, is not suitable, as Singers are flexible enough to twist out of them.

[Flat collars may wear down the Singer's coat around the neck, but that is a minor cosmetic problem. Nylon is the most durable material, and if they get wet they will not fade onto the coat, as some leather collars will. Rolled collars are less likely to break the hair. ] Collars that are worn continuously need to be carefully fitted. They should be tight enough that the Singer can not easily get a foot trapped under them, but loose enough so that if they get caught on something the Singer would be able, with some effort, to get out of them.

Leashes

Leashes should be made of flat or round nylon, leather or cotton web. Chain leashes are uncomfortable to the person's hands and heavy for the dog, and are only as strong as their weakest link. The hardware on leashes and collars should be strong and well made, with neat and complete welds, especially on the rings. The most secure type of snap is called a "bull snap". The tongue of a bull snap is designed so that it pushes inward easily to attach but can not open unless the tongue is pushed backward. Bolt snaps are the most commonly used type on leashes. The drawback of bolt snaps is if they have weak springs and are hit just the right way by the collar ring of a dog jumping hard at the end of the leash, they can accidentally open. Check any bolt snaps to be certain they are sturdy and that the tongue fits tightly into its groove.

Before a Singer is taken out on leash in an unfenced area, the equipment should be safety-checked. Look at the snaps and rings, and the stitching on the leash and collar, to be certain they are in good working order. Stitching can be reinforced by hand or by a cobbler or harness maker. Adding rivets can also reinforce stitching. Some leashes, especially leather ones, have only rivets and this is fine as long as the rivets are in good shape.

Regular walking leashes should be about six feet long. This gives the Singer enough length to investigate and jump around but is not so long as to be cumbersome. The extending automatic cord or belt leads are wonderful for casual walking of Singers. They allow from 16 to 26 feet of play room so that the Singer can wander around and investigate a bit, while still under control. Only American or German made extending leashes of quality construction should be used for Singers. Although Singers rarely are over 30 pounds in weight, extending leashes should be designed for at least a 40-pound dog, as Singers are strong for their size. The weakness in the cord type extendable leashes is the rings that connect the snap and the first part of the leash to the cord. These should be checked before each use to ensure they are not bent or opening up. Another rare problem is that the cord can come loose from the reel, especially if the dog forcefully hits the end of the extended leash. It can be re-attached by opening the case. It is best to "brake" the Singer's run before it hits the end of the leash.

Permanent Identification

All Singers should have a tattoo or a microchip ID, or both. Tattoos on the inside of the thigh or on the stomach are visible because the hair in those areas is thinner. All animal control agencies and shelters check animals for tattoos. Some shelters also have microchip readers and check each animal with them. Schering Company, which makes the Home Again brand microchip, in partnership with the American Kennel Club, has distributed free readers to many shelters in the USA. The AKC also has a Companion Animal Recovery System, which for a small fee will register any animal that has either a tattoo or chip (of any brand) and that can be contact toll free in the USA to locate owners. The most recent microchip readers can sense any brand of chip, although they might not be able to read the numbers. As Singers, to a casual observer, could be judged to be "just a mixed breed," permanent ID is very important. If the ID is noticed, the personnel will realize that the Singer is not an unwanted stray but a dog whose owner is concerned about its welfare. Also, if the Singer is lost or stolen, the owner can positively identify it.

[end of book excerpt]

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Home
Description
History
Research
Living With NGSD
Resources
Membership
Rescues
Zoos That Have NGSD

All content copyright © 1998-2013 New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material from any page of this website without written permission is strictly prohibited.