Canine Behavior/jumping boundaries
Our 9 month black lab is a jumper and escape artist. I have a"sacred space" (above ground swimming pool and the area around it) that he is consistently breaching. I have placed barriers upon barriers and he still has figured out how to get out of the more than ample yard and deck area we have provided to him. Our previous lab did not ever jump over anything. Its winter in MN so I can not drive stakes into the patio surrounding the pool. He is jumping onto the frozen covered pool but soon the ice will melt and he may break through and ruin the pool.(No small expense). We can isolate him in another fenced in area that opens into our current region, but it would require taking him into the area and my children are not consistent in doing so and I work fulltime. An underground fencing system is not possible. Any suggestion for use during the cold snow/icy season until May arrives. It's been a long 6 months!
Thank you for your question. I understand your concern for your dog getting into an area he shouldn't be. I think more important, though, than the cost of the dog breaking through the melting pool ice is that if that were to happen, your dog would likely drown due to actually not being able to get back above the water line, or not being able to find his way out of the pool and panicking. I think this should be impressed upon your kids. If you have an area already in place that is in fact secure enough to keep your dog from accessing the pool unsupervised, then it should not be optional. That is the area to which the dog goes, no matter who is taking him outside - the dog's life depends on this. If the kids are not trustworthy to do this, then someone else needs to be in charge of taking the dog out. If you're at work, that may mean hiring a pet sitter/dog walker to come over during the day for the mid-day potty break as a hired employee is going to take the responsibility seriously and follow your orders on this.
You aren't specific in describing the current barrier system you're using, so I can't really offer any suggestions as to how you might improve on them. I can tell you that underground fencing is not effective and comes with a host of unintended consequences. And, if your issue is jumping, the underground fence won't work for you at all, because if he's jumping high enough, he wouldn't trigger the shock to occur anyway.
I do understand that weather makes it impossible to make certain changes right now. But, a temporary fix might be to purchase a dog kennel. These are available at places like Home Depot, Lowes and often even at PetSmart and PetCo. They are chain link and range in size. The link below is for one that is 7.5ft X 12ft (84 square feet of floor space). They are 6 feet high and you can attach a tarp (using zip-ties through the grommets of the tarp to the kennel) to create a ceiling so he can't jump over.
Assuming that at this time of year, he's really only outside for potty time, this may be a great solution. You can put the kennel anywhere in your yard that's convenient. If you can set it up under an existing ceiling, then you might not need to do the tarp ceiling - so long as the existing ceiling actually prevents him from jumping out.
If he's going to be out for any length of time in this kennel, then you need to ensure that he has a space that is raised off the ground and covered (dog house) that he can retreat to in order to get out of the elements. Also, you'll need to make sure that there are a few things to entertain him while he's in there. These can be Stuffed Kong toys (he can eat his meals out of several of these over the course of the day), marrow bones (which can also be stuffed with his food), antlers, Bully Sticks (which are entirely edible/digestible), Buster Cube or Tricky Treat Ball (if he's not a heavy chewer - the TTB is a soft plastic and can be chewed apart), Ever Lasting Treat Toy, etc. Having a variety is important and then rotating the options from day to day will help keep the novelty factor up so that your dog doesn't get bored in the kennel.
If a kennel isn't an option, you can try a tie-out. Since you can't drive stakes into the ground right now, you can use a zip-line version. This is a cable that attaches to a tree or post on each end, and has a cable that hangs down and moves freely along the suspended line. You hook the hanging line to a HARNESS so that it's attached to your dog on his BACK (nothing around his neck, he could strangle if he gets tangled on something). Then he can run the entire length of the line, back and forth, and he has about 4-6 feet off to either side of the line. You can place this so that he can't get anywhere near the boundary to your pool. This can allow him to be unsupervised for a bit, while ensuring he can't access the forbidden areas. The link below is for an off-ground areal system with a 50-ft line.
The other option is a long leash (25 - 50 foot, depending on your yard size) and he must be on leash at all times he's outside. This requires a person to be outside with him, holding that leash at all times, engaging with him and keeping him from spending any time near the pool boundary in order to prevent him from trying to jump into that area.
Once the weather warms up, you may be able to tend to the fencing you currently have. It may be necessary to do for your dog what zoos do for their animals. That's putting a 2-4 foot piece of fencing at a roughly 40-degree angle coming off the top of the fence line, aiming INTO the yard, so that your dog can't jump up to it and get a foot-hold. This will prevent him from getting over it partly because it adds another 2-4 feet in height, and also because the angle makes it nearly impossible for him to get out.
Of course, increased mental stimulation
on the ground is hugely important and will go a long way toward distracting him away from the pool. Obedience classes, Agility classes, RALLY classes (like Agility in that it has stations, but instead of obstacles, you do announced skills at each stop), K-9 Nose Work, Fly-ball, Treiball (herding but with balls instead of sheep), etc. can all be great for a dog's mental stimulation as well as for the bond between dog and his people. If everyone goes to class, and then each person works with him just once or twice per week between classes on the skills, then he's getting daily training, spread out between the whole family. Everyone develops a better bond with him, his behavior improves because he's having fun with this activity AND because the mental exercise of this activity lowers his boredom level and he no longer feels such a strong need to entertain himself by jumping to the pool side. You'll probably need to google the various classes suggested to see if there are trainers in your area for one that appeals to you. If you go to YouTube and search for any of the listed classes, you'll find videos so you can see which, if any, of them appeal to you. Remember, what appeals to you may not appeal to your dog. If you try Fly-ball (a relay sport involving jumping hurdles down a track, grabbing a ball at the end and returning to the start for the next dog to run) and your dog is hating it, don't force him to participate. The whole point is for him to have fun and find an outlet for his energy and need to use his brain. So it may involve some trial-and-error to see what he likes to do. In my home, I'm not very athletic and don't have much interest in running around a field (agility), and my older dog is a bit timid of things, so we have found Nose Work to be quite fun. It's confidence building, a single dog at a time on the course, I don't have to run around and he's having a great time - using his nose to search for a bite of food hidden in one of many boxes. Tomorrow we start the next level - intro to alerting to an odor, rather than finding food. It's the same premise as narcotics sniffing dogs, but for fun!
And of course, we should make sure there's nothing on the pool side that is drawing him. If there's a tree over there that's housing a family of squirrels, you're never going to deter your dog's interest. So it may be necessary to do some dog-proofing over there to lower the desirability of that space. But, if the main issue is boredom, then increasing his mental activity will be your very best option to eliminating the undesired jumping behavior (kennels or tie-outs become management while we help him learn to channel his energy elsewhere).
I hope that one or more of these options proves helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.
Los Angeles Behaviorist