Captain is the name of our second and currently largest dog. He weighs in at a whopping 97 pounds gaining 30 of those in the last year. He is the father of 10 healthy puppies, one of which we decided we needed to keep.
Captain started to outsmart us when he realized that when we left for the morning, we typically did not come back for a few hours. Unfortunately, Captain has an issue with separation anxiety. This appeared to be at its height when he was around a year old. He was, at that time, a very well-built dog that had legs like springs.
The temperature was cool one morning and was expected to stay that way throughout the day. We decided that we would leave Captain out with his companion Rockafeller (she prefers Roxie) to enjoy the weather versus being cooped up in the house. We came home that evening and discover a deposit of dog waste near our front door. We believed it to be the result of a stray or a roaming neighbor and thought nothing of it. The second time we left him out, we returned to a bit bigger surprise.
We arrived home to find a car pulled up against our curb. They calmly explain that our dog was loose and wanted to make sure we knew about it. I immediately was suspicious but decided to give it a test. That weekend we put the dogs outside. Captain, in his desire to be let back in, removed himself from our back yard. Do not take this statement lightly. Captain stands all of two feet tall, and we have a six-foot block fence completely surrounding our yard. His plan of attack seemed to go like this: He scratches on the front door and sits patiently. When he realizes he is not being let in that way he calmly walks over, jumps the wall again and presumes to sit by the back door. Once again, I could not believe what I saw. As a follow up, we placed the dogs outside, and I waited patiently in the front yard. Ten minutes later, I had my answer. Captain, ever so impatient, attempted to jump the wall again to try the front door. I caught him in the act, surprising him so that he turned around and returned to the back door pretending as if nothing happened.
Realizing that this was a safety concern while we were away, we purchased a dog kennel appropriate for his size. It was immediately rejected. We returned home to find the cage door swung open and Captain happily waiting for us by the door. You may be asking yourself, why not just leave him to roam the house. Captain has a penchant for destruction when we are away. Stairs, furniture, clothing, nothing is off limits while we are not around.
I reinforced the cage door with padlocks to ensure he stays put. This kept him at bay for a day. Then he figured out he could scoot the cage around by shifting his weight. In comes the carpet runner. He had almost taken in half the runner in his attempt at escape. We added a non-slip pad to the bottom of the cage to keep him from sliding. Captain decided that enough was enough and on the next day simply broke the front of the cage open. It was not a wide break, just enough to get his head through, but determination pulled the rest of him past it. It was then that I learned how to keep this dog at bay. Using extra copper wiring from a housing project, I laced the front of the cage closed again.
All was well and Captain was starting to accept his fate in the kennel when a particularly anxious day over took him. He believed that if he could not open the panels, he would simply punch through the cage itself. We found him in the cage, unhurt but dejected. There was a softball sized hole in the side of the cage where he had forced the bars apart. In the pursuit of freedom he had scratched his neck on one of the broken kennel wires. This ended his attempts that day but proved his point. The kennel would be retired and replaced with a new one affectionately called The Thunderdome.
Captain and Rockafeller were the proud parents of 10 puppies. After finding homes for these young ones, including keeping one adorable one named Lily, we knew we needed to find a new home for the pair. We wanted to work on cage training properly instead of waiting until Lily was a year old. We purchased a 6 foot by 10 foot steel fenced dog kennel you would typically find in someone’s back yard. This went upstairs in a bonus room where the puppies were kept. Captain was receptive at first, but after a couple of days was back to his old tricks.
The first time we found that he had escaped, we realized the lock mechanism was not tightened enough and he simply forced himself against the door hard enough to spin it around. This was easily fixed. But Captain is resourceful and eventually found that the cage is weakest near the base, where it was tied to its main supports with soft aluminum ties. Those ties easily gave way to the might of Captain and he was free again. I gave him credit and patched the hole he had made with a bit of hard board from the garage. And then he ate the patch.
Realizing this may be an ongoing problem, I purchased 14 gauge steel wire and laced the steel fencing to the lower cage structure through the entire length of the cage. Although this actually held for quite some time, it was not to last. Captain had realized that the corners were the weak spots in the solution and attacked them without mercy. He taught his daughter to do the same and before you know it, we had two holes in our carpet as proof of escape attempts. They had found a way to loosen the cage enough to put their arms through and were clawing at the carpet in an attempt to escape. This prompted us to re-evaluate Captains position as cage occupier.
Today Lily is still locked in the cage and has since adjusted well. Captain’s anxiety was feeding her own and causing her to act out as well. She has a home in that cage every day and under most circumstances has no issues with that as her home while we are gone. Captain now runs free with Rockafeller and has since learned to hoist his mass to our kitchen counters to pull objects down. He is much calmer now when we are gone and has learned that his rewards are greater when he has not damaged anything of value. The occasional spoon or spatula is lost in the process but the smile we receive walking through the door is well worth the loss.