Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Good fences make good neighbors. At my training field, I am having trouble with the neighbors that moved in maybe a year ago. My agility field is at my parents' house. I had horses at home when I was in high school and college and the old riding arena is a perfect field for agility.  The agility field itself is just post and board rail and then there is a pasture fence that surrounds the whole thing.  So I have never felt the need to put wire fencing on my arena.  It is too much space to allow fosters and new dogs to run free, but it has always worked well for my hounds once they have a bit of training.

Well, the latest neighbor has two dogs in a large fenced backyard that parallels my agility field somewhat. They do not share a fence line, but the two dogs have a perfect view of the action while I train. We are used to being barked as we have dealt with that over the years, but this new neighbor has a dog that digs under the fence. I blogged about the problem once before and one of the solutions was to put dog poop in the holes which I did and it worked very well. The dog turned his attention to a tree and would dig at a tree inside of his yard out of frustration and boredom while I trained. Then the rains started and the ground is now very soft. The dog has returned to digging under the fence and is to the point that there are simply too many holes for me to try and fill plus it is not my responsibility.  It is not even my fence! The fence line is long and the ground is soft so the dog quickly finds a new spot to create a hole that allows for escape in short order.

Luckily the dog is not aggressive, but he cannot be on my field while I am training the other dogs. I cannot be in the middle of an agility course and suddenly he is there while my dogs are climbing or jumping at speed. It is dangerous. And Maddie cannot deal with such distractions at this time and would likely run off into the sunset with him.

I have returned him to the owner a few times. The kids and wife who answered the door had little to say and no apologies for the intrusion. I would politely indicate where the latest escape hole was. It was obvious they were trying to block off some of the larger holes, but all in all, their dogs are outside, untrained, not exercised, no activity, and are looking for something to do. My parents provided me with the husband's email address and phone number. On two occasions, I left a voicemail explaining that the dog had gotten out and was interfering with my training and that I needed for this problem to be solved.

On the last occasion, no one was home and he escaped 3 times. I returned him the first time to the pool area, but he easily pushed open the gate to the larger yard. 2nd time I tried to put him on the back porch, but could not close the door. Plus it was disgusting. It reeked of urine and had dog poop all over it... and this WAS a nice house! The third time, I just left.  I left the second voicemail to express my frustration. I was calm, but I'm sure I sounded irritated.

The next day, I emailed and texted the neighbor to let him know I would be training that afternoon and to please put the dog up during that time. Keith (aka jerk neighbor) finally calls back and his first words are:

"You have been rude to my wife and I." 

I was speechless. All I could think of is how mortified I would be if my dog was interfering with a neighbor's activities. My tail would be tucked and I would be apologizing. I would have been grateful for the help in filling the holes and appreciated the warning of when to put my dog up. I certainly would not have ignored two voicemails as I would want to open up the communication and figure out how to solve the problem without a war. So I was speechless.

He stated that they knew the dog was a problem, that they didn't want him running around the neighborhood, and that they were doing everything they possibly could, but that the dog was just going to get out sometimes. He suggested that if I wanted him to continue to work on the problem that I ought to be more cordial and neighborly. Really? We had never even had a conversation up until this point because he had ignored me.... I never had an opportunity to be rude. I was speechless.

He finally questions with "okay?". No, its not okay. I told him that he acts as if I had called them names and cussed them out (which I had not). I told him that containing his dog was his responsibility and that I would seek the assistance of animal control if he was not going to be able to contain his dog.

Jerk neighbor went on to explain that it was not his problem that I had a training facility back there and that lots of dogs ran loose in the neighborhood including my parents' dogs. That was a flat out lie as my parents contain their dogs indoors and in a fenced yard 99.99% of the time. I agreed that many dogs ran loose in the neighborhood, but they were on the street and in the front yards and not on my field. "Your dog cannot be on my field."

The phone call made me so angry. I wish I had said this or that, but the truth is that none of it would have penetrated jerk neighbor's ego.  At least I did not say anything regrettable and now that I am calmer weeks later, I think I handled the call perfectly. Long pauses in conversation were better than saying something you should not on the fly. I was polite, but firm.

Since then, the dog has been kept on the porch or tied inside of his yard.  Poor dog just wants something to do. I just do not understand why someone gets a dog when they do not keep the dog in their house, train it, walk it, play with it, and/or love it. You are asking for all sorts of problems when you think you yard should have a dog in it.

In the meanwhile, my awesome husband fenced in my agility field. It will not keep out a very determined dog, but at least it will keep me from being surprised by a strange dog on my agility field. I can now relax and concentrate on my own dogs.