Boomerproofing

One Sunday night in June 2011 I was getting ready for work when I noticed that Boomer, fueled by the neighbor’s dogs’ constant barking on the other side of the wall, was able to jump high enough to get his elbows over the top of the wall.

It was a Xanax moment but I had to go to work.   I called my boss.

I packed Boomer up & took him to the bar with me, where he basically had to follow me everywhere on leash as I served the early customers until my girlfriend & my sister showed up to take over leash duty.   He was great; both of his parents have good temperament & he’s been cared for diligently since birth.   It’s only other dogs where we have a bit of a problem (see “Walking Boomer“).

The vast majority of our clientele are personal friends or have been regulars so long they are pretty much personal friends, & I made sure to introduce Boomer to everyone as they arrived.   At 16 months, Boomer currently hates anyone who passes by the front yard… unless they talk to me.   He seems to even know they are going to talk to me before they actually do it.   However, if they just walk on without looking at me, Boomer does his whole Murderous Dog routine until they are away from the fence.   As long as he knows it’s one of my friends, he’s ok.   Smart dog.

Boomer was a huge hit at the bar.   He mostly just cruised in one spot but was friendly to whoever approached him.  Even the couple of guys who don’t like dogs ended up liking him.   One of them even approached me at the end of the night to tell me that my dog was awesome.

So yeah, awesome night at the bar, & Boomer passed the People Socialization test with flying colors.   When I got home, though, I still had a potentially deadly issue to deal with.

I decided that if Boomer was unable to position his head over the top of the wall, he would be unable to jump in the correct direction to get his elbows over the top of the wall.   My mom & I went to City Mill to look around at potential obstacles & were undecided until I saw a dude buying a bunch of thick wire fencing off a 6′ roll in the back of the store.

There was my solution.

I bought a bunch of the fencing in 3′ x 6′ segments.   Each segment was cut with a male & female edge, & I fit the male ends into the openings at the top of the backyard wall.   I strung it together in a couple of spots with metal wire ($2 a roll) & there was a stable, visually benign canopy that fit nicely over the top of the wall.

Initially I put these obstructions up in the spots where claw marks on the wall indicated Boomer was jumping, but as time went on (& I was able to make a little more money so I could buy more of these things, which cost me $15 a segment) I was able to cover most of the wall where Boomer could jump.   I put ground obstructions, like potted plants or planterboxes along the other areas where it wasn’t too much of an eyesore.

In later installations (see below) I bent the female edge of the segments upward because at the angle pictured above, when Boomer did jump at these spots, he was poking the top of his head.

My dad’s solution was even simpler.   “Just feed him more,” he said.    My dad has Boomer’s uncle, & Harley is 130 lbs going on 200 lbs (seriously… he doesn’t look 130 lbs).   There’s no WAY Harley could jump a 6′ wall.   Of course, Harley would probably just bust through it if he really wanted to.

In Boomer’s defense, the neighbor’s dogs were pretty distressing.   They would, by the sound of it, all 3 of them rush the wall at the spot where they ascertained him to be on the other side of, & yap quite loudly & aggressively.   Whenever they did that it made me feel like looking over the wall.   It’s hard to hear snarling & barking like that so close & not react to it.

In addition to installing the fencing, I:

1. Busted Boomer whenever he reacted to the dogs’ barking by hitting up the wall.   In the beginning, this was often, & Boomer was so focused that he didn’t notice I was standing there looking mad.   I bought a couple of packages of Pop Pops.   They’re harmless (as kids we used to throw them on each other) but they do make a little noise that instantly gets a dog’s attention.   Then Boomer could notice that I was mad, & commence with his “I’m sorry” dance.

2. Praised Boomer whenever the dogs started up & he didn’t react.   This happened rarely at first, but now it’s most of the time.   It’s been 8 months & I still praise him when he doesn’t get up.    Occasionally praising is accompanied by treats.

3. Fed him more.   Boomer is now a healthy (not overweight) 90ish lbs & although he still jumps on occasion, he doesn’t get as much air as he used to.   Not that it matters, since most of the jumpable areas of wall are canopied anyway.   I think he jumps more now just to get a look at what’s going on next door; he’s not actually trying to go there any more.

4. Made friends with the neighbor’s dogs.   Whenever I was up in the tree pruning I made sure to say hello to them by name.   The crankiest one, Lady, still barks at me once in awhile, & she’s the one who does the 3-hour barking sessions a couple of times a week, but for the most part the neighbor’s dogs no longer attack the wall when they hear us on the other side.   They do still yap quite a bit but it’s not crazy like it once was.

So far, so good!!

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