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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

A Safe Singer is a Contained Singer

Singers are escape artists. Similar to huskies, hounds and small terriers that love to escape, Singers will take the first chance they can to roam the neighborhood. When left alone for any extended period of time, Singers will take every opportunity to sneak out. All of the Singers on record that have escaped came back, except for those that were hit by cars, captured by animal control personnel. Therefore they may not be interested in going far, they are still at risk of harm.

Once loose a Singer will usually only come to a familiar person or someone with extremely desirable rewards. With the exception of rigorous professional training, you NGSD is unlikely to “come!” if they are free. 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 exciting smells, can pull a Singer, joyfully oblivious to traffic, for great distances.

Keep-away is favorite game of most loose dogs and NGSDs are no exception. The best way to catch a loose NGSD is to have a food or high value toy lure. Enticing them to eat the food off the ground where you can grab them, or encouraging them to play, or to drop to the ground and make strange noises until their curiosity draws them close enough for you to calmly and securely take hold of them. Running after a loose NGSD, or grabbing wildly at them, is the worst possible thing to do. That is how they learn how long your arms are and how much faster they are than their humans.

 

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 catch his Singer. Young Singers can get their whole bodies through any opening wide enough to admit their heads, which could be only a little over four inches in width.

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Perching behavior in NGSDs

Doors and Windows

Singer owners 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.

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 going 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 is the same way those who live in frigid climates conserve heat when 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 or if too young, not to open without assistance unless the Singer is confined. If the children are too young to follow directions faithfully, latches should be installed above the reach of children 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 door knobs. 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 another potential escape route 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 window sills 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.

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High chain link fence with angled inward extension attached can be a solution for experienced escape artists.

Climbing Barriers

Singers can climb so fences with gaps, holes or wire can become a ladder for an agile dog. They jump up high enough that their heads are about five feet off of the ground and with front legs extended they can 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 housed should therefore be at least five-foot high and should consider a barrier at the top. This can be 45-degree, inward angled arms at least 16 inches long made of metal or wood, with wire mesh or fencing attached. Chicken wire is fine enough to have low visibility but strong enough that a Singer clinging momentarily to the fence cannot chew through it. Coyote rollers are another option for talented dogs.

Collars

Singers should always be walked on more than 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 should always be wearing a license and name tag, just in case they escape. If you still wish to use a collar in addition to the buckle collar, a martingale collar can 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. Martingale collars are adjustable and 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. Many other dog harness, such as with a single horizontal front strap, is not suitable, as Singers are flexible enough to twist out of them. Therefore check all harnesses to ensure your NGSD cannot back out or slip their shoulder out of the harness.

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Want to be double secure? - Try wearing both a martingale collar and a harness

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 may be put on the bottom of any fences where Singers will be left unattended. 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 digging 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. 

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NGSDs are extremely dexterous, this NGSD was able to dig down about 7 inches, almost its leg length, through 2 X 2 inch wire openings

Gates

Whatever barriers to jumping and digging are utilized, the gate areas must be equally secured. If possible locks such as padlocks, or clips, on all gates to the outside, prevents the casual opening of the gate by someone not aware the Singer is there. If possible, Singers should be let out to to the yard only when it is being supervised. 

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Singers prefer a good view such as this tall tree stump affords

Perches

Given the choice, Singers like to perch up off the ground. They appreciate stumps, tables, and as in the photo above, platforms at various levels. These must be far enough from fences to prevent them being used as springboards for jumping over the fence. Note that the pen with the “jungle gym” climbing platforms, the top half of the fence is angled inwards and has a few inches of loose fencing at the top.

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Multilevel perch/play gym (note the inward angled fence top)

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.

Chain link can be good Singer fencing. 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 wire 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 unattended should be lined with wire fencing to prevent chewing. In their desire to get out of the boring yard and into the exciting rest of the world, they will chew on wooden poem to chew a hole in a one-inches and boards.

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Attaching a Singer-secure pen to the house allows the Singer to use a dog door to go outside unsupervised

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. The hardware on leashes and collars should be strong and well made, with neat and complete welds, especially on the rings. 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. 

Permanent Identification 

All Singers should have a microchip ID. Most shelters have universal microchip readers and check each animal with them.  There are microchips that are half the size of the regular and so are inserted with a much smaller needle. The chip should be registered with one of the major pet recovery sites.

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