There is nothing more frightening in the world of dogdom than returning to the location where you staked out your gun dog only to find your dog is gone!
The dog may have slipped out of his collar, the snap on the collar may have been accidentally opened, the entire stake-out unit may have pulled from the ground, or some mechanical element in the tie-out may have failed and turned the dog loose. I speak with some authority, having crossed the United States a dozen times, staked-out bird dogs at night and suffered some anxious moments when, for a number of reasons, the dogs were gone when I looked for them. If there was ever a sickening feeling, this was it.
I suspect I have tried almost every type of commercial tie-out stake, and each seemed to have a specific problem or failure. Some could be pulled out by a strong dog lunging on the chain. Others tended to unscrew from the ground or would not dig deep enough to hold in soft soil or sand, some chains tended to tangle, others would twist and snub the dog up tight, and still others hang up around the tie-out anchor. Following some experimentation, I think I have come up with an inexpensive tie -out system that anyone can build without the aid of a toolbox or the technical knowledge of how to use it.
My first consideration was getting away from traditional steel chain, which always seem to gather leaves, twigs and other debris or tangles when the dog moved around on the ground anchor. I solved this by using eighth- or quarter-inch plastic-coated steel airline or boat steering cable, rated at over 1,800 pounds of breaking strength and costing about $1.40 a foot. I preferred the 6- to 8-foot lengths for tie-out purposes. This cable lies flat and does not kink or twist. Some dogs may chew on the plastic coating of the cable, but mine never have.
This cable is attached to the ground anchor, which is a 3-foot length of three-quarter-inch galvanized pipe with a cap on the threaded end to absorb the blows of a small sledgehammer used to drive the pipe into the ground to the desired depth, depending on the soil and ground conditions. Personally, I have never driven the pipe deeper than 2 feet. This allowed for a foot of pipe standing above ground level, which served to remind me to pick up the tie-out assembly before leaving the scene of the action. I have lost four commercial tie-outs because I failed to see or remember them when I loaded the dogs and moved some 500 miles to the next overnight stop. I also found the vertical pipes were easily visible to anyone walking near the tie-out and dogs. Also, if they were left in place in the yard, the upright pipes reminded me not to cut the grass too close to the site. Ground level tie-outs are hard on lawn mower blades.
Constructing this tie-out is simple. First, I attach the tie-out cable to the ground anchor pipe. I selected a 1 1/2-inch sturdy metal ring or a 1 1/2-inch shackle, which easily slides over the pipe, and when the cap is replaced on the pipe, this prevents the ring from sliding up the pipe. The cable is attached to a swivel by cable clamps. The cable and swivel clamps are then attached to the metal ring on the ground anchor pipe. The shackle turns freely on the pipe and the swivel prevents the cable from twisting.
The final act is to attach a collar snap to the snap at the dog's end of the tie-out cable. This is easily done by making a second loop in the cable, about 2 inches long, and securing it with two cable clamps to form a secure loop to which a swivel and the collar snap are added, completing the tie-out. It's important to add the swivels at each end of the tie-out cable to eliminate any twisting or crimping of the cable.
The selection of a snap, which attaches the tie-out cable to the ring on the dog's collar, is extremely important. Most sturdy snaps will hold and remain hooked under normal conditions. However, some dogs like to roll and slide along the ground when tied. If it happens to catch the snap just right, it may open enough to fall off the collar. Other times a dog may play or pull at the collar, and the leash or cable may pinch a secured snap open. This has happened to me, even with a dog on a leash when I accidentally made the right, or wrong, maneuver.
I have found one particular snap, which is frequently used on horses and large animals. It's called a "large animal snap." This is a big, heavy-duty snap designed so it's necessary to pull the locking dog on the snap out rather than squeezing it in to put the snap on or to take it off a collar. It may take two human hands to release this sturdy snap from the ring on the dog's collar. These are excellent, except this release is spring-loaded with a wire spring that tends to rust and weaken with time. It pays to replace this collar snap at the first sign of any rusting. Most other snaps will work, but I like the comfort of knowing the above-mentioned snap is in place when I tie out my dogs.
Some dogs like to dig at the ground tie-out either through boredom or to try to escape. I have a Lab who delighted in digging a foot-deep hole next to one of those screw-in tie-outs. I foiled this effort my cutting a 10-inch circular disc out of three-quarter-inch plywood and drilling a 1 1/2-inch hole in the center to receive the 1 1/4-inch tie-out pipe. This prevented the dog from getting immediate access to dig at the tie-out pipe and ruined his fun.
Some readers may think I over designed this dog tie-out. The swivels, cables and other parts may be over-sized. This entire tie-out can be reduced in size according to the size and st
rength of your dog. However, since I am relying on this tie-out to hold some Labs weighing close to 100 pounds, I need all the help I can get. I would estimate that this entire home-assembled tie-out costs about $15 for the pipe, cable, clamps, swivels, links and snaps. The tie-out is almost indestructible and should last many years, assuring you great peace of mind when you tie out your gun dog.