My dog Bramble loves hanging out in my basement garage, and I like working with fresh air rolling in through open bay doors. I wanted some way to keep her from running off to the stream without keeping the door down all the time, so I started looking for garage-sized doggie gates. They exist, but every one I found was been really expensive, ugly, or wouldn't do a good job holding my tactical-minded Aussie shepherd. So I tried making my own.
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Bramble’s actually not a full-blooded Australian shepherd, as her dad is a sizable golden retriever. So she’s not only remarkably intelligent but she’s moving up in weight classes pretty fast. All this to say: She's tough to contain.
She was born in January and came to live with us a couple of months later. Early on, we corralled her in a portable fence-style pen from Home Depot. It worked well enough but before long, her fluffy body started taking up too much of the pen's allotted square footage. Oh yeah, and she taught herself to climb up and over the fence—that was the real reason we had to retire it.
Meanwhile, summer’s coming, so I’ve got the Clint Black discography on repeat, the grille sizzling in the parking pad, and I want Bramble to be able to lounge in an empty bay while I tinker with cars.
My first inclination was to Google "garage door dog gates," which at the time of this writing yielded disappointing results. There’s the Buddy Gate, which looks perfect, but it’s $319 and out of stock. Amazon options were either expensive commercial-looking deals or way too wimpy to withstand my dog. After seeing all that, I thought about the pen we were retiring and figured I could customize it. Why not cut a piece out and stretch it across the garage door?
For the first time ever in my career of inventing random little household items, the execution here was actually easier than ideation.
I didn’t need to cut the pen; the retaining clips holding the panels together came apart with pliers. Boom, I had a length of fence that spanned the width of a garage door. Naturally, I included the door section of the dog pen so that my new barrier could be kept in place while humans could move through. The little door is actually an essential feature if you're thinking of making something like this yourself—the wall's got to be pretty high to keep a clever dog inside, so swinging a leg over every time you want to move through would be a pain. I knew I had to mount the fence particularly high, too, since the main reason we took it out of service as a pen was the fact that Bramble had figured out how to scale it.
After a few laps around Williams Lumber, my local hardware joint of choice, I decided lag bolts with rings would go into the garage door frame while big carabiners could hook the fence to the lag bolts. With the bolts drilled into the frame, I thought shucks, the fence was still a few inches too far away … only to realize I didn’t need the lag bolts at all. My garage door had a little clip at exactly the height where I wanted to hang my fence!
If you try to build something like this for your own dog, you'll have to do your own calculation as to how high to make it. Lift it too much and a pooch will wriggle right under it. But if you just let it touch the ground, some animals might be able to hop over it.
In the end, all I really needed were some clips to hold the fence up. Hell, plastic zip ties would work if you don't mind cutting them every evening before you shut the door. I think this project came out looking fairly elegant for its simplicity, but before I take this show on the road, I need to include the caveat that I still don't trust my fence to be 100% Aussie proof and neither should you.
I gave my fence contraption one test and it did pass, but barely.
With Bramble hanging out in the garage, I fired up my Weber in the parking pad just outside the bay door opening and cooked up a burger patty I found in the freezer. After some pacing and whimpering, she stuck her snout under the fence a few times, finally attempting an army crawl to freedom. She wasn't able to get through, but I have no doubt that she'd make it work if more motivation was there.
But this dog likes to be by my side, and she loves the cold concrete of the garage floor. I'm reasonably confident that this doggie barricade will keep her from wandering off while still allowing easy access for humans and warm outdoor air into my semi-subterranean lair. And if it doesn't, I'll secure a strip of spare lumber across the bottom. Maybe I'll paint it OSHA yellow with black stripes for commercial-grade coolness.
Most importantly, the visual barrier keeps her from sprinting away after every falling leaf, and I wouldn't leave her in the garage unattended for more than a few minutes anyway. So if you've been trying to figure out a similar dog-friendly garage door solution, I hereby hope you're inspired by my little project. And hey, don't forget to scroll down to the comment section, you might find even more and better ideas once this post has been up for a few days.